GET OUT

Though we all watch a lot of movies in here, we don’t often get to see stuff together – such is the nature of #videoshoplife that we usually watch movies at home and reconvene in the video shop to talk ’em over, disagree wildly and lovingly mock each other’s opinions. But, every now and again, we manage a shop outing to the cinema and see something together after scoffing burgers at Five Guys (the video shop cliche is real).

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One movie I really wanted us to see as a sort-of video shop posse this year was Jordan Peele’s GET OUT. Partially, my motivation came after Liz Chege of Come the Revolution recommended it to me (she has great taste in film). It was also partially motivated by the age old decider of genre: most video shop clerks have cross-over taste when it comes to horror.

Of course, when I say we went as a video shop posse, I should clarify that it’s a hap-hazard crew, made up of some people who do or have worked in the video shop plus others who are loosely associated with the shop and minus our dear Co-Director Whiskey who, since having a child some four years ago, has not yet managed to join us for a late night cine-jaunt.

So off we went and together we watched Jordan Peele’s thrilling and wonderfully uncomfortable for white folk social satire, GET OUT. I sat, literally in nail-biting, edge-of-my-seat position for the entire film, enthusiastic and ready to gush after the credits rolled – it had been the perfect choice for a movie night out! But, much to my chagrin, my post-movie excitement was met with varying degrees of ‘meh’ from my video shop pals. It seems that my male movie buddies were a little underwhelmed, some finding the horror a little predictable or not to their liking and others thinking it was good but not great.

Let me just say this: I love those guys but they’re all absolutely wrong. GET OUT is one of this year’s finest movie treats and now that it’s in the shop on DVD to rent we can finally prove my colleagues and pseudo-colleagues wrong! So, if you wanna read an intelligent article on why the film is great, head to Overland.org.au where Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson have already done all the hard work with their article, ‘We’re on your side: white violence and the horror of representation’ . And, if you want to see it on the big screen, then you have another chance this weekend at Cinema Rediscovered thanks to the good folk at Come the Rev who are showing it as a comparison piece with Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

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Otherwise, come and get it at the shop and take it home where you go, undisturbed, to the sunken place on your sofa.

Get Out/Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner trailer courtesy of Cinema Rediscovered.

From One Side of Counter t’Other

Last week we had a work experience placement at 20th Century Flicks. We take very few student placements and have reached our capacity for 2017. At the end of the week, we asked Daisy to tell us a little something about her experience in the shop and this is what she had to say:

I began my week at 20th Century Flicks with a fairly good idea of what to expect. I have been visiting the shop regularly for a while now, during which time I have gotten to know the ‘licensed video rental personnel’ quite well. I found this very helpful, as it allowed me to skip past the awkward “Oh hi, you must be Stacey,” “No, it’s Daisy, like the flower,” stage and get on to the real talk, on to subjects such as how safe it is to open superglue with your teeth [Ed’s note: obviously it isn’t!], if customers looking for ’70s (MISOGYNISTIC) erotica were renting them ironically, and what on EARTH that awful smell was.

Knowing everyone also meant that I was trusted to talk to customers, something which, even over this short period of time, I believe has improved my people skills. With these newfound skills, I managed to strike up a conversation with a man on my bus ride home on Tuesday about his uni course and how much I hate living in the countryside – much to his badly concealed irritation. Talking to customers also allowed me to meet some really interesting people, some of whom I recognised as the week progressed, notably, a boy who came in three times to eat his own bodyweight in free skittles. The varying film preferences and general interesting-ness of the customers meant that, on the whole, I found them very enjoyable to talk to. I also (just about) managed to refrain from recommending Sharknado 3 to anyone, something that I have involuntarily done several times on previous visits from the other side of the counter.

