Tuesday, 3 August 2010

2. Jenny Agutter



The non-carnal reason for Jenny featuring next is that one of her most famous films now exists in a sort of legal twilight zone so I thought I’d better watch it while it was still readily available.


Jenny was born in Taunton, Somerset in 1952 but moved around the globe as her father was a British Army officer. She trained at a ballet school which led to a role at 14 in the Disney TV film “Ballerina” and her first proper film role . She has worked steadily ever since, her progression from child star to young woman being famously marked by a series of nude appearances. In the second half of the 70s she moved to Los Angeles but eventually returned to Britain. She has done a lot of stage and TV work as well as films. She is also a keen photographer and has published a book of her snaps. She is married with one son born in 1990 and lives partly in London and partly on the Lizard in Cornwall.


1 East of Sudan ( 1964 )



It's  amazing  to  think  that  Jenny  , who  is  still  an  attractive  woman , was  making  her  first  film  while  I  was  still  in  the  womb. But  here  she  is  in  a  historical  adventure  film  at  the  age  of  11  holding  her  own  alongside  major  British  film  stars.

Director  Nathan  Juran  came  to  prominence  when  he won  an  Oscar  for  art  direction  on  How  Green  Was  My  Valley  in  1941. After  the  war  he  got  the  chance  to  direct  his  own  films  which  were  mainly sci-fi  B-movies  including  the  cult  classic  Attack  Of  The  Fifty  Foot  Woman. This  is  one  of  his  last  films  before  abandoning  the  movie  world  and  returning  to  architecture.

It's  set  during  the  Sudanese  insurgency  against  British  colonial  rule  in  the  1880s  and  concerns  the  adventures  of  a  motley  group  of  refugees  trying  to  survive  amidst  the  chaos. The  premise  had  potential  but  this  is  a  bad  film. The  major  problem  is  Juran's  use  of   footage  from  previous  films  (especially  the  1939  version  of  The  Four  Feathers )  to  an  extent  that  would  have  embarrassed  Ed  Wood . This  creates  credibility  and continuity  issues  throughout  the  film. For  example,  at  one  point  the  party  makes  use  of  a  handy  herd  of  elephants to  escape  a  band  of  Arab  villains. To  realise  this  you  have  the  actors  running  in  front  of  a  giant  screen  showing  the  animals  (in  one  shot  you  can  spot  the  herdsman)  without  regard  to  relative  proportions  so  that  in  some  shots  the  elephants  have  the  dimensions  of  dinosaurs  rendering  the  whole  sequence  risible. Elsewhere  it  causes  day/night  continuity  errors   and  incompatible  scenery  switches  which  is  particularly unfortunate  as the  studio  sets  (at  Shepperton) are  actually  quite  impressive.

The  film  also  suffers  from  narrative  incoherence. The  first  5  minutes  are  taken  up  with  a  lengthy and  largely  unnecessary   narration  of  the  historical  background  over  stock  footage  of  the  Nile  and  then  the  beginnings  of  a  battle. It  then  cuts  abruptly  to  a  small  boat  containing  the  four  main  characters  whose  back  stories  we're  left  to  deduce  patchily  from  the  dialogue. It  appears  they  are  refugees  from  the  possibly  fictional  Bahrash  making  for  Khartoum. They  are  Baker (Anthony  Quayle)  a  very  mature  private  in  the  British  Army , Murchison (Derek  Fowlds) a  junior  officer  of  uncertain  rank, Ashua (Jenny)  the  daughter  of  a  deceased   Arab  potentate and the  latter's  mistress  Miss  Woodville (Sylvia  Syms). There is  also  the  body  of  a  British  major  whose  death  is  never  explained.

The  first  half  of  the  film  is  a  reasonably  entertaining  piece  of  hokum  as  the  quartet  battle  through  the  jungle  while  gawping  at  footage  of  crocodiles, giraffes, lions - and  a  barn  owl ? The  two  men  vie  for  the  attentions  of   Syms  who bats  her  eyes  and  flashes  some  cleavage   while  Jenny  gets  into  scrapes  with  a  rhino  and  a  crocodile.

The  film   goes  off  the  rails  when  the  party  are  intercepted  by  a  Negro  tribe  and  meet  the  king's  brother  (Johnny  Sekka  in  a  fez  borrowed  from  Tommy  Cooper)  who  fortunately  speaks  English. It  then  descends  into  a  stodgy  brew  of  half-baked,  un-PC  politics, more  incongruous  footage  (a  tribal  dance  with  Twentieth  Century  spectators  clearly  in  shot)   and  ludicrous  Boys  Own  heroics  from  Quayle  and  Fowlds.

The  actors  do  their  best  with  an  unhelpful  script. Quayle  is   always  dependable  but  utterly  miscast  , too  old  and  too  posh  for  his  Bogartian  role  as  a  resourceful  roughneck. The  young  Fowlds  can't  do  much  with  an  inconsistent  role  and  Sims  isn't  required  to  do  much  other  than  look  decorative  and  scream  in  the  right  places. Much  the  same  can  be  said  of  Jenny  who  is  just  a  spectator  in  the  latter  part  of  the  film. Despite  being  given  an  awful  black  wig  to  wear  she  does  exhibit  some  screen  presence. There's  an  odd  forewarning  of  her  seventh  film  when  she  falls  into  a  river  and  is  menaced  by  a  crocodile. Despite  being  clearly  shown  competently  swimming she  is  unconscious  when  Quayle  pulls  her  out  and   resuscitates  her  with  her  shirt  open  exposing an  11-year  old  nipple  to  the  world. These  were  more  innocent  times  and  the  context  is  clearly  asexual  but  it's  still  a  startling  scene.

Perhaps  it's  helped  Jenny  keep  her  feet  on  the  ground  that  her  first  picture  didn't  trouble  the  Oscar  committe.
  


2. A Man Could Get Killed (aka Welcome Mr Beddoes) ( 1966 )


It's debatable whether this one should be in the list or not as Jenny's  scenes  as  an  ambassador's  daughter  all ended up on the cutting room floor.

Actually  she  was  well  out  of  this  one. It's  a  tongue-in-cheek sub-Bond  spy  thriller  with  James  Garner  as  a  dutiful  banker  who  arrives  in  Lisbon  and  is  mistaken  by  all  and  sundry  for  a  government  agent  pursuing  some  missing  diamonds. Bert  Kaempfert's  original  Strangers  In  The  Night  as  the  theme  tune  is  the  only  plus. It's  neither  funny  nor  exciting, hard  to  follow  and  not  worth  the  effort  and  worst  of  all  stars  the  unwatchable  Melina  Mercouri  as  an  embarrassingly  unalluring  ( at  46 ) femme  fatale.


3. Gates To Paradise ( 1968 )



This  rare  film  stars  the  15-year  old  Jenny  as  Maud  one  of  the  leaders  of  the  13th  Century  Children's  Crusade  a  grim  episode  which  perhaps  fortunately  is  now  considered  largely  fictional  by  historians. The  film  is  a  real  international  hotch-potch  filmed  in  Yugoslavia  with  mainly  British  and  American  actors  playing  French  and  Greek  characters  from  a  Polish  novel. To  add   to  the  confusion  the  version  I've  seen  ( thanks  youtube ! )  was  dubbed  into  German  with  English  subtitles.

The  film  begins  with  a  penitent  crusader  ( Lionel  Stander )  taking  holy  orders  as  a  monk. A  year  or  so  later  he  is  tending  to  a  dying  knight  when  he  finds  himself  in  the  path  of  the Children's  Crusade  led  by  visionary  shepherd  boy  Jacques  ( John  Fordyce )  . Inspired  by  their  innocent  faith  he  joins  the  pilgrimage  as  a  confessor  but  soon  gets  to  hear  more  than  he  desires  when  the  teens  at  the  head  of  the  procession  start  spilling  their  secrets.

It's  actually  a  very  good  film  that  deserves  to  be much  better  known.. It's  brilliantly  filmed  ; the  images  of  the  motley  band  trekking  on  through  all  weathers  carry  a real  emotional  kick  the  more  so  as  the  story  gets  darker  and  the  final  scenes  are  very  powerful. The  cast  are  excellent. The  bull-frog  faced  Stander  holds  things  together  as  the  monk  whose  avuncular  indulgence  progressively  crumbles  with  each  confession.  The  nubile  Pauline  Challoner  ( who  gave  up  acting  in  the  early  70s)  also  makes  a  big  impression  as  the  sexually  aware  Blanche. Jenny  is  also  very  good   ( especially  for  her  age )  as  the  pure-hearted  Maud  confused  by  her  desire  for  Jacques  although  the  exigencies  of  the  plot  mean  she  and  her  unwanted  suitor  Robert  ( Dennis  Gilmore)  hardly  feature  after  the  first  half  hour.

The  only  criticisms  I  would  make  is  that  some  of  the  dialogue  gets  a  bit  flowery  once  Ferdy  Mayne  appears  as  the  exploitative  Count  Ludovic  and  Matthieu  Carriere  gets  a  little  too  much  screen  time  as  his  thoroughly  dislikeable  ward  Alexis


4 .Star ! ( 1968 )




Jenny has a very small role as Julie Andrews' daughter in this biopic of the entertainer Gertrude Lawrence.

I have to say of all the films I've reviewed so far on this blog this one has been the hardest to sit through and I can see why it was a notable flop. For one thing it's ridiculously long ; the version I've seen lasted nearly 3 hours and apparently there's another half hour to the UK cinema version. That's not immediately damning but this film lacks both a strong narrative and an engaging central character and that's fatal in a film this long.

There's an arching meta-concept that Lawrence is giving pre-approval to a cheesy black and white documentary about her life but that's the only 1968 thing about the film; otherwise it seems very oldfashioned. The concept is not particularly well-handled either, failing to give much narrative coherence (which was surely its main purpose) and inconsistently deployed. For most of the film the B & W changes to colour when a scene is being dramatised but this doesn't happen for a toe-curling scene where Lawrence upstages a socialist speaker in Hyde Park and tells the plebs to go to the theatre.

 I know next to nothing about Lawrence but it doesn't seem like she had the rockiest road to the top and in fact the more interesting parts of her story such as her promiscuity are skirted around to keep it family entertainment (her lesbian dalliance is omitted altogether). The last decade or so of her life is also missing, the film ending with her second marriage to Richard Aldrich (Richard Crenna) a technical consultant on the film.

So it doesn't work as a biopic but for all the singing and dancing it's not really a musical either. There are no original songs just recreations of Lawrence's performances in a variety of plays and shows wrenched from their original context which isn't always clear from the script. There's a ten minute, mostly dialogue-free scene seemingly set in a brothel run by a Chinaman which is totally incomprehensible to me - perhaps someone could identify it in the Comments box ? There's also a scene towards the end where the three key players see something in a club which has a major impact on the last big number but we don't get to see what they're looking at.

Julie Andrews throws everything into the role and was clearly stretching her wings by playing a less likeable person but it's impossible to care for the character and it's not entirely clear whether Lawence was primarily a singer, dramatic atress or comedienne. Where the film particularly falls down by comparison to Funny Girl is the lack of any real romance. Her first unhappy marriage is very brusquely dealt with then there are some very flat scenes with a British aristocrat (a wooden Michael Craig) and assorted two-dimensional Americans from whom Crenna's character eventually emerges as significant. There's nothing in Andrews's looks or performance to make this magnetism credible.

The best scenes all involve the Oscar - nominated Daniel Massey playing his real-life godfather Noel Coward. I don't know whether the aphorisms were Coward's own or newly-minted for the film but he injects both humour and pathos (looking out for childhood friend Lawrence) which are otherwise notable for their absence in the film. The reason why he isn't romantically interested in Gertie isn't of course broached.

Jenny herself is hardly in it, appearing for five minutes as Lawrence's benignly-neglected teenage daughter Pamela in the middle of the film. She manages to elicit some sympathy then she's gone. Later in the film she's an unseen or heard presence on the end of a telephone when it would have been much better to give her another scene.

