Monday, April 21, 2014

R.I.P.: Kate O'Mara, Part II

The English actress Kate O'Mara (10 August 1939 — 30 March 2014) is dead. For us here at A Wasted Life, she was one of our favorite actresses from the Golden Age of English Gothic Cleavage, despite the fact that her horror output was extremely limited. Indeed, though often lumped together with the beautiful Hammer Screamers, she only ever appeared in three Hammer films and turned down a contract when offered in fear of being typecast. We've seen all her three of her straight Horror Films, and she was without a doubt always the most impressive looker in the given movie, despite some hefty competition.
An active stage and television actress, "She was perhaps most widely known for her role as Caress Morell, the scheming sister of Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) in the 1980s American primetime soap opera Dynasty."
Born to John F. Carroll, an RAF flying instructor and actress Hazel Bainbridge (25 January 1911 — 7 January 1998), she was the older sister to actress Belinda Carroll. Twice married and twice divorced, she had two sons, one of whom, Dickon Young (1964–2012), hanged himself in the garage of the £750,000 cottage he shared with his mother, O'Mara, in the village of Long Marston, Warks.
O'Mara died on 30 March 2014 in a Sussex nursing home at the age of 74 after a short illness. We looked at her best films in Part I; here, we look as what's left...

(1976, Patrick Dromgoole)
The year previously, director Patrick Dromgoole directed his only horror movie, Deadly Strangers (1975 / full movie). This TV flick here, which Cathode Ray Tube calls "an eccentric, rather seedy and often violent detective story", eventually received a DVD release. Over at YouTube, The Disappearance 62 says: "Leonard Rossiter plays Cyril Dugdale, a Bristol debt collector (the 'machinegunner' of the title) and would-be detective who agrees to handle a well-paid divorce case for the mysterious Felicity (Nina Baden-Semper). His job is to get incriminating photographs of property developer Jack Bone (Colin Welland), who is carrying out an adulterous affair, but after getting the shots, Dugdale finds himself caught up in an escalating series of events — hunted by Bone's heavies who want the negatives, he manages to just about avoid them only to see Bone murdered by people who are just as keen to get hold of the photographs and get rid of business (not to mention romantic) rivals. And Felicity is refusing to reveal who her real client is...
Machinegunner is a tight, twisting mix of dark humour, noir-esque crime drama and gritty Seventies bleakness, topped off with a heavy sprinkling of racial tension (delicate viewers might cringe at some of the language used here). It's got a Sweeney-esque feel at times, with villains toting sawn-off 'shooters', corruption in high places and urban violence, and is laced through with a black comic feel. [...] There are solid turns from Welland and Kate O'Mara as the woman at the centre of the action."
Full movie:

The Nativity
(1978, dir. Bernard L. Kowalski)
TV Trailer:

While we must admit that the legendary lost gay porno film, Ed D. Louie's Him (1974), is Numero Uno on our list of films we would even buy Crisco and bend over for, in general we are not into religious movies, so though Kate O'Mara appears as the legendary Salome in this TV flick, we probably won't see it — or does she drop all veils when dancing?
Director Bernard L. Kowalski made mostly TV crap, but he did make an occasional real feature film, including a horror film or two, namely: Sssssnake Kobra (1973 / German trailer); Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), with Yvette Vickers;  and Night of the Blood Beast (1958 / trailer / full film). Currently (01.04.14), Wikipedia explains this movie as: "The Nativity is a 1978 television film starring Madeleine Stowe as Mary, set around the Nativity of Jesus and based on the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew and Luke, in the apocryphal gospels of Pseudo-Matthew and James, and in the Golden Legend.
The Nativity was [...] written by Morton S. Fine and Millard Kaufman, and filmed in Almería, Spain. Millard Kaufman also wrote the classic noir Gun Crazy (1950) and the not-so-classic sci-fi flick, Unknown World (1951 / full movie), both movies more worth your time than this snoozer here.
Fan-made Gun Crazy "Trailer":

 Tuntematon ystävä
(1978, dir. Lars G. Thelestam)
Title Track:

Aka An Unknown Friend. God only knows how Kate O'Mara managed to get in a Finnish crime film, but she's there — check out the trailer — as the "reluctant femme fatale". She plays "Karen Lindén / Judith Russell / Berit Lindström". This film seems to be forgotten and unknown, but over at imdb, Yrmy from Helsinki — that's a city in Finland, my fellow Americans — says that the movie is "Unknown for a reason": "Tuntematon ystävä was the third attempt to film the works of popular and populist Finnish detective novelist Mauri Sariola. Based loosely on the 1970 novel Susikoski virittää ansan, the film also features his most famous protagonist, the no-nonsense, conservative Detective Inspector (later Superintendent) Susikoski. It was also probably the worst of the three.
Sariola's strong points usually lay more with his characters and typically acerbic observations about society and people than his often mechanistic and haphazard plots. Unfortunately, what Tuntematon ystävä takes from its source is mostly the heavily reworked basic plot, which in the film concerns an American-Finnish couple who murder various 'society's parasites' for their insurance money.
The film does try. At the time, it was for Finnish cinema an exceptionally brazen attempt to make a mainstream commercial thriller with international cast and a climax shot in Morocco. The end result, however, is on par with a mediocre television film, which totally wastes its elite cast, including Lindholm in the title role. Staging, dialogue and attempts at suspense in fact now seem more fitting for a comedy than a thriller. Even a record-breaking marketing campaign couldn't turn the film into the hit it aspired to be."

