Film Review- Other, Like Me: The Oral History of Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle (2020)

Film Review- Other, Like Me: The Oral History of Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle (2020)

I first heard of the transgressive music group Throbbing Gristle through my love of Siouxsie and the Banshees. I also bought the book about them, Wreckers of Civilization by Simon Ford when I lived in London.  Shortly after this TG’s back catalogue was remastered and I lapped it up.

For years I hoped for a documentary about this remarkable band. This happened in 2020 and I was due to see it as part of the Leeds International Film Festival but this screening was cancelled due to COVID.


But good ol’ YouTube has the documentary on its platform. This is actually the hour-long version shown on the BBC (a longer 88 min version is the theatrical feature length).

The story of the band goes like this- Genesis P Orridge is a student in Hull who meets Christine Newby who renames herself as Cosey Fanni Tutti. They both perform as part of COUM Transmissions performing art actions either as part of art festivals or just on the mean streets of Hull. They then leave Hull (or you could say they were run out of town), move to London and hold the art show Prostitution which offers a retrospective of COUM but also signifies the first performance of their new music outfit, Throbbing Gristle which also includes artist Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and synth whizz Chris Carter. This show proves to be massively controversial due to its transgressive content and they manage to make the front page of every national and local newspaper in the UK. A Tory MP who was at the exhibition dubs them the ‘Wreckers of Civilisation.’ TG then go on to release albums whilst performing gigs and examining taboo subjects whilst making some of the most genre-pushing music ever created.


On seeing this Other, Like Me for the first time, I’m astounded at how good it is. I knew that TG member Genesis P Orridge had organised his/her archive of Coum Transmissions/Throbbing Gristle ephemera and the documentary dips into this brilliantly. There’s a lot of photographic and video material regarding the bands that I had never seen before which is a revelation.

This isn’t a complete history as that would take hours more to fully document. Cosey’s autobiography Art, Sex, Music is a good place to investigate further as is Gen’s book Non-Binary but Other, Like Me is a very good place for the curious or the already devoted to venture.


Other, Like Me is an incredible time-capsule as to the truly transgressive artists who were working in the more permissive sixties and seventies but without their work being edgy just for the sake of it but rather a band of artists who were genuinely curious as to certain subject matters and were intent on poking holes in society as we know it.

5 stars out of 5


Review- Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

Review- Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

A psychiatrist shows a colleague some of his clients whilst explaining their backstories.


A young boy has a nightly visitor- a tiger who will kill for him, an antique dealer has a Penny Farthing that he inherited from his aunt that allows him to travel back in time, Joan Collins finds that she must compete with a tree (!) for her husband’s affections and a young woman is sacrificed so that a character’s mother is assured a safe passage to heaven.


Tales That Witness Madness is engaging enough, has a great cast (Donald Pleasance, HRH Joanie Collins, Kim Novak) and is terrifically directed by Freddie Francis. But, it’s just a bit tame. It feels like a series of Tales of the Unexpected episodes stitched together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but as this is film and not television there was an opportunity for more gore or freakiness.


Not the worst horror film I’ve ever seen, but there are better horror anthologies out there.

2.5 stars out of 5

Review- North By Northwest (1959)

Review- North By Northwest (1959)

Suave, debonair advertising executive Roger Thornhill is mistaken for a government agent which results in a gang of foreign spies trying to bump him off whilst making it look like an accident. This doesn’t go to plan. Instead, whilst trying to prove his innocence he then gets framed for murder and has to go on the run. He meets the beautiful Eve Kendall who pledges that she will help him but Thornhill’s suspicions start to tell him that she isn’t the person she says she is.

How the blazes do you review a film that is widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made? Here goes. Here are some of my observations on rewatching this classic.


Cary Grant is the perfect leading man. Handsome and a great actor to boot when it comes to the serious scenes (check him out during the aeroplane scene) but also great when it comes to the comedy and one-liners (I loved the scenes with his mother. In fact, when she exited the film I was gutted as her pithy lines are gold).


A huge part of Hitchcock’s films are his leading ladies. It’s great to see Eve Marie Saint- another gorgeous Hitchcock female character who isn’t just eye candy.


The plot for North By Northwest is full of double-crossings and characters not turning out to be who they say they are and sometimes more than once. Things aren’t as they seem with Cold War paranoia running rampant in the narrative.

It’s so nice to revisit peak Hitchcock, with every frame looking like it’s been painted. Hitchcock’s direction is (as per) utterly spellbinding- like the frame that is shot from above the ground and looks like a civil planning diagram made flesh. I also love the scene in the railway station in which Roger is dressed as a railway worker and sinks into the crowd and the scene becomes something akin to a Where’s Wally drawing. As there are so many railway workers present all wearing the same uniform, this gives Roger a chance to escape undetected. This scene was such a great idea.