The film also features Bruce Forsyth as Gertie's dad whose fate after moving to South Africa goes unmentioned and Dr Who's original Master (Roger Delgado) with one line as a French diplomat observing Gertie and Coward performing for the Lord Chamberlain in another long, unfunny scene.

5. I Start Counting ( 1969 )





Jenny's first starring role and it's a good one in this underrated British thriller which transcends its genre. Jenny plays Wynne an adopted Catholic schoolgirl coming to terms with her burgeoning sexuality in turn-of-the-decade Bracknell. She has a crush on her adult stepbrother George (Bryan Marshall, a ubiquitous presence in British drama throughout the 70s) which hardly diminishes when she starts suspecting he is the local sex murderer.

As a whodunnit it's lousy ; the killer is pretty obvious from the moment he appears on the screen. The joy of the film is in the way it captures that time of your life, caught between the innocence and security of childhood and the allure of adult excitements and the era in which it was made, the tail-end of sixties optimism giving way to the murkier prospects of the seventies. This is well demonstrated in the opening titles as 16-year old Jenny is filmed putting on her underwear (not graphic but lascivious enough) while Dusty Springfield sings the title song (probably unaware that her own countdown to a very barren decade was  underway).

This is not swinging London but bleak Bracknell. Wynne and her family have been moved to a Persil-white house that has sucked the soul out of half of them , a bit like The Royle Family without the laughs. It's no wonder Wynne feels the need to revisit their old condemned home before it is demolished which of course also represents the life she's not quite ready to leave behind while her precocious friend (Clare Sutcliffe) pulls her in the opposite direction. The bulldozers are destroying the old heart of the town just as surely as permissive attitudes are demolishing the authority of the floundering priest (Lewis Fiander) who can't answer the girls' questions.


Jenny is very impressive at conveying all this , tentatively dabbling with sex and the occult while remaining fundamentally innocent while Marshall is also good at expressing the weary acceptance of the father-role in the family. The Sixties haven't quite delivered for George and he knows it.


At the time of writing it's on youtube so catch it while you can.

6 .The Railway Children (1970)


Now we come onto Jenny’s best- remembered role of all as Roberta in the perennial children’s classic. Jenny had already starred in the BBC’s adaptation in 1968 (when she was closer to the character’s age) and now stepped up to the plate in the film version.



The film was directed by the actor Lionel Jeffries and is fairly faithful to the novel by turn-of-the-century children’s author Edith Nesbit whose books were still popular in the 1970s if less so today. Roberta is the oldest of three children (although Jenny’s co-star Sally Thomsett as the youngest child was actually 20 at the time) who are uprooted from their upper middle class home in London to a still rather gentil existence in Yorkshire as a result of their father’s arrest for spying. Nesbit was a committed Fabian and her novel does reflect political concerns of the time. Roberta and her siblings make the best of their straitened circumstances by finding their amusements around the railway line that passes their new home and learning a few life lessons in the process. It's often jokingly said that it's the only one of her films where Jenny doesn't take her clothes off but of course she does remove her petticoat for non-sexual purposes at one point in the film.



It hardly needs me to add that Jenny is pitch-perfect in the role so you hardly notice she is not quite a child (the voluminous Edwardian costumes help). Some of her scenes bring you close to tears as the realities of the adult world start to impinge on her innocent consciousness. Amongst the other cast Bernard Cribbins stands out as the stationmaster Perks particularly in the painful scene when he rejects the childrens’ charity. Of the three young stars only Jenny still acts today. Sally Thomsett went on to a small role in the distinctly adult Straw Dogs and TV fame in Man About The House but her career had stalled by the end of the decade and she is now a housewife. Gary Warren as the brother had an even briefer career with just a handful of early 70s TV appearances before the curtain closed and he now works as a furrier in Canada.



Many would say that the real stars of the film are the engines. The film came out just two years after the last steam engines were phased out by British Rail and caught a mood of instant nostalgia for these Victorian relics amongst a public still reeling from the Beeching Axe (and perhaps 60s modernity in general). The Worth Valley Railway was one of the few preserved railways operating at the time the film was made but many more followed in its wake . As the film enjoys regular screenings on TV it’s a gift that keeps on giving.



Jenny remains grateful to the role and returned to the story as the mother in another TV adaptation in 2006.


7. Walkabout (1971)
Another of Jenny's best known roles and the most problematic due to our dear recently departed Labour government. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 which raised the age bar for "indecent" images of women from 16 to 18 could yet result in it being banned. Clearly the legislation wasn't aimed at the work of respected and serious film directors and no one's yet shown an appetite for retrospectively hounding Nic Roeg (or indeed the members of Blind Faith) but the possibility is there.


Jenny plays "The Girl" lost in the Australian outback with her little brother (played by the director's son Luke) after their father goes bananas and kills himself after driving them out there. Their lives are saved by an adolescent Aboriginal male (David Gulpilil) on his "walkabout". In the process he takes them to a lake where the well-tanned Jenny goes for a swim in the nude , her small breasts and modest bush clearly visible at times. Later in the film there are brief scenes where she is topless and nude from the side. The film took a while to complete; the scenes were filmed in 1969 when Jenny was 16. They are not in the least bit pornographic but, particularly given Roeg's skill as a cinematographer, have erotic undertones. Whether the "indecency" threshold is crossed is a matter of opinion.


Jenny does well as a relatively inexperienced actress in a difficult part. The Girl has no back story (telling us why she has an English accent for instance) and no way of explaining herself as neither of her companions can understand her. She seems remarkably unperturbed and incurious about her father's terrifying end but Jenny makes it convincing.



I'm not a great fan of Nic Roeg it must be said. I credit him for being hugely influential with the cut-up style he pioneered in this film but it's not my cup of tea. I want to lose myself in a story not be constantly having to assimilate a cryptic intervention from the director. I have to say he's not at his worst here ; you can generally follow his line of thought - the contrast between the suburban ennui and cynicism that blights the white characters and the joy of living closer to nature in the raw best encapsulated by the scene of an Aboriginal family happily playing around the burnt-out car having stuck the rotting corpse of the father up in a tree. It has to be noted that Roeg does make one or two mistakes with some of the wildlife shots placing certain animals well outside their natural setting. There's also a socio-political subtext clear in the otherwise irrelevant scene of a white tradesman bullying the Aboriginal children who are making goods for him.





8.Logan’s Run (1976)




Jenny's first film role as an adult was in this fondly-remembered sci-fi film. I recall classmates who'd been to see it at the weekend talking about it on Monday morning and it was the scene represented by the pictures above that seemed to have made the biggest impression.

The film is set in the future America (though the four main protagonists are all played by British actors) where , after an unspecified catastrophe, people are confined to a sealed city where computers allow them to life a life of hedonistic pleasure up to the age of 30 when they must be culled (with a vague promise of reincarnation) to maintain eco-balance. Not everyone believes this so the computers have a police force the Sandmen to hunt down and kill those who are trying to escape the city.

Jenny plays Jessica, a secret dissident who is available for sex on call (hence a very skimpy costume) and ends up liaising with a Sandman, Logan (Michael York) . He notices a pendant she is wearing matches one he found on one of his victims and later learns it represents a place called Sanctuary, the intended destination of the dissidents. He is given a secret mission to infiltrate them , become a “runner” himself and destroy Sanctuary . To this end he finds Jessica again and flees the city with her, closely pursued by his fellow Sandman and friend Francis (Richard Jordan) .

There are plenty of logical flaws in the film. Why is Logan’s mission a secret from the other Sandmen when it increases the likelihood he’ll be shot down in the attempt to escape ( as Francis has the chance to do ) ? How’s he supposed to accomplish the destruction of Sanctuary on his own ? Why does he need plastic surgery to make the run ? Indeed, why do the dissidents run at all ; wouldn’t it be easier to slip away in the night ?

Jenny’s most famous scene is itself illogical - she and York take off their wet clothes then put them back on again long before they’ve had a chance to dry – but this is down to the deletion of an intervening scene, in which they pose naked for an ice sculpture by the seemingly benign robot Box, to retain an A rating. Jenny also gets another skinnydipping scene although it’s less explicit than the one in Walkabout. This film made her name in Hollywood and prompted her move to Los Angeles and she is the best thing about the film, carrying an erotic charge in every scene , easily outshining Farrah Fawcett-Majors in  a lesser role.


Richard Jordan is also good ; there’s a homoerotic subtext here as Francis seems more of a jilted lover enraged that Logan has abandoned him for Jessica than an upright defender of the system and Jordan plays this well. I’ve never been very fond of York and his arrogant demeanour comes through here as well making it very hard to warm to Logan. The appearance in the second half of the film by Peter Ustinov, while necessary to the story, slows the film down to walking pace as he serves up his lines with an abundance of ham.


The film won an Oscar for its special effects which are not bad for the time but it’s a very seventies interpretation of the future. This is in fact the last in the line of dystopian sci-fi films of the late sixties and seventies before Star Wars redirected the genre towards comic book fantasy rather than bleak futurism. It’s exciting ( and surprisingly violent ) at times but quite turgid at other points and the conclusion is a bit predictable. Nevertheless it’s enjoyable enough and a must-see for Jenny-fans.


The film did spawn a TV series with none of the original cast , Jenny’s role being taken by Heather Menzies another former child star who ‘d worked with Julie Andrews and not unattractive herself.




9 The Eagle Has Landed (1976)





Next came a bit of a mis-step. This isn't the poorest film of Jenny's career but it's probably her worst role. Jenny plays Molly, a bored village girl in this hokey WWII thriller based on a book by Jack Higgins. She falls for Devlin (Donald Sutherland) an IRA spy working for the Germans. The problem is that the relationship is not nearly developed enough (and Sutherland is all too resistible) to make her extreme actions to protect him remotely plausible. On top of that she's a spare part for most of the film having little plot function beyond ( barely ) humanising Devlin and her costumes and hairstyle are both unflattering. She does convey the ennui of a young woman with limited and unappealing prospects well in the early scenes but that's the best that can be said for her.

The film is regularly shown on TV and is enjoyable enough despite its flaws. The plot revolves around a plan to assassinate Churchill organised by General Radl (Robert Duvall) and entrusted to Steiner (Michael Caine) a renegade colonel in disgrace for ( in an utterly risible, bordering on offensive, scene ) attempting to save the life of a Jewish girl. Steiner is aided by Devlin and Miss Grey ( Jean Upstairs Downstairs  Marsh) another German agent who handily lives near to the manor Churchill is visiting. The mission is compromised when one of Steiner's platoon is killed and his real uniform ( they are posing as Poles ) is uncovered.

Caine is not at his worst here but he's not brilliant either as the principled colonel. Sutherland is fine despite a very dodgy accent but as mentioned above the attempt to make him sympathetic fails miserably. There's good support from John Standring as the vicar and Larry Hagman as the battle-hungry American colonel who injects a little humour into the film. His captain , Clarke is an early role for Treat Williams who must be older than I thought he was. The best performance though is Donald Pleasance's little cameo as Himmler which is superbly creepy despite the bureaucratic nature of the scene.

Given the nature of the source material this is a well-made film which moves along at a fair pace, the action scenes being particularly good. It's just a shame that Jenny is one of the weak links.

10 Equus (1977)



For fans of Jenny's body this is the one to see. The most explicit sex scene of her career is so central to the plot that I can't go into detail and avoid a Spoiler. Let's just say she looks ravishing.

This is a strangely neglected film to say it had an all-British cast and three Oscar nominations. It's only been shown once on TV to the best of my knowledge and that was way back in 1982. Even the blaze of publicity surrounding Daniel Radcliffe's nude appearance in a stage revival of the play in 2007 doesn't seem to have awakened much interest in the film.

