So I have such a huge soft spot for low-budget 80’s action flicks and none more so than Andy Sidaris’ ridiculous “Triple B” series; the triple B’s stand for ‘Bullets’, ‘Bombs’ and ‘Babes’ if you are curious!
Sidaris would hire a small cast of Playboy and Penthouse models and chiseled-chin actors fresh from the steroid-fueled Hollywood gyms and fly out to Hawaii to film a multitude of spy and martial arts films. He’d reuse the same cast throughout the series even though there is very little continuity between the film; therefore actors who played villains that died in one film would be back for the next as a completely different character. He also had some reoccurring characters in the series and it is apparently set in the same ‘Universe’ but the stories are never linked together or acknowledge one another! It is a beautiful and very humorous mess full of bad acting quirks and wonderfully bizarre action scenes; give one of his films a watch if you fancy a good old B-Movie action night!
Here is a clip from the 1987 Sidaris film Hard Ticket To Hawaii teaching us all to exercise great caution when playing the simple game of frisbee; especially if you are an armed mercenary guarding a top secret criminal base.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! There’s nothing like a nice summer’s day at the British seaside; the packed beaches, the sticks of rock, the sounds of amusements and laughter, and the mob killings. Well maybe not that last bit, thankfully the most dangerous thug I’ve ever encountered on the coast is a rather nasty donkey who decided to nibble on my hand! John Boulting’s simply brilliant 1947 crime thriller Brighton Rock paints a very different picture of the merry seaside town.
The image of a newspaper competition and a photo of a man starts the film of innocently enough, but things soon start to spiral out of hand in a plot full of violence, paranoia and coincidence. The film is centered around the sinister young, baby-faced gang leader Pinky Brown, played wonderfully by a very young Richard Attenborough. He and his small mob run a protection racket with pier side businesses and horse racing bookies, his gang has started to lose power due to being over shadowed by the much larger and better organized Colleoni mob. Things go a stray when an old face comes into town who’s appearance set in motion a series of unfortunate events that threaten the paranoid Pinky and engulf the sweet, love-sick and naive young waitress Rose into the dark world of the 1930’s Brighton underground with only the cheerful, bold and inquisitive performer Ida Arnold being able to help her.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is one of the greatest crime thrillers ever made and it owes all this to the character of Pinky. He’s not like a Tony Soprano or a Michael Corleone, there is no family love or false sense of honour that motivates Pinky, he simply wants power and doesn’t care who he uses to get it. He’s a very sinister young man and early on you see how full of hate he is, showcased in the early scenes when he is angered by the joyful singing in the pub. Like the crocodile in a Punch and Judy show there is no complexity to him; he is no misunderstood lost soul who is trying to do right, he simply is a villain. This makes it all the more heart-wrenchingly tragic when the sweet and beautiful Rose enters into his life, if your heart strings aren’t moving by the films conclusion then you probably don’t have any!
It’s a film with very little respite to it’s suspense, it has a lot of humour, mostly from the good-natured Ida, but is often wonderfully counter-balanced by the menace of Pinky. What you want from a good film noir is a sense of foreboding tension and intrigue and this film as it in buckets and spades… OK maybe I’ll stop now with the seaside puns! You should particularly watch the chase scene at the start of the film one of my personal favourites, it teaches you to exercise great amounts of caution when riding the haunted house!
In many senses I feel this is a film that is fueled by juxtaposition. This is especially true with it’s setting; on the one hand you have a thriving, loud and joyous Brighton promenade full of flamboyance and excitement, whilst hidden in the cracks behind the scenes is the seedy underbelly full of run-down damp buildings and thuggish people; the real tragic connection between the two is that the Brighton underworld that Pinky inhabits is one that leeches onto and is fueled by the joy of the piers and amusements. It’s a history that people often choose not to think about when they look back at the ‘good old days of the British seaside’.
Another great contrast is the characters of Ida and Rose;
Ida is a very independent, headstrong and street smart woman she has a confidence and fire that surpasses most others and an insatiable sense of justice. Like all good detectives she uses some very creative thinking to follow the clues. In fact she is one of my favourite female heroines from any film. Considering this film was made in the 1940’s when there wasn’t many strong and confident female leads, especially those that were unmarried and self-reliant, her character represents a bold new outlook on attitudes towards women in cinema. It’s still true that there are not enough women like Ida in contemporary films sadly.
Whereas on the opposite end of the scale from Ida you have Rose who is naive, submissive and weak-willed, she is easy seduced by Pinky’s charm and through her ideals on Romance and Catholic upbringing feels she must be fiercely loyal to him despite knowing his many, many wrongs. Rose is a symbol of innocence and virginity and characterizes a much more old-fashioned, fairytale-like view on the role of woman. She feels obliged to go along with the patriarchy of the world.
Rose lacks the courage and boldness that Ida is constantly trying to give her to confront that which she knows is wrong. When the two are on the screen together there is a great sense of opposition, you really see how the two characters repel in personality and outlooks. The interaction between the three main characters is masterful!
This is a brilliant film noir and certainly one of the finest British films ever made. It holds up very well for the contemporary viewer and has a lot to say about gender, morality, ambition, appearances and deception. You should certainly track down a copy of this film and also the book it is based off… just try to avoid the terrible remake!
I suppose one thing to mention is that I am not German, nor can I speak it; although I can sing a mean version of ’99 Luftballons’ when prompted!
So why did I call this blog Balloon, Mein Herr?
The title is a very simple line taken from one of my all-time favourite film scenes straight out of Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir masterpiece The Third Man. It comes from this scene (warning: spoilers).
For me this scene epitomizes the art and wonder of film making. The use of shadow and lighting is sublime, and is a fine example of the trickery that film makers can play on their audience. In a film full of enduring suspense and tension this is a cheeky way for Reed to have some fun with our anticipation and expectations. As an artform this is cinematography at it’s finest in my humble opinion.
Sometimes there are large menacing shadows around the corner in life, but let’s not forget that sometimes life has a wonderful way of providing us with humorous absurdity and unexpected pleasantries too.
I couldn’t think of a better line that symbolizes what I love about cinema. Carol Reed I salute you!
This is a new blog designed for me to unleash my passion for films on the unsuspecting folk of the internet world. There is nothing I love more than talking about films, both new and old, so I hope to share my thoughts with like-minded individuals.