Sabata (1969, ITA) C-107m. Scope ** D: Frank Kramer. Starring Lee van Cleef, William Berger, Franco Ressel. Acceptable spaghetti western, whose title character (expertly played by van Cleef) is after a stolen $100,000. Occasional cleverness can’t overcome poor plot that has few novelties to offer. Berger is pretty ridiculous as banjo-wielding gunslinger, the score is good, though. Film’s full title is EHI AMICO ... C’E SABATA, HAI CHIUSO! Followed by a sequel.

Sabor de la Venganza, El (1963, SPA/ITA) C-75m. Scope **½ D: Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent. Starring Richard Harrison, Robert Hundar, Fernando Sancho, Claudio Ungari, Luis Induni, Gloria Milland, Raf Baldassarre, Aldo Sambrell. Pre-Leone western leans towards the classic American western (of which Riz Ortolani provides a great score imitation). Three brothers, all grown up to be different, have not forgotten the murder of their father 20 years ago. Who will finally avenge it? Quite appealing despite being weakly plotted. Original version reportedly runs much longer. English titles: GUNFIGHT AT HIGH NOON, SONS OF VENGEANCE, and THREE RUTHLESS ONES.

Sahara (2005, USA/GBR/SPA/GER) C-124m. Scope **½ D Breck Eisner. Starring Penélope Cruz, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Delroy Lindo. Adaptation of one of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventure novels is a near-miss: McConaughey plays the adventurer/hero Pitt, who ends up in Mali, Africa, chasing after a famed Civil War battleship. He teams up with WHO doctor Cruz, who’s researching a mysterious virus up the river Niger. Never believable, but action-filled enough to make this fairly entertaining. Good production values. Only other Cussler novel filmed before was RAISE THE TITANIC (1980).

Saibogujiman Kwenchana (2006, KOR) C-105m. M D: Park Chan-Wook. Starring Lim Su-jeong, Rain, Choi Hie-jin, Kim Byeong-ok. Terminally weird film about a young woman working in a factory (pop singer Rain), who is interred with psychological problems into an insane asylum, and this is indeed where she belongs. She believed herself to be a cyborg. She meets and falls in love with equally crazy Lim. Park, director of OLDBOY (2003), adds one demented idea after the other, but the result is totally pointless. Even the doctors are behaving abnormally here. English title: I’M A CYBORG BUT THAT’S OKAY.

Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, The (1976, GBR) C-105m. Scope *** D: Lewis John Carlino. Starring Sarah Miles, Kris Kristofferson, Jonathan Kahn, Margo Cunningham, Earl Rhodes. In a British seaside town, widowed mother (Miles) of a teenage boy (Kahn) is about to fall in love again… with a sailor (Kristofferson). Film deals with the boy’s complicated coming-to-terms with his mother’s new feelings and his relationship with his friends, one of whom (Rhodes, remarkably cold) is influencing him in negative way. Deliberately paced character study with fine performances and a moody score. Well-photographed by Douglas Slocombe. The director scripted from a novel by Yukio Mishima.

Saimin (1999, JAP) C-109m. **½ D: Masayuki Ochiai. Starring Goro Inagaki, Miho Kanno, Takeshi Masu, Ken Utsui, Yuki Watanabe. Derivative but quite effective horror thriller about mysterious suicides in contemporary Tokyo, which, as it turns out, have been caused by an elusive hypnotist, who planted a sound inside the victim’s minds that causes them to go crazy. An inspector and a psychologist try to track down the person responsible. Interesting film steals too much from movies like SE7EN (1995) and the Japanese hit CURE/KYUA (1997), but has an exciting finale. Based on a novel by Keisuke Matsuoka. English titles: HYPNOSIS, and THE HYPNOTIST.

Saisons du Plaisir, Les (1987, FRA) C-86m. **½ D: Jean-Pierre Mocky. Starring Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Luc Bideau, Roland Blanche, Richard Bohringer, Fanny Cottençon, Darry Cowl, Eva Darlan, Dénise Grey, Sylvie Joly, Bernadette Lafont, Jacqueline Maillon, Bernard Manez, Jean Poiret, Charles Vanel. Typically eccentric Mocky comedy about family gathering at 100 year-old perfume magnate Vanel’s château in the countryside. When he announces that he will finally retire, everybody speculates about inheriting the business. Fast-moving, frivolous farce has some truly bizarre characters but won’t make anyone laugh unless they are fans of the director. Mocky (L’IBIS ROUGE, LA GRANDE FROUSSE) wrote the screenplay and coedited the picture.

Salem’s Lot (1979, USA) C-184m. *** D: Tobe Hooper. Starring David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Ed Flanders, Geoffrey Lewis, Barney McFadden, Kenneth McMillan, Reggie Nalder. Novelist Soul returns to his hometown of Salem’s Lot and finds out that antiques dealer Mason may be the reason for the disappearance of some children. What’s more, Mason’s house is reported to be haunted. Is he harboring a vampire? Adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel builds suspense and atmosphere neatly until hair-raising climax. Nalder’s make-up is terrifying! Originally made for television, film was released to theaters in Europe in a 110m. version. This one suffers from a rushed story setup and rates **½. Script was originally offered to George A. Romero; Hooper’s choice of directing this TV-movie seems odd, especially after his uncompromising earlier efforts. Also known as BLOOD THIRST. In-name-only sequel: A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT (1987), which was directed by Larry Cohen.

Salome (1973, GBR) 18m. n/r D: Clive Barker. Starring Anne Taylor, Graham Bickley, Clive Barker, Doug Bradley. First film work of horror novelist and filmmaker Barker is a highly aesthetic, even hypnotic short film, loosely based on the play by Oscar Wilde. Eerie score, great atmosphere, an outstanding achievement, made when Barker was only 21. A must for followers of the director and basically all horror buffs.

Samaria (2004, KOR) C-95m. *** D: Ki-duk Kim. Starring Min-jeong Seo (=Yeo-reum Han), Ji-min Kwak, Eol Lee, Kwon Hyun-Min. Another fascinating drama from the new Korean cinema and one of its wunderkinds about two school girls, who decide to prostitute themselves to finance a trip to Europe. One girls sells her body unflinchingly, her friend is her "manager". Then tragedy strikes... Deeply felt, subtle drama, a telling observation of modern youth, and later modern parenting. Not for everyone's taste but well-acted and hypnotic towards the end. Fine score makes use of a famous classical theme. Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin film festival. English title: SAMARITAN GIRL.

Samouraï, Le (1967, FRA/ITA) C-96m. ***½ D: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, Catherine Jourdan. Somber, pessimistic drama about professional killer Delon, whom the police are trying to get hold of. Delon’s situation gets more and more hopeless, and he realizes that the lonely, isolated life he has led is like that of a bird in a cage. Masterful film initiated Delon’s international career and has become a cult item. Deliberately paced but fascinating if tuned in to immaculate atmosphere. An exceptional achievement by one of the great French directors. Scripted by Melville, who adapted Goan McLeod’s The Ronin. Photographed by Henri Decaë. Originally 103m.

Sansone Contro i Pirati (1963, ITA) C-84m. Scope D: Amerigo Anton (=Tanio Boccia). Starring Kirk Morris, Margaret Lee, Daniele Vargas, Aldo Bufi Lando, Calisto Calisti. Adequately produced but empty-headed, poorly plotted costumer about strongman Samson (Morris), who goes against evil pirate who has abducted Lee’s friends and intends to auction them off as slaves. Hard to believe people once found this entertaining. English titles: SAMSON AGAINST THE PIRATES, SAMSON AND THE SEA BEAST.

Santa Sangre (1989, MEX/ITA) C-123m. ***½ D : Alejandro Jodorowsky. Starring Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Sabrina Dennison, Guy Stockwell, Thelma Tixou, Adan Jodorowsky, Faviola Elenka Tapia. Exceptional film produced by Claudio Argento marked Jodorowsky’s return to the screen after a break of ten years. Young Fenix, the son of a brutal, ugly circus owner (Stockwell) and a religious fanatic (Guerra) lives through a traumatizing childhood, which climaxes in his mother pouring acid on his father’s genitals in a rage of jealousy and his father cutting off her arms. The boy lives in an institution, refusing to speak, and when he coincidentally meets the woman responsible for his father’s death, he escapes and becomes a murderer, intent on killing every woman he meets. When his mother reappears, he performs with her, lending her his arms. Absolutely fascinating, irresistible depiction of circus life and the Mexican netherworld, grotesque and graphic, but also incredibly poetic and heart-rending. One stabbing scene (obviously influenced by Dario Argento) is so shockingly realistic that it is missing from most prints. Brilliant score by Simon Boswell. Original story by Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose collaboration with Marcel Marceau in the 1950s clearly influenced his style. The pantomime ‘The Creation of the World’, appearing in this film, is based on one of Marceau’s acts.

Sa Som I Himmelen (2004, SWE) C-132m. **½ D: Kay Pollak. Starring Michael Nyqvist, Frida Hallgren, Lennart Jähkel, Ingela Olsson, Niklas Falk, Helen Sjöholm. Oscar-nominated drama about famous conductor, who is forced to interrupt his career for health reasons  and returns to his old hometown in the Swedish countryside, where nobody remembers him. He tries to integrate in the small community and meets all kinds of problems. Not very cinematic, almost Dogma-like drama about a man finding himself. Direction, acting contribute to feeling of authenticity but there’s no reason for this to be so long or undramatic. English title: AS IT IS IN HEAVEN, AS IN HEAVEN.

Satan Bug, The (1965, USA) C-114m. Scope *** D: John Sturges. Starring George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis, Dana Andrews, John Larkin, Richard Bull, Edward Asner, James Doohan. Thriller detailing nervous quest to retrieve title germ that has been stolen from government lab. The virus can wipe out whole cities – and there is no antidote! Never hits bull’s-eye due to muddled, uneven plot, but manages to create some suspense, and cinematography (by Robert Surtees) is something to see. Fine, first-rate score by Jerry Goldsmith. Based on an Alistair MacLean novel.

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (1974, GBR) C-87m. ** D: Alan Gibson. Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones, Joanna Lumley. Final installment in Hammer Films’ DRACULA series is one of the weakest. In modern-day England, Professor Van Helsing (Cushing) must do battle yet again with unkillable count Dracula (Lee), who intends to wipe out civilization with a deadly virus. The stars do their best to keep this from sinking too fast. Film shows the typical 70s tendency of being explicitly violent. Also shown at 84m.

Satan’s Bed (1965, USA) B&W-72m. M D: Michael Findlay. Starring Yoko Ono, Val Avery, Roberta Findlay. Unwatchable mess of a movie about several drug-addicted youngsters and their lifestyle in contemporary New York. Mid-60s exploitation done with gritty black-and-white realism and no professionalism whatsoever. Of sole interest for the appearance of John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono, but there’s so little dialogue, anyone could have played her role. Avoid. Reissued as SATAN’S HOT BED.

Satan’s School for Girls (1973, USA) C-74m. *** D: David Lowell Rich. Starring Pamela Franklin, Kate Jackson, Lloyd Bochner, Jamie Smith-Jackson, Roy Thinnes, Jo Van Fleet, Cheryl Stoppelmoor (Ladd). Above-average, interesting chiller made for TV about Franklin, whose sister inexplicably committed suicide. She goes to her sister’s school to investigate, enrolling as a student. She finds out there’s something weird going on and more suicides are to follow. What mystery is the basement harboring? Quite well-directed mystery horror makes the most of its capacities. Might even have been an influence for SUSPIRIA (1977). Written by Arthur A. Ross (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE GREAT RACE), coproduced by Aaron Spelling. Remade in 2000.

Satan's Slave (1976, GBR) C-89m. Scope ** D: Norman J. Warren. Starring Michael Gough, Candace Glendenning, Martin Potter, Barbara Kellerman, Michael Grace, James Bree, Celia Hewitt. During a visit to the country house of her uncle, young Glendenning gets caught in a sect of devil worshippers, who want to resurrect a demon. Solidly filmed horror trash, with some nudity, sadistic violence and gore. Of interest to horror fans only. Others may find it repellent.

Saut de l’Ange, Le (1971, FRA/ITA) C-93m. ** D: Yves Boisset. Starring Jean Yanne, Senta Berger, Sterling Hayden, Gordon Mitchell, Raymond Pellegrin. Trivial but watchable actioner about the bloody war between two rivalling gangster families. Extremely violent, only for rabid fans of European B-movies. Based on a novel by Bernard-Paul Lallier. English title: COBRA.

Savage Bees, The (1976, USA) C-91m. ** D: Bruce Geller. Starring Ben Johnson, Michael Parks, Paul Hecht, Gretchen Corbett, Horst Buchholz, James Best. THE BIRDS (1963) meets JAWS (1975) in this made-for-TV horror. African killer bees are invading New Orleans at Mardi Gras, but nobody wants to listen to sheriff Johnson’s warnings. Maybe expert Buchholz can help? Standard, earnest thriller offers no novelties, but is much better than similarly themed disaster thriller THE SWARM (1978). Followed by TV-movie TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978).

Savage Harvest (1981, USA) C-83m. ** D: Robert E. Collins. Starring Tom Skerritt, Michelle Phillips, Shawn Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin, Derek Partridge. In Kenya, Africa, local tribesmen are fearing attacks by vicious lions, and indeed the wildcats besiege an entire family at their villa. Okay, inauspicious thriller is never as rousing as it would like to be. Skerritt’s earnest performance helps. Photographed by Ronnie Taylor (OPERA).

Savage Weekend (1979, USA) C-87m. ** D: David Paulsen. Starring Christopher Allport, James (Jim) Doerr, Marylin Hamlin, Caitlin O’Heaney. In this horror thriller a group of weekenders find themselves under attack by a masked maniac. Not-bad slasher movie moves at a slow pace but is well-directed and shot. Score is more elaborate than you’d expect. Slasher movie fans should give this one a look, it’s not bad despite familiar trappings and sluggish plotting. Also known as THE KILLER BEHIND THE MASK (film’s working title) and THE UPSTATE MURDERS.

Saving Private Ryan (1998, USA) C-170m. Scope *** D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Dennis Farina. WW2, Steven Spielberg-style: A group of soldiers led by Hanks is ordered to find and bring back a private whose three brothers have died on the battlefields. Their journey and desperate search turns into a nightmare as some of the soldiers lose their life themselves. Bravura action scenes, top direction and effects (especially in the final battle) do much to camouflage pathetic Americana. Only occasionally manages to criticise the lack of humanity in war (although the film does show it up constantly). In structure not dissimilar to George Romero’s legendary DAWN OF THE DEAD (the effects do put most horror films to shame). Allegedly based on a true story. Oscar-winner for Best Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Sound and Effects. Score by John Williams.