One thing I hadn’t quite understood before the week, despite my fairly frequent visits for tea and the odd bit of lamination, is how stressful managing a small business can be. I hadn’t really stopped to think, perhaps naively, that the shop’s financial status is entirely dependent on the number of daily Kino bookings and film rentals. Because of this, it isn’t a ‘go in, get paid, piss off’ type of job, rather, one that requires a great deal of emotional investment. A mixture of this, the eccentric atmosphere of the shop, and Dave having only just returned from Glastonbury made for a surprisingly intense few days, something I had definitely not anticipated.

At the end of my week, I had learned several new things, the main one probably being how to use the shop’s film cataloging system. I also now know how to dismantle a jammed-up laminator, and, most importantly, what on EARTH that awful smell was. On a more serious and personal note, what this week has proven to me is that jobs I find interesting do exist and it has reassured me that, perhaps, in the future, I will find some form of work that I am passionate about. I certainly know that I’ll be very lucky if I ever end up working anywhere as amazing as Flicks.

Written by Daisy Steinhardt for (and edited by) 20th Century Flicks. Please note that we have already accepted the maximum number of work experience placements we can accommodate for 2017. We will post other scheduled work experience responses here in due course.

What a Work Experience

Last week we had a work experience placement at 20th Century Flicks. It’s not something we usually do and it was quite the learning experience, for all involved. We are such a small scale business that, aside from the three of us who run things, we only even have one casual employee. So, at the end of the week, we asked Ethan to tell us a little something about his experience in the shop and this is what he had to say:

Overall, I think that working at 20th Century Flicks has been an interesting experience. One thing I have taken from it is learning how you can run your own independent business, and that it means you have to do and are in charge of pretty much everything. I have also taken into account how extremely difficult it can be to do all of these things.

The work I did was not that varied, but it didn’t at all get boring- especially if you are someone like me who enjoys sorting through countless DVDs, finding it fun looking at them all, occasionally jotting down films of interest. I did a similar job when sorting through the collection- laminating covers and filing them in their relevant genres, sometimes having fun debates on which movies go where.

I also think that everybody working there is really nice to work with and we had some cool conversations about movies and music- especially now that they have a small record section in the shop corner. It felt like I didn’t have a boring minute, as everybody there made sure I was always busy doing things, even if the shop was quiet.

I thought it was really nice that I was actually trusted to work behind the shop counter and get films for customers- it was cool that I felt like I was a part of everything. It was also really good that I felt like I was actually making a difference in the shop while working, instead of feeling like a stupid work experience student- being there and not really caring about it. I felt like I was properly working there (although there were a few restrictions, like serving customers) and was doing my part.

I do understand why it was supposed to be quite a boring job (as they told me it might be), but it was actually fine and I think I did learn a few things about working in a work environment (however professional it might be) and that it can sometimes be quite dull, wherever I go.

Being here has boosted my confidence massively for working in any job and it has really helped me for the future.

Written by Ethan Llewellyn for 20th Century Flicks. Please note that we have already accepted the maximum number of work experience placements we can accommodate for 2017. We will post other scheduled work experience responses here in due course.

John Carpenter, live

 

On Sunday night we had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing John Carpenter, live, at Colston Hall. His filmmaking and musical talents have long been admired by those of us here in the video shop – and not just now, but by former staff members in the years before our times, too.

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For me, it was also a first visit to Colston Hall. Despite its proximity to our shop I had never stepped inside. As a dedicated and stereotypical film nerd I tend to spend the big bucks I earn here at the video shop (ahem) on cinema tickets, fancy cheese and close to my body weight in red wine, but little else. So an outing to a venue with a large audience capacity was an unusual shock to the system.

It got me thinking. There must have been more than a thousand people sat around me watching, cheering and enjoying the audio visual show. But the man performing is also a filmmaker whose films would never attract anywhere near this number of people if screened even in the very same town.

Case in point: last month, as part of Scalarama 2016, we showed In the Mouth of Madness, at Bristol’s Cube Cinema, to an audience of around 60 people. The tickets to see the film were a fiver; attending Carpenter live was a little over thirty quid.

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So, my question is this: is it only the live appearance factor that makes people turn up in droves to celebrate a renowned musician/filmmaker or is there something about venues and perceived forms of entertainment also at play?