The film was adapted by Peter Shaffer from his own play. One possible reason why the film has been neglected is that while the central narrative is not difficult to explain , its exposition is cerebral and challenging requiring some knowledge of Classical mythology to truly understand all the themes raised. There are two main protagonists, a psychiatrist, Dysart (Richard Burton) and his patient Alan Strang (Peter Firth then best known for Here Come The Double Deckers) who has been referred to him by his magistrate friend (Eileen Atkins) after blinding six horses in the stables where he worked. It's a whydunnit rather than whodunnit but works on a deeper level because Dysart is having a mid-life crisis, disillusioned with both marriage and job and comes to envy Alan for the intensity of his experience despite the grotesque conclusion. Through the character of Dysart, Shaffer ( prefiguring Douglas Coupland and Donna Tartt) is decrying the loss of spirituality in modern times; Alan's fleeting moments of sexual ecstasy the equivalent of ancient Dionysian frenzy.

Burton and Firth were both nominated for Oscars but neither won. Burton is better in the interview scenes than the monologues to camera where his declamatory theatrical style starts getting the better of him. Firth is good in a role he'd already played on stage but not exceptional; one gets the feeling his nomination was a reward for being willing to show off a generously proportioned tool rather than anything else in his performance. Joan Plowright as Alan's religious mother and Colin Blakeley as his atheist and hypocritical father provide good support as does Jenny who won a BAFTA for her relatively small role as Jill the sexy stablehand who unwittingly sets things in motion.

Directed by Sidney Lumet the film does seem a bit flat in the first half as Dysart collects information from the other characters and Alan is unresponsive but picks up pace when he opens up and the blinding itself is horrifyingly realised prompting complaints from animal rights activists at the time. Alan's clothes place him squarely in the seventies and the psychiatric techniques seem antiquated but otherwise it's worn very well, its underlying themes as relevant as they've always been.

11 Dominique (1978)


Jenny teamed up again with Logan's Run director Michael Anderson and previous co-stars Simon Ward (I Start Counting) and Judy Geeson (The Eagle Has Landed) in  this  mystery  thriller. It  is  better  known  by  its  US  title  "Dominique  Is  Dead"  after  its  lurid  trailer  featured  on  many  cassettes  at  the  start  of  the home  video  boom.

It's  a  hard  one  to  discuss  while  avoiding  spoilers. In  particular  Jenny's  role  can't  be  explained. She  plays  the  half-sister in  law  of  the  titular  Dominique, looks  great  but  doesn't  have  that  much  screen  time  and  keeps  her  clothes  on  ( for  plot  reasons ). That's  about  as  much  as   I  can  say.

"Dominique"  was  filmed  in  England  with  a   strong  cast  headed  by  token  Yank  and  faded  Oscar-winner  Cliff  Robertson  as  a  stockbroker  who  may  or  may  not  be  trying  to  drive  his  wife  Dominique (Jean  Simmonds)  over  the  edge. When  she  hangs  herself  (quite  early  in  the film)  he  starts  to  get  a  taste  of  his  own  medicine.

The  film  is  a  hybrid  of  Rebecca  and  an  Amicus  ghost  story. It's  rather  old-fashioned  for  its  time,  not  afraid  of  throwing  in  horror  cliches  like  voices  in  the  dark , a  piano  that  plays  by  itself  and  a  sinister  housekeeper  (Flora  Robson  in  her  penultimate  role) . It's  also  quite  flawed. Cuts  were  made  against  Anderson's  wishes  which  largely  removed  Ron  Moody  from  the  film  and  made  his  final  scene  incomprehensible. It's  badly  lit  too; I  can't  imagine  anyone's  watched  it  at  home  without  fiddling  with  the  brightness  control. It  also  relies  too  heavily  on  a  rushed  dialogue between  two  Talking  Killers  in  the  final  scene  to  explain  the  plot  which  is  only  half-successful.  An  early  scene  between  Simmonds  and  Ward  can't  be  squared  with  the  final  exposition  (unless  we're  in  The  Usual  Suspects  misdirection  territory).

Nonetheless  it  is  still  watchable,  as  it  should  be  given  the  cast. Robertson  rather  underplays  his  role  as  if  over-cautious  about  giving  too  much  away. Simmonds,  who  played  a  very  similar  role  in  a  1950s  film  Home  Before  Dark,  is  a  bit  wasted  especially  as  you  can  barely  see  her  in  half  her  scenes. The  other  Brits  all  offer  good  support  with  Ward  the  pick  of  the  bunch  as  the  couple's  chauffeur. There  are  one  or  two  genuinely  creepy  moments  to  compensate  for  the  general  slow  pace  of  the  film.


12 China 9 Liberty 37 (1978)
Jenny stretched her wings next by starring in a late (the film looks far more 1968 than 1978) spaghetti western. She plays Catherine the young wife of Matthew (Warren Oates) a miner who has been targeted for assassination by a railroad company he is obstructing. The company have arranged a reprieve from the gallows for a renowned gunman Crane (Fabio Testi) in return for the deed. Crane fails to fulfil the task when he and Matthew bond but Catherine upsets the applecart when she seduces the gunslinger.


It isn’t a bad storyline but , Oates apart, the film comes undone in the casting. Testi is as uncomfortable with the English language as Adolfo Celi was in The Borgias and every scene he’s in (which is nearly every one) is marred by his leaden mumbled delivery. His scenes with Jenny convey no passion whatsoever. Jenny herself isn’t very convincing as a femme fatale as she struggles to maintain a dodgy Irish accent and makes an horrendous attempt at singing. She does disrobe but beware - those scenes have been cut in many versions of the film. Pride of place though has to go to Sam Peckinpah who sets the ball rolling for Quentin Tarantino-style self-indulgent director cameos as a writer wanting Catherine’s assistance in some ill-specified fashion in a confusing , irrelevant scene in a hotel.


Crane’s gun battles with Matthew’s brothers (who seem to be of different nationalities) are not particularly exciting and an interlude where Crane and Catherine meet up with a circus is just bizarre. I liked the hotelier who looks like Saddam Hussein but that’s hardly enough recommendation to view a very flawed film.



13 The Riddle Of The Sands (1979)


Jenny returned to Britain for  her  last  film of  the  seventies,  an  adaptation of Erskine Childers' classic novel of Edwardian paranoia over German naval intentions. She  plays  Clara  the  daughter  of  an  English  traitor  who  is  helping  the  Germans  in  the  guise  of  a  salvage  engineer  called  Dollman. The  film  reunited  her  with  Michael  York  but  they  have  little  screen  time  together.

It's  a  long  time  since  I  read  the  book  but  it  seems  a  fairly  faithful  adaptation. A  young  student  Arthur  Davies ( Simon  McCorkindale)  is  sailing  along  the  Frisian  coast  where  he  meets  an  apparently  German  family  on  a  luxury  yacht. He  is  taken  with  Clara  and  her   father,  Dollman ( Alan  Badel ) , invites  him  to  follow  them  but  then  seemingly  tries  to  wreck  him  during  a  storm. His  suspicions  aroused,  Davies  invites  his  friend  at  the  Foreign  Office  Carruthers  ( Michael  York )   to   investigate  with  him.

It's  a  good  looking  film  with  some  lovely  coastal  scenery  well  captured  though  you'd  have  to  knock  points  off  for  the  appearance  of  the  boom  mike  in  some  of  the  interior  shots. The  musical  score  is  also  very  good  adding  some  necessary  excitement  to  the  action  scenes. The  acting  is  also  pretty  good  with  the  underachieving  McCorkindale  the  better  of  the  male  leads. York's  sudden  transformation  from  fastidious  ninny  to  action  hero  is  a  bit  difficult  to  accept. Badel  and  Michael  Sheard  ( Grange  Hill  's  Mr  Bronson)  are  the  pick  of  the  villains.

Jenny  is  as  good  as  the  script  allows  her  to  be  but  she  epitomises  the  major  flaw  of  the  film ; it's  difficult  for  anyone  who  hasn't  read  the  book  to  follow  what's  going  on. Clara  is  clearly  a  party  to  her  father's  deception  and  runs  errands  for  him  but  is  her  German  accent  supposed  to  be  phoney  and  is  her  final  renunciation  of  him  sincere ?  What  is  the  point  of  Dollman's  disguise  when  he's  living  in  Germany  and  the  encounter  with  Davies  is  pure  chance ?  There's  a  dinner  scene  midway  through  the  film  which  makes  no  sense  whatsoever.

As  a  nicely-filmed  period  piece  with  a  touching  romance  and  a  moderately  exciting  climax  it's  not  bad  entertainment  but  not  a  classic.


14 Sweet William (1980)




Jenny got top billing as the central character in Beryl Bainbridge's own adaptation of her 1975 novel and thinks it's one of her better films. I'm not inclined to agree.

Jenny plays Ann, a young woman left behind in London by her lecturer fiance, who falls prey to a touchy-feely playwright William she meets at a harvest festival (what exactly he's doing there is never satisfactorily explained). As she gets deeper involved with him it emerges that William is not being entirely honest with her about his marriage ...

I don't know the book but this is an aggravating film. It's miscast for a start - Richard Gere could convince as the irresistible philanderer but instead we've got Sam Waterston the dour, big-nosed star of The Killing Fields with a dodgy Scottish accent to boot. Waterston's William is quite repellent so when Jenny falls for him so easily you lose any sympathy for her character. When you throw in Anna Massey as his haughty wife and the always-dislikeable Geraldine James as her self-centred cousin you've got a big emotional vacuum at the centre of the film. The only sympathetic character is her dad (Arthur Lowe in his penultimate film role) whose one line cameo is the best thing in the film.

It's also marred by a dreadful soundtrack; a jaunty flute keeps rearing its head at inappropriate moments as if this were a Confessions film. In fact there are one or two supposedly funny scenes which only go to show that neither Bainbridge nor director Claude Whatham have any notion of comedy. One of these involving bonking in a taxi is embarrassingly bad.


Jenny does do some nude scenes but they're brief and badly lit, very unexciting compared to what's gone before. In fact Jenny doesn't look her best throughout the film with baggy eyes, blotchy skin and an unflattering haircut. Her performance isn't bad; in fact it improved on a second viewing developing her growing anger at William's many deceptions well. The final scene hints that Ann has a secret of her own and Jenny's very impressive in conveying that without words.

It's just about worth seeing but it does annoy.

15 Amy (1981)



Jenny returned to Disney for this family film about teaching deaf kids. It  was  originally  made  for  TV  but  Disney  decided  it  was  strong  enough  for  a  theatrical  release.

16 The Survivor ( 1981 )







Jenny  returned  to  Australia,   with another Brit-made-good, Robert Powell, in  this adaptation of  a  James Herbert  novel  directed  by  David  Hemmings. It  was  notable  for  being  the  first  Australian  film  to  break through the  million  dollar  ceiling  in  production  and  was  also  the  last  film to  star  Hollywood  veteran  Joseph  Cotten.

Powell  plays  the  pilot  who  emerges, the  sole survivor,  from  an  horrendous  plane  crash,  unscathed  but  suffering  from  amnesia.  His  guilt-ridden  efforts  to  uncover  the  truth  are  aided  by  the  local  psychic  played  by  Jenny. 

I  first  saw  it  on  TV  in  the  mid-80s  and  thought  it  was  stupendously  dull. Having  re-watched  it  I'm  a  bit  better  disposed  towards  it  but  it's  certainly  flawed. While  it's  quite  a  short  film, it  couldn't  be  described  as  pacey and  indeed  the  film  company  made  cuts  because  they  thought  it  was  too  ponderous. That,  however,  made  things  worse  by  compromising  the  narrative  coherence  so  that  Powell's  romance  with  his  co-pilot's  wife  (Angela  Punch  McGregor  who  is  almost  wiped  out  by  the  excisions)  becomes  an  utterly  redundant  red  herring  and, sadly,  Cotten's  role  too  seems  unnecessary   to  proceedings. The  scenes  which  just  about  make  this  a  horror  movie  are  badly  placed  and,  in  the  final  instance, so badly  filmed  that  I'm  not  even  sure  of  the  outcome. Hemmings  is  also  a  bit  too  fond  of  letting  the  camera  wander  around  the  crash  site , an  impressive  bit  of  location  set-up  to  be  sure  but  we  don't  need  the  constant  reminders.