The scene in which Roger gets off the bus in the middle of nowhere is both surreal and unsettling. Thornhill is made vulnerable by the vast open space especially when being chased by a malevolent crop-dusting plane. Hitchcock delighted in depicting the everyday situations whereby people are at their most exposed and powerless. Another example is, of course, Marion Crane naked in the shower.


Mount Rushmore makes for a spectacular and audacious setting for the film’s finale. Such a locale sounds gimmicky but North By Northwest never feels showy.  Hitchcock’s direction and visual touches never get in the way of his film’s plot and entertainment value that are accessible to everyone rather than just to the Film School mob.

Hitchcock himself appears in the film in a cute cameo in which he misses a bus during the opening credits of the film.

Bernard Herrmann’s score is iconic and second only to Psycho regarding his soundtracks for Hitchcock’s movies. There’s so much urgency to his score and the results are breathtaking.

I had to re-watch the scene in which Martin Landau’s character talked about his ‘woman’s intuition’. I realised that my ears hadn’t deceived me and that his character is gay. On doing some research it is mentioned in the script that his mannerisms were described as ‘effeminate’. Even though it was decades before such portrayals would be permitted in mainstream American cinema, Landau discussed with Hitchcock whether he could portray his character as homosexual. Hitchcock said for him to go for it. This was trailblazing and very daring for its time.


There’s more I could discuss about the film and its plot but I’m not going to ruin any surprises for anyone unfortunate enough to not have seen the film.

A deserved classic.

5 stars out of 5

Review- Con Air (1997)

Review- Con Air (1997)

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) accidentally kills a man who has been harassing him and his wife after they are reunited. He serves his time and 8 years later is paroled. To get back to his native Alabama he boards a prison transportation plane. Other criminals are also sharing the flight and are still serving time such as highly intelligent criminal mastermind Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich), former general of the Black Guerillas Nathan ‘Diamond Dog’ Jones (Ving Rhames) and rapist John ‘Johnny 23’ Baca (Danny Trejo). What could possibly go wrong?!


I love Con Air. It’s a big, fantastic action movie that I regret never having seen in a cinema on a big screen. It’s also very intelligent even though it tries to come across as dumb (I love the armchair film critics on social media who don’t get this). Its homages and pastiches regarding the action genre are very knowing and extremely entertaining. I can’t get enough of those shots of Cage running in slow motion with explosions going off behind him. I also can’t get enough of the soundtrack with its awesome electric guitars. How Do I Live by Trisha Yearwood was also written for the film and received an Oscar nomination. There was also another nomination for Best Sound. The idea of Con Air being nominated for Academy Awards blows my mind.

I also love how each of the baddies in the film has a fleshed-out (pun not intended) backstory and are exceptionally well-acted. It feels like the plane is full of villains en route to a sociopath’s summit meeting. It also feels like any one of these characters was already well-rounded and well-written enough to star in their own film on their own merits.


The action within the film knows no bounds and it feels like ANYTHING could happen. The finale in which a sizable chunk of Las Vegas is levelled is awesome. I love the money raining down on everyone once the action has finally subsided.

Critics at the time were questioning whether the events in Con Air were believable. Who cares? It’s a fantastic film that’s all you need to know. Disregard the mainstream critics with their boring tastes and the armchair critics with their lack of cineliteracy. Con Air is pure cult cinema and a delight from start to finish.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- Corruption (1968)

Review- Corruption (1968)

Wanna see what would happen if someone as old school as Peter Cushing went to a groovy late 60s Swinging London happening? If so then Corruption is the film for you.


Cushing plays plastic surgeon Sir John Rowan who after getting into a fight with Anthony Booth’s sleazy photographer accidentally disfigures his fiancee’s face after a heat lamp falls onto her. Rowan tries experimental surgery involving the transplanting of young women’s pituitary glands which seems to make his partner’s disfigurement disappear. We see John kill a West End prostitute for this purpose. Unfortunately, the effects of this pioneering new surgery is only temporary which means that Rowan must kill time and time again to repeat the procedure and bring back his fiancee’s looks to their former glory.


Things then take a bizarre twist when a gang of friends of one of the missing girls invade the home of John and his partner.

This movie is fantastic. There are moments that are completely unhinged and insane. In other words, my favourite kind of cinema. Check out the chase scene that has been sped up and involves the characters wearing the kind of late 60s colours that make your retinas bleed. It’s like a Benny Hill sketch on acid. Also, Cushing is surprisingly maniacal when he’s bumping the women off.