For example, does ‘Colston Hall’ suggest entertainment that you can’t miss owing to its reputation as a venue that attracts world class acts? And does ‘Cube Microplex’, as an artists’ collective, with highly reduced ticket prices, suggest something you could watch at home or in another venue, thus removing the prestige and scarcity factors? I wonder, too, even though the performance at Colston Hall was visual as well as audio – there were several clips packaged together of footage from John Carpenter’s films, albeit sometimes in incorrect aspect ratios – is the visual (on photochemical film or in a digital format) considered an insignificant element in weighing up the attractiveness of paying to attend an event?

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I ask because, even though I thought the concert was great and while I did have a splendid time, I still rate my best John Carpenter experience as when I saw Escape From LA (far from my favourite of his films) on a 35mm film print in the small but wonderful auditorium at Paris’ Grand Action cinema. And, as great as it was to see clips of his films set to live music, complete with his totally adorable dance moves, I would have loved to have seen those films shown in full, in the correct aspect ratio, with appropriate masking, on a big cinema screen, so much more.

I know I am often in the minority (I still think running a rental store is a good idea and I know it’s 2016), so some of these questions may indeed be rhetorical, but I’m keen to hear from other people on the issue. I would love to know about your perceptions of value entertainment, appropriate film and concert admission costs and the role of film as a form of entertainment both on its own as well as as a combined element in another style of live show. Please do comment below or send an email to my attention (Tara) at: info[at]20thcenturyflicks[dot]co[dot]uk

A bunch of John Carpenter films are available to rent at 20th Century Flicks and our Kino is available for hire if you want to get a group together and see something here. 

Truth, authenticity, connections, nostalgia, time…

If you’re looking for a straight forward story with a beginning, middle and an-everything-tied-up ending, you might not find it here. The films of Richard Linklater are interested in meandering and the time that passes onscreen is often just a snapshot taken from a much fuller story.

"EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!":

Most mainstream cinema offers up a couple of hours of entertainment – stories that span days and sometimes years, but that fit succinctly into cinema schedules. Richard Linklater’s films don’t do that. His films begin, search for a form of truth or authenticity, find connections in companionship and then finish, happy and secure in the knowledge that more time is yet to pass and that nostalgia means the time spent will never go really away.

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Linklater says, “cinema is not an immediate art form.” His mentor is experimental filmmaker James Benning, who is interested in duration and believes in the slowness and stillness of real life. Benning’s film Nightfall (2012) is simply one shot of the woods, with the sun slowly setting, in real time, behind the trees. His film Natural History (2014) looks, very slowly, carefully and a little like the more well-known documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s work, at the corridors and items on display in Vienna’s Museum of Natural History. A journey through duration is what’s shown.

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In the early 1990s Richard Linklater was at the heart of the American Independent film explosion that took place across the world, and was praised critically but also adored by audiences, for his honest, humorous and endearing depictions of the waster generation, Gen X.

Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993) gave an entire generation something to identify with. Suddenly the sprawling nature of mindless conversation and the intertwined concerns facing youth about the state of the world, their personal politics, the finite nature of their existence and the meaning – or lack of meaning -they derived from popular culture, could all be explored and understood without hierarchy. A container with Madonna’s pap smear inside it – including one of her pubic hairs – becomes every bit as important to that youth as a breaking news story about a man who drove along a freeway firing live ammunition.

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Slacker prefigures the American Indie subgenre Mumblecore and the more mainstream film and TV shows it’s since spawned such as Lena Dunham’s Girls, the web series Broad City, and Netflix exclusives Love and Togetherness. Dazed and Confused has only continued to build its cult following since release and liking it is now worn like a badge of honour when it comes to expressing a belief in personal freedom and the right to simply be – instead of doing. But Linklater’s films are not improvised – they are tightly scripted, they are well thought out explorations of meandering precisely because they were created by nostalgia.