Powell  himself  is  another  weakness, bringing  along  his  stary-eyed  solemnity  from  his  most  famous  role  when  we  need  a  more  human  figure  to  fully  engage  with  the  story. Jenny  does  her  best  as  the  young  medium  trying  to  help  him   but  her  character  has  no  depth, she  and  Powell  have  no  chemistry   and  it's  never  properly  explained  why  she's  necessary. She  got  a  nomination  for  the  Australian  equivalent  of  the  BAFTA  but  in  truth  it's  far  from  her  best  performance. She  is  by  the  way  fully  clothed   throughout  the  film. Apart  from  Cotten,  the  rest  of  the  cast  are  Aussies  including  Adrian  Wright  (who  played  psychotic  nurse  Neil  Murray in  Prisoner Cell Block H )  as  an  unscrupulous  photographer  at  the  scene  who  comes  to  a  sticky  end. Being  an  Aussie  film  there  are  hangovers  from  Picnic  At  Hanging  Rock ; the  use  of  schoolgirls  as  the  agents  of  retribution  is  otherwise  unexplained.

On  the  plus  side  there  is  an  excellent  score  from  Brian  May  (not  that  one)  which  compensates  for  the  sparse  dialogue  and  adds  the  necessary  menace  to  scenes  that  would  otherwise  lack  it. There's  also  a  good  final  confrontation  scene  which  is genuinely chilly -it  helps  that  the  villain  is  a  dead  ringer  for  Enoch  Powell - despite  the  arty  dialogue.

The  film  did  very  little  at  the  box  office  and  not  much  for  Jenny's  career  either. Her  next  one  was  much  more  successful.


17 An American Werewolf In London ( 1981 )








This is a watershed film in Jenny's career as it marked the end of her golden period. She appeared in only four other films in the eighties doing stage and TV work instead. We'll have to wait for her auto-biography to explain why this happened. I think it's also the last film to date in which she appears nude.

"Werewolf"  is  a  popular  and  influential  film  which  led  to  a  new  Oscar  category  of  Best Achievement  in  Make-up, deservedly  first  given  to  Rick  Baker  for  the  still  amazing  pre-CGI  transformation  scene  and   Griffin  Dunne's  progressive  deterioration  as  a  walking  corpse. While  certainly  not  the  first  film  to  mix  horror  and  comedy it  undoubtedly  blazed  a  trail  for  the  likes  of  Scream  and  Shaun  Of  The  Dead.

On  first  viewing  in  the  eighties  I  loved  it ; watching  it  again  its  flaws  are  more  obvious  and  it  is  beginning  to  date. It  concerns  two  young (ish)  American  backpackers Jack  and  David   (Dunne  and  David  Naughton)  walking  in  the  North  of  England  who  walk  into  a  hostile  pub and  get  themselves  thrown  out. Stumbling  across  the  moors  Jack  is  killed  by  a  large  beast  and  David  injured  before  a  nick-of-time rescue  by  the  villagers. The  latter  wakes  up  in  a  hospital  cared  for  by  Nurse  Alex (Jenny)  and  Dr  Hirsch (John  Woodvine)   apparently  safe  but  then  he  receives  a  visit  by  Jack's  corpse  and  the  nightmare  begins.


The  major  flaw  with  the  film  is  John  Landis's  script   which,  not  untypically,  strings  together  some  good  comedic  ideas   but  doesn't  have  narrative  coherence. There's  a  logical  flaw  at  the  heart  of  the  film  concerning  the  villagers  (well-played  nonetheless  by  Brian  Glover  and  David  Schofield) . They  are  terrified  of  the  werewolf  yet  dispose  of  the  first  one  easily  enough  ( no  silver  bullet nonsense  here ) . They  drive  the  two  men  to  their  fate,  then  come  to  their  rescue  and  tend  David  despite  knowing  that  he  will  become  the  next  werewolf. None  of  this  makes  sense  and  the  scene  where  Dr  Hirsch  visits  the  village  underlines  the  problem  without  resolving  it. There  are  also  flat  bits; the  scene  where  David  mooches  around  Alex's  flat  during  the  day  is  a  perfect  time  for  a  pee  break

On  the  whole  the  horror  and  comedy  (not  that I  think  any  of  it  is  uproariously  funny)  is  well-balanced. Many  of  the  subsequent  killings  are  quickly  cut  away  from  to  prevent  the  film  becoming  simply  a  splatter-fest. The  policeman  who  loses  his  head  is  an  uncomfortable  reminder  that  Vic  Morrow  would  lose  his  for  real  on  the  set  of  Landis's  next  film. The  much-vaunted  sex  scene  between  David  and  Alex ( to  the  strains  of  Van  Morrison's  Moondance )  is  actually  pretty  tame  stuff  and  Jenny  actually  looks  a  bit  bored  when  he goes  down  on  her.

The  performances  are  uneven. Naughton  was  best  known  for  Dr  Pepper  commercials  and  he's  no  better  than  adequate,  in  fact  downright  embarrassing  in  a  toecurling  scene  where  he  phones  his  family  to  say  goodbye. Dunne  ( who's  had  more  subsequent  success )  is  rather  better in  the  smaller  role. Woodvine  is  solid  and  Jenny ( looking  as  good  in  her  uniform  as  you'd  imagine )  is  probably  the  best  performer  although  you  do  wonder  why  she's  so  quick  to  throw  herself  at  her  nerdy  patient  and  her  nipples  are  conspicuously  flaccid  during  her  romp  with  him. Landis  reckoned  that  the  film  worked  "because  the  bad  things  happen  to  people  you  care  about"  which  suggests  that  he's  rather  fonder  of  smirking  American  fratboys  than  the  rest  of  us. The  less  said  about  Frank  Oz's  completely  unnecessary  cameo  as  a  consular  official  the  better.

If  you  haven't  seen  it  it's  worth  catching  but  don't  expect  a  work  of  genius.


18 Miss Right  aka  La  Donna  Giusta (1982)

Jenny isn't actually credited here but  does  appear  as  a  street crime victim  in  the  not  entirely  relevant  title  sequence. I'm  told  she  was  unhappy  with  the  end  product  and  doesn't  want  to  be  associated  with  it.

Having  seen  it  I  can  well  understand  why. "Miss  Right"  was  the  brainchild  of  William  Tepper  , the  young  writer -  director  who  blagged  his  way  into the  lead  role  in  Jack  Nicholson's   Drive  He  Said  a  decade  earlier  . Despite  Nicholson's  patronage  he'd  completely  failed  to  build  on  that  and  his  re-appearance  in  the  lead  role  here  was  his  first  film  role  since  then.

Miss  Right  is  self-indulgent  nonsense,  set  in  Rome  because  an  Italian  company  stumped  up  some  of  the  money. Tepper  plays  Terry , a  journalist  working  for  a  press  agency  in  Rome  who  decides  to  ditch  all  the  women  in  his  life  in  preparation  for  the  right  woman  coming  along. So  we  follow  him  dumping  Marie-France  Pisier, Virna  Lisi  and  Karen  Black  before  settling  for  Margot  Kidder . Despite  the  setting,  most  of  the  "action"  takes  place  indoors and  consists  of  little  more  than  uninteresting  conversation  with  the  occasional  break  for  tawdry  slapstick ( Lisi  ends  up  pouring  food  on  him )  or  an  arty  effect. There's  the  odd  boob  on  show  to  try  and  keep  you  awake, two  of  them belonging  to  Black  who  was  40  and  beginning  to  sag. The  ending  leaves  you  completely  nonplussed.

Tepper's  dislikeable  character  has  all  the  depth  of  Mr  Benn  and  it's  impossible  to  engage with  the   material. The  middle  section  with  Black, his  co-star  in  Drive  He  Said , is  watchable  because  she  is   and  Kidder  is  OK  but  those  are  the  only  good  things  I  can  find  to  say  about  this  tripe.



19 Secret Places ( 1984 )




Jenny slipped  down  the cast list  a bit for this one where she plays an  English  teacher in this  coming-of-age-tale  set  in  a  girls  school  during  World  War  Two.

Sophie  ( Marie  Therese  Relin ) is  a  German  girl  from  an  Anti-Nazi  family  who  have  fled  to  Britain. Joining  the  class  she  is  put  with  a  gawky  English  girl  Patience  ( Tara  McGowran ) who  befriends  her  and  helps  her  cope  with  the  incarceration  of  her  father  ( Klaus  Barner )  and  the  alarming  behaviour  of  her  unhinged  mother  ( Claudine  Auger ). The  girls  friendship  is  tested  when  a  young  man  and  then  the  school  staff  come  between  them. A  sub-plot  concerns  the  ferociously  jolly  and  sex-obsessed  Nina  ( Cassie  Stuart )  becoming  pregnant.

This   falls  somewhere  between  The  Railway  Children  and  a  tamer  Our  Summer  of  Love . You  sort  of  know  where  it's  going  but  it  takes  forever  to  get  there  and  frankly  I  was  a  bit  bored  for  most  of the  film. It's  not  involving  enough  to  justify  the  glacial  pace.

The  girls  are  all  quite  good  in  their  roles  although  none  of  them  have  gone  on  to  great  things. Stuart  is  the  most  recognisable  from  her  appearances  in  Lovejoy  and  Eastenders  and   you  get  a  couple  of  flashes  of  her  boobs. McGowran  is  a little  too  old  for  her  role  but  Relin  is  actually  the  right  age  and  does  well  despite  her  inexperience.

Jenny, the  most  recognisable  name  in  the  cast  is  fine  but  hasn't  a  great  deal  to  do.


20 Dark Tower ( 1987 )





This  forgotten  horror  film  has  a  melancholy  significance  in  Jenny's  career  as  the  last  to  exploit  her  sexuality  ( in  a  brief, perfunctory  way ).

Jenny  plays  Carolyn  Page,  an  American  architect  in  a  high-rise  tower  in  Barcelona   where  people  start  dying  in  inexplicable  circumstances. This  is  investigated by  Randall  ( Michael  Moriarty) ,  presumably  the  building's  security  officer,  though  this  is  never  really  confirmed , who  conveniently  happens  to  be  psychic.  That's  about  it  as  far  as  plot  goes , so  yeah, we're  back  in  The  Survivor  territory  but  that's  a  work  of  genius  compared  to  this.

You  know  you're  in  for  a  treat  when  the  leading  man's  name  is  misspelled  in  the  opening  credits  and  it's  a  good  indication  of  what's  in  store. A  wafer-thin,  derivative  story, cardboard  characters, some  terrible  acting, logical  flaws  and  a  special  effects  budget  that  must  have  run  to  cents   make  this  an  endurance  test  despite  a  modest  running  time. The  eighties  trappings  are  the  only  aspect  of  the  film  that's  scary.

Special  mention  has  to  go  to  Moriarty  for  an  execrably  wooden  central  performance.  Whatever  they paid  him  was  too  much. Kevin McCarthy 's  brief  cameo  as  a  psychic  drunk  is  almost  as  bad. Theodore  Bikel  is  a  bit  better  as  a  paranormal  expert ; though  he  features  in  the  worst  scene  of  all, when  he  has  to  deliver  an  embarrassing  soliloquy  to  the  invisible entity. He  deserves  credit  for  keeping  a  straight  face.

And  what  of  Jenny ? She  probably  wouldn't  direct  you  to  this  one  but,  considering  the  material  she  had  to  work  with,  hers  isn't   a  discreditable  performance.  Her  character  makes  no  sense  whatsoever - why  would  someone  being  plagued  by  supernatural  visions  and  strange  deaths  happening  all  around  her continue  working  alone  into  the  night ? Often  the  script  calls  for  her  to  do  nothing  more  than  toss  her  long  hair  around  and  look  moody. And  yet  she  does  OK; her  American  accent  is  quite  good  and  she  does  the  obligatory  running  and  screaming  convincingly  enough. 

