Cartoon – Beatles 1967

Beatles1967

Video Review – Gods and Monsters, Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, Yellow Submarine, A Night at the Roxbury, Payback

Monster Mash

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, September 1999)

Gods and Monsters (Fox, Rental) concerns James Whale. Fortunately, this proves to the director of the original Frankenstein and not any bearded Talk Radio DJs. Ian McKellen portrays him in his final years and the artfully muscled Brendan Fraser is the alluring bit of beefcake masquerading as a gardener that he coaxes into ‘sitting for him’. Whale likes his ‘architectural skull’ but makes it clear that “I have no interest in your body”, clearly lying through his dentures.

Gods and Monsters follows the subsequent friendship between camp-as-a-row-of-tents Whale and virtually homophobic Fraser, and at first it looks like an indulgent character studies of one of the founders of modern horror – one of the executive producers is Clive Barker. The condition that Whale suffers from – a sort of mental hyperactivity that renders him unable to close his eyes without his brain going a mile a minute – is used for all manner of flashbacks, from the set of The bride of Frankenstein to the more serious horrors of the First World War.

But as the film goes on, a more thoughtful study of the characters is revealed. The two leads slowly reveal their more mundane, but no less frightening, demons. McKellen is spot-on throughout, portraying a man much older than himself and infusing his every movement with pain-wracked numbness. He never lets you forget that underneath all his gay jollity he is a man in serious pain. Meanwhile, lunk-headed Brendan Fraser is a revelation, embodying an intensity that goes beyond his appearance. The fact that he made this between George of the Jungle and The Mummy proves that he’s not afraid of taking the daft with the profound.

Milking The Cash Cow award of the week goes to the video release of Doctor Who – The Curse of Fatal Death (BBC Video, £11.99), the Comic Relief special that was shown earlier this year during all the usual malarkey. Obviously intended to ensnare the averagely obsessed Doctor Who fan – rather than any politely interested Comic Relief fans – the sketch, starring Rowan Atkinson as the titular Time Lord, is entertaining enough, although you may need to to have a working knowledge of a show which has been off our screens and out of our consciences for 10 years to get the jokes. But it barely lasts 15 minutes, and the rest of the hour-long tape is given over to the sort of filler material that regularly occupies Unauthorised Biography videos for members of the cast of Friends. So we get a pretty piss-poor Making Of documentary, which features some of the big names involved being either somewhat vague on what Doctor Who is all about (step forward Richard E. Grant) or desperately trying to get across the Good Cause-iness of the whole thing by wittering on to unfortunate lengths (Richard’s brother, Hugh). Of the star, Mr. Atkinson is nowhere to be seen.

A runner up for the Milking The Cash Cow award is Yellow Submarine (MGM, £14.99), which has been re-released with the sort of attendant publicity usually reserved for Royal Engagements. It’s been peculiar to see professional miserable bastard George Harrison cheerfully throwing himself into the PR machine along with everyone else, particularly as – or maybe because – his contribution to the film was virtually zero.

30 years on, it’s still a bit of a hoot. A genuinely great kids film, despite the obvious fact that it’s Eddie Yeats doing the voice of Paul McCartney, rather than Paul McCartney. The songs sound great, of course, particularly George’s feedback-crazy It’s All Too Much and John’s piano-rockin’ Hey Bulldog, but you’ve more than likely got them on record somewhere anyway. Like the Beatles Anthology there’s more than a feeling of money for distressed string here.

It would be best to pass over A Night At The Roxbury (CIC, Rental), a film which strives to be even stupider than Dumb and Dumber and succeeds without ever once being funny, and move straight on to the rather spiffing Payback (Warners, Rental) which was unfairly overlooked on cinema release but should make perfect home viewing.

A remake of the Lee Marvin film Point Blank, Payback is a rare beast in that it actually stands up to the original. The essential plot is the same: Mel Gibson is the hero, a criminal who’s been screwed out of the proceeds of a heist and is determined to get back his share of the loot, no matter how many people he has to kill of how high (or should that be low) in the underworld he has to go. Possessing a relentlessly driven performance from Gibson, who can usually be relied upon in these sort of things, it’s a gangster film which thankfully touches upon none of the modern classics (Pulp Fiction, GoodFellas) yet is a resolutely contemporary work. An original remake. Who’s have thunk?

Beatles Albums – The Beatles (White Album)

Beatles Albums – Magical Mystery Tour

Beatles Albums – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band

Beatles Albums – Revolver (Version 2)

Beatles Albums – Revolver (Version 1)

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