Everybody Wants Some!! has been labelled a sequel to Dazed and Confused but Linklater also suggests that it is a sort of spiritual continuation of his 2014 hit film Boyhood. But labelling the connections between his films is unnecessary as they are all, in some way, connections and continuations of each other.

Just because Slacker finishes, it doesn’t mean that the chance encounters between its ensemble cast don’t continue. So, too, do the kids in Dazed and Confused continue to party, argue, learn, dream and be.

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Linklater had the idea for Everybody Wants Some!! around about the same time that he embarked upon creating his twelve-year odyssey Boyhood in the early 2000s. One is not necessarily, then, before the other. Rather, the stories are about characters who are still trying to learn, to ‘get some’ and to grow up. It’s about the journey rather than the destination. Boyhood may be 165 minutes in duration as a film but it is also twelve years from each of the lives of its cast and crew. And so much more than that.

Richard Linklater often works with the same actors and actresses; Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Matthew McConaughey and Jack Black have each appeared in more than one of his films. And, though their reappearance is not purely intertextual, there is a sense of fluidity between characters and performances.

Ethan Hawke, for example, could be the same man in multiple films; an awkward, slightly irresponsible grown up still aching for his youth in Boyhood; and the young, hopeful, charming but assuming young man who talked to the girl sat across from him on a train in Before Sunrise (1995); a man looking back at, discussing and confronting painful memories from high school in a motel room in the film Tape (2001). He brings the history of the Before trilogy to his role in Boyhood and the conversations in that motel room could also belong to that man.

Linklater already has plans to work with Ethan Hawke again – but not until he is 90 and Hawke is 80 years old – on a version of King Lear. No doubt there will be some glimmer of that young man, that middle aged man and the actor himself present in the eighty-year-old, tortured king.

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And Linklater himself is a part of that same journey; he appears in the back of a taxi as a character in Slacker, his daughter plays the role of the sister in Boyhood, his love of baseball crops up in Bad News Bears, Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some!! and, here specifically, he takes a nostalgic look back at his own college experiences, basing his central character somewhat on himself.

There is part of him in each of his films just as there is growing up to be done in each of his films. Jack Black in School of Rock (2003) is an adult still yearning for youth and the freedom of childhood; still wanting to create and make music as if passion were the only thing that mattered and as if time were of no consequence.

In Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006), the dream world, the waking world, what we think of as reality and we understand as imagination are blurred until they are almost indistinguishable. The characters in these films are looking for something – they are trying to find out what is true.

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Bernie (2011) is a strange entry into docu-drama that re-imagines true events where an affable mortician befriends a controlling, wealthy widow, whose hold over him ends with her death. The film is not a documentary, but it uses interviews with the townsfolk and actual people from the small town where the real events took place to re-enact the commentary on a real life murder. It simultaneously shows us how those events may have unfolded, re-enacted by famous performers Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. The result is a constant questioning of what is true and how can we even approach presenting what is true through filmmaking.

Richard Linklater has worked with different modes of storytelling and yet there is a common thread. Though some of these films seem to stand out as more or less narrative than others they are allinterested in untangling the same themes, issues and fixations.

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Even Me and Orson Welles (2008) which stars Zac Efron and Claire Danes in a reimagining of what it was like to work with Orson Welles in his theatre days in the 1930s, is interested in history and the truth of that history – or perhaps the reincarnation of it from a contemporary, nostalgic perception. The same is true of The Newton Boys (1998), a film that takes narrative history – of the Newton gang, the most successful bank robbers in US history – and asks how they did it, who they were, and, most notably, how we remember them. So, too with Fast Food Nation (2006) which hopes to expose the exploitation, social injustices, horrors and evils of the fast food industry.

Time passes but the stories continue, a fundamental function of nostalgia. We make connections with each other as much as we do with the past. In this way, it is pleasing to see that Everybody Wants Some!! doesn’t feel like a filmmaker from the 1990s trying to re-create or resurrect his early filmmaking career. Instead, it feels like a filmmaker still making that same style of cinema, still searching for the answers to those same questions.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a snapshot of one weekend before college begins, but it’s also a very beautiful depiction of the way in which nostalgia allows us to enjoy something that now belongs to time.

