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Straw Dogs

From the Vault #23: SKYFALL (2012)

From 2012 onwards, before developing this blog, I wrote a multitude of reviews on the website Letterboxd. In this irregular series called From the Vault, I’m going to haul these earlier reviews out of mothballs and re-purpose them here.

This one, timed as Sam Mendes’ 1917 arrives in cinemas, is from March 23rd, 2014…

For five decades of James Bond in cinema, arguably standing tall as the biggest and most successful film franchise of all time, there needed to be some kind of celebration. Not just fanfare, documentaries, look backs, ceremonies, interviews, but rather a celebration of what Bond is, what he means, why he remains relevant half a century on to a world immeasurably different from the one Ian Fleming created him in.

Skyfall turned out, perhaps beyond our expectations, to be all of those things – the clearest demonstrable examination of 007’s psyche we have ever seen, in which Sam Mendes continued the work began by Martin Campbell in Casino Royale (or I would argue GoldenEye infact) and not only gave us what we expect from a Bond movie–the glitz, glamour, action, suspense, wit–but equally delivered on meaningful drama, characterisation and subtext beyond the measure we usually get in this series. It’s been said by many – Skyfall isn’t just a Bond film, it’s a *film* and taking away the slightly derogatory context of that remark to a wonderful franchise, it remains true.

Skyfall is both a truly great Bond film and a great movie in its own right.

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Blu-Ray Review: Fright (1971)

Peter Collinson is one of the lost, potentially great cult British directors who never was, for various reasons (principally his death at a young age), and while Fright is a flawed piece of work, you can see and feel the influence it had on 1970’s exploitation cinema, particularly in Britain.

Collinson is best known for 1969’s legendary crime caper The Italian Job, but that is a picture which most people primarily associate with Michael Caine as a key cultural touchstone of the Swinging Sixties, not to mention the iconic Mini Coopers. Unlike other pictures of the period, 2001: A Space Odyssey, say, which first and foremost people would associate with Stanley Kubrick, Peter Collinson was a mere component of The Italian Job’s success in the eyes of many and found his talent as a helmsman overshadowed by the colour and style of that picture. Had things turned in a different direction, Collinson’s follow up might have ended up more anticipated as well as venerated.

As befits someone who was prone to experimentation, Collinson completely changes tack with Fright, a picture about as distant from the Europe-hopping caper of The Italian Job as you could probably imagine. Susan George as a teenage babysitter looking after the young child of middle class couple George Cole and Honor Blackman in a big, old fashioned house, who finds herself terrified and menaced by Ian Bannen’s escaped psychopath. Collinson probably didn’t realise it at the time but Fright is, unexpected, a British forerunner of the American slasher sub-genre in the broader horror context that would be mainstreamed and popularised by Halloween at the end of the same decade, before spawning a legion of imitators and sequels that would define 80’s horror.

Why, in that case, is Fright not better known within both the annals of cult, horror or British cinema?