As usual, we sat down to watch Jurassic Park the other evening. It’s a classic, although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it. There does appear to be a mismatch between the films repeated endlessly on tv and the films rarely, or never, shown. So here’s some of the very obscure films I’d like to see. They are oddball films.
Yes The Times are giving away DVDs this week for some of Alfred Hitchcock’s 30s films. All brilliant, but what about his really early films? What about The Lodger (1927) and his other silent films?
An endless list. How about The Skull (1965), a very creepy Peter Cushing film. You can catch the 1974 Amicus portmanteau Vault of Horror quite regularly, but how about Tales that Witness Madness from 1973? Then there’s Hammer, who made a series of psychological horrors in the 1960s. A couple of them, such as Paranoiac (1963), feature Oliver Reed. Here’s an actor who, up until his last celebrated film Gladiator (2000), acted in obscure films for years. He wasn’t in the pub all the time as rumour may have it, just look at Reed’s list of films.
Denis Gifford’s A Pictoral History of Horror Movies has some films so obscure that I forgive you for thinking I’ve made them up. Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1970), The Phantom of Soho (1963) and Joan Crawford in Trog (1970) for example. Trog deserves a special mention.
In her last film, Crawford plays an anthropologist who unearths a troglodyte (an Ice Age ‘missing link” half-caveman, half-ape) and manages to domesticate him – until he’s let loose by an irate land developer (Michael Gough). Alas, I’ve never seen it but I would imagine Gough to be suitably insane. He certainly is in Konga (1961) and Horror Hospital (1973).
You’ll only catch Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976) on DVD. Cul-de-sac (1966) sometimes gets an outing, but his 1972 sex comedy What? doesn’t. It’s the only film directed by Polanski that I’ve never seen and it irks me. Macbeth (1971) is easy to obtain on DVD, as is the disappointing but worth catching The Ninth Gate (1999) starring Johnny Depp.
Everyone knows The Wicker Man (1973) but have you ever seen director Robin Hardy’s only other film The Fantasist (1986) ? I did, at the time, and remember it being great.
Harold and Maude (1970) has vanished from view. As have many more popular American comedies from the early 70s. There was a time when films featuring Alan Arkin were never off the telly. But I’ll save the comedy for another day.
Peter Sellers directed a film in 1968 called Mr Topaze. Legend has it that the mad Mr Sellers burnt all of the negatives. This makes it possibly one of the most rarely seen films ever. He made many other obscure films during his career. The Blockhouse (1973) is one of them, where he co-starred with Charles Aznavore. They play allied POWs who become entombed in a concrete bunker that’s stocked with provisions to last them several years. What’s happened to this film? Has it been entombed as well?
The veteran actor has been appearing in oddball films for nearly 50 years. The Collector (1965) is shown very rarely, and I’ve never seen the sci-fi tinged The Mind of Mr Soames (1970) or Hu-man (1975) at all. What about the Uri Geller biopic Mindbender (1996) or the strange monkey film Link (1986)? Easier to find are the deliciously oddball Elektra (2005) and Revelation (2001). He’s still at it; the prolific Mr Stamp has eight films in production in 2008. Good luck to him, although some of them sound very odd indeed.
Another British actor who made many obscure films. The late Mr Hemmings appeared in Voices (1973) and Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971). I’ve seen them both, although not for years and years. Rather than research them, I’ll just recall from memory that they were very odd and captivating films. The first, which I remember seeing in an afternoon slot, was about two people who have seemingly survived a car accident, holed up in a strange house in the country. The second was about a schoolteacher, subtly tortured by his unruly class.
Modesty Blaise (1966), another Terence Stamp oddball effort, turns up occasionally, although similar films from the period don’t turn up at all. Diabolik (1969) is a similar but much better film than Modesty Blaise.
Richard Lester made a film in 1968 starring Julie Christie called Petulia. And talking of Ms Christie, Darling (1965) has kind of disappeared from the radar.
Enough to be going on with then. One day I’ll track down my oddball films; searches for Mr Soames on YouTube return sobering footage of the MP Nicholas Soames. Although the whole of Unman, Wittering and Zigo is there in all its unadulterated glory! I’m off to enjoy…