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The magic of the movies is in its ability to create, or indeed recreate, something. To tell a story, sure, but also to just be. And, like his characters, constantly looking around, trying to get some from the people, time, and experiences around them, the film is searching for the truth; of an era, for the authenticity of the past but also for the authenticity of the memory of the past: the ability to enjoy and revisit a time and a place that has, out of necessity in its revision, changed, and is now tinged with nostalgia.

When Linklater first sat down to write this film, it was 180 pages long. That’s about 30 pages longer than James Cameron’s Avatar. It covered the whole freshman school year. But he cut it down and created a snapshot. So even though we only see three days before school starts, the story continues off screen – it continues in the mind and memory of its maker.

Everybody Wants Some!! is available to rent from 20th Century Flicks and it’s awesome.

Mommy, where do videos go when they die?

Ever since our appearance on The One Show last year, people with boxes, attics, lofts, basements and garages full of unwanted videos have been calling. Understandably, most people don’t want a bunch of old VHS to continue taking up space and collecting dust in their homes.

The recycling plant for VHS, previously in Bristol, has closed down. Charity shops are packed to the rafters with the darned unsaleable things. So I understand why, after hearing about our store, with its wall of VHS, people would think we might be just the ticket for finally dispensing with one’s home collection of unloved movies.

Unfortunately, we don’t always want them either.

Most of the time it’s because we already have them. Our collection is a little over 19,000 strong (mostly DVD, a couple hundred Blu-ray and a couple thousand VHS). If something is super rare – say you have some video nasties – then yeah, we’d take those. But, tends to be that if you do have such beasts you either a) don’t want to offload ’em or b) do but know that they’re worth summat, so you take to eBay. Much as we’d like to have those puppeies,we’re a video shop and it’s 2016 so, you know, we can’t really afford to pay £200 a pop for summat that may never even see the light of rental day.

What happens, then, to the hundreds and thousands of VHS in your homes?

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Unless you’re super recycle conscious, it’s unlikely you can be bothered to take them apart and separately recycle the individual components. So, I dare say, many of them turn to landfill.

And that’s what’s likely to happen with all those DVDs you’re amassing, too.

Despite the decline of home entertainment sales – and the close to obliteration of the rental industry – DVDs, and indeed Blu-rays, are still being made. But even if they’re picked up for a pound or two in the sale bins, it’s unlikely you’ll keep them forever.

Maybe you will re-watch Die Hard, and All About Eve. But will you really return to The Knowing? That’s a stretch, and I say this as a bona fide Nic Cage devotee.

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This is not my way of making a case for the internet. Rather, it’s my way of pointing out how sad the fate of so many physical copies of movies truly is. It’s also why a rental store is the kind of thing you ought to support.

We’re actually more environmentally friendly and cost effective than physically buying the stuff yourself. And we don’t throw stuff away just because it’s a bit crap – we have plenty of terrible movies and we intend to keep ’em for as long as you want to come rent ’em. What we have become is a sort of library. We keep stuff as best we can (including donations of stuff we don’t have, just that we can’t take duplicates) which means our selection is bigger and better than the majority of what’s available through online streaming platforms. We don’t have everything and we are aware of that, but we have a lot.

However, and this is the point I really want to make, what we don’t do is add to the problem of rampant consumerism and landfill culture. We’re not into making you buy stuff at an accelerated rate so that you can fill your homes with crap and we don’t throw out a tonne of films to landfill – even when our collection of ex-rentals is blocking access to the counter. Kinda like it is right now.

So stumble on in, make your way through the trenches of display cases and find something to watch without contributing to the great plastic waste. We’ll do our best to remain a repository for things you might like to see but not own. Because we’re just about the closest thing that there is to home entertainment heaven.

 

Christmas Giveaway

I fracking love Christmas movies. Even the bad ones. In fact, sometimes I especially like the bad ones (except Love Actually, obvs). So, I thought I might like to reward someone else who also likes Christmas movies.