Of course, there are comparisons with Eyes Without a Face that can be made but Corruption ventures into different avenues altogether.

Corruption shocked critics and audiences alike with its graphic violence at the time of its release. It still has the ability to shock today.

Off-kilter, left-field and batshit crazy. Not to be missed.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Review- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) lands a job in which she becomes the junior personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor of the fashion magazine Runway. After she flounders in her role, she approaches Nigel (Stanley Tucci), an art director to teach her how to prosper in the bitchy and backstabbing world of fashion journalism. After she starts to wear the right clothes and fulfil the outlandish demands of Miranda, she starts to climb up the ranks in her new profession.


The Devil Wears Prada works on so many levels. As pure entertainment, it’s brilliant, darkly funny and strangely poignant in places.

But it also makes perceptive insights regarding the superficial, toxic world of high fashion. It will also resonate with anyone who has ever been part of any kind of unhealthy, dysfunctional workplace. I love how Andy states that she will only stay for a year and then leave but finds herself changing for the worse in her time there. Toxicity is contagious and spreads quickly if you don’t self-reflect and make a conscious decision to be better than that. This is depicted very well indeed by the film.

The Devil Wears Prada is also a fantastic insight into Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Miranda is the living personification of narcissism and is depicted amazingly well by Streep (although she’s always brilliant in whatever role she inhabits).


In fact, all of the performances are brilliant with real depth being brought to roles that could have been two-dimensional in lesser hands. Stanley Tucci does gay so well! His performance is the perfect answer to the new puritans who demand that gay actors should be the only ones to depict gay characters.


The character I loved the most was that of Emily Charlton, Miranda’s senior assistant as played by Emily Blunt. She is dripping with acerbic one-liners, sarcasm and dry wit. A lot of the original reviews singled out Blunt’s character and performance and deservedly so. She steals any scene she’s in.

The Devil Wears Prada is far from superficial and has a depth and nuance that wasn’t present in the original novel. And because of this, it’s fantastic. A sequel has been mooted for years now. I hope it comes to fruition.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- Rocky IV (1985)

Review- Rocky IV (1985)

I still remember my friend Ollie coming into the school I attended and telling me at breakneck speed that he had seen Rocky IV the day before at the local cinema, everything that happened in it and how great it was. Word of mouth is the best kind of ‘hype’ for a movie. ‘I need to see this film!’ I thought and so Rocky IV was the first Rocky film I saw at the cinema (the other three had been viewed on home video).


It had been years since I had last seen this film, so a rewatch was well overdue.

Ivan Drago is a Russian boxer who arrives in the US with his team in tow, one of which is his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), a swimmer in her native Russia. In the demonstrations of his strength, it is suggested that this is down to Drago being Russian and superior because of this. Apollo Creed sees this and decides to take on Drago. What could go wrong?


Theres so much to love about Rocky IV- Creed’s entrance involving James Brown and showgirls a-plenty before his exhibition match with Drago (this was recreated years later by real-life boxer Tyson Fury), the soundtrack that spawned even more iconic songs (Living In America, Burning Heart), the sequences showing Drago’s strength (loving the 80’s graphics that show his punching power), the training scenes which have Drago embracing the latest technology whilst Rocky uses more primitive methods, the pop video montage whilst shows Rocky driving along whilst remembering events from the first three films many of them involving his friend Creed…

The robot is irritating as is Rocky’s son but these are minor points. In Stallone’s Director’s Cut, the robot would disappear (hooray) amongst other alterations.

This is Cold War Rocky with a huge showdown being not just Rocky vs Drago but America vs Russia. And it’s fantastic because of this angle. A fourth film in any other franchise may show signs of fatigue and repetition but Rocky IV shows the exact opposite. It feels fresh, vital and for a lot of fans of the series, it is the best entry.

RockyIVBannerCold War

4 stars out of 5

Review- The Mutations (1974)

Review- The Mutations (1974)

A genetic engineering professor is trying to further his knowledge by experimenting on humans and passing on the results to the leader of a circus freak show who has a glandular disorder which has affected his appearance. He actually used to be part of the act himself.


This film is a doozy. There’s so much to love here. The opening credits of time-lapse footage of flowers blooming and mushrooms sprouting is gorgeous. This goes into a lecture being given by the professor (played by legend Donald Pleasance) and it’s so captivating that I thought that an hour and a half of this would make me happy.