At  35  Jenny  looks  great  in  her  power  suits  and  big  ear-rings  and  early  on  strips  down  to  a  black  bodice  which  is  nice  but  over  too  soon. Then  there's  the  hint  of  a  sex  scene  - basically  a  belt  being  undone  and a  bare  head  and  shoulders  shot   next  to  Moriarty. Perhaps  that's  all  she'd  agree  to  and  who  can  blame  her ?


21 Amazon Women On The Moon ( 1987 )

Another  appearance  by  Jenny  that's  hardly  worth  mentioning. She  is  an  actress  playing  Cleopatra  and  has  one  line  in  a  sketch  so  lame  it  didn't  make  the  final  cut  but  you  can  see  it  in  the  Deleted  Scenes  section  on  the  DVD.

That's  Jenny  dealt  with  - what  of  the  rest  of  the  film ? Well  it's  basically  John  Landis  opening  his  filofax  and  calling  in  his  buddies  to  appear  in  a  collection  of  skits  very  loosely  linked  to  the  central  concept  of  a  TV  station  showing  a  1950s  Ed  Wood -style  B-movie. Some  of  them  ( the  better  ones  mainly )  are  mock  commercials ; others  are  just  crow-barred  in  regardless. One  thing  does  link  them  all  however - can  you  guess  what  it  is  ?

The  "Amazon  Women"  bits  are  just  dreadful ; all  the  same  ground  was  covered  by  the  Medved  brothers  a  few  years  earlier  and  Landis  brings  absolutely  nothing  new  to  the  table. I  have  to  record  though  that  my  wife  let  the  side  down  by  chuckling  at  it.  None  of  the  big  names  acquit  themselves  very  well ; Rosanna  Arquette  is  appallingly  wooden  in  a  crushingly  unfunny  piece  with  Steve  Guttenberg  and  Michelle  Pfeiffer  isn't  much  better in  an  equally  dismal  hospital  sketch  with  Griffin  Dunne  as  a  mad  doctor.

Occasionally I managed  a  weak  smile. David  Alan  Grier  as  useless  soul  singer  Don  Simmons is  quite  good  although  the sketch  outstays  its  welcome. The  man  who  thinks  he's  invisible  but  isn't  sketch  isn't  funny  in  itself  but  will  amuse  British  viewers  because  of  Ed  Begley  Junior's  remarkable  resemblance  to  Health  Secretary  Andrew  Lansley  especially  as  he  ends  up  in  the  buff. Talking  of  which  Penthouse  Babe  Monique  Gabrielle  features  early  on  in  a spoof  on  porn  videos. Her  voiceover  is predictably  robotic but  she's  undeniably  easy  on  the  eye  as  she  walks  around  starkers .

However  these  better  moments  are  not  worth  the  pain  of  wading  through  the  dross. This  is  an  awful  film ; give  it  a  miss.


22 King Of The Wind ( 1990 )
A children's film about a horse. I can't tell you much more about it at present.

23 Darkman (1990)
 Jenny  makes  a  brief uncredited appearance as a doctor in this tongue-in-cheek revenge horror film. I haven't seen it for a while but remember a great comic turn from Larry Drake (best known as the simpleton in LA Law) as the chief villain.




24 Child’s Play 2 (1990)






This film returned Jenny briefly to the top of the box office chart but it's hardly one of which she'll be proud. It  was  also her Hollywood swansong ; the following films were  all  British or European -made  (at  least  up  to  2011) .


Jenny plays the new foster mum (with still-dodgy American accent) of the little boy from the first film while his real mum seeks therapy (offscreen) . It's a very undemanding role and she doesn't even get a good death scene, her garroted corpse being discovered after the event.


Like most sequels this lacks any element of surprise. Chucky is resurrected by the company (for no credible reason) and carries on where he left off chasing Andy (Alex Vincent) to possess his body. With only Vincent and Brad Dourif as Chucky's voice from the original the continuity is messy ; Chris Sarandon's cop character is erased altogether to allow  a similar "no one believes me" storyline to play out  for the first hour. The best thing in the movie is Christine Elise as Andy's spunky foster-sister Kyle who becomes his ally in tackling Chucky and displays an offbeat sense of humour. The finale borrows liberally from The Terminator .


It's not as bad as the later instalments in the franchise but that's hardly a recommendation.

25 Blue Juice (1995)









After five years away from film during which she had a son  Jonathan and re-settled in England, Jenny , now in her 40s, took a character part in this British film cashing in on the burgeoning surfer scene in Cornwall. Given  the  clout  a  couple  of  her  fellow  cast  members  now  enjoy  I'm  surprised  that  all  remaining  copies  of  this  dire  rom-com  haven't  been  locked  away  in  a  vault.

The  hero  of  the  tale   JC  ( Sean  Pertwee )  runs  a  cafe  with  his  girlfriend  Chloe  ( Catherine  Zeta-Jones )  but  is  more  interested  in  surfing  than  sex. JC  is  hung  up  about  turning  30  and  wants  to  tour  the  world's  beaches  but  she  is  more  interested  in  investing  in  the  business. The  tension  is  exacerbated when  three  friends  from  London  arrive, famous  record  producer  Ross  ( Steven  Mackintosh )  drug  dealer  Dean  (Ewan  McGregor )  and  tubby  square  Terry  ( Peter  Gunn ) . The  main  characters  are  followed  around  by  a  chorus  of  presumably  unemployed  surfer  dudes.

This  film  proves  that  a  good  cast  can't  rescue  a  dud  script. It  doesn't  work  as  either  a  sports  drama  or  a  comedy. While  no  doubt  challenging  enough, Cornwall's  breakers  can't  provide  a  spectacle  to  rival  Bondi  or  Waikiki  so  there's  little  actual  surfing  action  on  show. And  the  humour  is  so  witless  , largely  reliant  on  Gunn  running  round  in  his  undies  , that  I  didn't  manage  a  single  chuckle  throughout  the  film.

The  problems  are  exacerbated  by  the  choice  of  lead. Pertwee  is  a  fine  supporting  actor  but  he's  struggling  here  to  make  his  utterly  shallow  character  convincing. His  over-tanned  appearance  is  the  funniest  thing  in  the  film  and  he  resorts  to  far  too  much  watery -eyed  mugging . He  does  his  best  to  ruin  a  sex  scene  with  Catherine  Zeta-Jones  in  which  she  looks  fantastic  in  black  bra  and  panties  ( very  high  cut  as  if  to  show  her  expertise  with  a  razor).

Unsurprisingly  she  and  McGregor  are  the  best  performers  here. She's  sparky  and  sympathetic  though  you  do  wonder  how  she's  ended  up  with  a  dickhead. McGregor  does  very  well  with  an  almost  impossible  role. Whichever  way  you  slice  it  drug  dealers  are  never  funny  or  likeable  and  though  he  does  get  a  good  kicking  this  moral  ambivalence  is  a  stain  on  the  film. Mackintosh  is  alright  although  the  sub-plot  around  his  music  is  absolutely  ludicrous  and  feels  like  one  of  the  writers  has  inserted  a  personal  gripe  into  the  script. Gunn,  the  comedy  fat  guy  is  just  awful  as  is  Heathcote  Williams  as  JC's  hippy  mentor.

Jenny  ( visibly  aged  since  Child's  Play  2  )  has  barely  5  minutes  screen  time  as  a  famous  actress  being  pursued  by  the  E- addled  Terry  in  another  sub-plot  with  a  resolution  so  lame  you  wonder  why  they  bothered. Perhaps  Jenny ( who  has  a holiday  home  in  Cornwall )  was  walking  by  and  got  crow-barred  in. 

There's  also  a  phoned-in  performance  from  Keith  Allen  as  a  tabloid  hack  unfathomably  interested  in  the  surfing  shenanigans  , another  completely  superfluous  character.

The  lovely  scenery  and  the  presence  of  the  two  A-listers   just  about  make  this  worth  catching  but  otherwise  it's  a  pile  of  tripe. No  wonder  Jenny  lay  low  for  another  six  years.





26 The Parole Officer (2001)







Jenny opened the fifth decade of her acting career with a small  straight role as a widow in Steve Coogan's comedy vehicle. She's  only  in  it  briefly  but  does  well , keeping  a  straight  face  despite  some  ridiculous  lines.

While  not  being  a  massive  fan  of  Coogan  I  found  this  film  moderately  amusing.  Coogan  plays  Simon  a  gauche , incompetent  probation  officer  who  witnesses  a  murder  by  corrupt  cop  Burton (Stephen  Dillane)  in  a  night  club  and  has  to  retrieve  a  security  tape  of  the  incident  from  a  bank  vault  to  avoid  being  framed  for  it  himself. To   effect this  he  gathers  an  unlikely  team  from  amongst  his  former  clients   making  it,  in  essence,  a  caper  movie.

There  are  plot  holes  galore. Why  has  the  tape  been  preserved  rather  than  wiped  or  destroyed  in  the  first  place ? The  murder  itself  is  unconvincing, Dillane  not  having  the  physique  to  strangle  a  man with  his  bare  hands. There's  a ludicrous scene  where  Burton  raids  Simon's  home  and  the  victim's  head  is  planted  in  his  fridge , removed  from  it  and   taken  outside,  then  brought  back  in  and  placed  in  a  saucepan,  all  going unnoticed  despite  every  character  being  gathered  in  the  same  room.

The  funniest  scenes  seem  bolted  on  rather  than  integral  to  the  main  plot  like  Simon's  queasy  ride  on  the  Big  One  ( because  his  associate  played  by  Om  Puri  is  now  a  Health  and  Safety  Inspector  in  Blackpool )  or  his  dilatory  visit  to  an  art  gallery  with  policewoman  girlfriend  (Lena  Headey).  The  bank  raid  itself  is  noticeably  short  on  laughs  and  ends  in  confusion  with  a  bizarre  cameo  appearance  from  Omar  Sharif. 

The  romance  between  Coogan  and  Headey isn't  really  convincing. There's  an  obvious  mismatch  in  terms  of  physical  attractiveness  which  makes  her  opening  scene  where  he's  not  really  interested   seem  like  a  sop  to  Coogan's  well-attested  vanity. Other than  that  Headey  is  fine  in  her  straight  role . Coogan  too  is  OK  though,  as  ever,  not  the  comic  genius  he  thinks  he  is. Perhaps  the  best  performance  comes  from  young  Emma  Williams  as  Kirsty  the  poster  girl  for  ASBOs. Puri  suffers  from  a  dearth  of  funny  lines, Steven  Waddington  plays  the  same  character  he  did  in  Face while  Ben  Miller  is  woefully  unfunny  as  the  neurotic  computer  genius.

It's  not  bad  but  it's  not  essential  viewing  either.
 


27 Number One Longing, Number Two Regret (2004)






Jenny's  only  recent  lead  role  was  in  this  offbeat  independent   thriller . Unfortunately  it's  a  pile  of  tosh.

Jenny  plays  Kenosha  a  police  detective  investigating  the  murder  of  a  young  girl  where  an  unconscious  man  at  the  scene, Spears  ( Paul  Conway )  becomes  the  chief  suspect. He  soon  makes  a  rather  unlikely  escape  from  custody  and  his  back  story  starts  to  unfold  with  the  limited  help  of  his  friends  and  flashbacks. Kenosha  and  her  colleague  Fett  ( Jeremy  Bulloch )  are  initially  the  viewer's  guides  to  what's  going  on  but  are  eventually   revealed  to  be  as  cooky  as  everyone  else.