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To that end, if you wanna win a prize, you can answer the following ten questions about ten great Christmas flicks, email them to us at: info[at]20thcenturyflicks[dot]co[dot]uk and, if you’re lucky – it’ll take a Christmas miracle! – you might just win yourself ten free rentals. 

  1. Nicolas Cage is in a Christmas movie. We have it in the shop. What’s it called?
  2. There’s a movie about a man taking his geese to market that’s set at Christmas time. What’s the name of the actor who plays that man?
  3. Billy Bob is the opposite of a Good Santa. In that movie he has a love interest and she was in a TV show. What TV show was she in?
  4. Barbara Stanwyck’s in a Christmas movie. Which is awesome. She steals something. What does she steal?
  5. Which famous British film had its titular concept inspired by Brief Encounter?
  6. The Brain Gremlin in Gremlins 2: The New Batch references a famous American writer and critical and political thinker. What’s her name?
  7. Diane Keaton stars in this year’s Christmas family cinema release Love the Coopers. Which other family Christmas flick did she star in some ten years earlier?
  8. Hulk Hogan was in a very silly Christmas movie. We don’t have it in the shop. But it involves something cray in the caves beneath an orphanage. What that?
  9. What colour are the Martians that Santa conquers?
  10. Which muppet gets mistaken for the Grinch on his way to the bank?

Good luck and have yourself a merry little Christmas… x

Quizmas is Coming…

Quizmas is coming the quiz host is getting fat,

Please put a pound in the pint glass – not a hat

If you haven’t got a pound, then nothing else will do

If you haven’t got a nothing else then no quiz for you!

Which would be terribly, terribly sad because we have TOTALLY KICK-ASS PRIZES up for grabs! Like awesome Arrow Video movies, Klank beer wrapped in a limited edition Flicks’ t-shirt, random rental vouchers, and other, stuff.

PLUS, we’ve arranged for a very special visit from the Australian Feminist Santa to hand out said prizes. What the frack more could you want? (Don’t answer that, we can’t give you anything more).

So assemble your team – no more than six humans, please (replicants not allowed) – and get down The Steps on Monday night (December 7th). And remember, this is our last one until Feb as we’re taking a not very much needed but convenient hiatus!

What’s a ‘Klank’…?

Entry is £1 per person and rules are subject to the whim of your two quiz masters, Mr Bags and DJ WillSpinz, and the Australian Feminist Santa. 

Top Tens

I’ve already written on this here blog about my dislike for listicles. Now I wanna talk about Top Tens.

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Though ‘top’ is about as authoritative as ‘best’ where the internet is concerned, there is some value to be gleaned from the notion of a canon, or at least critically acclaimed examples of things like genre, tone, craft, maybe even run times, etc. But there’s also something about calling anything ‘top’ that makes me a little uncomfortable – ‘top’ according to what criteria, exactly?

In the shop we used to have a ‘Top Ten’ list of new release titles which, essentially, was just a list of what had been renting best from our new release board. The reason we put it up for so many years was because people wanted it – some sort of narrowing down of the expansive list of what’s otherwise only curated as ‘new’.

Perhaps what was most frustrating about those lists is that they in no way reflected the opinions or qualitative tastes of the staff at Flicks. So why, when in an internet age, you could easily find a list of what’s popular, would we bother printing up such a beast on a weekly basis? Won’t someone think of the trees! (not to mention the eyes and minds of those renting and watching what’s non-critically popular enough to make its way into the top ten …)

And so, we did away with it. No more Top Ten lists from Flicks.

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But what, people wanted to know, should they rent?!

Well, seeing as there’s rarely a 10: 1 customer to staff ratio in the store, we think it’s as easy, and certainly better, for us to just tell you what’s good from the new releases. AND, as best we think it might align with your own tastes.

We’re here, we’re human and we can TALK!