Savior (1998, USA) C-103m. **½ D: Predrag Antonijevic. Starring Dennis Quaid, Nastassja Kinski, Catlin Foster, Stellan Skarsgård, John MacLaren, Jean-Marc Barr. After having lost his wife and only child in an attack by terrorist bombers and killed some religious fundamentalists in an act of revenge, Quaid enlists in the Foreign Legion, fighting in the Yugoslav war in 1993. He encounters a pregnant young woman, whom he saves from certain death. He feels responsible for her and the child, so he protects them, trying to get them through to Zagreb. Nicely photographed war film, hampered by listless direction and a lack of character development. Maybe producer Oliver Stone should have directed as well.

Saviour of the Soul (1992, HGK) C-93m. **½ D: Corey Yuen, Jeffrey Lau, David Lai. Starring Andy Lau, Anita Mui, Gloria Yip. Immortal warrior Silver Fox is after beautiful Paradisa, who has caused his master to die, but she’s protected by Mercury, who’s looking after Paradisa’s little sister. Quite violent, often incoherent fantasy action comedy has some eye-popping fight scenes to recommend it but little more.

Saw (2004, USA) C-103m. ***½ D: James Wan. Starring Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Paul Gutrecht, Michael Emerson, Shawnee Scott, Monica Potter. Riveting horror thriller that maintains a fever pitch from start to finish. Whannell and Elwes, two strangers, wake up in a shabby warehouse bathroom, obviously as prisoners of some deranged psychopath. Cops Glover and Leung are hot on his trail… can they or indeed anyone figure out which sick game the killer is playing? Intense, twist-laden story operates on several time levels and is stylishly directed. Leaves you hardly any time to breathe and keeps adding more and more (also gore) to its cocktail of suspense and violence. Plot is not completely airtight, but at this pace, who cares? A surefire cult hit, written by star Whannell (whose acting is decidely inferior to his writing), from a story by himself and the director. References ranging from Argento (PROFONDO ROSSO, OPERA – love the stethoscope scene) to Fincher (SE7EN) make it all the more fun for buffs. Followed by SAW II (2005).

Saw II (2005, USA) C-93m. *** D: Darren Lynn Bousman. Starring Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Franky G, Erik Knudsen, Glenn Plummer, Dina Meyer. Fast-paced, gimmicky sequel to the 2004 horror hit puts cop Wahlberg face to face with the jigsaw killer, who has locked several people into a booby trapped house, including Wahlberg’s son. A gas will kill them in two hours, unless they find an antidote, hidden somewhere in the derelict building. A bit too sadistic and unpleasant at times, but generally enjoyable, if you like this kind of stuff. Written by the director and Leigh Whannell, who also executive produced, along with the original SAW director James Wan. Followed by SAW III (2006).

Saw III (2006, USA) C-107m. **½ D: Darren Lynn Bousman. Starring Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Donnie Wahlberg, Dina Meyer, Leigh Whannell. Third SAW movie has the dying Jigsaw killer and his assistant kidnap a doctor, who must keep him alive unless she will die with him because the collar around her neck is tied to his life functions. Meanwhile, a man who’s been mourning the death of his son by a hit-and-run driver is trying to escape a labyrinth devised by the madman. Story is still gripping and includes some gross-out gore and death scenes, but script is slightly uneven and most of this is déjà vu. Fans won’t mind.

Saw IV (2007, USA) C-96m. **½ D: Darren Lynn Bousman. Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Lyriq Bent, Donnie Wahlberg, Angus Macfadyen, Shawnee Smith, Dina Meyer. Horror franchise is still going strong, with this entry partly a prequel to the other films, which explains – in flashback – how Jigsaw (Bell) became the killer he was. Somebody is playing another game of torture, and this time, detective Mathews’ (Wahlberg’s) life is at stake. Twisted story, explicitly gory effects sure to make you cringe, film relies heavily on the previous parts, so watch this right after SAW III if possible.

Saw V (2008, USA/CDN) C-95m. **½ D: David Hackl. Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Rolston. No end in sight to horror franchise, and to be honest, there’s no need. Fifth SAW movie explains how agent Hoffman (Mandylor) was corrupted by Jigsaw Bell and how agent Strahm (Patterson) manages to narrowly escape one of his torture devices. Of course, there’s a group of related people, who have to escape booby-trapped rooms. Still fascinating, with a few gross-out scenes, and a WTF-ending. Followed by SAW VI (2009).

Saw VI (2009, USA/CDN/GBR/AUS) C-91m. ** D: Kevin Greutert. Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Athena Karkanis, Samantha Lemole, Tanedra Howard. Weakest of the SAW films, this one follows agent Hoffman, who intends to complete the late Jigsaw’s last plan involving an insurance broker. Jigsaw’s wife is an accomplice, although the other policemen are hot on Hoffman’s trail. Best part is by-now trademark twist finale, but rest of the film is rather weakly plotted, if by no means bad. For SAW fans.

Sbirro, la Tua Legge è Lenta… la Mia… No! (1979, ITA) C-103m. *½ D: Stelvio Massi. Starring Maurizio Merli, Mario Merola, Carmen Scarpitta, Francisco Rabal, Nando Marineo. Italian police actioner (poliziottesco), made at the end of this subgenre’s popularity. Merli plays a cop who returns to Naples and must fight the local mafia. Some violent shoot-outs, but plot is lame. At least the score is by Stelvio Cipriani. Title translates as YOUR LAW IS SLOW, BUT MINE ISN’T!

Scandal (1989, GBR) C-114m. *** D: Michael Caton-Jones. Starring John Hurt, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Bridget Fonda, Ian McKellen, Leslie Phillips, Britt Ekland, Daniel Massey, Roland Gift, Jeroën Krabbé. The Profumo Scandal of the early 1960s that eventually led to the downfall of the government is vividly brought to the screen. Whalley-Kilmer portrays an 18 year-old showgirl, who becomes the mistress of the British Defense Minister John Profumo. Hurt, as the man who introduces her to the political elite of the country, is excellent as usual. A well-acted, interesting drama with a good score by Carl Davis. Director Caton-Jones’ (THIS BOY’S LIFE, THE JACKAL) first film. R-rated U.S. version runs 106m.

Scanner Darkly, A (2006, USA) C-100m. *½ D: Richard Linklater. Starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, David Cronenberg. Adaptation of a 1977 Philip K. Dick novel set in the near future, where main character Reeves is a cop of sorts, a spy, whose looks change every nano-second. He goes undercover to nail drug dealer Downey, but soon finds himself ‘trapped’ in their world, especially when he takes some of their valued Substance D. Filmed with real actors, then animated, which lends the film some style, but also keeps this rather artificial. The plot is uneven. Contains odd humorous touches, as well as identity-crisis elements a la BLADE RUNNER (1982). A misfire, much too immersed in its own weirdness. Screenplay by director Linklater.

Scanners (1981, CDN) C-103m. *** D: David Cronenberg. Starring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Charles Shamata, Michael Ironside. Cronenberg’s shocker about people who can read minds - and cause heads to explode. Well-scripted (by the director) and especially well-scored (by Howard Shore), film rates among the director’s best films and is only marred by the protagonist’s indifferent performance. The special effects are yucky but good. Followed by two sequels in 1991 and 1992, and a new SCANNER COP movie series in 1994.

Scarab (1982, USA/SPA) C-94m. D: Steven-Charles Jaffe. Starring Rip Torn, Robert Ginty, Cristina Sánchez Pascual, Isabel García Lorca, Donald Pickering. Tedious horror film about ancient Egyptian scarab cult that is reinstated by Torn and causes all kinds of violence. Anti-hero Ginty plays a reporter who investigates mysterious murders. Not completely without interest but causes boredom without relief. Director Jaffe later produced films like NEAR DARK (1987) or STRANGE DAYS (1995); he also cowrote MOTEL HELL (1980).

Scared to Death (1981, USA) C-91m. ** D: William Malone. Starring John Stinson, Diana Davidson, Jonathan David Moses, Tony Jannotta, Walker Edmistor, Pamela Bowman, William Malone. Straight horror film about mutated monster, which roams the sewers and kills young women. Ex-cop Stinson tackles the case. No surprises here, but okay for what it is, has a decent score. Followed by a sequel, SYNGENOR (1990). Also known as THE ABERDEEN EXPERIMENT.

Scarlet Diva (2000, ITA) C-91m. Scope *** D: Asia Argento. Starring Asia Argento, Jean Shepard, Herbert Fritsch, Vera Gemma, Daria Nicolodi, David Brandon. Intense self-portrait of actress Asia Argento (daughter of Dario), who plays a busy, successful actress with a childhood trauma, who’s also essentially lonely. She travels around the world mainly to get her script produced, entitled Scarlet Diva. Then she learns that she is pregnant from an Australian rock singer. Occasionally pretentious but effective psycho drama with a great Argento performance – or is it a performance at all? Difficult to watch at times, but Argento has fashioned a true cult film. Might not work as well for non-fans, though. Dedicated to Anna Ceroli, Asia’s half-sister, who died in an accident in 1994. Incidentally, Asia gave birth to a daughter called Anna in June 2001, a year after this film was first released. Brandon reprises his role from the 1986 DELIRIA (STAGEFRIGHT / AQUARIUS). Produced by Claudio and Dario Argento.

Scars of Dracula (1970, GBR) C-95m. ** D: Roy Ward Baker. Starring Christopher Lee, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Patrick Houghton, Michael Ripper, Michael Gwynn. Sixth DRACULA movie by Hammer Films has the count resurrected by the blood of a bat. A young couple go in search of a missing brother and soon find themselves in hell’s kitchen (or, the vampire’s castle). Tired continuation of the series has lost most of its edge over the years. Only Lee is convincing. Followed by DRACULA A.D. 1972, which had old Drac move to contemporary London.

Scary Movie (2000, USA) C-88m. Scope ** D: Keenen Ivory Wayans. Starring Jon Abrahams, Rick Ducommun, Shannon Elizabeth, Carmen Electra, Anna Faris, Keenen Ivory Wayans. Spoof of the SCREAM-films (and other horror movies that followed) is a so-so sequence of gags, nothing more. Faris is good as Neve Campbell-like teenager who might be stalked by a masked murderer. Maybe someone should have told the Wayans brothers that SCREAM was a parody itself. Watchable.

Scavenger Hunt (1979, USA) C-116m. ** D: Michael Schultz. Starring Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Meat Loaf, Vincent Price, Avery Schreiber, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Attempt to create a big comedy along the lines of IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD$ (1963) is an interesting failure. Dying Price will leave his fortune to the one who will collect the most points in insane scavenger hunt. Sounds irresistible, but direction is totally incompetent, and the laughs are not there all the time. Too bad. Unavailable to the home video market for many years.

Schindler’s List (1993, USA) C/B&W-197m. ***½ D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz. ‘Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” Emotionally exhausting war drama about real-life industrialist Oskar Schindler (Neeson), who during World War Two managed to save the lives of hundreds of Jews by employing them in his factory. Film details his relationship with the Nazis (especially German commander Göth, played by Fiennes) and his growing obsession with saving lives – while risking his own fortune and safety. Set against the backdrop of the brutal killing of thousands of Jews in Krakow, this is director Spielberg’s personal working up of the Holocaust and a great film for most of the way, with excellent performances by Neeson and Kingsley (as Neeson’s Jewish assistant and conscience). Let down occasionally by narrative that seems to be infected by the war-time chaos and confusion that Spielberg so brilliantly, harrowingly depicts. Perfect black-and-white cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, haunting, unforgettable score by John Williams. Filmed on location in Poland, where most of this film is set. Script by Steve Zaillian, based on the novel by Thomas Keneally. Winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg’s first), Best Score and Best Cinematography.

Schizo (1976, GBR) C-109m. ** D: Pete Walker. Starring Lynn Fredericks, John Leyton, Stephanie Beacham, John Fraser, Jack Watson. Producer-director Walker is at it again, this time his exploitation story centers around figure skater Fredericks, who is targeted and stalked by a (schizophrenic?) maniac, but nobody believes her. Did she know him when she was a child? Pretty much the same unpleasant bore that Walker gave us in FRIGHTMARE or HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, and overlong, to boot. Finale is interesting, though, so are some of the gore scenes. Also known as AMOK, and BLOOD OF THE UNDEAD.

Schlangengrube und das Pendel, Die (1967, GER) C-83m. ** D: Harald Reinl. Starring Christopher Lee, Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Carl Lange, Vladimir Medar. Barker and Dor are invited to a castle where Lee is waiting to be revenged on them. Not really bad and quite atmospheric but tacky and unconvincing. Based on E. A. Poe’s Pit and the Pendulum. U.S. titles: THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM, THE BLOOD DEMON, and CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD. 

Schock (1977, ITA) C-92m. *½ D: Mario Bava. Starring Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr., Ivan Rassimov, Nicola Salerno. Maestro Mario Bava’s final theatrical film unfortunately does not compare with his earlier shockers. After the death of her husband, Nicolodi moves back into their house with her new lover Steiner. When her son (Colin Jr.) starts behaving strangely, her world is slowly shattered by the ghosts of the past. Poorly scripted by Mario’s son Lamberto (and three others), film lacks suspense, excitement and a fast pace. Direction and camerawork are stylish as usual, but otherwise this is utterly ordinary. Not the intended Freudian psycho thriller, as perhaps the title might suggest. Score by Goblin (as Libra). Theme reworked by Lamberto later in FINO ALLA MORTE. Alternative titles: SHOCK, and BEYOND THE DOOR II (this is actually a sequel to the EXORCIST-clone CHI SEI?, released in the U.S. as BEYOND THE DOOR).

Schöne Ende dieser Welt, Das (1984, GER) C-100m. ** D: Rainer Erler. Starring Robert Atzorn, Claire Oberman, Götz George, Judy Winter, Werner Kreindl. Atzorn plays an industrial chemist working for a company producing dangerous, toxic fertilizers. When he is sent to Australia to buy land for building a new factory, he starts having doubts about the morality of his undertaking, especially when he is confronted with environmental activist George. Script by director Erler is ambitious as usual, but budgetary restrictions hamper this TV production considerably. It’s just not convincing and never exciting. Some prints are titled FLASHBACK.

School of Rock, The (2003, USA) C-109m. **½ D: Richard Linklater. Starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Adam Pascal, Robert Tsai, Frank Whaley. Black (of HIGH FIDELITY fame) is a 30-something slacker who dreams of making it as a rock star but sees his chances crushed when he is kicked out of his own band. Then he takes up a job as a teacher (posing as his roommate White) at an elite school, where the children just happen to be fine musicians (in the classical sense). Black’s performance is sensational, but the contrivances in the by-the-numbers script are often hard to take. Written by costar White.

