Category Archives: Sci-fi

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

cult film rocky horrorDirector: Jim Sharman

Writers: Richard O’Brien (original musical play), Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien (screenplay)

In 1973, an Australian named Jim Sharman directed a musical called The Rocky Horror Show. The musical was a success and, in 1975, was made into a film that soon gathered a cult following.

Brad Majors and his fiancee Janet Weiss (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), having just got engaged and seemingly destined to lead a very conventional life together, have a flat tyre during a thunderstorm and seek shelter in a rather eerie castle. Here they meet Dr Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), self-proclaimed ‘Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transsylvania’ and alien scientist, his servants Riff Raff and Magenta (Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn), groupie Columbia (Nell Campbell) and a host of other odd and interesting characters. Frank N. Furter has created a ‘muscle man’ and, to applause from his guests and servants and to Brad’s and Janet’s dismay, brings to life the ‘beautiful creature’, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). This is followed by a violent intermezzo with Frank’s and Columbia’s former lover Eddie (Meat Loaf), a wedding between Frank and Rocky, a large amount of seduction, a bizarre floorshow and extra-terrestrial encounters.

The film is a parody of old horror and sci-fi films replete with all the stock ingredients – mad scientists, spooky castles, aliens, sex, gore, romance – with catchy music and remarkable costumes thrown in. It shows reckless abandon, decadent danger and carnal enjoyment, contrasted beautifully by Janet and Brad’s polite, repressed behaviour. Playing with identities and gender roles, and with the idea of taking risks and letting go, it brought together people who liked to do something different and not follow the rules. ‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’, as the song goes. Costume designer Sue Blane claimed that the musical, with its ripped fishnet stockings, glitter and dyed hair, influenced the punk movement, and we’re inclined to agree. Provocative, camp and funny, it still rocks today.

Singalong now!

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The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)

Director – Richard Lester

Writer – Spike Milligan, Charles Wood and John Antrobus

If you’re looking for odd movies, you’ve come to the right place. This film is in a class of its own. In fact, if it was in school, it would probably be in detention, or even expelled for insubordinate behaviour! ‘Post-Apocalyptic Surrealist Nightmare’ is a start to describing what it features, but doesn’t do it enough justice at all. This is an illumination of the darkest recesses of Spike Milligan’s 20th Century-addled mind. It gives us a disturbing view of a world after the nuclear Holocaust, with a very British take on it, in that people attempt to return to their dull daily routines. It is quite believeable in its absurdity. Heading the cast is the ever-watchable Arthur Lowe, depicting what could be considered as what Captain Mainwaring would do after nuclear Armageddon. He would maintain decorum and a stiff upper lip, of course, despite the wreckage and carnage around him, and despite any kind of common sense.

The radiation has caused strange mutations to occur, including a reference to the titular bedsitting room itself, with some bizarrely brilliant scenes, imagery and jokes that deliniate Spike’s sheer comic genius through and through, alongside his total insanity, or perhaps ultra-sanity, in his exasperation and disbelief at the everyday insanity that regular people possess in being able to ignore the devastation and problems around them. Enjoy the show! It’s a very harrowing laughter in the darkness, but what else can you do in the face of absolute nuclear annhialation?

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Brazil (1985)

Brazil (1985) Poster

Director: Terry Gilliam

Writers: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown

Some films are so finely detailed that they require repeat viewings to appreciate  the extent of their content. This is more than true of Brazil, which manages to squeeze an entire retro-futuristic city into its compact time frame, replete with hallucinogenic dream sequences featuring giant samurai warriors, talking brickwork, and other flights of fancy, along with a serious message behind the wickedly grinning facade.

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You could consider Brazil to be ‘Monty Python Does 1984’, but there are many essential differences between it and those elements. There aren’t any knights who say “NI!” or giant feet crushing anybody from above, for starters. 1984 itself is a critique of blind obedience to authoritarian regimes. Instead, Brazil mocks the mayhem of tangled bureaucracy. People are chewed up by long working hours, an oppressive political system, and excessive red tape. There are certainly bullying security to enforce the rules, keep people in their place and suppress the rebel terrorist threat, but these are nothing compared to the web of repression woven by emotionally blackmailing management. Desk clerk Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is in charge of the thankless task of processing data concerning suspected dissenters. He discovers an error in the system that has led to a wrongful arrest, and seeks to do the right thing by rectifying it. This, in itself, causes problems, something that the regime does not like. Everything must run smoothly and according to the rules. As one domineering technocrat bawls at Sam when he goes to express his concern about a mishap, “Mistakes?! We don’t make mistakes!” In as unbending a system as this, people get swallowed whole.