So that’s it. That’s why we don’t do a weekly new release ‘Top Ten’ any more. Instead, we’ve got around 600 staff recommended titles on display next to the new release board, one or two friendly humans on hand to let you know that The Water Diviner is crap and that John Wick is faaarking great, as well as a few critically curated genre lists to hand for those who really can’t get away from Buzzfeed culture.

It’s not a Netflix algorithm built on wanting you to rent specific titles for financial reasons. Nope, it’s just two guys named Dave, me (Tara) and Becca, here to talk you out of taking Man Up home and into renting Rosewater instead.

Also, we have around 19,000 movies – there’s more than ten that are tops.

South West Silents Speak Up! SPIONE

“Almighty God… what power is at play here?” Spione

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It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I’ve decided to write about Fritz Lang’s Spione (1927) again. After all, I have written more about this great super spy thriller than probably any other film in the past decade. The reason for this? There are many reasons to be honest, but one key factor is that I still believe the film isn’t celebrated enough, if it is celebrated at all. Even now, after a very successful commercial release by Masters of Cinema, Spione is still eclipsed by the films Fritz Lang made before (Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, Die Nibelungen, Metropolis) and shadowed by the ones he made after (Frau im Mond, M, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse).

So why am I flying the flag once again for Spione? And why now? Well, it’s all down to the fact that a member of British Intelligence is returning for his 24th cinematic outing this month, apparently his name is Bond, James Bond or something!

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Anyway, with the release of Spectre (2015) not only do we see the return of Bond we also see the long awaited return of that most devious of devious criminal and terrorist organizations: ‘the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion’, or, better known in short, SPECTRE (the clue of a return is in the title of the film, btw). And with that we could (I say could) see the return of SPECTRE’s head honcho Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It is worth briefly noting at this point that EON Productions have not publicly stated that Blofeld is actually in SPECTRE, but, throughout the publicity campaign one particular character seems to be singled out as a possible candidate for the cat-stroking-Mao-suited super villain. But, I am not planning to name names here –  after all, I’m supposed to be writing about Spione!

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Now, when it comes to Spione’s wheelchair bound villain, Haghi (played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and Blofeld there does seem to be a connection, a feeling that these two characters are almost cut from the same cloth. To be honest, they aren’t really villains; they’re more like super-villains in my eyes. And, when you watch Spione, you will begin to notice the connection as well. Both characters are always ahead of the game when they battle our heroes and they usually have the final say… most of the time.

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But let’s not get too serious here. Both characters are great fun to watch and continually dominate their scenes. Haghi, with his Lucifer looks and full black suit, and Blofeld (depending on which actor you are thinking about) with his trademark white cat and Mao suit are most certainly well-groomed visually for the cinema – so well-groomed, in fact, that their characteristics continue to shine through even today.

Blofeld

For instance, Blofeld has had his fair share of mimics over the years, from the Austin Powers films to Police Academy (that’s Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989) for all the nerds out there) and God only knows how many times Blofeld’s trademarks have appeared on television depicting a villain of sorts; even Alan Partridge gets his shoe-in (that’s Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge for the even bigger nerds). All of the above shows the popularity of a character like Blofeld, not bad for a character who has appeared on-screen for nearly forty years. But could this be because of the continuing success of the Bond films?

In Haghi’s case, to my knowledge, his persona only appeared in Walter Forde’s Would You Believe It (1929), Britain’s most successful British comedy of the 1920s; however, it is a clear indication of how popular the Haghi character had become within the year of Spione’s release.

Blofeld 1

But while Haghi is very much forgotten by most cinephiles today, his influence can still be seen in modern-day cinema; he is almost a template for later cinematic super villains such as Die Hard’s Hans Gruber, Se7en’s John Doe, Darth Vader, The Joker or even more recently Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (2007).

So the next time you sit down and watch a Bond film, preferably one with Blofeld in, don’t forget that he is part of a pantheon of super villains which goes way back to a film like Spione, from a time when the villains didn’t really need white cats!

Written by James Harrison of South West Silents for 20th Century Flicks.