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Animonday: The Jungle Book January 1, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Animation, Comedy, Musical , 2 comments

I’ve never been a big Disney fan, Mickey, Donald and Co do nothing for me and while I’ve enjoyed several of the animated films I wouldn’t call them favourites. Like everything though there is an exception and The Jungle Book’s it.

I first saw the film in the cinema, not on its original release (I’d have only been three at the time), but exactly when I couldn’t say. IMDb lists a UK rerelease in 1983 but it was definitely before that and probably around the min-seventies, so I was ten or so. Regardless of when I first watched it, it left a lasting impression, and the fact that my younger brother had the soundtrack album certainly helped to keep it fresh in my mind.

Over the years I’ve watched it several times (it’s playing again now as I write this) and I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite animated film. That’s not to say it’s the best, just my personal favourite. So why do I love it so? Well I don’t think it’s ever been bettered for matching its voice cast to their characters, something listening to the soundtrack album just made even more obvious. Sebastian Cabot always seemed a bit dull as Bagheera, but that’s the point, it’s what makes the shiftless jungle bum Baloo so appealing, and Phil Harris’ Baloo is certainly that. But it’s not just the leads who fit, everyone from Sterling Holloway as the sneaky snake Kaa to the inspired casting of George Sanders as Shere Kha, the jungles deadliest inhabitant, are spot on.

Then there’s the songs. Most people’s favourite is probably “The Bare Necessities” but for me it’s always been “I Wan’na Be Like You” with Louis Prima stealing the film as the King Louie. While it’s the best scene it’s also the films biggest failing; it peaks too soon, with the high point coming before the film is even half over. It’s not like there’s nothing to enjoy in the second half though (Kaa singing “Trust in Me” for one) and at only 75 minutes it’ not what you’d call a long film either.

This is the last Animonday, at least for the foreseeable future, and what better way to finish than with a true animation classic. There’ll be something different next Monday and a few other changes to Mine Was Taller as well.

The Friday Night Fright: Theatre of Death October 6, 2007

Posted by Ian W in : Animation, DVD Viewing Journal, Musical , add a comment

More a whodunit than a horror film, this centres on The Theater du Mort of the title, a French playhouse specialising in the macabre, and on a series of vampire like murders taking place close to the theatre.

Christopher Lee chews the scenery menacingly as Philippe Darvas, the theatre’s writer/director and one of the chief suspects in the murders. Other possible candidates include Julian Glover as a surgeon whose hand was injured in a car accident leaving him unable to operate, and Lelia Goldoni, a recently recovered mental patient now appearing in the latest production.

The film keeps you guessing right up to the end, with a twist I didn’t see coming and a fitting fate for the revealed murderer. While the film is a UK production it dearly wants to be Italian, but it lacks the style of a giallo. Italian filmmakers like Mario Bava could get away with leaving plot threads untied by dazzling the audience visually; Theatre of Death’s director Samuel Gallu lacks the ability to blind the audience to the plots shortcomings and leaving the viewer a little unsatisfied.

The main appeal of the film is Lee, but it’s a very over the top performance, overly theatrical and not one of his best. Worth a look on TV but not a recommended purchase.

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