Schramm (1993, GER) C-65m. M D: Jörg Buttgereit. Starring Florian Koerner, Monika M. Drastic horror film from Berlin sub-culture icon Jörg Buttgereit, whose films have been banned by German authorities, but surface now and then in video stores specializing on horror and trash. This nauseating 1993 release is about sexually disturbed serial killer Schramm (Koerner) and his unsuspecting roommate, a prostitute (Monika M.). Graphic mutilations, lots of gore, but in such a nihilistic presentation that it makes the film almost unwatchable. At least the filmmakers intended the film to have a deeper meaning. Some surreal scenes (quite well-edited) and a disquieting score add to the film's oppressive gruesomeness.

Schwarze Abt, Der (1963, FRA/GER) C-90m. Scope ** D: F. J. Gottlieb. Starring Joachim Fuchsberger, Charles Regnier, Dieter Borsche, Grit Boettcher, Klaus Kinski, Eddi Arent. ‘The Black Abbot’ (i.e. the English title of the movie) is stalking treasure hunters at a British castle. Fuchsberger, who is not playing the inspector this time, may have something to do with it. In this Edgar Wallace-inspired thriller the focus is on the (trivial) plot, there’s hardly any suspense. Arent’s funny antics save the film. Widescreen photography helps, too. English title: THE BLACK ABBOT.

Schwarze Schaf, Das (1960, GER) 95m. **½ D: Helmuth Ashley. Starring Heinz Rühmann, Siegfried Lowitz, Lina Carstens, Karl Schönböck, Maria Sebaldt. Famed German star actor Rühmann plays G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, a priest with a particular interest in murder cases. When he solves one in his hometown, the bishop sends him away onto a small island which is said to be peaceful and quiet. When a murder happens nonetheless Father Brown is out to investigate. Crime comedy suffers from self-conscious humor but story develops into a compact whodunit, which makes the film worth watching. Followed by ER KANN’S NICHT LASSEN in 1962.

Schweigende Stern, Der (1960, GDR/POL) C-94m. Scope ** D: Kurt Maetzig. Starring Yoko Tani, Oldrich Lukes, Ignacy Machowski, Julius Ongewe. Based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel Astronauci, this East German-Polish coproduction fails to make much of its potentially intriguing premise. After a strange piece of rock is explained to be from an extra-terrestrial spaceship that exploded on earth several decades ago, a handful of renowned scientists make the voyage to Venus, the planet the vessel is thought to have come from. They find its surface devastated and deserted. Has there ever existed life on the planet? Apart from the dated effects, film is sometimes incoherent and never terribly involving or entertaining. Worth a look for science-fiction buffs, however. English title: FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS. Released abroad at 78m.

Scoop (2006, GBR/USA) C-96m. *** D: Woody Allen. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen, Ian McShane, Charles Dance. Johansson is a young journalist just starting out in the business, who is contacted by a famous reporter just after he died(!). He tells her that he knows who is the Tarot serial killer of late, thus giving her the opportunity for the ultimate scoop. Together with stage magician Allen, she tries to make the acquaintance of the purported killer (Jackman). Quite watchable mix of murder mystery and romantic comedy, this has some very funny dialogue. One of Allen’s typical whimsical comedies; one wonders why he doesn’t aim higher anymore, however.

Scorched (2003, USA) C-89m. **½ D: Gavin Grazer. Starring Alicia Silverstone, Rachael Leigh Cook, Woody Harrelson, John Cleese, Paulo Costanzo, David Krumholtz, Joshua Leonard, Ivan Sergei, Marcus Thomas, Jeffrey Tambor, Max Wein, Gavin Grazer. Amusing (if underdeveloped) crime comedy with an interesting cast: Silverstone, Harrelson and Costanzo all work for the same bank in the same village, and they are all planning (independently so!) to steal some money for the craziest reasons. Almost good. Cleese is fun to watch as an eccentric millionaire with a dog and sushi fetish.

Scorpion King, The (2002, USA) C-92m. Scope **½ D: Chuck Russell. Starring The Rock (=Dwayne Johnson), Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill. Lively, quite entertaining B-movie is a follow-up to the MUMMY movies. Pro wrestler The Rock plays the hunky title character who must kill evil ruler Brand in ancient Egypt. Blah script is mostly offset by some nice production design, non-stop action. Quite successful at the box office.

Scorpion Thunderbolt (1985, HGK) C-87m. ** D: Godfrey Ho. Starring Richard Harrison, Bernard Tsui, Juliet Chan, Nancy Lim. Truly odd obscurity about a journalist, who’s also a snake monster, controlled by an evil witch. Some effective scenes, quite well-made, but hampered by inserted (and amateurishly filmed) scenes featuring Richard Harrison, an American in Hong Kong, who owns a ring the witch needs. A curio for horror buffs, others should stay away. Not to be confused with director Ho’s COIL OF THE SNAKE / THE SNAKE STRIKES BACK.

Scream (1996, USA) C-110m. Scope *** D: Wes Craven. Starring Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber, Linda Blair. A year after Campbell’s mother was found brutally murdered, the same murderer seems to go on another killing spree and anyone - including Campbell’s friends - could be the masked maniac. Tense, nerve-wrecking horror thriller isn’t really more than typical teenie slasher fare but tremendously scary at that. Only let down by an exaggerated (and unsatisfactory) conclusion. Director Wes Craven has a funny cameo as Freddy Kruger. Followed by two sequels. 

Scream 2 (1997, USA) C-120m. Scope ***½ D: Wes Craven. Starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jada Pinkett, David Warner, Lewis Arquette, Tori Spelling. Heather Graham, Kevin Williamson. Sequel to the horror hit SCREAM is even better thanks to complicated, exciting plot about now-college student Campbell, who is terrified when a new murder series similar to the first one starts. Is it an imitation killer? Film (again scripted by Kevin Williamson) applies horror (non-)logic but plays cleverly with its premise and adds hair-raising excitement. Perhaps not as scary and original as the first but sweat-inducing nevertheless. A bulls-eye horror thriller, the best since CANDYMAN.

Scream 3 (2000, USA) C-116m. Scope *** D: Wes Craven. Starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Kennedy, Heather Matarazzo, Roger Corman. The last part of the popular horror trilogy is good, dirty fun in the best SCREAM-tradition. Campbell is on the run again from the masked serial killer. This time he seems to be following the script to STAB 3, a mavie based on the original murders, Forget about any logic, just sit back and enjoy. Be warned, however: Those who haven’t seen the first and second part might not as eagerly embrace this movie as those who have. Certainly the weakest part of the trilogy, but good fun.

Scream… and Die! (1973, GBR) C-98m. ** D: Joseph (=José Ramón) Larraz. Starring Andrea Allan, Karl Lanchbury, Maggie Walker, Peter Forbes-Robertson, Judy Matheson. Strange sex-and-crime concoction about fashion model Allan, who stumbles into strange mansion with her boyfriend, only to witness a gruesome sex murder. She manages to escape, but her lover remains missing. Is the killer targeting her now? Sounds much more interesting than it plays, it goes nowhere after establishing the premise. Sluggish, talky thriller with a handful of rewarding features for buffs: Some stylish lighting, Allan’s gorgeous physique (she can act, too!) and a bizarre love sequence involving a middle-aged woman. Film was written by Derek Ford (perhaps inspired by Italian B-movies of the period), who also edited part of it. Alternative titles: DON’T GO INTO THE BEDROOM, THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED, and PSYCHO SEX FIEND.

Scream and Scream Again (1970, GBR) C-95m. *½ D: Gordon Hessler. Starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Judy Huxtable, Christopher Matthews, Alfred Marks, Peter Sallis. Strange, confusing supernatural thriller: The police are trying to catch a dangerous murderer whose victims are found drained of their blood. The puzzling killings may be in connection with a secret military organization which, it turns out, has diabolical plans for humanity. This premise indicates that original story (from Peter Saxon’s novel The Disorientated Man) is not bad. The adaptation (by Christopher Wicking) is, a fact which can’t even be compensated by the (brief) appearances of three horror stars Price, Lee and Cushing.

Scream, Baby, Scream (1969, USA) C-82m. M D: Joseph Adler. Starring Ross Harris, Eugenie Wingate, Chris Martell. Suzanne Stuart. Lurid American sex-and-crime thriller about teenager Harris, whose girlfriend gets drawn into mysterious schemes of her arts teacher. Seems like a direct descendant of the surfer pics of the 60s, this one is ultra-bad. Cheap, absurd concoction, written by none other than Larry Cohen. Alternatively known as NIGHTMARE HOUSE.

Screamers (1995, CDN) C-108m. **½ D: Christian Duguay. Starring Peter Weller, Jennifer Rubin, Roy Dupuis, Andy Lauer, Charles Powell, Ron White. War has devastated a distant planet and military commander Weller has to contend with so-called Screamers, who are shapeshifters programmed to kill. Atmospheric sci-fi action starts impressively but then unfortunately loses its footing. Based on Second Variety, a short story by Philip K. Dick, the film is highly reminiscent of BLADE RUNNER.

Screamtime (1983, GBR) C-89m. ** D: Al Beresford (=Stanley A. Long). Starring Vincent Russo, Michael Gordon, Marie Scinto, Kevin Smith, Robin Bailey. Watchable, if considerably silly horror anthology, with frame story about two losers who steal video tapes and watch them at a randy friend’s place. First story concerns an old puppeteer, who is harassed by his family. Second one deals with a woman who has visions of horror in her home. And the last one is about a small-time crook who tries to rob a house protected by fairies. Not-bad, but still pretty pointless and quite laughable. Written by Michael Armstrong (HEXEN BIS AUFS BLUT GEQUÄLT – MARK OF THE DEVIL).

Scrooged (1988, USA) C-101m. ** D: Richard Donner. Starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John For-sythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Buddy Hackett, Lee Majors. Need-lessly aggressive updating of the classic Charles Dickens story with Murray a cold-hearted TV executive who loses his contempt for Christmas when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve. Second ghost has the best moments in this quite funny modernization. The ending comes off forced, though. 

S. Darko (2009, USA) C-103m. **½ D: Chris Fisher. Starring Daveigh Chase, Briana Evigan, James Lafferty, Ed Westwick, Walter Platz, Elizabeth Berkley. Atmospheric follow-up to the cult hit DONNIE DARKO (2001) about Donnie’s sister Samantha (Chase) who drfits across the country with her friend Evigan. And guess what: The world is about to end, and it’ll all happen in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Road movie fantasy has the original’s touch, and with a good, hypnotic score manages to draw you in, although plot twists make little sense. A throwback to Twin Peaks days (which isn’t all that bad). Production design by Alfred Sole (COMMUNION). Released directly to video.

Seabiscuit (2003, USA) C-141m. Scope ***½ D: Gary Ross. Starring Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, William H. Macy, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens, James Keane, Gary Ross. Beautifully handled drama about opportunist Bridges, who loses most of his newly-gained wealth in stockmarket crash of 1929 and resorts to managing racing horses. One day he teams up with sensitive trainer Cooper and jockey Maguire to make once-injured horse Seabiscuit a champion. Excellent screenwriting introduces the story beautifully, and entire production is sublime. Good performances, immaculate period flavor, top Hollywood filmmaking. Written by director Ross, based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand.  Was nominated for 7 Oscars, won none. Same story filmed before in 1949.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964, GBR) B&W-116m. ***½ D: Bryan Forbes. Starring Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough, Nanette Newman, Mark Eden, Gerald Sim, Patrick Magee, Judith Donner. Outstanding psycho drama about psychotic medium Stanley, who plots to kidnap girl of rich family, hoping to get a reward for her “help” in locating the girl. Intimidated husband Attenborough reluctantly agrees to help with the scheme. Well-directed, brilliantly acted, not easily forgotten movie that some rightfully regard as a classic. Stanley should have won an Oscar (she was nominated). Interestingly, she suffered from psychosis in real life (revealed by director Forbes in an interview on the 2003 DVD). Terrific score by John Barry. Based on the novel by Mark McShane, remade by Kiyoshi Kurosawa for Japanese TV in 2000 (as KOREI). Referenced in Dario Argento’s TRAUMA (1993).

Sea of Love (1989, USA) C-112m. *** D: Harold Becker. Starring Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman, Michael Rooker, William Hickey, Richard Jenkins, Paul Calderon, Mark Phelan, Samuel L. Jackson. Police inspector Pacino is faced with brutal murders of men who put ads in the lonely hearts columns in newspapers. During the investigation he meets (and gradually falls in love with) possible suspect Barkin, a steamy femme fatale. Interesting, well-written thriller, a quintessential one of the late 1980s, with another excellent performance by Pacino. Good photography by Ronnie Taylor (OPERA). Scenes with Lorraine Bracco (as Pacino’s ex-wife) were cut out before the premiere.

Searchers, The (1956, USA) C-120m. *** D: John Ford. Starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, John Qualen, Olive Carey, Harry Carey Jr. Classic American western, usually cited as the best one, about war veteran Wayne’s embittered search for his niece, who has been abducted by Indians. Wayne spends years on their trail, aided by inexperienced Hunter. Western drama is unevenly structured and its intended emotional impact never fully realized. Negative, one-sided portrayal of Native Americans doesn’t help either. Well-paced, with a nice sense of humor, but cannot hold a candle to Sergio Leone’s operatic Dollar trilogy. Spawned many imitations. Shot in VistaVision.

Second Best (1993, GBR/USA) C-105m. *** D: Chris Menges. Starring William Hurt, John Hurt, Chris Cleary Miles, Keith Allen, Jane Horrocks, Prunella Scales, Alan Cumming. A self-conscious postmaster (William Hurt) decides to adopt a child and is matched with a troubled ten year-old (Miles), whose father is in prison. Hurt, whose childhood was not a happy one either, sees a chance to give each other the love they are both lacking in their lives. Good drama with superb performances, especially by William Hurt and Miles, could have been even better. Screenplay by David Cook, from his own novel. John Hurt’s role is no more than a cameo. Fine score by Simon Boswell (SANTA SANGRE). Set (and filmed) in Wales.

Secretary (2002, USA) C-112m. *** D: Steven Shainberg. Starring James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Patrick Bauchau, Stephen McHattie, Oz Perkins, Jessica Tuck, Amy Locane, Lesley Ann Warren. Highly original drama about mentally imbalanced Gyllenhaal, who has just been released from a mental institution and tries to make a stand in real life. The self-mutilating, insecure young woman then takes a job as a secretary in lawyer Spader’s firm, little knowing that he is a branded soul himself. Not consistently interesting, but this fresh drama is so well-performed you will forgive its dramatic shortcomings. Good score by Angelo Badalamenti. Based on a short story by Mary Gaitskill.

