Re:View – Disaster Double Bill!

The Arts

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As summer took its grip on London and the temperature plunged, bringing fresh rain, I went for a B-movie double bill, to hit the spots that remain untouched by all those sensitive French dramas I watch.

First up was ‘Bait’, an Australian trash flick produced by the once-great Russell Mulcahy. Thanks to a CGI tsunami, it’s sharks in a supermarket! Yes, some great whites are doing what we all do, cruising the aisles looking for dinner. The only survivors of the tidal wave appear to be fit, venal and stupid teenagers and the odd person over forty who’s shark bait.

The Shelley Winters moment arrived when an Asian guy (this being Australia, he was as good as dead when he walked into shot) gets put in a makeshift shark suit made of wastepaper baskets and tins of baked beans. Suddenly the book I was working on didn’t look so lousy after all.

Dim escape plans involving air vents (the kind that can be opened without a screwdriver) were hatched, a token American from some TV show appeared in order to boost a US distribution deal, severed heads bobbed up, and the cast was picked off in order of those who deserved to die most.

They could have easily drained the supermarket by letting the water out through the huge plot holes. As the film was in 3D, there were also a lot of pointy sticks waved about. Oh, and as demanded by B movies, a totally inappropriate romantic scene between two characters you cared nothing for was slotted into the mayhem for no discernible reason.

Once the Australian New Wave gave us film after brilliant film. Then they decided to follow the Hollywood model, and are now reduced to producing carbon copies of bad US multiplex junk – it’s a great pity when there’s so much talent to spare down under.

Meanwhile, over in Korea they’ve remade ‘The Towering Inferno’! ‘The Tower’ reproduces the original right down to the cheesy dialogue and clunky exposition from Eastern megastars, but its action sequences have some bite, and there’s even room for a bit of social criticism – the mayor wants the ‘important’ residents rescued first.

It’s Christmas Eve and helicopters dropping real snow over a top-floor party get caught in the building’s updrafts – the architects had warned them! Those crazy rich people! Soon there are screaming guests frying in the elevators and brave firemen rescuing dogs. A set-piece in a shattering glass corridor connecting the twin towers is top-notch, but it can’t help raising uncomfortable memories of 9/11.

It’s surprising how much attention to detail Director Kim Ji-Hoon puts into the effects while the plot is left twisting in the wind, and everyone overacts atrociously, but it’s still great fun, although dropping broadly comic moments into tense action sequences takes some getting used to. ‘We can blow the guests out through the waste pipes!’ Is that really such a good idea? Turns out it is – who knew?

5 comments on “Re:View – Disaster Double Bill!”

  1. Vivienne Cox says:

    I was recently talking to my son about B-movies and he hadn’t realised that in the ancient past two films were shown at an evening’s cinema viewing: the main feature and the B-movie (usually much shorter, black and white and mostly? I think detective stories). Does anyone know if there are records of these real B movies and not just the trashy stuff that are called that nowadays? Just for nostalgia revisiting.

  2. snowy says:

    Korean cinema style can be gloriously strange to European eyes.

    ‘The Good, The Bad and The Weird’ is a very odd mix of all sorts of genres, cowboy, gangster and war film. The trailer gives a general flavour of what is in store.

    Getting hold of B-Movies is a bit ‘hit and miss’ and needs a lot of searching about.

    For British films (and off the top of my head), I would suggest looking through things like:

    The Odeon ‘Best of British Collection’
    ‘The Criterion Collection’

    There are other places but most need a title first.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Vivienne: Wikipedia has a very good and long article (‘B Movie’) on the topic. It also has an exhaustive set of footnotes. You get a history of the B movie, the companies that specialized in making them, and some idea of how to identify sources.
    Not all early B movies were detective stories – but much of the noir genre were just that – so there were westerns, comedies, sea epics The wake of the Red Witch included, and romances. Even the Big Five studios would turn out a B film to lease to its theatre chains as a double feature in pair with an “A” film from the same studio.
    In the olden days going to the movies could take up a whole afternoon. Coming attractions, newsreel, cartoon, film 1, sing-a-long or cartoon, film 2, usually the A film. While the order could vary, it was a lot to see for your money and in the summer it was cool and then there was yellowish over salted popcorn, milk duds, Turkish taffy, red hots, and the couple two rows ahead necking up a storm for everyone to marvel at snigger at. Reputations could be made of lost on a double-feature date.

  4. Ken Murray says:

    Nail on head! Aussie used to make some great films so was keen to give Bait a go. I lasted 10 mins then pressed eject! Awful, formula stuff wIth Aussies doing bad US accents.

    Moreover Korean movie making seems to go from strength to strength. I’ve been a fan of K-cinema for a number years (Host, Hyundai etc…). There’s even a video app now that has a lot of Korean as well as other Asian and South and Central American content. its named after the old queen… In fact Korea along with some other Asian countries have even started to produce crime dramas in the dark Scandinavian mode (both film and tv).

  5. Vivienne Cox says:

    Thanks, Dan: will definitely check that out.

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