Sam is disillusioned and also becomes enamoured by a woman who he has dreamed about, Jill Layton (Kim Greist), but who he weirdly happens to then meet. She takes him away on a voyage of discovery, sprinkled with danger and adventure along the way, as well as meeting the actual dissenter, a rebel plumber by the name of Harry Tuttle (a riproaring Robert de Niro at his very best), and invoking the disapproval of his best friend Jack Lint (a wonderfully malevolent Michael Palin). We explore the very nature of escapism, and how our daydreams can become reality, but we have to be very careful about how we pursue them.

Brazil is a truly haunting film that reveals some bitter truths about the modern condition (and the ending is to die for!).

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Delicatessen (1991)

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Directors – Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writers – Gilles Adrien (screenplay and dialogue), Marc Caro (screenplay), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (screenplay)

You don’t get much more cynical, stylish or darkly humorous than this French delicacy. Never has there been such a sweet film made about such a, well, unsavory subject as this film is all about. What is it all about? It’s about eating things. Horrible things. You don’t really want to know what sort of things. Oh, you do? Well, you’d better see the film, hadn’t you? Just let me tell you a bit more about it first.

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The story of the piece revolves around an apartment block built above a small delicatessen (hence the name) somewhere in France following some kind of apocalyptic atrocity in the near future. Food is now incredibly scarce, and is used as a commodity to survive. A butcher named Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfuss) advertises for helpers in his establishment, to which an out-of-work clown named Louison (Dominique Pinon) applies. The affable clown falls for the butcher’s charming daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), who attempts to protect him from the horrors within. The clown has a dark secret that he must also come to terms with, and ensure that he, Julie and their friends can be saved.

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That director Jean-Pierre Jeunet went on to make Amelie and The City of Lost Children is more than conceivable due to its luscious, sumptuous scenery, shots and settings (a handful of which I had to include here!), but the dialogue and action of this original, offbeat offering are uniquely special in and of themselves and create a wondrous vision of an unusual world that we thankfully don’t exist in (just yet…).

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Get your teeth into Delicatessen today!

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Repo Man (1984)

Director – Alex Cox

Writer – Alex Cox

Remind me again, what is the code of the Repo Man? Made in the fading embers of the early years of punk rock, this film takes that attitude and hauls it into a new reality. We are brought to another dimension, jerking and being lurched along by the shirt collar. The humour is deliciously deadpan (“It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.”, “Not in my face!”) taking aspects of oddball comedy, B-movies, and action adventure, and making a distinctive genre all by itself.

Emilio Estavez, who plays bemused yet hardened central figure Otto, and Harry Dean Stanton, a surly, sagacious Bud who enlists Otto as a Repo Man when he sees him breaking into a car, make a great team, coolly ambling from one insane incident to the next, completely unfazed by the strangeness, just doing their job. They become embroiled in a shady, sinister government plot that is out of this world, encountering stiff secret service agents and out there conspiracy theorist Miller (the brilliantly offbeat Tracey Walter) as well as a raft of mixed-up punks, gangsters and rival repo agents. This film is a nuclear blast, and has an excellent soundtrack as well. Get it!

Repo Man can be yours, just follow this link!

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Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Star-Wars-Poster

Director – George Lucas

Writer – George Lucas

It is almost unbelieveable to think that some people in this universe still haven’t seen Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. With the new set of Star Wars films coming out soon, we thought that we’d better enlighten those who have not yet witnessed the splendour of the original Star Wars movie where it all began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There’s this young guy named Luke Skywalker (a youthful Mark Hamill). He lives with his aunt and uncle on a dusty farm in a backwater part of the galaxy where nothing much ever happens. Then, one lazy day, some dizzy Droids drop in, the sparky R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and pompous C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), who take Luke on a chain of events to meet Ben ‘Obi-Wan’ Kenobi (an immeasurably brilliant Alec Guiness) to embark on a quest to save Princess Leia (the delectable Carrie Fisher) that involves intergalactic upheaval, fierce starship battles, intense lightsaber fights, old, mystical religions being resurrected, planets being destroyed, some mean ass aliens, such as the kickass Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and super cool villains, including Peter Cushing (a malevolently ruthless Grand Moff Tarkin) and the iconic, fearsome Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) doing some serious rebel arse-whupping, all blending into a heady mix of space-based mayhem that gives you a maximum adrenaline rush.