Secret Ceremony (1968, GBR) C-109m. **** D: Joseph Losey. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, Robert Mitchum, Peggy Ashcroft, Pamela Brown. Brilliantly acted chamber piece about Farrow and Taylor, whose meeting on the bus one day marks the beginning of a highly unusual relationship. Psychotic, girlish Farrow takes Taylor for her dead mother, who looked just like her. Taylor, in turn, accepts this role play hesitantly; Farrow’s resemblance with her own (dead) daughter is striking. The arrival of Farrow’s stepfather, lecherous Mitchum, puts a strain on their odd relationship. Completely fascinating psycho drama, difficult to watch but psychologically valid, with excellent direction by Losey (ACCIDENT), a must for cineastes. Farrow’s performance is breathtaking. Scripted by playwright George Tabori, who adapted the novel Ceremonia Secreta by Marco Denevi. Appropriately bizarre score by Richard Rodney Bennett. Beware edited 101m. version.

Secret des Selenites, Le (1983, FRA) C-82m. *½ D: Jean Image. Crude animation chronicles the adventures of the famed Baron Münchhausen as he sets out to find the Selenites, the secret inhabitants of the moon. Unpleasantly animated with many odd characters, film is not as interesting as it sounds. 

Secret Window (2004, USA) C-96m. Scope **½ D: David Koepp. Starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton. Okay thriller about troubled writer Depp, who is harassed by another writer (Turturro), who claims that Depp has stolen his story. Strangely enough, Depp has a hard time proving that he is wrong. Improbable (and thus predictable) from the word go, this thriller is kept alive by fair pace and Depp’s performance. Based on a short story by (you guessed it) Stephen King. Screenplay by the director. Score by Philip Glass.

Seduction, The (1982, USA) C-104m. ** D: David Schmoeller. Starring Morgan Fairchild, Michael Sarrazin, Vince Edwards, Andrew Stevens, Colleen Camp, Kevin Brophy. TV newswoman Fairchild is stalked by a fan of hers, photographer Stevens. There’s not much more to say about the plot, it’s predictable, slowly paced and rather stupid. Watch it if you are a fan of 80s stylistics and Morgan Fairchild in her prime (anybody?), stay away if you don’t dig pink credits. Has trash movie appeal. Score by Lalo Schifrin. Frank Darabont was among the crew.

Seduction of a Priest (1990, GBR/SPA) C-105m. ** D: Paolo Lara. Starring Paul McGann. Weak rendition of a masterpiece of Gothic literature, The Monk (1791) by William Gregory Lewis. McGann stars as a righteous monk who is seduced by a woman and soon finds himself in earthly purgatory. In a second strand of action, a young nun is imprisoned by the Mother Superior upon hearing that she is pregnant. Well-acted but tame, poorly directed, nowhere near the classic original. Filmed before by Ado Kyrou in 1972. Alternative title: THE MONK.

See Jane Run (2007, USA) C-86m. *½ D: Ryan Webb. Starring Jennifer Clary, Sasha Andreev, Joe Estevez, John Rodriguez, Kevin Haberer. Attempt at paying homage to horror exploitation movies (in particular T.C.M.) about four teenagers on the road, who end up in a house where a psychopath is intent on killing them. Low-budget, independent film starts not bad (excluding the odd opening scene), with less bad acting than usual, but fails to go anywhere from the first 20 minutes. There’s no atmosphere or suspense, and the villain looks like the guy next door (in a polished suburban house!). Some gore effects, most of them unconvincingly done with the computer.

Sei Donne per l’Assassino (1964, ITA/FRA/GER) C-89m. **½ D: Mario Bava. Starring Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Arian Gorin, Dante di Paolo, Mary Arden, Frank Russel, Claude Dantes. Someone is killing fashion models for reasons that may be disclosed by the first victim’s diary, which the killer is after. Inspector Reiner is investigating the case. Badly paced, second rate plot (co-authored by the director) almost overcome by striking direction, good photography (Ubaldo Terzano) and a fine dramatic score (Carlo Rustichelli). This is how a horror thriller should be handled. Quite violent for its time. A must for followers of the director. English title: BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. 

Sei Mong Se Jun (2004, HGK) C-97m. *** D: Oxide Pang. Starring Race Wong, Roseanne Wong, Anson Leung, Michelle Mee. Fascinating psycho horror drama about an emotionally unstable young art student, who discovers her fascination with death and becomes obsessed with photographing death scenes. She distances herself from her surroundings, even becomes suicidal… but that’s not the end of the story. Plot is not always consistent, but film is stylishly directed, photographed and edited, another winner from cutting-edge filmmaker Pang. Written by the director and Thomas Pang. Produced by the Pang Brothers. English title: AB-NORMAL BEAUTY.

Seins de Glace, Les (1972, FRA) C-105m. ** D : Georges Lautner. Starring Mireille Darc, Alain Delon, Claude Brasseur, André Falcon, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Emilio Messina, Michel Peyrelon. Vague psycho drama about writer Brasseur, who encounters mysterious blonde Darc on the beach one day and immediately falls for her, trying to protect her from her overbearing protector, lawyer Delon. Interesting subject matter, done in by self-conscious direction and Brasseur’s naïve role. The reception of this drama may depend on one’s personal taste. Based on a novel by Richard Matheson. English title: ICY BREASTS.

Seize the Day (1986, USA) C-97m. ***½ D: Fielder Cook. Starring Robin Williams, Joseph Wiseman, Jerry Stiller, Glenne Headley, Tony Roberts, Richard Shull, John Fiedler, Jo van Fleet, William Hickey. Compelling drama about an unemployed loser (Williams), who’s separated from his wife and slowly has to learn that he’s a failure in life. Not even his own father (Wiseman) shows compassion for his son, who keeps trusting the wrong people. Brilliant acting by both Williams and Wiseman (who was the first Bond villain in screen history) elevate this serious drama, which is a little downbeat. Produced for television.

Self Defense (1983, CDN) C-81m. ** D: Paul Donovan, Marua O’Connell. Starring Brenda Bazinet, Jack Blum, Richard Collins. Quite intense but otherwise strictly by-the-numbers thriller about a group of thugs, who chase an eye witness to a murder in a gay bar and try to break into the apartment where he hides out. Violent fare, also known as SIEGE and NIGHT WARRIORS.

Semana del Asesino, La (1972, SPA) C-98m. ** D: Eloy de la Iglesia. Starring Vicente Parra, Emma Cohen, Eusebio Poncela, Vicky Lagos, Lola Herrera, Rafael Hernández. Spanish horror film about a slaughterhouse worker (Parra), who accidentally kills a taxi driver, then must keep murdering to keep this a secret. Each murder leads to the next. Guess where he disposes of his victims! Slowly paced drama with some gory bits has a cult reputation, but fun it ain’t, rather depressing with sub-standard acting. This was director Iglesias’ follow-up to the fascinating EL TECHO DE CRISTAL (1971). English titles: CANNIBAL MAN, THE APARTMENT ON THE 13TH FLOOR.

Semana Santa (2002, SPA/GBR/FRA/GER/ITA/DAN) C-91m. ** D: Pepe Danquart. Starring Mira Sorvino, Olivier Martinez, Féodor Atkine, Luis Tosar, Alida Valli, Peter Berling. Sorvino plays a troubled police woman, who comes to Sevilla, Spain, and soon finds herself in the middle of the hunt for a serial killer. Utterly conventional thriller, whose only novelty is the setting, the Semana Santa (Holy Week), during which religious processions crowd the narrow streets. The characters don’t figure at all in this film, at least it features some glossy cinematography. Based on the novel by David Hewson.

Sender, The (1982, USA/GBR) C-91m. *** D: Roger Christian. Starring Kathryn Harrold, Zeljko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman, Sean Hewitt, Harry Ditson. Well-made supernatural thriller about hospital patient Ivanek, who unwittingly tranforms his powerful and frightening hallucinations to the hospital staff. The key to these telepathic powers lies in his past, as doctor Harrold soon finds out. Surreal, complicated horror film, surprisingly good. Its only mistake may be that it relies too much on realistic thriller elements. First feature for both director Christian and cinematographer Roger Pratt (BATMAN, BRAZIL). Christian won an Oscar as an art director for STAR WARS.

Sensi (1986, ITA) C-89m. *½ D: Gabriele Lavia. Starring Monica Guerritore, Gabriele Lavia, Mimsy Farmer, Lewis E. Ciannelli, Dario Mazzoli. Lavia plays a hitman who is on the run because he is in possession of some incriminating documents. He hides in a brothel and falls in love with prostitute Guerritore. Poorly paced, poorly directed, pointless ‘thriller’ that also isn’t very erotic. A disappointment. English title: EVIL SENSES.

Sentenza di Morte (1968, ITA) C-90m. Scope *** D: Mario Lafranchi. Starring Robin Clarke, Richard Conte, Enrico Maria Salerno, Adolfo Celi, Tomas Milian, Eleonora Brown, Luciano Rossi. Unusual spaghetti western about baby-faced Clarke, who is out to kill 4 colorful villains, who caused the death of his brother. Simple revenge formula is overcome by stylish direction, which celebrates the archetypes of the spaghetti western, and brilliant score by Gianni Ferrio, who rivals Morricone in his use of unusual instruments. For buffs. Might have been an inspiration for Tarantino’s KILL BILL movies. English title: DEATH SENTENCE.

Sentinel, The (1977, USA) C-92m. *** D: Michael Winner. Starring Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, José Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Deborah Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Bevery D’Angelo, Hank Garrett, Tom Berenger, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum. Derivative but enjoyable supernatural thriller about young actress Raines, who moves into a New York apartment, unknowing that the blind priest upstairs is there for a special purpose – to guard the gate to hell. Despite so many stars in the cast, this is a B-movie with dramatic faults, but it remains interesting (especially because of compact running time) and even chilling. Make-up effects are good. Written by director Winner, who adapted the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz, whose book is an intriguing mix between ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and THE EXORCIST (1973).

Seokkeul (2003, KOR) C-114m. **½ D: Seung-bae Park. Starring Soo-yeon Kang, Woong-in Jeong, Jeong-yun Choi, Jae-ryong Jeon. Provocative drama from Korea about a cold-blooded killer, who after being caught bases his defense on the claim that he is the reincarnation of a killer from the 1930s. The (female) state attorney is furious, but there is more to this story than she wants to believe; in flashbacks we learn about a fatal love affair. Low-key, deliberately paced drama is a bit too heavy on the sap sometimes, especially towards the end. Not a horror film, as the DVD cover might have you believe; it does contain some graphic scenes, though. English title: THE CIRCLE.

Seom (2000, KOR) C-90m. **½ D: Kim Ki-duk. Starring Suh Jung, Kim Yoosuk, Park Sung-hee, Jo Jae-hyeon, Jang Hang-seon. Quiet, disturbing drama about a mute woman, who rents out swimming huts on a lake to fishermen and occasionally sells her body, too. Her latest guest is equally introvert man, who has just committed a crime. Film charts their relationship in low-key, hypnotic fashion. Symbolic, raw film is difficult to watch. First big international success for director Kim, he won the Netpac prize at the Venice film festival and was nominated for the Golden Lion. English title: THE ISLE.

Sept Pèches Capitaux, Les (1961, FRA/ITA) 113m. Scope ** D: Sylvain Dhomme, Edouard Molinaro, Philippe de Broca, Jacques Demy, Jean-Luc Godard, Roger Vadim, Claude Chabrol. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Eddie Constantine, Jean-Claude Brialy, Claude Brasseur, Marina Vlady. The Seven Capital Sins are interpreted by seven directors, most of whom would go on to achieve international recognition. Interesting (to say the least) but also boring and sometimes pointless satire isn’t funny enough to score a higher rating. Best of the stories is possibly de Broca’s La Gourmandise episode (Gluttony). English title: 7 CAPITAL SINS.

Seraphim Falls (2006, USA) C-115m. Scope *** D: David Von Ancken. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Michael Wincott, Ed Lauter, John Robinson, Robert Baker, Kevin O’Connor, Angelica Huston, Tom Noonan, Xander Berkeley, Wes Studi. John Toll’s (expectedly) fine cinematography and two arresting lead performances are main attractions in this post-Civil War western about Neeson’s quest to find and kill Brosnan in the wilderness, for reasons specified later in the movie. Rather episodic and obvious in its plotting, but well-worth seeing. Especially Neeson scores as a man bent on revenge. Cowritten by TV director Von Ancken.

Serendipity (2001, USA) C-90m. **½ D: Peter Chelsom. Starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Bridget Moynahan, John Corbett, Eugene Levy. Sappy romance about Cusack and Beckinsale who meet by chance at Bloomingdale’s and fall in love. Since both are about to be married, they leave it to fate if they ever meet again. Pretty contrived but still likable thanks to the stars’ performances.

Sergeant Rutlidge (1960, USA) C-118m. **½ D: John Ford. Starring Woody Strode, Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers, Billie Burke. Interesting but predictable and clichéd western drama about court-martial of black sergeant Strode, who is accused of having murdered and raped a white girl. Well-acted, unusual western from one of the genre’s most prolific directors is overlong and has some comic relief that doesn’t really work. Not as ground-breaking in its anti-racist message as some claim it to be, if you consider that 12 ANGRY MEN came three years earlier. Still, western buffs will like it anyway.   

Serial Lover (1998, FRA) C-83m. D: James Huth. Starring Michèle Laroque, Albert Dupontel, Elise Tielrooy, Michel Vuillermoz, Zinedine Soualem, Antoine Basler, Gilles Privat. Annoying, derivative black comedy thinks itself very funny but works only in spurts. 34 year-old Laroque wants to marry but can't decide whom, so she invites all four candidates to a dinner party. She ends up with four dead bodies, a devastated flat, two idiotic criminals, and a very strange police detective. Tries to be as hip as Tarantino's films (especially PULP FICTION), but is more ridiculous than funny.

Serial Mom (1994, USA) C-95m. **½ D: John Waters. Starring Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Mary Lo Catlett, Justin Whalin, Patricia Dunnock, Mink Stole, Patricia Hearst, Suzanne Somers, Traci Lords. Another one of writer-director Waters’ suburban fantasies. Perfect housewife Turner would do anything to protect her family and her values, even kill, which she has been doing with the same care as she does her household chores. Nobody believes she could be the wanted killer in the neighborhood. Makes its point early on, but remains funny enough for the rest of the movie. Turner is terrific, even in unnecessary, predictable courtroom  finale. Waters’ fans shouldn’t be disappointed. That’s his voice as Ted Bundy on the tape.

Serious Man, A (2009, USA) C-106m. ***½ D: Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Adam Arkin, Michael Lerner. Another unbeatable concoction by the Coen brothers, this tragic comedy echoes, maybe even mirrors their masterpiece BARTON FINK (1991). Conservative Jewish math and physics professor Stuhlbarg feels the floor under his feet being swept away, when his wife asks for a divorce, one of his students tries to bribe him and he is in danger of losing his job. What’s more, he has to contend with an aggressive neighbor and his own parasitic brother, who lives with them in their early 1960s suburban home. Film follows his oddyssey as he is trying to keep his demeanor (as a ‘serious man’), while everything seems to be going down the drain. Brilliantly cast and acted, especially by Stuhlbarg, film bears the mark of a true genius (or two, in this case). Photographed by Roger Deakins, score by Carter Burwell.