The  film  was  written  and  directed  by  Neil  Wassell  a  complete  unknown  and  likely  to  remain  so  on  this  showing. What  you  have  here  is  basically  a  low  budget  mash-up  of  ideas  nicked  from  every  modern  thriller  of  the  past  20 years  - the  Bourne  films , Rodin , Mission Impossible, Swordfish  to  name  a  few - disguised  by  an  icy  topping  of  arty  pretension  and  puerile  humour  ( there  are  apparently  a  lot  of  Stars  Wars  references  in  the  script  if  you  can  be  bothered  to  listen).

It  fails  to  engage  partly  because  the  characters  are  so  unconvincing. Spears, who  looks  like  an  addled  Jamie  Theakston  has  just  spent  5  years  dawdling  in  his  apartment  and  yet  suddenly  turns  manic  popping  up  all  over  London  committing  acts  of  violence  often  against  himself. It's  impossible  to  care  for  him  particularly  after  he  kills  his  colleague  Mitchell for  just  being  in  the  wrong  place. (However  on  learning  that  Mitchell  was  Wassell  in  a  cameo  role I  watched  it  again  to  cheer  Spears  on ) . His  romance  with  obligatory  femme  fatale  Landridge  ( Kendra  Torgan )  is  one  of  the  least  believable  on  film. John  Moraitis  has  some  screen  presence  as  the curiously  ineffectual  crime  boss Woods   but  you  do  pity  him  for  having  to  listen  to  a  pretentious  monologue  from  Spears's  mysterious  friend  Illya  ( Laurent  Maurel ) in  the  film's  worst  scene. You  can  see  him  thinking  "How  am  I  supposed  to  react  to  this  shite ? "  The  revelation  of  the  murderer  ( long  after  you've  ceased to  care )  is  just  laughable.

Alas  I  can't  spare  Jenny  either. In  the  first  part  of  the  film  she  does  a  mean  impression  of  Helen  Mirren's   Jane  Tennison  ( with  Bulloch as  Otley )  but  when  Spears  starts  turning  up  on  her  sofa  and  she  becomes  spellbound  by  his  invisible  charms  it's  just  embarassing. Her  last  scene  when  she's  just  moping  on  the  couch  after  inexplicably  deceiving  him  is  awful.

There  is  some  nice  cinematography  in  parts. The  opening  night  time  scene  is  arresting  ( it's  explanation  less  so )  and  the  scenes  in  Spears' s  apartment    work  quite  well  but  too  often  the  arty  touches  seem  gratuitous. There's  no  real  reason  for  Kenosha's  station  to  look  bombed  out  and  when  Spears  escapes  into the  streets  of  modern  London   the  effect  is  just  to  jar. Likewise  the  insertion  of  monochrome  video  footage  of  Spears  being  interrogated  at  regular  intervals  is  just  an  irritation  when  none  of  it  reveals  more  information.

Not  very  good  at  all  and  the  next  one's  worse !



28 Heroes And Villains ( 2006 )




Jenny  plays  June  the  mother  of  the  main  character  Jack (David  Raymond  who  also  wrote  the  script)  in  this  British  rom-com. Her  role  is  small  but  quite  important  in  plot  terms.

I  hardly  know  where  to  start  with  this  deeply  terrible  film. Jack  works  for  a  vaguely  delineated  "property"  firm  in  London   and  lives  in  Richard  Curtis-land  with  his  sister (Olivia  Poulet)  and  three  unachieving  mates  Sam  (James  Corden) , Oli (Richard  Sumitro)  and  Nick (Brendan  Patricks). After  devising  a  hidden  camera  sting  to  catch  out  Sam's  unfathful  girlfriend  (presumably  after  watching Thaila  Zucchie's  "Bunny  Boiler"  slot  on  Balls  of  Steel one  night)  Jack  decides  to  set  up  his  own  business  setting  honey  traps  for  untrusted  partners. After the  first  of  way  too  many  chance  encounters in  the  film  he  starts  pursuing  Emma ( Jenna  Harrison ) the  outraged.  high  class  girlfriend  of   his unmasked  former  boss.

Raymond,  who  hasn't  another  film  to  his  credit  yet,  isn't  that  bad  an  actor  but  his  script  is  all  over  the  place. It's  hard  to  pick  out  which  is  the  most  ludicrous, implausible  scene;  there  are  so  many  from  which  to  choose. The  business  becomes  a  roaring  success  despite  the  marketing  strategy comprising  placing  a  small  ad  in  the  local  paper. The  first  commercial  sting  involves  a  man  posing as  a  tennis  player  and  getting  blasted  off  court  to  a  terrible  cod-Noel  Coward  song  mining  the  huge  comic  potential  of  the  word  "balls". Anorexic Oli (an  Asian  John  Cazale) pulls  from  a  group  of  four  attractive  girls  who  clearly  have  nothing  better  to  do  with  their  time  than  sit  and  watch  a  group  of  strangers  playing  three-a-side  rugby  in  the  local  park  (cleverly  placed  after  a  scene  where  Jack  takes  Emma  to  practice  her  oratory  in  an  empty  Twickenham  stadium  to  which  he  presumably  has  the  keys). Actually  it  isn't  that  difficult  to  pick  out  the  worst  scene; it's  the  climax  which  throws  in  not  one, but  two  more  unlikely  encounters, a  risible  fight  and,  at  the  very  last  minute,  the  most   gratuitous,  tacked-on  gay  revelation  ever  (it  has  no  relevance  to  the  plot  whatsoever  so  that's  not  a  spoiler !)

I'd  never  heard  of  James  Corden  before  his  recent  appearance  in  the  pro-celebrity  football  tournament   but  he  gets  a  generous  amount  of  screen  time  here  where  he's  not  so  much  a  character  as  Jack's  wet  liberal  conscience  about  the  ethics  of  the  business. This  leads  to  another  unbelievable  scene  where  he - moreorless  the  firm's  receptionist- is  collared  by  an  angry  wife. Why  has  he  given  her  his  name, home  address  and  physical  description  of  himself  we  wonder ? Sam's  ultimate  fate  is  telegraphed  at  least  half  a  dozen  times so  you  get  bored  with  waiting  for  it  to  happen.

Despite  all  the  above,  there  is  quite  a  good  bit  in  the  middle  where  Jack  and  Emma's  relationship  develops  over  a  visit  to  his  parents. Harrison  is  very  engaging  here  and  elsewhere  and the  expertise  of  Jenny  and  Roy  Marsden  as  Jack's  dad  helps. You  get  the  feeling  that  if  Raymond  had  had  an  editor  they  would  have  advised  him  to  strip  everything  else  out  and  build  on  this  passage. Instead  we  go  straight  to  a  scene  showing  Jack  at  his  nastiest , an  horrendous  mistake  just  as  we  were  beginning  to  warm  to  him.

It  bombed  completely,  not  even  having  a  wikipedia  entry  at  the  time  of  writing. Watch  it  at  your  own  risk !


29 Irina Palm (2007)






I bet Jenny enjoyed herself playing against type as a rather bitchy character in this oddly engaging film which constructs a rather charming fairy tale from very unlikely material.

Sixties survivor Marianne Faithfull takes the title role. Her real name is Maggie a lonely widow in late middle age who needs to find money to pay the travel costs of her son and his wife to accompany her seriously ill grandson to Australia for medical treatment. She eventually finds employment working in a sex club run by the Transylvanian Micky ( Miki Manojlovic) . I won't say what she actually does but let's just say she proves to be a dab hand at it.

Faithfull isn't the most expressive actress but her lived -in voice is absolutely perfect for the role and she convinces as a woman rediscovering the joy of being wanted after becoming a spare part in other people's lives. The scenes with the grandson are refreshingly economical; the real heart of the film is her relationship with Micky who is slowly revealed to be a nice guy. In truth this is a bit unlikely but the sad-faced Manojlovic carries it off. I didn't warm to Kevin Bishop as Maggie's disgusted son but the script didn't offer him any opportunity to become sympathetic.

Jenny plays Jane, Maggie's nosy bridge partner. It's not a big role but she's good, particularly when playing an impressively straight bat in the film's funniest scene as Maggie reveals her new vocation during a bridge session.

30 The Magic Door (2007)

It's  a  risky  thing  to  say  not  having  seen  everything  that  preceded  it  but  this  is  probably  the  lowest  point  of  Jenny's  film  career. She  is  first -billed  playing  the  Black  Witch in  this  half-baked  sub-Narnian  nonsense which  went  straight  to  DVD.

The  plot  such  as  it  is  involves  a  troll. Raglin  ( played  by  Yorkshire-accented dwarf  actor  Big  Mick ) wandering  around  some  Cotswold  woods  looking  for  a  magic  door  and  being  spied  upon  by  an  elf  Flip  ( Aaron  Johnson )  at  the  behest  of  the  Fairy  Princess  ( Emma  Ford ) who  is  really  the  Witch  in  disguise. In  the  course  of  bin-raiding  at  a  large  isolated  house  he  is  spotted  by  Sally  ( Alix  Matthews , one  of  the  director's  kids ) . She  and  her  brother  Liam  ( Liam  Matthews, the  other  one ) are  having  problems  adapting  to  life  with  their  father  ( Anthony  Head )  and  his  new  bride  Rachel ( Patsy  Kensit )   so  take  to  the  woods  in  search  of  adventure.

It's  dismal  stuff  with  little  to  entertain  an  adult  beyond  a  well-timed  four  letter  word  and  the  hope  that  Ford's  costume  will  slip  ( she  does  seem  to  be  holding  it  up  at  one  point) . My  three  year  old  son  lost  interest  after  half  an  hour. The  story  is  a  vague  re-hash  of  ideas  from  The  Lion, The  Witch  And  The  Wardrobe  and  the  cheap  CGI  effects  are  so  over-used  they  become  risible. The  only  laughs  are  unintentional, the  witch  turning  into  a  pantomime  lion, a  search  party  which  looks  suspiciously  like  a  passing  group  of  ramblers  were  corralled  into  becoming  extras  and  , sad  to  say, Jenny's  performance.

She's  never  been  worse  than  this. In  a  fright  wig  , white  pancake  and  a  dress  that  looks  like  it  was  made  from  bin  liners  she's  completely  unconvincing. Her  heart's  clearly  not  in  it  and  she  can't  keep  the  voice  going  for  more  than  a  couple  of  lines, slipping  back  into  her  normal  cut  glass  tones  or  , worse  , some  embarrassing  Vicky  Pollard-isms.

Big  Mick's  committed  performance  is  the  best  in  the  film  while  Head  and  the  often-atrocious  Kensit  play  it  straight  and  are  passable ( but  my, hasn't  she  got  chunkier  in  recent years ? ) . The  child  actors  don't  look  like  they're  going  places  the  girl  being  the  better  of  the  two  siblings.

All  in  all  it's  a  tiresome  waste  of  celluloid. 

31  Act  of  God ( 2009 )




Despite  having  a  great  cast  this one  took  a  long  time  to  come  out  and  I'm  a  bit  doubtful  as  to  whether  it  had  a  theatrical  release. It's  barely  an  hour  and  a  quarter  long  and  does  have  the  look  of  an  ITV  drama. However  it  is  being  run  on  Movies4men  at  the  moment  so  I'll  give  it  the  benefit  of  the  doubt.


Jenny  plays  Catherine  , the  wife  of  an  eminent  heart  surgeon  Ben  Sisco  ( David  Suchet )  who  has  recently  given  a  new  heart  to  a  girl  Laura  ( Charity  Wakefield ) in  preference  to  another  patient  , helped  in  his  decision  by  the  girl's  father,  corrupt  cop  Frank  ( Adrian  Dunbar )  who  blackmails  him. When  the  other  girl  dies  her  ex-mercenary  boyfriend  Richard  ( Max  Brown )  comes  looking  for  revenge  against  both  men. When  someone  ends  up  dead   Frank's  former  colleague  DI  Freeland  ( Nadia  Cameron-Blakey ) has  to  piece  things  together.