Find Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope on Ebay

What makes the film work, for me at least, is the happy stitching together of various exciting film styles, such as World War II fighter plane films, cowboy movies Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is a typical Wild West gunslinger, and he has the jerkin to prove it!) replete with bar room brawls, swashbuckling knights and castle swordfighting, which makes for bucketloads of searing adventure, neatly packaged into a shiny science fiction unit.

In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (by the way, nobody really knows why George Lucas started the series with part IV to be honest, but it probably shows he had aspirations to mass market franchises from the very beginning – very prescient George!) the action is relentless. This is in complete contrast to the newer Episodes I, II and III, where there are far too many laborious scenes at the galactic parliament involving many dull aliens making streams of dreary, unnecessary speeches, or tedious romantic interludes that mostly involve gazing wistfully out of large windows. Avoid all of that nonsense, and the hideously annoying Jar Jar Binks, and watch Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope instead. It’s packed full of the best action, the finest space battle sequences, the worst-aiming stormtroopers that any evil empire could ever hope to train, the weirdest robots and oddest aliens, backdrops to die for that are unique and timeless, and a complete film that will get your heartbeat racing and you wanting to sign up to the rebel resistance immediately after watching it. If you haven’t seen it yet, use the force and see it now! It rocks!

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See the original Star Wars – A New Hope here!

Build your own Stormtrooper outfit!

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner

Director – Ridley Scott

Writers – Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples, Philip K. Dick (original short story)

When I first saw Blade Runner I was unsure if I actually enjoyed it. It left me unsettled. The slower pace and moody content weren’t what I was used to. It isn’t a regular Hollywood blockbuster film. Then I let it sink in, and I realised that it was phenomenal, and I had to watch it again, and again, and again.

The first version that I watched was the one featuring Deckard’s voiceover, Rick Deckard being the world-weary detective played by a smooth Harrison Ford, which is not favoured by film purists, but works for me as it links it to the film noir genre. The version without the voiceover is just as good, but it does fill in some richer details and lends the proceedings more of a hard-boiled feel.

Mention must be made of the scintillating Vangelis soundtrack, the use of the electronic instruments clashing with the natural orchestral score mirroring the struggle between natural and synthetic life in the film.

The look of Blade Runner is magnificent, owing a large debt to graphic artist Moebius and to the Futurist artistic movement. Blade Runner contains a stunning depiction of a living, breathing near-future – but is any of it real? We know early on that Rachael, the cool Sean Young, is not human, but a Replicant, or synthesised robotic cyborg, known as “skin jobs” to the less than sensitive police clientele. Yet are the Replicants, who witness “things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion… C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…”, which is one of the most beautiful speeches in the history of cinema, are they perhaps more real than the seedy cops who live in squalid hovels and question suspects in smoky offices?

Blade Runner gives us a near perfect vision of a dystopian future that has not been bettered. From the flashing, pixellated advertising billboards, through the neon sign-decked side streets, with their market stalls selling ersatz animals and vat-grown human organs as created by the Tyrell Corporation, up to the skies filled with flying vehicles and flaming smokestacks, each enthralling element is skilfully crafted and put on display for us to gawp wild-eyed and open-mouthed at.

As Deckard tracks down four rebel Replicants, their leader Roy Batty, given an exuberant performance by Rutger Hauer, he becomes uncertain about the task he has been handed, but has to see it through, or die in the process.

The film, in its Directors Cut, also manages to achieve the astounding feat of turning reality inside out in your head, flipping the world on its axis in a highly disorientating way. This film will change the way that you view the world. Time to buy!

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Purchase the definitive Blade Runner DVD Boxset on Ebay