Sero Hiki no Goshu (1982, JAP) C-61m. *** D: Isao Takahata. Starring (the voices of) Hideki Sasaki, Fuyumi Shiraishi, Masashi Amenomori. Intelligent mini-feature by anime master Takahata, based on a short novel by Kenji Miyazawa. A young cello player, who is in preparation for an important concert, is visited by several animals who ask him to teach them music. His initial doubts are blown away when he realizes how powerful his music can be. Some idyllic animation, with beautiful classical music, a real find for animation buffs. English titles: GAUCHE THE CELLIST, GOSHU THE CELLIST.

Serpent, Le (1972, FRA/ITA/GER) C-113m. Scope ** D: Henri Verneuil. Starring Yul Brynner, Henry Fonda, Dirk Bogarde, Philippe Noiret, Michel Bouquet, Martin Held, Farley Granger, Virna Lisi, Guy Tréjan, Marie Dubois, Elga Andersen, Robert Alda, Herbert Fux. Unnecessarily complicated thriller about Russian KGB agent Brynner, who asks for political asylum and intends to disclose some important information to the Americans. Soon, a web of espionage and intrigues is uncovered that reaches up to the highest positions. Despite good start, stellar cast and Ennio Morricone’s elaborate score, this is a dud that’s far too talky and doesn’t thrill. Photographed by Claude Renoir, cowritten and produced by director Verneuil, whose great films (LE CORPS DE MON ENNEMI and I… COMME ICARE) were to come out later that decade. English titles: NIGHT FLIGHT FROM MOSCOW and THE SERPENT.

Serpent and the Rainbow, The (1988, USA) C-98m. *** D: Wes Craven. Starring Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Michael Gough. Pullman plays a scientist who is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical firm, where he is supposed to research a so-called voodoo powder, which kills people and makes them return from the dead. Atmospheric, even sweat-inducing chiller makes great use of locations. All the more creepy when you consider it is based on a true story(!), written down in the book The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis.

Serpent’s Egg, The (1977, USA/GER) C-114m. **½ D: Ingmar Bergman. Starring David Carradine, Liv Ullman, Gert Fröbe, Heinz Bennent. Atmospheric drama set in 1923 Germany, about Jewish circus artist Carradine, who is the prime suspect in a murder spree investigated by inspector Fröbe. Bravura acting by Ullman, ingenious directorial touches by Bergman make this a worthwhile experience, although unpleasant, relentlessly sleazy subject matter weighs it down a lot. Written by the director. Photography by Sven Nykvist, produced by Dino de Laurentiis. German title: DAS SCHLANGENEI.

Serpent Warriors, The (1985, USA/HGK) C-93m. *½ D: John Howard, Niels Rasmussen. Starring Clint Walker, Eartha Kitt, Christopher Mitchum, Ann Lockhart, Kathleen Lu. A woman is trying to find out more about a so-called snake cult, which – as she believes – has reason to kill her husband, who killed their leader when he was five years old. Almost incomprehensible trash shamelessly exploits the 1982 Hong Kong movie CALAMITY OF SNAKES. The scenes from that film – snake attacks and fights – are furiously filmed. Is that flick available somewhere?!

Serpiente del Mar (1984, SPA) C-92m. M D: Amando de Ossorio. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Taryn Power, Jared Martin, Ray Milland, Gérard Tichy, Carole James, Jack Taylor, León Klimovsky. A giant sea serpent is terrorizing sailors and tourists, and Bottoms wants to persuade the public that it really exists, with the help of traumatized tourist Power. Pretty much as bad as it gets. Sad to say, this was Milland’s last theatrical film and also BLIND DEAD writer-director de Ossorio’s swan song. English title: THE SEA SERPENT.

Se Sei Vivo Spara (1967, ITA/SPA) C-117m. Scope ** D: Giulio Questi. Starring Tomas Milian, Marilù Tolo, Piero Lulli, Milo Quesada, Sancho Gracia, Ray Lovelock, Frank Brana. Unusual but sluggish western with a cult reputation. Half-breed Milian is shot by bandits and left for dead. He is saved by two Indians and prepared for revenge. The cowboys, with Milian’s stash of gold, have intermediately found refuge in a small town, whose citizens are greedy and corrupt. Technically barely okay, as it lacks the timing and gusto of Sergio Leone’s classics. Plot is interesting, but overall film just doesn’t live up to its artsy, ultra-violent reputation. The Indians are just plain laughable. Many shorter versions are in existence. Photographed by Franco delli Colli. Lovelock’s first film. English title: DJANGO, KILL… IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!

Session 9 (2001, USA) C-100m. Scope ***½ D: Brad Anderson. Starring David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III. Creepy psycho drama set in a long-abandoned insane asylum, which was once self-contained and remains an impressive edifice, where five men sign up to do asbestos removal work. There’s tension among the men from the start, and the eerie location is sure to bring out their inner demons. Then one of the men discovers interview tapes (=sessions) with a schizophrenic patient. Not a horror film per se, this is actually quite real and authentic and has a lot of day-time scenes, but creates an oppressive sense of horror in you nevertheless. A rough diamond of a movie that will stay with you for a long time. Mullan’s performance is excellent. Director Anderson, who cowrote the picture with costar Gevedon and also edited it, followed this with the equally fascinating THE MACHINIST (2004).

Setta, La (1990, ITA) C-117m. **½ D: Michele Soavi. Starring Kelly Curtis, Herbert Lom, Tomas Arana, Mariangela Giordano, Carlo Cassola. Soavi’s third feature is an almost incomprehensible horror thriller about young teacher Curtis, who befriends an old man (Lom), not knowing that he is the head of a devilish sect. Well-filmed and photographed film doesn’t make sense for more than an hour(!), then finally goes for a ROSEMARY’S BABY-like finale. Cowritten and coproduced by Dario Argento, who clearly influenced the style (and even plot) of this thriller. Interesting for horror buffs, others beware of overlength and lack of logic. English title: THE SECT.

7 di Marsa Matruh, I (1970, ITA/EGY) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Mario Siciliano. Starring Ivan Rassimov, Monica Strebel, Kirk Morris, Marcella Michelangeli, Aldo Bufi Landi. Agreeable war adventure set in Africa, where seven British individuals (four soldiers, three women) are caught between enemy lines and must try to reach their homebase. Good cinematography, score (by Stelvio Cipriani) put this slightly above average. English title: OVERRUN!

Sette Note in Nero (1977, ITA) C-93m. **½ D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Jennifer O’Neill, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marc Porel, Gianni Garko, Evelyn Stewart (=Ida Galli), Jenny Tamburi. Okay thriller about clairvoyant O’Neill, who has frightening visions of dead people, and she is trying to find out if a crime really happened and who did it. Rather talky, but interesting, especially after surprising twist. O’Neill is good, as is main theme (referenced in KILL BILL). Story and screenplay by director Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Dardano Sacchetti. Remade in India(!) in 1991 (as 100 DAYS). English titles: SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK, MURDER TO THE TUNE OF THE SEVEN BLACK NOTES, and THE PSYCHIC.

Sette Orchidee Macchiate di Rosso (1971, ITA/GER) C-88m. Scope ** D: Umberto Lenzi. Starring Uschi Glas, Antonio Sabato, Marisa Mell, Pier Paolo Capponi, Petra Schürmann, Rossella Falk. One of the last German Edgar Wallace productions, made by Italian hands. Inspector Sabato is trailing serial killer in Rome, with Glas a potential victim. Some style, period flavor compensate for poor plotting. For giallo fans. Score by Riz Ortolani. Also known as DAS RÄTSEL DES SILBERNEN HALBMONDS and SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS.

Sette Winchester per un Massacro (1968, ITA) C-98m. Scope ** D: E.G. Rowland (=Enzo G. Castellari). Starring Edd Byrnes, Guy Madison, Ennio Girolami, Luisa Baratto, Piero Vida. Cheap, forgettable spaghetti western about a bunch of outlaws led by ex-colonel Madison, who are infiltrated by soldier Byrnes. Photography, direction are not bad, but plot is way overlong. Some interesting horror elements in the showdown at an Indian cemetery. Also known as BLAKE’S MARAUDERS, PAYMENT IN BLOOD and WINCHESTER FOR HIRE.

7, Hyden Park. La Casa Maledetta (1985, ITA) C-89m. **½ D: Martin Herbert (=Alberto De Martino). Starring David Warbeck, Carroll Blumenberg, Christina Nagy, Rossano Brazzi, Andrea Bosic. Director De Martino’s last film is a direct descendant of the giallo, about paralyzed woman Blumenberg, who falls in love with her therapist Warbeck but must contend with haunting memories of a priest who raped her as a little child. Now the nightmare seems to return… is someone trying to drive her mad? Intriguing (if somewhat familiar) mystery thriller is too sloppily made, although the attack scenes are not bad. Fans of Italian thrillers should give this one a look. English title: FORMULA FOR A MURDER.

Settima Donna, La (1978, ITA) C-86m. SCOPE *½ D: Franco Prosperi. Starring Florinda Bolkan, Ray Lovelock, Flavio Andreini, Stefano Cedrati, Sherry Buchanan. Three bankrobbers on the run find refuge in a villa inhabited by sister Bolkan and her theater troupe of girls. There is violence, nudity, rape, murder and, ultimately, revenge.  Basically just another poorly plotted LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) ripoff with ridiculous bonding scenes. Also known as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH, and TERROR.

Se7en (1995, USA) C-127m. Scope *** D: David Fincher. Starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Roundtree, Richard Schiff. Moody, oppressively atmospheric thriller about weary cop Freeman, who is about to be replaced by hot-shot Pitt, when a murder series grips the gloomy city. It seems the killer is re-enacting the Seven Deadly Sins, in ultra-disgusting fashion. Gripping cult thriller drains out almost all colors, but its plot is fascinating and so is its artistic approach. Incredibly tense finale the highlight. Score by Howard Shore, photographed by Darius Khondji. From the director of FIGHT CLUB (1999).

Seventh Curse, The (1986, HGK) C-84m. *½ D: Ngai Kai Lam. Starring Maggie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat, Joyce Godenzi, Yasuaki Kurata, Elvis Tsui, Jing Wong. Worthless splatter movie about two adventurers who tell some friends about their dangerous trip to a superstitious jungle tribe. Gory, okay effects may make those watch who must. Plot triviality doesn’t justify unnecessary narrative complexity. Ultra-low-brow humor another liability.

Seven Years in Tibet (1997, USA) C-136m. Scope *** D: Jean-Jacques Annaud. Starring Brad Pitt, David Thewlis, B.D. Wong, Mako, Danny Denzongpa, Victor Wong. Epic-scale adventure based on the real-life adventures of the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (well-impersonated by Pitt), whose excursion to Tibet in 1939 is overshadowed by the outbreak of World War Two in Europe. He meets the 14-year-old Dalai Lama in the course of his adventures and becomes his friend. Very-well photographed, breathtaking locations, this drama also holds up in terms of plot.

Severance (2006, GBR/GER) C-94m. **½ D: Christopher Smith. Starring Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay, Tim McInnerny, Laura Harris, Danny Dyer, David Gilliam. A group of employees of a weapons manufacturer are headed towards a team-building weekend in the Hungarian forests off Budapest. However, instead of the luxury lodge they find a derelict asylum, and there’s some mad Russians on the loose, ready to kill. Horror film along the lines of HOSTEL (2005) has its moments but it doesn’t know whether it wants to be taken seriously or not. Horror fans will probably find this appealing. Cowritten by director Smith (CREEP).

Sexo Caníbal (1981, SPA/GER/FRA) C-87m. ** D: Jess Franco. Starring Al Cliver, Sabrina Siani, Jérôme Foulon, Shirley Knight, Jess Franco. Notorious Jess Franco’s version of cannibal exploitation is surprisingly ambitious. On an expedition down the Amazon, scientist Cliver loses his wife to a cannibal tribe, which abducts his little daughter. Following memory loss, Cliver travels there again (ten years later) only to discover that his daughter has become the cannibal tribe’s ‘white goddess’. Plot drags terribly in mid-section, but cannibal scenes are stylishly done (in slow-motion and with eerie sound effects) and film generally boasts atmospheric camerawork. For Franco completists. Also known as BARBARIAN GODDESS, CANNIBALS, MONDO CANNIBALE, WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN and DIE BLONDE GÖTTIN.

Sexy Beast (2000, GBR/SPA) C-89m. Scope *** D: Jonathan Glazer. Starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox. ‘Retired’ crook Winstone is living the good life in Spain, when he is visited by former associate Kingsley who tries to talk him into making a comeback for a London heist. Winstone sees no reason to leave his luxurious finca, but Kingsley refuses to accept a no. A psycho battle between the men ensues. Strikingly directed thriller with an unhinged Kingsley performance, a stylish debut for director Glazer (BIRTH). Might reach cult film status in years to come.

Sfida dei Giganti, La (1965, ITA) C-85m. Scope **½ D: Maurice Bright (=Maurizio Lucidi). Starring Reg Park, Gia Sandri, Giovanni Gianfriglia, Audrey Amber (=Adriana Ambesi), Luigi Barbini, Franco Ressel. One of the very last peplum epics, this one is among the most violent. Hercules (Park) must enter the underworld to get a cure for his son, who has lost his mind in a lion attack. Meanwhile, the widowed queen of Syracuse is looking for Hercules to help her get rid of the men who have come to woo her, but ends up with Hercules’ evil half-brother. Starts out bland, with production values slightly below standard, but when Herc goes to Hades, film picks up. Entire scenes lifted off Mario Bava’s classic ERCOLE AL CENTRO DELLA TERRA (1961) and probably also SODOM E GOMORRAH (1962). For Hercules fans. English title: HERCULE THE AVENGER.

Shadow Dancer, The (2005, GBR/ITA/FRA) C-100m. Scope ** D: Brad Mirman. Starring Joshua Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Claire Forlani, John Rhys-Davies, Giancarlo Giannini, Armando Pucci. By-the-numbers romantic comedy drama about retired writer Keitel, who’s living the good life in Tuscany, Italy, when greenhorn Jackson is sent to persuade him to make a comeback. Naturally, initial contempt for each other turns into friendship, and love also plays a role in this contrivance. Not bad, with an impressive cast and some beautiful Italian architecture. Written by the director. Also known as SHADOWS IN THE SUN (whatever that is supposed to mean).

Shadow of the Vampire (2000, GBR/USA/LUX) C-92m. *** D: E. Elias Merhige. Starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Aden Gillett, Eddie Izzard, Udo Kier, Catherine McCormack. Original, interesting drama recounts (fictionally) the events surrounding the filming of F.W. Murnau’s silent horror classic NOSFERATU (1922). Center of interest is enigmatic actor Max Schreck (Dafoe), who scares the crew, as he seems to believe to be a vampire himself. Good performances by Malkovich and Dafoe, although film sometimes suffers from an underdeveloped script, which should have been about more than just Schreck. Good score by Dan Jones.