The  film's  premise  is  good  and  the  acting  very  good  but  it  doesn't  quite  deliver. The  pacing is  poor  with  the  first  half  of  the  film  moving  at  a  very  leisurely  pace  and  then  cramming  to many  shocks   in  the  last  half  hour. The  short  running  time  and  abrupt  ending  also  leave  a lot of  loose  ends. The  surgeon's  an  easy  target  but  unless  I  missed  something  how  does  Richard know  about  Frank's  involvement  in  the  blackmail ?  Nor  is  the  shooting  Freeland  investigates properly  explained.

Suchet  and  Brown  have  the  lion's  share  of  the  film  as  they  wander  through  a  large  property  Sisco  is  considering  buying  with  Brown  posing  as  an  estate  agent  ( again  it's  unclear  how  Richard   has  managed  to  set  this  up )  and  their  cat-and-mouse  exchanges  do  bring  Sleuth  to  mind.  Suchet  is  excellent  as  the  conceited , selfish  and  unscrupulous  doctor, the  very  antithesis  of  what  we'd  like  to  believe   of  surgeons,   and  Jude Law - lookalike  Brown  is  a  very  plausible  psychopath.  The  supporting  players  are  up  to  the  mark  too.

Jenny  has  a  small  but  important   and  traumatic  role  though  her  motivations  end  up  unclear.
 

32 Glorious 39 (2009)

This  is,  I  think, the  best  film  of  Jenny's  hit  and  miss  Noughties  even  though  she's  not  in  it  that  much. It  was  Stephen  Poliakoff's  first  feature  film  for  12  years  after  extensive  TV  work. It  combines  family  drama,  murky  history  and  conspiracy  thriller  and  for  the  most  part  it  works  very  well.

The  central  character  Anne  ( Romola  Garai )   is  the  adopted  daughter  of  a  Norfolk  squire and  Conservative  MP  Alexander  Keyes  ( William  Nighy )  on  the  eve  of  World  War  Two. At  a  family  dinner  party  in  August  1939  the  guests  include  excitable  MP  Hector  Haldane  ( David  Tennant )  who  is  switching  support  to  Churchill  and  sober  Home  Office  man  Balcombe  ( Jeremy  Northam )  who  is  moving  some  records  into  disused  stables  at  the  family  home. Anne  is  intrigued  to  discover  that  some  foxtrot  78s  are  actually  audio  recordings   of  meetings  but  when  Haldane  commits  suicide shortly  afterwards  and  his  voice  is  heard  on  the  vinyl  the  find  takes  on  a  much  more  sinister  significance.

I'd  never  heard  of  Romola  Garai  before  watching  this  film  but  she  is  absolutely  fantastic  here  and  stunningly  beautiful  to  boot. She  is  in  virtually  every  scene  and  captures  the  heart  as  a  resourceful  heroine  trying  to  uncover  the  truth  behind  what  she  has  heard. It's  both  a  tough  physical  performance  and  emotionally  draining  as  her  quest  takes  her  into  ever  deeper  peril  in  an  increasingly  friendless  environment. She's  the  star  of  an  impressive  cast  although  one  or  two  of  the  performances  have  a  whiff  of  deja  vu  about  them. At  least  in  the  first  half  of  the  film  William  Nighy's  father  is  very  similar  to  the  one  he  played  in  Poliakoff's  TV  film  Gideon's  Daughter  while  Balcombe  is  to  all  intents  and  purposes  the  same  man  Northam  played  in  Enigma. Julie  Christie  excels  as  the  subtly  menacing  Aunt  Elizabeth. Jenny  plays  Ann's  mousy  mother, a  small  and  not  very  demanding  role  although  she  does  get  a  moment  to  shine  towards  the  end.

The  other  major  star  is  the  Norfolk  countryside, Poliakoff  making  full  use  of  the  big  sky  landscape  across  which  Anne  runs  and  drives. There's  a  marvellous  scene  where  she  has  to  make  her  way  through  a  charnel  house  of  pets  put  down  at  the  start  of  the  war, followed by  another  where  she  finds  herself  marooned  in  a  field  surrounded  by  unlikely  villains  evoking  the  spirit  of  The  Prisoner .

It's  not  perfect  by  any  means. The  plot  does  start  to  strain  credibility  as  it  progresses ; the  third  death  is  particularly  hard  to  accept  and  the  audio  quality  of  the  recordings,  one  of  them  a  phone  call, is  completely  incredible  for  1930s  technology. The  present-day  epilogue  is  trite  and  marred  by  Christopher  Lee  ( playing  the  survivor  of  the  previous  events)  being  obviously  too  old  for  the  part. Nevertheless  this  is  an  enjoyable  and  thought-provoking  adventure  with  a  terrific  central  performance  that's  well  worth  catching.

33 . Burke  and  Hare  ( 2010 )




Jenny  teamed  up  with  John  Landis  for  the  third  time  here. Unfortunately  her  part  is  no  more  substantial  than  ( and  actually  pretty  similar  to )  the  one  in  "Amazon  Women  On  The  Moon". She  has  a  few  seconds  as  an  old  ham  auditioning  for  Macbeth then  she's  gone. It's  not  even  funny.

This  was  John  Landis's  first  feature  film  for  12  years  and  in  returning  to  Britain  he was  clearly  aiming  for  the  horror / comedy  crossover  he  achieved  with  "Werewolf  nearly  thirty  years  earlier. Besides  Jenny  , David  Schofield  and  John  Woodvine  also  appear  in  both  films.  It  hasn't  turned  out  that  way.

The  immediate  problem  is  that  the  source  material  doesn't  lend  itself  to  an  amusing  interpretation.  Burke  and  Hare  were nineteenth  century  serial  murderers  who  killed  16  people  in  Edinbugh  in  order  to  sell  the  corpses  to  an  unscrupulous  anatomist  who  looked  the  other  way  as  to their  origin. The  discovery  of  their  crimes  led  to  a  scandalously  unjust  outcome  which  did  nothing  for  the  reputation  of  Scotland's  courts. Landis's  scriptwriters  attempt  to  solve  the  dilemna  by  introducing  a  wholly  fictitious  romance  for  Burke  which  causes  more  problems  than  it  solves.

The  film  has  good  production  values  and  makes  great  use  of  the  streetscape  of  the  old  city . In  the  main  it's  well  cast  although  you  can't  imagine  it  was  ever  one  of  Tom  Wilkinson's  ambitions  to  play  a  scene  with  Ronnie  Corbett  or  Andy  Serkis's  to  have  comedy  sex  romps  with  Cheryl  from  The  Royle  Family.  Serkis  looks  the  part as  Hare  but  he's  not  a  comic  actor  and  Simon  Pegg  as  Burke  can't  do  much  when  his  character  as  written  is  completely  implausible. He and  Isla  Fisher  as  his  self-absorbed  girlfriend  Ginny  play  their  romantic  scenes  well  despite  her  appalling  accent  but  you  just  can't  accept  their  liaison  in  context  and  its  final  resolution  insults  the  intelligence.  Wilkinson  as  the  duo's  amoral  paymaster  plays  it  straight  and  seems  to  be  from  a  different  film  altogeher.

Then  you  have  Ronnie  Corbett  as  the  chief  of  the  local  militia. How  on  earth  did  that  happen ?  You  have  to  be  impressed  by  the  79-year  old's  physical  performance  ( Christopher  Lee's  cameo  by  contrast  sees  him  entirely  supine  in  bed )  but  otherwise  he's  just  embarrassing  and  doesn't  even  have  funny  lines  - mind  you  he'll  be  used  to  that. There  are  brief  cameos  from  the  likes  of  Bill  Bailey, Paul  Whitehouse  and  Reece  Shearsmith  which  are  more  distracting  than  effective

Although  it's  by  no  means  Landis's  worst  film  it  ultimately  fails  on  both  counts. Post- the  Hostel   films  and  live  autopsies  on  Channel  4  the  "horror"  element   is  exceptionally  tame; I  can't  spot  anything  that  merits  a  15  certificate  rather  than  a  12. The  murders  are  depicted  ( if  at  all )  in  slapstick  fashion  in  a  doomed  attempt  to  keep  Burke  sympathetic  but  it  only  makes  the  film  seem    flippant  and  distasteful.  There  is  the  odd  good  gag  like  Greyfriars  Bobby  observing  their  first  attempt  at  graverobbing  but  they're  very  few  and  far  between . Mostly  it's  just  dreary  like   a  sub-standard  episode  of  Blackadder  stretched  out  to  no  good  purpose.

34. Outside  Bet  ( 2012 )


Jenny  proves  once  again that  her  quality  control  has  gone  south  with  another  role in  a  dire  British  film. This  is  so  embarrassingly  bad  it's  almost  a  classic.

The  signs  were  ominous  before  the  opening  credits  were  finished  when I  saw  that  it  was  based  on  a  novel  co -written  by  Paolo  Hewitt, the  gormless-looking  cheerleader  for  all  things  Mod  who's  had  his  head  stuck  up  Paul  Weller's  behind  for  most  of  the  last  three  decades. That  might  account  for  the  latter's  creaky  singing  on  the  gobsmackingly  awful  theme tune  which  gets  two  outings  to  compound  the  misery.

The  film  is  yet  another  attempt  to  cash  in  on  the  Full  Monty  formula  of  a  motley  ensemble  of  working  class  characters  trying  to  beat  the  cruel  capitalist  forces  that  beset  them  with  an  unlikely  endeavour. This  one's  set  in  the  mid-eighties  with  a  group  of  print  workers,  soon  to  be  turfed  out  by  Murdoch,  deciding  to  buy  a  race  horse  off  a  man  in  the  pub.

It's  hard  to  believe  the  writers  actually  lived  through  the  times  as  the  script  resembles  nothing  so  much  as  a  half-understood  school  project . It's  both  historically  inaccurate -the  Wapping  dispute  occurred  before  the  British  Gas  sell-off - and  economically  illiterate - Calum MacNab's  character  receives "thousands" in  redundancy  money  despite  being  in  his  early  20s. It  leaves  no  political  cliche  unplundered - MacNab  shouting  "Go  on  you  flying  picket !"  at  a  colleague  on  screen  is  my  favourite. In  fairness  it  does  suggest  that  the  old  school  printers  may  not  always  have  done  a  full  day's  work  ( although  keeping  the  geriatric  Dudley  Sutton  on  the  payroll  may  be  taking  it  a  bit  too  far ). At  other  times  it's  just  plain  inept  e.g, the  trifling  matters  of  where  the  horse  and  then  its  expert  trainer  ( Vince  Regan ) have  come  from  remain  unexplained..

I  did  enjoy  some  of  the   eighties  music  captured  for  the  soundtrack  although  it's  not  particularly  well  deployed; the  use  of  Vienna   ( not  exactly  contemporary  anyway ) for  a  racing  sequence  is  spectacularly  inappropriate. Budget  constraints  mean  that  the  racing  scenes  are  visibly  under-populated  and  the  characters  dressing  up  as  if  it  were  Ascot  only  makes  it  more  obvious.

The  main  character  Mark  Baxter  ( MacNab )  is  the  sort  of  aggressive,  charmless  Cockney  wide  boy  that  London  writers  perennially  fail  to  realise  repels  people  north  of  Watford  Gap. That  he  gets  the  girl  despite  neglect, glaring  irresponsibility  and  sleeping  with  Murdoch's  hatchet  woman ( Kate Macgowan ) just  shows  what  a  male-centric  view  Hewitt  and  his  ilk  have. There  isn't  a  decent  female  role  in  the  film. I'm  not  sure  Linda  Robson  as  Sutton's  wife  even  has  a  line  and  wasting  Rita  Tushingham is  a  crime.

All  the  experienced  players  do  OK  such  as  Phil  Davis  as  Baxter's  dad  although  the  sub-plot  around  him  being  a  great  pub  singer  is  another  embarrassment ( and  he  looks  like  he  realises  it  too ).  Jenny  plays  his  wife  and  does  a  decent  job  although  as  usual  she  fails  to  maintain the  appropriate  accent   for  more  than  a  couple  of  lines. She's  also  part  of  one  of  the  very  few  genuinely  funny  scenes  playing  it  straight  in  a  masturbation  sight  gag.

