STU Triple Bill

We're on the home stretch of the 2015 Alphabet Film Project, which aims to reduce the number of films recorded off the tellybox by watching them in alphabetical order. Today's post brought to you by the number 3 and the letters S-T-U.

For viewers of a certain vintage it is the haughty, lean figure of Basil Rathbone that is the quintessential Sherlock Holmes, rather than those young whippersnappers Cumberbatch and Downey Jr. Rathbone brings an air of authority and puts those impressive aquiline features to good use in Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw (Roy William Neill, 1944) which is commonly regarded as one of the best of his 14 outings as the famous detective. At a snappy 74 mins, it's a tidy, atmospheric whodunnit with Holmes investigating a series of gruesome murders in a Canadian village which has apparently been beseiged by fog machines. The real mystery, however, is why he would hang out with Nigel Bruce's tiresome Dr Watson, who is little more than bumbling 'comic' relief here. Look! He fell in a boggy hole! Again! Wanker.

Next up is Tender Mercies (Bruce Beresford, 1983), or as it's also known, 'the film that Robert Duvall won an Oscar for to reward his great work in the 70s'. Actually, that's a bit unfair - he is really good in a low-key drama about a reformed alcoholic C&W singer trying to put a life back together, and he does all his own singing throughout. That said, it's rather slow and uneventful, but its heart is in the right place and because I'm quite partial to the odd bit of Country and Wobbly, I'll forgive it. In fact I think I'll write a song about all the good times I had watching it, just as soon as I sober up enough to get my truck to start to go to bury my dog.

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014) turned up on several 'Best of Year' lists in 2014, suggesting it was something a bit special. Tellingly, however, it also turned up on several 'WTF' lists, suggesting 'special' might in fact mean 'shite'. The truth, as I suspected, lies somewhere in between. An alien descends to Earth disguised in human form (Scarlett Johansson) and proceeds to learn about humans, primarily by cruising the streets of Glasgow in a van picking up men. Unusually, several of these scenes were filmed candid camera style, with an incognito Johansson improvising in her encounters with non-actors, who were subsequently made aware of the filming and who then agreed to appear in the film. There's a weird vibe to these scenes as a result, which only gets weirder as the men are lured to their apparent death in some sort of inky black pool in a couple of undeniably visually arresting sequences. As the alien becomes increasingly affected (or infected?) by its contact with humans, the film clearly borrows from Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth in both its themes and ambiguous presentation. Similarly, the unsettling soundtrack by Mica Levi provides a disorientating soundscape reminiscent of David Lynch's work. You might be mesmerised, you might be mystified, you might be amused, or, like me, experience all those emotions, and more, at the same time. I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece as some have done, but it is certainly a distinctive piece of work. And if it all sounds a bit heavy, you might be interested to know Johannson is happy to get her kit off since it's a serious art-film. Oh, so now you want to see it? Perverts. Think of it as The Woman Who Fell to Glasgae.

This series has been brought to you by the number 26 and the letters A to Z. The entire list of reviews can be viewed in one handy list here, in reverse order for extra excitement. Or you can click on the links below because it's still Christmas and I'm feeling helpful. Until next year, farewell

Previously on the Alphabet Film Project....


Atlantic City
Blood of Fu Manchu
Curse of Frankenstein


Esio Trot


Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Hiroshima Mon Amour


Julius Caesar
Late Chrysanthemums



Perks of Being a Wallflower
Quatermass and the Pit
Roman Holiday

Sherlock Holmes & the Scarlet Claw
Tender Mercies
Under the Skin

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

You're Next
Zombie Flesh Eaters

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