Shadow Whip, The (1971, HGK) C-78m. Scope **½ D: Lo Wei. Starring Cheng Pei-Pei, Ho Li Jen, Samo Hung, Kao Ming, Ku Feng, Lo Wei. Shaw Brothers eastern made by director Lo Wei just before he directed Bruce Lee in his breakthrough films. A gang of ruthless assassins are looking for a whip master, who has been in hiding for ten years. His daughter, similarly masterful in handling the whip ties to defend his hiding place. Nice wintry setting, rousing sword fights, okay of its type.

Shadowzone (1990, USA) C-88m. *½ D: J.S. Cardone. Starring Louise Fletcher, David Beecroft, James Hong, Frederick Flynn, Shawn Weatherly. Low-budget, low-grade sci-fi horror flick from Full Moon Entertainment. A monster from another dimension is slowly diminishing the crew of an underground lab. A pretentious ALIEN-ripoff without style. A big come-down for Fletcher.

Shadrach (1998, USA) C-86m. *** D: Susanna Styron. Starring Harvey Keitel, Andie MacDowell, John Franklin Sawyer, Scott Terra, Danny Treat, Edward Bunker, narrated by Martin Sheen. Slight but authentic Americana set in 1935 Virginia, where ten-year-old boy Terra has a memorable encounter with former slave Sawyer, who has returned to his homeland, wanting to be buried there. Quiet, leisurely paced but nicely done, with good performances all around. Based on the short story by William Styron, the director’s father.

Shaft (1971, USA) C-100m. **½ D: Gordon Parks. Starring Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Drew Bundini Brown, Gwenn Mitchell, Lawrence Pressman, Antonio Fargas. A milestone in blaxploitation cinema, this action thriller became one of the genre’s biggest hits and remains a cult film today. Black private detective John Shaft (Roundtree) investigates the kidnapping of the daughter of crime kingpin Gunn. Slow pace, lack of action and suspense do much to lessen film’s effect, however, the emphasis is on coolness! Oscar-winner for Isaac Hayes’ main theme. Followed by two immediate sequels, beginning with SHAFT’S BIG SCORE!, and a quasi-remake in 2000 starring Samuel L. Jackson in the title role.

Shaft (2000, USA) C-99m. Scope **½ D: John Singleton. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa L. Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, Toni Collette, Richard Roundtree. Quasi-remake of the 1971 cult classic about private detective John Shaft (Jackson) and his obsession with pinning down elusive rich brat Bale, who has killed an Afro-American. Stylishly filmed, cool thriller that tries to camouflage plot deficiencies with lots of explosions and shoot-outs, as well as an extensive use of Isaac Hayes’ original title theme. Interest wanes dangerously in final third (unless you are delighted by the car chases). Richard Roundtree appears as ‘Uncle’ John Shaft. Cowritten by director Singleton.

Shaft’s Big Score! (1972, USA) C-104m. Scope *** D: Gordon Parks. Starring Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Drew Bundini Brown, Joseph Mascolo, Kathy Imrie, Wally Taylor, Joe Santos. Private eye Shaft (Roundtree) returns in this sequel, battling a crime syndicate which is responsible for the murder of a close friend. A definite improvement over the original, as this entry has more atmosphere, more action and a tighter plot. Watch out for that finale! Followed by SHAFT IN AFRICA.

Shaft in Africa (1973, USA) C-112m. Scope *** D: John Guillermin. Starring Richard Roundtree, Frank Finlay, Vonetta McGee, Neda Arneric, Cy Grant, Jacques Herlin, Jacques Marin. The most violent of the action film series has Shaft undergo training in order to go to Africa to stop slave-traders who have been shipping blacks to France. Roundtree is both smooth and vicious as usual. Perhaps the pinnacle of blaxploitation, and if not, certainly made at the time when the movement and its influence on contemporary cinema was strongest: For example, that same year James Bond had to fight a black villain in LIVE AND LET DIE. Not for the squeamish. The German version was cut by seven minutes. Written by Sterling Silliphant. Followed by a television series and the remake in 2000.

Shakespeare in Love (1998, GBR) C-122m. Scope *** D: John Madden. Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Rupert Everett. In 1593 Will Shakespeare (Fiennes) suffers a writing blockade and is cured from it by a beautiful young lady (Paltrow), who becomes his mistress and muse. Shakespeare immediately starts writing ‘Romeo and Juliet’, but their love, it seems, is not to last. Time period nicely captured, although there is a distinctive 1990s flavor to the film that it just can’t rub off. The two lead actors breathe life into the cute and a little uninspired story. Shakespeare purists may object to this fictional account of the Bard’s love life. Oscars went to Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman for their sharp, witty script, Judi Dench for her (small) role as Queen Elizabeth, and to the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow. The Academy Award for Best Picture seems like a surprise, however, considering the competition that year (THE THIN RED LINE, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN).

Shallow Grave (1994, GBR) C-93m. *** D: Danny Boyle. Starring Kerry Fox, Christopher Ecclestone, Ewan McGregor, Ken Stott. Nifty little thriller about three friends, who live together in a large apartment. When they find their newest roommate dead – and a suitcase full of money under the bed – they decide to keep the money and bury the corpse. However, their triangular relationship is put to an extreme test. Good, not great directorial debut of TRAINSPOTTING director Boyle. Nothing special, but well-made thriller in the vein of BLOOD SIMPLE. Score by Simon Boswell.

Shanghai Noon (2000, USA) C-110m. Scope **½ D: Tom Dey. Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Jason Connery, Yuen Biao. Amusing culture clash comedy – much like Jackie Chan’s RUSH HOUR – about a Chinese fighter (Chan), who must travel to the Wild West to rescue a kidnapped princess (Liu). The greenhorn teams up with a cunning cowboy (Wilson) to complete this task. Some funny ideas, quite engaging, but film is overlong and the comedy outshines the action (can you believe that?). For Jackie Chan fans.

Shanghai Triad (1995, ROC/FRA) C-109m. *** D: Zhang Yimou. Starring Gong Li, Li Baotian, Li Suejian, Shun Chun, Wang Xiao Xiao. Extraordinary film (by an extraordinary filmmaker) about young boy who comes to Shanghai to serve mistress of the head of an underworld organization. Stunningly filmed gangster drama looks almost too beautiful, every frame is a masterful composition. Plot has its weaknesses, especially in deciding which character to focus on, the mistress’s or the boy’s. The latter is not convincingly portrayed. Gong Li is fine as singer, who realizes only after some time (in contrast to the boy, who learns in a matter of days) that the underworld is mean and cruel. The wrapping is more interesting than the content, so to speak. 

Shaolin Death Squad (1977, HGK) C-84m. Scope D: Joseph Kuo (=Kuo Nanhung). Starring Carter Wang, Ku Lung, Yang Wei. A despotic ruler sends two fighters after a supposedly rebellious general, who takes refuge in a shaolin monastery. Poor eastern completely disregards characterization and offers nonstop action. This becomes tedious after a while, especially because the fight scenes are rather lame. Original version runs longer, the German video version lacked all credits.

Shaolin Master and the Kid (1980, HGK) C-92m. Scope ** D: Jen Yao-Tung. Starring Yeuh Hua, Tang Fei, Chen Sheng. A shaolin master, who is travelling through the country with a small kid, is pursued by a group of men who want to kill him. Episodic eastern with typical revenge motives utilizes themes from other movies, even a beautiful score sequence by Ennio Morricone!

Shao-lin Si Di Si (1982, HGK/ROC) C-81m. Scope ** D: Hsu Sen, Leung Wing-Tai. Starring Zhang Feng-Yi, Wang Yiu-Pin, Wang Yi. A thief is after Buddha’s tooth, which has been purloined from a monastery. Standard eastern comes up with ok choreography and  is quite entertaining, but plot is petty and boring. Original version may run a bit longer.

Shaolin Temple (1976, HGK) C-83m. Scope D: Chang Cheh. Starring David Chiang, Alexander Fu-Sheng, Ti Lung, Chi Kuan-Chun. Below-average eastern about several youngsters who yearn to be taught the skill of Kung Fu in a Shaolin temple and eventually defend it against Manchu warriors after receiving a profound education. Action is restricted to the final twenty minutes. You might fall asleep before that, unless you are terribly interested in how Kung Fu is taught. Director Cheh has done better.

Shaolin Wooden Men (1976, HGK) C-101m. Scope **½ D: Lo Wei, Chen Chi-Hwa. Starring Jackie Chan, Kim Kong, Lung Yuen. After witnessing the murder of his father as a child, Chan is traumatized (unable to speak) and enters a Shaolin monastery to learn the art of Kung-Fu. He is taught by a mysterious prisoner in the monastery’s dungeon. Poorly paced but more serious than other Chan vehicles, this one takes its time but offers many explosive fights. Not bad, recommended to fans. Best bit: The Wooden Men challenge. Also known as SHAOLIN CHAMBER OF DEATH and 36 WOODEN MEN.

Shark! (1969, USA/MEX) C-92m. ** D: Samuel Fuller. Starring Burt Reynolds, Barry Sullivan, Arthur Kennedy, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Lucero. Odd action drama about drifter Reynolds and his involvement with a group of criminals who intend to dive for gold guarded by sharks. Little action, indifferently done, but not without appeal. Director Fuller distanced himself from the film. Alternative title: MAN-EATER.

Shark Bait (2006, USA/KOR) C-77m. ** D: Howard E. Baker, John Fox. Starring (the voices of) Freddie Prinze Jr., Rob Schneider, Evan Rachel Wood, Donal Logue, Andy Dick, Fran Drescher, John Rhys-Davies, R. Lee Ermey. Animated feature about a little fish on a coral reef, who loses his parents early in life, has trouble with sharks, falls in love and meets a mysterious turtle. Plot and design is awfully similar to that of FINDING NEMO (2003), but story consists only of loosely related vignettes. An okay view for kids, adults will find this rather poor. Also known as THE REEF, and PI’S STORY.

Shark Rosso nell’Oceano (1984, ITA/FRA) C-88m. ** D: Lamberto Bava. Starring Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, William Berger, Gianni Garko, Dagmar Lassander, Iris Peynado, Goffredo Unger. Standard JAWS rip-off about a genetically manipulated shark, who goes on a rampage smashing boats and killing people. Solidly filmed and told, but nothing to get excited about. For undemanding viewers. Bava’s third feature film. English title: DEVIL FISH and MONSTER SHARK.

Shark Tale (2004, USA) C-90m. *** D: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman. Starring (the voices of) Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Peter Falk, Christina Aguilera. Funny underwater comedy (a Best Animated Feature nominee) about a fast-talking fish named Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) who yearns for fame and money in the underwater city where he lives. Then he gets mixed up with the mob (sharks voiced by De Niro et al) and their shy offspring. Hilarious ideas, engaging plot, this can stand comparison to FINDING NEMO (2003), although some saw this as a rip-off.

Shatter (1974, GBR/HGK) C-90m. M D: Monte Hellman, Michael Carreras. Starring Stuart Whitman, Ti Lung, Li Li-Li, Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Lo Wei. Godawful thriller set in Hong Kong, about international assassin Whitman, who kills an important African politician and finds himself double-crossed by those that hired him. Hong Kong itself is a dangerous place for a hitman. Talky, leaden film whose troubled production really shows. Director Hellman was replaced by producer Carreras. The second and last Hong Kong venture of Hammer Films. Cushing’s role is merely an artificial  cameo. The Italians made these kinds of films in the mid-1960s! Alternative title: CALL HIM MR. SHATTER.

Shaun of the Dead (2004, GBR) C-99m. Scope *** D: Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Edgar Wright. Hellishly funny horror comedy which bases its plot outline on George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and its sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). Pegg’s life is at a crossroads: He is stuck in a low-paid job, his roommate is a parasite, and his girlfriend Ashfield is giving him trouble. No wonder he’s not paying attention when London starts being gripped by a zombie epidemic. When he does notice the chaos, he can finally prove what he’s worth. Well-directed, often hilarious horror spoof with a knock-out performance by Pegg. Also works in serious sequences, an instant cult hit. Screenplay (by Pegg and the director himself) is a great homage to cult movies.

Shawshank Redemption, The (1994, USA) C-142m. ***½ D: Frank Darabont. Starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore. Emotionally powerful prison drama about innocent banker Robbins, who is convicted of murder and sent to Shawshank correctional facility serving a life sentence. The intelligent prisoner manages to make friends among the fellow inmates (most notably narrator Freeman) and even the prison personnel, who eagerly embrace Robbins’ financial advice. Exquisitely filmed epic deals with twenty years of prison life and strikes all the right notes. Fine performances, good direction and photography (by Coen-regular Roger Deakins), an excellent score (by Thomas Newman) and a thoughtful script (based on Stephen King’s short story ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’) make this one of the most engrossing pictures of the 1990s. Freeman’s voice-over narration is especially lyrical and touching. This was Robbins fourth great movie role after JACOB’S LADDER (1990), BOB ROBERTS (1992) and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994). He went on to direct DEAD MAN WALKING (1995), also a film about a prison inmate. Written by director Darabont. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, but (undeservedly) didn’t win any.

She (1965, GBR) C-106m. Scope **½ D: Robert Day. Starring Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, John Richardson, Rosenda Monteros, Christopher Lee. Typically earnest British adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s fantasy novel about three British gentlemen, who venture through the desert and discover mysterious kingdom ruled by beautiful Andress, who’s immortal. Colorful adventure with second-rate plot and superficial characters. Photographed by Harry Waxman. Seventh(!) film version of the story, remade twice since. Followed by a sequel in 1968 (THE VENGEANCE OF SHE).

Sheba, Baby (1975, USA) C-90m. ** D: William Girdler. Starring Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger. Grier plays a police-woman-turned-private-eye in this okay action movie. She tries to find out who is behind the threats against her father’s loan office in Chicago. Good music, some effective action scenes, but revenge formula had worn thin by then. Basically just a retread of Grier’s earlier movies like FRIDAY FOSTER, COFFY or FOXY BROWN.

She-Devil (1989, USA) C-99m. **½ D: Susan Seidelman. Starring Meryl Streep, Roseanne Barr, Ed Begley Jr., Linda Hunt, Sylvia Miles, Elizabeth Peters. Roseanne plays an ugly housewife, who – after her husband walks out on her – decides to ruin his life. Farce in the WAR OF THE ROSES-vein is not always funny but quite amusing, especially Streep’s portrayal of the neurotic romance writer, Roseanne’s nemesis. A cult film for frustrated housewives. Based on Fay Weldon’s novel.