The  film  has  now  acquired  a  sad  significance  because  shortly  after  its  release  Bob  Hoskins  announced  his  retirement  from  acting  following  a  diagnosis  of  Parkinson's  disease  thus  making  this  his  last  film  appearance. There's  a  tell-tale  credit  for  "Mr  Hoskins's  Stand-in"  for  a  part  not  requiring  much  physicality  and  he  appears  tired  and  bloated  as  the  veteran  shop  steward   and  fount  of  dubious  wisdom. It's  a  dignified  performance  given  that  the  character  is  a  walking  cliche  and  has  some  terrible  lines  but  you'd  wish  for  a  better  send-off  than  this.       


35. The Avengers  Assemble  (2012)

This  is  a  first , the  first  time  I've actually  gone  to  a  cinema  in  order  to  update  a  post  on  this  blog. This  was  to  see  Jenny's  surprise  return  to  big  Hollywood  movies  as  "Council  member"  in  the  latest and  biggest  Marvel-tied  special  effects  extravaganza. As  you  can  probably  guess  from  the  character's  lack  of  name  it's  not  a  huge  role  ( two  scenes, half  a  dozen  lines )   but  she  does  register.

Actually  Jenny's  appearance  isn't  quite the  only  reason  for  going  to  see  the  film. In  the  mid-seventies   I  was  a  Marvel  comics  buyer  though  my  allegiance  to  particular  titles  was  fickle. I  think  I  probably  bought  more  of  Spiderman  than  any  other  but  there  was  definitely  a  period  when  The  Avengers  was  my  main  subscription. I  liked  the  team  angle  and  the  way  the  cast  was  periodically  freshened  up  to  retain  interest.

Although  this  is  the  first  strictly  Avengers  movie  the  majority  of  the  line-up featured  here  have  been  the  sole  focus  of   previous  films  and  continuity  with  those  is  the  priority  rather  than  faithfulness  to  the  original  comics. The  main  plot  of  the  film  follows  directly  from  events  in  Thor  (2011).  Most  of  the  relevant  cast  members  returned ( the  notable  exception  being  Kenneth  Norton  who  acrimoniously  withdrew  from  reprising  The  Hulk )  though  some  like  Gwyneth  Paltrow  as  Iron  Man's  girlfriend  are  reduced  to  mere  cameos.  Out  of  necessity  the  backstories  are  not  thoroughly  explained; I  was  OK,  with  childhood  memories  assisting  me  to  mostly  fill  in  the  gaps  but  I  think  someone  coming  to  it  completely  cold  would  get  a  bit  lost.

The  story  goes  that  S.H.I.E.L.D, a  UN -sponsored  but  American  led  defense  agency  are  guarding  an  extra-terrestrial  source  of  energy the  Tesseract  ( no  relation  to  the  Alex  Garland  novel ) when  it  is  stolen  by  evil  Norse  god  Loki  ( Tom  Hiddleston )  who  also  hypnotises  agent  Hawkeye  ( Jeremy  Renner)  into  his  service. He  will  use  the  Tesseract  to  open  a  gateway  to  an  invading  force  of  demonic  creatures  to  wreak  havoc  on  Earth  largely,  it  seems,  to  spite  his  brother  Thor .Security  chief  Nick  Fury  ( Samuel  L  Jackson )  calls  upon  known  superheroes  Black  Widow  ( Scarlett Johansson )  , Captain  America  ( Chris  Evans), Iron  Man  ( Robert  Downey  Junior),  Thor  ( Chris  Hemsworth )  and  loosest of  cannons    David  Banner/Hulk ( Mark  Ruffalo)  to  thwart  his  plans. And then the pyrotechnics begin ....

So  is  it  any good ? Well, it's watchable. The CGI action would certainly have enthralled the 10-year old me but as it doesn't clear the bar set by Lord Of The Rings you look to the script for a bit more. That bears  the  usual signs of schizophrenia caused by numerous rewrites with ideas only half-developed or left as loose ends such as the "revelation" that S.H.I.E.L.D might not be using the Tesseract for entirely noble purposes (golly !) which isn't really pursued or Captain America's thirties mindset which just   disappears  in  the second half of the film. There is some humour, most of it entrusted to Downey Jr although he has to deliver  it so fast you can't catch all of it. The romantic sub-plot involving Hawkeye and Black Widow is so perfunctory it  might as well not be there and the handwringing over  the death of a minor character , Agent Phil, is just risible.

There  are some logic flaws as well. In his first appearance the Hulk is a genuinely terrifying, unstoppable force of pure rage chasing  down Black Widow because she's the first living being available to vent it on. In  his  second he's  biddable , able to pause and take stock and has a sense of irony. There's no explanation for this turnaround. And the idea of involving Norse  gods in sci-fi adventures seemed uncomfortable to me as a child reading the comics and it works no better here.

As far as the acting goes everyone is OK without pushing the boat out. Downey Jr ( the senior member of the ensemble ) is suitably droll and cynical while Ruffalo manages to elicit sympathy for his predicament. Hiddleston achieves the right blend of malice and childishness for Loki with the effect of turning Hemsworth into the Viking Bobby Ewing rather than the God of Thunder. The real boring chump though is the ultra-bland Evans (which is actually being quite  faithful to the comics ). And Johansson seems to be taking it all  just  a  tad  too  seriously.

Jenny , who  got  the  part  through director Joss  Wheedon's  affection  for  Logan's Run and American Werewolf, isn't  required  to  do  much  other than  look  glum in  a  blonde  rinse  while  her  council deliberates on Armageddon with Jackson. But  it  surely  must  have  been  nice  for  her  to  work alongside A-listers  at  least  one more  time.

36. Captain  America : The  Winter  Soldier  ( 2014 )



Jenny  retained  her  role  for  Marvel's  next  blockbuster.

As  the  title  suggests  this  one  concentrates  on  Captain  America  played  by  Chris  Evans. He  is called  upon  by  SHIELD  chief  Nick  Fury  ( Samuel  L  Jackson )  to  rescue  some  hostages  from a  ship  alongside  Black  Widow  ( Scarlett  Johansson ). His  disgruntlement  at  not  being  told  the full  story  and  scepticism  about  SHIELD's   latest  project, the  launch  of  three  giant  surveillance satellites  convince  Fury  that  the  Captain  is  a  trustworthy  ally  in  his  efforts  to  uncover  a fascist  sub-organisation  within  SHIELD,  the  Hydra  led  by  villainous  Senator  Pierce  ( Robert  Redford ) . When  Fury  is  hit   by  Hydra's  deadly assassin  the  Winter  Soldier  ( Sebastian  Stan ) , the  Captain, alongside  Black  Widow  and  the  Falcon  ( Anthony  Mackie ) takes  on  the  fight  himself  which  involves  uncovering  some  of  the  secrets  of  his  own  past.

The  original  point  of  Captain  America  was  that  he  was  a  superhero  without  actual  super  powers , just  the  sort  of  strong  athletic  upright  guy  that  Marvel  readers  could  aspire  to    becoming  if  they  bought  the  Charles  Atlas  equipment  advertised  every  week  in  the  comics. The  film  stays  reasonably  true  to  that  - though  I  wouldn't  advise  jumping  off  a  multi-storey  building  and  relying  on  a  metal  shield  to  cushion  the  impact  any  time  soon  - which  means  the  pyrotechnics  have  had  to  be  relatively  curbed  and  the  trio's  adversaries  are  only  human,  though  surgically  enhanced  in  the  Winter  Soldier's  case.

This  also  allows  for  a  more  coherent   conspiracy  thriller  storyline  than  The  Avengers  Assemble  though  not  a  particularly  original  one,  with  ideas  liberally  borrowed  from  Three  Days  of  the  Condor, The  Marathon  Man , Mission  Impossible, Blade  Runner  and  Minority  Report . It's  always  watchable  though  I  struggle  with  the  ultra-fast  CGI  violence  these  days  ; it  seems  to  me  that  the  line  between  films  and  computer  games  is  getting  increasingly  blurred.

The  film  also  suffers  from  the  terminal  blandness  of  Evans  who  can't  convey  anything  other than  a  mildly  pained  concern  at  events  in  the  manner  of  Dallas's   Patrick  Duffy. Perhaps wisely  the  sparse  hints  at  romance  in  the  film  are  perfunctory  in  the  extreme. Johansson looks great  but  not  quite  sure  what  she's  doing  there  and  possibly  realises  that  it  means  her character  won't  get  a  movie  to  herself.  Jackson  makes  the  most  of  his  extra  screen  time  and Redford  deploys  his  enduring  charisma  to  good  effect  in  a  rare  outing  as  a  villain.

Jenny  has  a  bit  more  screen  time  and  even  gets  to  participate  in  some  action  heroics  of  her own  in  this  one. Her  character  isn't  killed  off - in  fact,  for  all  the  violence  hardly  anyone  dies in  the  film-  so  maybe  she'll  be  in  the  next  one  too.  

37 . Queen  Of  The  Desert  ( 2015 )


Jenny's  next  film  was  this  big  budget  biopic  of  the  explorer  Gertrude  Bell  in  which  she  plays  Bell's  mother.

Gertrude  Bell  was  the  daughter  of  Liberal  MP,  Lowthian  Bell  ( who  I've  already  covered  in  The  Clarke  Chronicler's  Politicians )  who  travelled  extensively  in  the  Middle  East  just  before  the  First  World  War  and  became  a  valuable  source  of  information  to  the  British  Empire.  I'm  not  sure  how  historically  accurate  the  film  is  in  the  claims  it  makes  for  her  influence  on  the  post-war  settlement  in  the  Middle  East   but  she  was  certainly  an  interesting  personality.

Here  she's  played  by  Nicole  Kidman, who  I  must  say  is  wearing  pretty  well . Uninterested  in  British  society  she's  given  leave  to  visit  Tehran  where  she  romances  a  young  diplomat  Henry  Cadogan  (James  Franco )  who  commits  suicide  when  her  father  ( David  Calder ) vetoes  their   wedding  plans. Thereafter  she  wanders  the  deserts, exploring  the  archaeology, keeping  a  diary  and  meeting  local  potentates   with  occasional  visits  to  Baghdad  where  her  new , already  married  suitor  , the  British  Consul  General  Charles  Doughty  Wylie  ( Damian  Lewis )  awaits.

At  over  two  hours  long  this  isn't  a  film  for  the  impatient. Herzog's  sumptuous  cinematography  offers  lingering  widescreen  vistas  of  the  best  scenery  Jordan  and  Morocco  have  to  offer  as  Gertrude's  caravan  plods  its  leisurely  way  across  the  sands   and  at  times  it  seems  to  be  more  of  a  travelogue  than  a  drama.  The  first  half  hour  covering  Gertrude's  doomed  romance  with  Cadogan   works  best  on  a  human  level  with  a  first  class  performance  by  Franco.  By  contrast  the  affair  with  Wylie  is  less  engaging  despite  Lewis's  skills. There's  a  political  subtext  in  depicting  the  British  as  cackhanded  and  ignorant  in  their  dealings  with  the  Arabs  but  this  isn't  overplayed.

Kidman's  a  seasoned  character  actress  and  plays  her  well  although  she  doesn't  quite  tug  at  the  heartstrings. It's  a  very  sexless  picture  with  only  a  brief  glimpse  of  her  nipples  in  a  bathing  scene.  Robert  Pattinson,  who  I  believe  is  something  of  a  girls '  favourite  in  teen  pictures , has  a  dreadful  cameo  as  T E  Lawrence  and  Christopher  Fulford  isn't  much  better  as  a  comedy  Churchill.

Jenny's  only  in  it  for  five  minutes   near  the  start   in  an  unsympathetic  role  as  Gertrude's  conservative  mother.  
    

38. Tin ( 2015 )