 The Plank
(1979, dir. Erik Sykes)
Director Sykes, a well-known if now-dead comedian in the UK, can also be found in one of our favorite Vincent Price films, the classic Theatre of Blood (1973 / trailer), as well as the surprisingly effective Nicole Kidman vehicle, The Others (2001 / trailer). The Plank is a TV short and, as the Sydney Morning Herald says, when speaking of the first version of the filmlette made in 1967, "Eric Sykes' classic 1967 short is a sterling reminder of how great comedy does not age and, in its purest form, requires no words. An extended homage to the type of comic invention replete during the silent era, the short film (remade poorly in 1979 with a grating laugh track) follows two workmen (Sykes and British comedy legend Tommy Cooper [in the remake, Sykes and Arthur Lowe]) as they visit a timber yard to buy a plank." According to Wikipedia, "Like the original, it has an all-star cast of British comedians and other celebrities; although only Sykes, Jimmy Edwards and Kenny Lynch reprise their previous roles." Kate O'Mara shows up to say the only spoken line in the entire short: "It's paint."
New version, full short:

Beauty and the Beast
(1992, dir. Timothy Forder)
After the Finnish crime flick Tuntematon ystävä, Kate O'Mara stuck to television, where she had a viable career as both a regular (on series like Denver or Dr Who) as well as a featured guest star. In 1992, she finally returned to the movies, if only as a voice artist alongside — of all people — Christopher Lee in this direct-to-video animated film that road on the shirttails of Disney's major release of the same title the year before. She voiced Lucinda, one of Beauty's sisters. MJ Simpson — not to be confused with OJ — says: "This is an entirely British production; there are no Korean names in these end credits but maybe they should have considered farming this out to Seoul because the animation is awful. Very crude and basic and not helped by frankly poor character designs by Paul Gunson [...] and Gerard Kenny [...]. Though the characters are awful and their movements basic and repetitive, there is some consolation in well-painted backgrounds by Ian Henderson who also worked on both Watership Down (1978 / trailer) and The Plague Dogs (1982 / trailer)."
The first 14:27 minutes:

(1992, dir. Timothy Forder)
For his next animated film, Timothy Forder didn't even wait a full year but, rather, the very same year that Disney brought out their big budget version of Aladdin (trailer), Forder jumped on the wagon and dashed out his low-budget, direct-to-video version. Christopher Lee obviously took for the hills this time around, but O'Mara is still there, now doing the voice of "Madam Roly Poly". Another person there for the second time after Beauty and the Beast: Sean Connery's son Jason Joseph Connery, who is also found in masterpieces like Penance (2009 / trailer), The Thirst: Blood War (2008 / trailer), wih C. Thomas Howell), Hoboken Hollow (2006 / trailer), Brotherhood of Blood (2007 / trailer), Night Skies (2007 / trailer), Alone in the Dark II (2008 / trailer) and Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001 / trailer).
Over at imdb, the User Reviews have such enlightening headings as: "Buyer Beware", "Made for children whose parents hate them", and "This Aladdin is cursed!!!!" At Amazon, anijunk — who, going by the moniker shouldn't have anything against junk films — says: "Sorry but this 'animation' is not worth the money. First of all the story locations are wrong (Morocco and China instead of Egypt and Bagdad). Then anachronisms like a genie with sports shoes. And a dialogue that uses 3 sentences to say something twice. The animation itself is poor and amateuristic (sic), the music is electronic and boring. But see it for yourself if you do not believe me."
See for yourself — the full movie:


 The Road to Ithaca
(1999, writ & dir Kostas Dimitriou)
As far as we can tell, this war drama/romance is the last known directorial effort of the Greek producer, director and actor Kostas Dimitriou, who acted alongside Alexandra Bastedo in the 1979 TV miniseries The Aphrodite Inheritance, which we did not look at in Bastedo's R.I.P. career review. Kate O'mara appears somewhere in The Road to Ithaca, yet another forgotten and seemingly unavailable movie, as "Despina". The year it came out, the movie was screened at the 40th International Thessaloniki Film Festival, where they wrote the following: "The loss of loved ones and the tragic present become entangled with memories of the past. Hope and the struggle for survival alternate with despair and hopelessness. In the turmoil of the war and occupation, a young Turkish girl, Yasmin (Berna Raif), refuses to stop searching for her great love, the Greek-Cypriot Telemachos (Alexis Conran, seen somewhere in Below [2002]), who has been taken prisoner by the Turkish occupying forces. While Yasmin never gives up hope of finding her beloved, her childhood friend, Eleni (Frances Ruffelle), is pregnant with the child of a Greek man, who, however, turned out to be a Turkish secret services officer who abandoned her after the invasion. Eleni keeps her secret buried deep inside, constantly haunted by nightmarish memories."
Although Kate O'Mara continued to act on the small screen and on stage, The Road to Ithaca was her last appearance in a feature or direct-to-video film.
Costas Cacyannis' ELEGY from The Road to Ithaca:

Kate O'Mara — R.I.P.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

pretty nice blog, following :)

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