Sherlock Holmes (2009, USA/GER) C-128m. SCOPE *** D: Guy Ritchie. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Robert Maillet, James Fox. Super-stylish revival of the legendary detective, ironically portrayed by Downey Jr. Plot concerns occult society run by Strong, who follows a mysterious (supernatural?) plan to overthrow the government. Holmes’ assistant Law is planning to marry, and Holmes himself is faced with the involvement of his ex-wife McAdams. Performed with gusto among great sets, but best thing about this slightly overlong period piece is Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score. Sequels most welcome!

She’s All That (1999, USA) C-95m. **½ D: Robert Iscove. Starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, Jody Lin O’Keefe, Kevin Pollak, Anna Paquin, Kieran Culkin, Tim Matheson, Alexis Arquette, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Utterly predictable but entertaining teen romance about high school hunk Prinze, Jr., and a bet that forces him to turn ugly duckling Cook into the prom queen. Of course, he falls in love with her, and it turns out she’s not so bad looking as everybody thought. Considering the plot, this is as good as it could get.

She's the One (1996, USA) C-96m. ** D: Edward Burns. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Edward Burns, John Mahoney, Maxine Bahns, Mike McGlone, Leslie Mann, Anita Gillette, Frank Vincent. Supposedly hip and unusual romantic comedy focusing on two dissimilar brothers, one of whom is married but cheats on his wife (Aniston), and the other marries a woman after knowing her for 24 hours. Quite amusing, if not altogether believable plot complications ensue. Characters are hardly likable (except Aniston's) and film's funny, off-beat tone fades out in unsatisfactory finale. Executive produced by Robert Redford. The songs are by Tom Petty.

Shikoku (1999, JAP) C-100m. *** D: Shunichi Nagasaki. Starring Yui Natsukawa, Michitaka Tsutsui, Chiaki Kuriyama, Toshie Negishi, Ren Osugi. Unusual romantic horror film, a mystery chiller in the new Japanese tradition: After twenty years, Tsutsui returns to her hometown and friends, but must learn that one of her best friends has died. It turns out that her mother has initiated a rite that could bring her back from the dead – and other dead people with it. Much less spectacular than it sounds, often uneven and slowly paced, but still fascinating to watch. Good score, elaborate photography, impressive mystical finale, should appeal to horror fans, despite its drawbacks. From the producer of RINGU (1998).

Shinkansen Daibakuha (1975, JAP) C-152m. Scope **½ D: Junya Sato. Starring Ken Takakura, Shinichi Chiba (=Sonny Chiba), Kei Yamamoto, Eiji Go, Akira Oda, Raita Ryu, Takashi Shimura. Japanese disaster movie that – despite being an imitation of Irwin Allen’s movies at the time – later served as a blueprint for SPEED (1994). A criminal and his assistants have put a bomb on a high-speed train that will detonate if it slows down below 80km/h (roughly 50 mph). Police and railway officials desperately try to keep the crew calm and find the gangsters before the bomb kills 1,500 passengers. Unlike American disaster movies, this is rather uninterested in the victims but focuses on the criminals and the officials. Surprisingly thoughtful, fairly exciting and kinda cool, despite length and relative lack of action. Also shown at 100m. and 115m. English title: THE BULLET TRAIN.

Ship of Fools (1965, USA) 149m. *** D: Stanley Kramer. Starring Vivien Leigh, Oskar Werner, Simone Signoret, José Ferrer, Lee Marvin, Jose Greco, George Segal, Heinz Rühmann, Michael Dunn. Famous adaptation of Katherine Anne Porter’s novel about diverse characters aboard a cruise ship from Mexico to pre-WW2 Germany. Superbly acted drama GRAND HOTEL-style seems to have deteriorated over the years. Some pretentious dialogue, artificial situations in supposed classic that seems like it was made in the early 1950s. Good black-and-white photography by Ernest Laszlo (he won an Academy Award). Score by Ernest Gold.

Shipping News, The (2001, USA) C-111m. Scope *** D: Lasse Hallström. Starring Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Pete Postlethwaite, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans. Engrossing drama, adapted from the novel by E. Annie Proulx. After a disastrous marriage Spacey has lost most of his self confidence. One day he is visited by his aunt Dench, who takes him and his daughter to the home of their ancestors, Newfoundland. This marks a unique chance for Spacey to start a new life. Good storytelling, fine performances; some plot strands are underdeveloped, though. Excellent score by Christopher Young, good photography by Oliver Stapleton. 

Shisha no Gakuensai (2000, JAP) C-101m. ** D: Tetsuo Shinohara. Starring Kyôko Fukada, Asahi Uchida, Masaya Kato, Thane Camus. Thriller set a Japanese high school, where a girl has just committed suicide and some students want to stage her last play. Then a killer starts stalking them. Poorly paced and timed film makes some interesting reference to slasher movies, especially Italian ones, but romantic, TV-movie-style touch pretty much ruins it. Based on a novel by Jirô Akagawa. International title SCHOOL DAY OF THE DEAD is terribly misleading.

Shiver (2008, SPA) C-95m. **½ D: Isidro Ortiz. Starring Junio Valverde, Blanca Suárez, Jimmy Barnatán, Mar Sodupe, Francesc Orella. A teenager (Valverde) with a rare allergy to sunlight moves with his mother into a mountain village. Once there he is confronted with a murderous beast in the woods. And the townspeople don’t seem to like strangers very much...  Fairly suspenseful and well-made, but plot is second-rate and turns into a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT meets [REC] type of film. Valverde has a great way of looking terrified, but even that wears thin. Also known as ESKALOFRIO.

Shivers (1975, CDN) C-80m. *½ D: David Cronenberg. Starring Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allen Magicovsky, Barbara Steele, Susan Petrie. Cult director Cronenberg’s second feature (following a 1969 film that ran little over an hour) starts promising but doesn’t go beyond its premise of ugly worm-like parasites turning people into sex maniacs. Film’s twisted sense of humor won’t have anyone laughing but horror fans. Not really that disgusting, though. Produced by Ivan Reitman (who also composed the score). Originally 87m. Other titles: THEY CAME FROM WITHIN and THE PARASITE MURDERS. 

Shogun Assassin (1980, JAP/USA) C-86m. SCOPE **½ D: Robert Houston. Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Okhi, Akiji Kobayashi, Shin Kishida, Akiji Tomikawa. Actually not a movie on its own but a compilation of the first two of the famous LONE WOLF & CUB series about a travelling assassin, who has fallen from grace and is being chased by shogun warriors. He is pushing his baby son in a cart and engages in combat in all kinds of situations. Some astounding action scenes, with buckets of gore, but it’s terribly uneven, the pace is just not right. You should stick with the originals. A follow-up to LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH (1974), which used footage from the third movie in the six-part series.

Shooting Fish (1997, GBR) C-112m. Scope **½ D: Stefan Schwartz. Starring Dan Futterman, Stuart Townsend, Kate Beckinsale, Claire Cox, Dominic Mafham. Likable, superficial comedy about two friends (American Futterman and British Townsend) who 'earn' money by 'shooting fish', ripping people off by selling them things which don't exist. Beckinsale, their new secretary, provides the love interest. She thinks they are modern-day Robin Hoods, giving the money to orphanages. No depth whatsoever, but quite entertaining. At its best when portraying the budding relationship between Townsend and Beckinsale. Released in the U.S. at 93m.

Shopgirl (2005, USA/GBR/SUI) C-104m. Scope **½ D: Anand Tucker. Starring Claire Danes, Steve Martin, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy, Rebecca Pidgeon. Romantic comedy drama about a girl from Vermont (Danes), who’s been living in Los Angeles for a while now, working as a shop assistant at Saeks. Then she finds herself caught between two men, disorganized music lover Schwartzman and suave rich-man Martin. Film is pretty much what it is. A harmless drama with okay performances, not very romantic, rather predictable. Written by Steve Martin, based on his own novella.

Shorts (2009, USA/UAE) C-89m. *** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Jimmy Bennett, Jake Short, Kat Dennings, Trevor Gagnon, Devon Gearhart, Jolie Vanier, Rebel Rodriguez, Leo Howard, Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer, William H. Macy, James Spader. Typically outrageous children’s fantasy by the maker of the SPY KIDS films about an outsider, who finds a wishing rock and wishes for the craziest things imaginable. The story is told in five short episodes (hence the title), but beware, not chronologically. Still, entertaining, exciting and filled with creative ideas, a thrill-ride, especially for boys. Vanier is terrific, she’ll remind you of a young Christina Ricci. Long title: SHORTS: THE ADVENTURES OF THE WISHING ROCK.

Shot in the Dark, A (1964, GBR/USA) C-102m. Scope *** D: Blake Edwards. Starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark, Burt Kwouk, Bryan Forbes. The bumbling inspector Clouseau from Edwards’ THE PINK PANTHER returns in this farcical comedy based on the play L’Idiot by Marcel Achard. He falls in love with the prime suspect (Sommer) in a murder case and is convinced that landlord Sanders has committed the crime. Stagy, uneven, not always funny, but most of the gags hit home. Some even consider this to be the best of the series. Good song (“Sidewalks of Paris”), score by Henry Mancini. Cowritten by William Peter Blatty (THE EXORCIST, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION). Features the first appearances of Clouseau-associated (and much-loved) characters Cato (Kwouk) and Dreyfus (Lom). Followed ten years later by THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER. INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU, a film starring Alan Arkin, was made in 1968 but has nothing to do with the series.

Show Down (1972, HGK) C-81m. Scope ** D: N.N. Cast: N.N. A stranger saves a young woman from a raiding army and brings her to an inn, where he meets the woman he is supposed to marry. He discovers that her family is a band of ‘ghost-riders’. Comic-book style eastern with very little action but an ambitious plot whose elements are only loosely tied together. Nicely shot, though, from unusual perspectives. Produced by Goh Thian Teng.

Show Down (1997, USA) C-99m. M D: Sidney J. Furie. Starring Peter Weller, Dennis Hopper, Tia Carrere, David Alan Grier, Joe Pantoliano, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Peter Coyote, Julie McCullough. Absolutely horrible action film about ex-con (and ex-cop!) Weller who goes to Las Vegas with his wife Carrere to get a divorce, but soon he is involved in a big-scale robbery of Hopper’s casino! Set-up is okay but goes nowhere from there. The cast is the only interest here.

Showgirls (1995, USA) C-131m. Scope **½ D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Elizabeth Berkeley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi, Alan Rachins, Gina Ravera, Lin Tucci, Greg Travis, Al Ruscio, Patrick Bristow. Self-professed dancer Berkeley arrives in Las Vegas and works herself up on the career ladder, meeting all kinds of lurid characters on the way. Long, trashy plot is partly offset by the aggressive ‘neon’ look of the film and Verhoeven’s terrific direction (particularly during the dance scenes). Earned hisses from many critics, and it is offensive and overblown, but this is just the way Las Vegas is. Berkeley’s vicious performance may be off-putting to some viewers, MacLachlan is cool as one of her ‘mentors’. Joe Eszterhas (BASIC INSTINCT) wrote the screenplay. Verhoeven was the right man to make this; evidently, it’s a matter of taste (like most of the director’s films).

Shrek (2001, USA) C-90m. *** D: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson. Starring (the voices of) Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, Jim Cummings. Big box-office smash about an ogre (Myers), who only wants to be left in peace in his swamp, and must accept a mission by evil count Lithgow to rescue a princess to get just that. Well-animated, funny fairy tale spoof. Good for kids, although only adults will get all of the jokes. Based on the book by William Steig. Winner of the first Best Animated Feature Oscar. Followed by a sequel in 2004.

Shrek 2 (2004, USA) C-92m. *** D: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon. Starring (the voices of) Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders, Larry King. Shrek the Ogre returns in this bigger, more spectacular sequel as he and his bride get an invitation to her parents’ kingdom. There, Prince Charming thinks he has been cheated out of his right to wed the princess, his mother, the Fairy Godmother, tries all her wizardry to bring Shrek and Fiona apart. Less original and cute, but still somehow seems better, more lively. There are certainly more jokes, although most of them are aimed at grown-ups (again).

Shrek the Third (2007, USA) C-92m. **½ D: Chris Miller. Starring (the voices of) Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Eric Idle, Justin Timberlake, Larry King, Ian McShane. Lesser sequel continues story from SHREK 2 (2004): With Shrek and Fiona still being in the kingdom of Far, Far Away, Shrek will become successor to the dying king if he doesn’t find distant relative. In the meantime, Prince Charming is gathering all fairy-tale villains to create their own happy ending. And Fiona announces she is pregnant! Still funny enough for a few laughs, but plot is lacking momentum and just seems like a retread of the formula.

Shrieker (1997, USA) C-74m. ** D: Victoria Sloane (= David DeCoteau). Starring Rick Bouna, Chris Boyd, Roger Crowe, Alison Cuffe, Tanya Dempsey, Jamie Gannon. A mystical creature roams the halls of a deserted hospital, where six students have illegally taken residence. It turns out the ugly monster needs five victims to return into its dimension. Not bad horror thriller delivers a few shocks and is quite well-filmed, though abrupt conclusion decreases rating by half a star. Produced by Full Moon Pictures.

Shurayukihime (1973, JAP) C-97m. Scope *** D: Toshiya Fujita. Starring Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon, Miyoko Akaza, Shinichi Uchida. Japanese revenge epic that served as a blueprint for Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL movies. Kaji is a 20-year-old woman, who is driven by revenge that she must exact for her mother who died giving birth to her. Four people had raped and abused her for three days and it is those that she must seek out and kill. Cold but powerful movie with purple-prose narrative, excessive use of gore and good widescreen photography. Followed by a sequel in 1974. English titles: LADY SNOWBLOOD, BLOOD SNOW, SNOW OF BLOOD.

Shura Yukihime (2001, JAP) C-93m. ** D: Shinsuke Sato. Starring Hideaki Ito, Yumiko Shaku, Shirô Sano, Yoichi Numata, Kyusaku Shimada. Manga adaptation about a 20-year-old warrior “princess”, who must come to terms with her family’s dark history and decide whether she wants to keep being part of or run from underground syndicate which works as an assassination squad for the Japanese monarchy in the year 2500. Highly uneven mixture between action fantasy and low-budget post-apocalyptic drama. The action is good but the story doesn’t add up to much. Has very little to do with the 1973 revenge classic. English title: THE PRINCESS BLADE.

Shutter (2004, THA) C-97m. *** D: Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Starring Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana, Unnop Chanpaibool. After a hit-and-run accident on the road, a young couple, photographer Everingham and his girlfriend, are haunted by the ghost of the dead girl, who starts appearing on his photographs. The ‘haunting’-plot has become a genre convention, but film is well-directed, atmospheric and endowed with a superb score. Watch! Also known as SHUTTER: THEY ARE AROUND US.