I loved that the ‘freaks’ in the circus act are treated with utter respect and as the gorgeous human beings they are. The obvious reference point here is Tod Browning’s similarly brilliant film Freaks. But, The Mutations distinctly has the feel of a 70’s exploitation film. The circus act leader is played by Tom Baker (who in my humble opinion is the best Doctor Who) and as ever his performance is fantastic. I love the sequence where he goes to Soho and visits a prostitute. This reminded me of an early scene in slasher classic The Burning in which Cropsy goes in search of ahem, female company. In fact, there is another similarity here: Cropsy and Baker’s character dress in a long coat, a scarf obscuring their features resplendent with a large hat. Both characters look like the villain from a Giallo movie.

In fact, The Mutations is also a great 70’s London movie. There’s even a scene that takes place outside the Royal Albert Hall with beautiful shots of the gorgeous architecture.

The makeup is fantastic and way ahead of its time. Stills of these creations were used extensively for publicity for the film.

The music by Basil Kirchin and Jack Nathan is extraordinary. It contains such leftfield fare as oscillating sounds fed through darkly psychedelic effects and loud discordant violins. The composers were truly thinking outside the box and it reminded me of the great soundtracks for such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.  I hope one day the soundtrack for The Mutations will be released as an album.

The Mutations is a fantastic piece of British 70’s horror that is terrifying and hallucinatory but also very humane where it counts. It also fantastically depicts a time in British horror history when there seemed to be no limits especially when it came to imagination.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- Absence of Malice (1981)

Review- Absence of Malice (1981)

Hooray for IMDB! Here’s Absence of Malice’s storyline-

Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force have no evidence that he’s involved with the mob but decide to pressure him into perhaps revealing something – anything – about a murder they’re sure was a mob hit. They let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher’s name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won’t reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson.

I remember Absence of Malice being on the video shelves in the 80s and probably didn’t rent it because

  1. It wasn’t a horror film
  2. It seemed to be mainly just people talking
  3. It seemed very ‘adult’ (i.e. boring)
  4. It wasn’t The Beast Within


Now that I’m much older I’m somewhat prone to films that involve people talking (although horror is still my ‘go to’ genre and The Beast Within is high art) I thought I’d check out Absence of Malice to see if it was any good. And it was. Great performances all round but particularly from Paul Newman, Sally Field and Melinda Dillon. Also, I loved the musical score by Dave Grusin.


The direction by Sidney Pollack and cinematography by Owen Roizman are just as fantastic as I thought they would be. Absence of Malice is a brilliant addition to the ‘newsroom drama’ sub-genre and the sets are gorgeously early 80s. The huge open-plan newsroom in a thousand shades of beige, Field’s apartment that is also open-plan, beige and appears to be in the middle of the city (there are the lights of skyscrapers outside her window). ‘How can she afford that amazing apartment on a journalist’s salary?!’ I thought. Only millionaires would be able to afford such a pad these days.

Absence Of Malice - 1981

I also liked how Absence of Malice feels different to other similar dramas. I was trying to think how to describe the feel of the film but Janet Maslin did it brilliantly well already in her New York Times review from when the film was released. She said she liked the ‘quiet gravity’ that the film possessed. And so do I. Absence of Malice feels less urgent than other similar films but it slowly builds up to a very dramatic finale. It also has the power to shock (I’m going to say no more regarding this as I don’t want to ruin any surprises).

An understated joy.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Our Miss Fred (1972)

Review- Our Miss Fred (1972)

Drag act Danny La Rue was one of the highest-paid entertainers in the UK in the early 70s. Our Miss Fred was a film written specifically as a vehicle for him.


The film concerns a classically trained actor, Fred Wimbush who is asked to entertain the troops with his drag act in France during World War 2.

Whilst there France is captured by the Germans who actually let Fred go as they think he is a woman. He fears that he will be shot as a spy if they discover his secret and so must remain as a woman until he can escape the country and get back to England. He takes refuge in an English all-girls finishing school where he finds that they are hiding an escaped airman (named Smallpiece which shows the kind of innuendo that is a very welcome staple of the film).


La Rue’s only appearance in the world of film is surprisingly low-key and very endearing. I love the fact that it looks like vaseline has been smeared over the camera lens whenever La Rue has a close-up.

The double entendres come thick and fast and are very funny. There’s also great support from Lance Percival (Smallpiece) and Frances De La Tour who would later appear as Miss Jones in the classic comedy series Rising Damp.


The sequence in which La Rue leads a rousing version of Hitler’s Only Got One Ball (!) was cut from the original film release so that it would secure an A certificate from the BBFC. Subsequent releases would be uncut and this sequence would be placed back in.

3.5 stars out of 5