Shutter Island (2010, USA) C-138m. SCOPE ***½ D: Martin Scorsese. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, Robin Bartlett. Riveting psycho thriller drama marks a welcome return to director Scorsese’s CAPE FEAR (1991) days. DiCaprio plays a troubled 1950s cop, who takes a case on a prison island. Together with his partner Ruffalo, he investigates the inexplicable disappearance of an inmate. Does ward Kingsley know more than he pretends? Perfectly cast, expertly filmed thriller is stunningly original – and manages to include nods to Hitchcock, Bava and Kubrick – it especially recalls the latter’s SHINING (1980). A must-see, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis.

Sid and Nancy (1986, USA) C-111m. *** D: Alex Cox. Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Drew Schofield, David Hayman, Debby Bishop, Courteney Love. Depressing, bleak but compelling look at the lives of two protagonists of the punk rock movement, Sid Vicious, member of the legendary Sex Pistols and his American girlfriend Nancy. Unrelenting drama shows that despite their success, Sid and Nancy’s self-destructive behaviour left no room for enjoyment. Oldman and Webb give stand-out performances. A must for punk rock fans, others may find it off-putting. Courteney Love has a brief bit.

Sieben Männer der Sumuru, Die (1968, GER/SPA/ITA/USA) C-83m. M D: Jess Franco. Starring Shirley Eaton, Richard Wyler, George Sanders, Walter Rilla. Trash film about the exploits of super criminal Sumuru, who has established an empire in the Amazon jungle, attempting to take over the world. Slow, meaningless, nonsensical pulp fiction. Grade Z stuff from the notorious Jess Franco.

7 Zwerge (2004, GER) C-95m. Scope ** D: Sven Unterwaldt Jr. Starring Otto Waalkes, Heinz Hoenig, Mirco Nontschew, Boris Aljinovic, Markus Majowski, Martin Schneider, Ralf Schmitz, Cosma Shiva Hagen, Nina Hagen, Hans-Werner Olm, Atze Schröder, Christian Tramitz, Mavie Hörbiger, Helge Schneider, Harald Schmidt, Tom Gerhardt. Silly spoof of fairy tales, in particular the Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White and the Seevn Dwarfs about the title characters, 7 men, who have all opted to live in the forest after a woman has disappointed them. Suddenly they are confronted with an innocent beauty (C.S. Hagen), who is sought after by the evil queen (N. Hagen). Some laughs, but lots of low-brow humor, not always funny. Followed by a sequel in 2006.

Sie Tötete in Ekstase (1970, GER/SPA) C-77m. ** D: Frank Hollman (=Jess Franco). Starring Susann Korda (=Soledad Miranda), Fred Williams, Howard Vernon, Paul Müller, Ewa Strömberg, Jess Franco, Horst Tappert. Typical sex-and-crime potboiler of that period, about doctor Williams, who conducts experiments with human embryos, which enrages the medical board. They ban him from the profession, which leads to his suicide. His wife cannot bear to live without him, so she goes on a murder spree and kills those she thinks responsible for his death. Rather inept, but any film with that cast and production year can’t be bad. Miranda’s last film (she died aged 27 in a road accident). Written by director Franco. The classical parts of the score are by Bruno Nicolai. Alternative titles: SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, MRS. HYDE.

Signale – Ein Weltraumabenteuer (1970, GDR/POL) C-89m. Scope D: Gottfried Kolditz. Starring Gojko Mitic, Wolfgang Kieling, Iurie Darie. East-German/Polish coproduction about a space mission to rescue ship that has mysteriously disappeared. Absolutely tedious and uneven, redeemed somewhat by okay production values and camerawork. Comic relief is completely misplaced, dialogue is trivial (the Captain is asked at one point if he likes his tea with milk or lemon!). A curio at best. Based on motives from Carlos Rasch’s novel Asteroidenjäger. Aka SIGNALS (with various subtitles).

Sign of Four, The (1983, GBR) C-97m. **½ D: Desmond Davis. Starring Ian Richardson, David Healy, Cherie Lunghi, Terence Rigby, Thorley Walters, John Pedrick, Joe Melia, Clive Merrison. Sherlock Holmes is asked  by a young lady (Lunghi) to investigate the death of her father, presenting a map (signed by four men) which might lead to a treasure. Average puzzler elevated by Richardson’s enjoyable performance as the famous sleuth. Rest of cast not very convincing (although the midget is pretty fierce). Good TV fare. Tobacco experiment previously realized in Billy Wilder’s THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Signs (2002, USA) C-106m. **** D: M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, M. Night Shyamalan. Patricia Kalmeber. Top-notch chiller from the maker of THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) and UNBREAKABLE (2000): Ex-reverend Gibson, still mourning for his wife who died by accident, is baffled to find giant patterns in his cornfields, suggesting that someone – or something – has visited him and his family from outer space. His little son’s babyphone is already receiving strange sound patterns… are they voices? Quiet and low-key, but so powerfully suspenseful it will make you gag with excitement. A rare gem of a movie that does everything right; multiple viewing recommended. This superb cross between NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) was written and produced by director Shyamalan. Excellent score by James Newton Howard. Photographed by Tak Fujimoto.

Sigpress Contro Scotland Yard (1968, ITA/GER) C-96m. D: Guido Zurli. Starring George Martin, Ingrid Schoeller, Karin Field, Paolo Carlini, Gloria Paul, Klaus Kinski, Dick Palmer (=Mimmo Palmara). James Bond spoof about super-clever spy Sigpress (Martin), who helps find stolen goods but always takes 10% of the value for himself. Disjointed, weak plot is poison for anyone’s attention. Based on a novel by Mike Widborg. Joe D’Amato (as Aristide Massaccesi) photographed the picture. Also known as THE PSYCHOPATH.

Silence of the Lambs, The (1991, USA) C-118m. ***½ D: Jonathan Demme. Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith, Diane Baker, Kasi Lemmons, Charles Napier, Tracey Walter, Roger Corman, Chris Isaak. First-rate psycho thriller about FBI agent Foster, who is trying to track down serial killer and must ask psychoanalyst Hopkins, a murderer and cannibal, for help. This aid comes at a great price, however. Cleverly directed by Demme, whose subjective camera angles lend the film great immediacy. Suspenseful, intelligent, you could not ask more. The brilliant Hopkins won an Oscar, so did Foster, director Demme and the screenwriter Ted Tally, who adapted Thomas Harris’ best-seller. In MANHUNTER, an earlier Harris adaptation, Hopkins characters is played by Brian Cox. Followed by a sequel in 2001.

Silent Hill (2006, USA/CDN/JAP/FRA) C-127m. Scope ** D: Christophe Gans. Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland. When her daughter starts having nightmares about a place called Silent Hill, Mitchell decides to find out where it is and ends up in a ghost town. Then her daughter goes missing, and creatures start surfacing. Is the place doomed? Video game adaptation by Roger Avary (of PULP FICTION fame) unfortunately proves that the interactivity of such games cannot easily be translated into a traditionally plotted film. Those who have played the game might find some merit here. Others will complain that it makes little sense. A major disappointment from the director of CRYING FREEMAN (1995) and LE PACTE DES LOUPS (2001). His visuals are the movie’s only redeeming feature.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, USA) C-84m. ** D: Charles E. Sellier Jr. Starring Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Linnea Quigley. Typical 80s horror film about orphan Wilson, whose traumatic childhood leads to his going crazy at Christmas, murdering everyone in the way. OK gore effects, not that bad. Followed by four sequels! Also shown at 79m. and 81m. Alternative title: SLAYRIDE.

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987, USA) C-88m. ** D: Lee Harry. Starring Eric Freeman, James Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, Linnea Quigley. The killer from the first film had a brother… and he is telling his whole story to a psychiatrist. The first half of the film is nothing but a summary of the original, with all the murder scenes intact, and continues it with the brother’s Santa psychosis and subsequent axe murders. About as stupid as it gets, but director Harry keeps things at a swift pace (especially by his dynamic editing) and endows film with a quite daring finale.

Silent Partner, The (1978, CDN) C-110m. ***½ D: Daryl Duke. Starring Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, Céline Lomez, Michael Kirby, John Candy. Unique, intriguing thriller about timid, boring bank clerk Gould, who one day finds out in advance that his bank is going to be robbed and decides to pull off a scheme. The bank robber (Plummer), realizing that he has been fouled, is out for violent revenge. One-of-a-kind film, don’t miss this one. Based on Andres Bodelsen’s novel Think of a Number. Screenplay written by Curtis Hanson.

Silent Scream (1980, USA) C-87m. **½ D: Denny Harris. Starring Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell, Avery Schreiber, Barbara Steele, Yvonne De Carlo. Quite well-plotted and paced horror chiller about young student Balding, who rents a room in De Carlo’s secluded villa at the seaside, where a murderer is on the loose. Not bad at all, with a good score by Roger Kellaway, but never rises above the material.

Silver Hawk (2004, HGK) C-99m. Scope **½ D: Jingle Ma. Starring Michelle Yeoh, Richie Ren, Luke Goss, Brandon Chang, Daming Chen. Hong Kong gets its own masked avenger with Silver Hawk (Yeoh), a businesswoman with an alter ego that tries to eradicate crime. Here she battles a megalomaniac (Goss), who wants to steal an invention that can be used to control the minds of people. Her sidekick:  A cop that she used to know as a child. Second-rate plot, but action scenes are well-done, with the finale the highlight of the picture. Yeoh also produced this one.

Silver Slime (1981, FRA) C-15m. n/r D: Christophe Gans. Starring Aissa Djabri, Isabelle Wendling. Short film by CRYING FREEMAN and LE PACTE DES LOUPS director Christophe Gans, made when he was twenty-one. A young woman is stalked by a leather-clad assassin – or is she? Interesting, over-the-top experiment, an homage to Italian slasher movies. Dedicated to Mario Bava, who died a year earlier, though this is closer in spirit to a Dario Argento. Gans also edited and scripted.

Silver Streak (1976, USA) C-114m. **½ D: Arthur Hiller. Starring Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Clifton James, Scatman Crothers, Richard Kiel. Aboard  speed train ‘Silver Streak’, Wilder meets and falls in love with secretary Clayburgh, unaware that she is involved in murder. Meandering thriller comedy is unfortunately neither very thrilling nor funny. Pryor and Wilder give their best in their first film together, but only the final stunt really rocks. Score by Henry Mancini.

Simple Plan, A (1998, USA) C-121m. **½ D: Sam Raimi. Starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda, Brent Briscoe, Gary Cole, Chelcie Ross, Jack Walsh, Becky Ann Baker. Unusual, low-key thriller drama set in wintry rural North America. Paxton is a hard-working, loving family father who stumbles with his brother and a friend over a plane wreck in the middle of the woods and discover a gym bag full of money. Their decision to keep the four million+ dollars is accompanied by a complicating of events later on. Interesting, even intriguing, but awfully slowly paced. Not without merit, however; fine score by Danny Elfman, good acting, and film improves in second half but never really catches fire. Screenplay by Scott B. Smith, based upon his novel.

Simply Irresistible (1999, USA) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Mark Tarlov. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery, Patricia Clarkson, Dylan Baker, Larry Gilliard Jr. Mild-mannered comedy about female chef Gellar, whose creations become something special when a magical crab endows her with extraordinary powers. Pleasant-enough movie for romance addicts and/or fans of the lead actress.

Simpsons Movie, The (2007, USA) C-87m. Scope *** D: David Silverman. Starring (the voices of) Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Joe Mantegna, Albert Brooks, Tom Hanks. After almost two decades of successful TV work, the Simpsons makers go for the big-screen and lose almost nothing of their quality. Admittedly, the story about president Schwarzenegger(!)’s plans to quarantine and ultimately destroy Springfield after Homer dumps pig shit into their lake and makes it an ecological hazard is a bit over-the-top, but some of the typical black humor jokes are just as hilarious as in the TV series. A must for fans, good fun for others. Movie buffs will savor the Disney spoofs. Score by Hans Zimmer.

Si Muore Solo Una Volta (1967, ITA/SPA) C-80m. Scope M D: Mino Guerrini, Don Reynolds (=Giancarlo Romitelli). Starring Ray Danton, Pamela Tudor, Julio Pena, Silvia Solar. Bottom-of-the-barrel James Bond clone about spy Danton, who investigates weapons dealings in sunny Lebanon. Some explosions, but plot is non-existent. Score by Carlo Savina. English title: YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE(!).

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003, USA) C-86m. *** D: Tim Johnson, Patrick Gilmore. Starring (the voices of) Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert, Timothy West, Jim Cummings. Fast-paced, exciting update of the Sinbad stories (also spelled Sindbad in some countries) with distinctively modern dialogues. Here, the likable pirate is revealed to be a hedonistic slacker, who is deemed responsible for stealing an important book. Sinbad must seek it out in ten days to avoid a friend’s execution. Good digital effects enhance the movie, direction provides excitement. Produced by DreamWorks Studios.

Sin City (2005, USA) C/B&W-124m. Scope *** D: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez. Starring Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rick Gomez, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jamie King, Michael Madsen, Frank Miller, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood. Another Robert Rodriguez extravaganza, this adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic book series is extremely stylized (appropriately so) and ultra-violent. In the urban hellhole of Basin City, mostly immoral characters fight and kill their way through the night, with stories focusing on aging cop Willis, psychotic giant Rourke, avenger Owen, stripper Alba and an armed gang of hookers, among others. Episodes are loosely linked (a la PULP FICTION), but the plot is not the reason to tune in (though stories do catch your attention). The black-and-white look of the comic books is impressively recreated in a completely digital environment and the action set-pieces are stylishly done. This cool comic noir and instant cult film is clearly not for all tastes, though. ‘Special guest director’ Quentin Tarantino directed the sequence with Owen and Del Toro in the car. Later that year Rodriguez recut the movie and released it as a Special Edition DVD. This version runs 23 minutes longer. Two sequels in planning phase.

Sindrome di Stendhal, La (1996, ITA) C-118m. *** D: Dario Argento. Starring Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli, Julien Lambroschini, John Quentin, Veronica Lazar. Director Argento's daughter plays a young police woman, specialized on sex crimes, who suffers from the Stendhal Syndrome. Whenever she sees a painting she faints, believing she has entered it. In Florence, she encounters notorious sex killer Kretschmann, who rapes her but lets her live. Now the young woman has to cope with both the syndrome and the consequences of the rape, while searching for the killer in Rome. Complex, suspenseful script, based on Graziella Magherini's novel. Typical Argento stylistics, fine Ennio Morricone score. Argento also scripted and produced. Original running time reportedly 120m. English title: THE STENDHAL SYNDROME.

Sinful Dwarf, The (1973, USA/DAN) C-92m. ** D: Vidal Raski. Starring Torben Bille, Anne Sparrow, Tony Eades, Clara Keller, Werner Hedman. Pretty depraved exploitation film about a midget, who lives with his aging, drinking mother in a former nightclub, where they keep heroin-addicted girls as sex slaves for paying customers. A young couple, Sparrow and Eades, seem to be their next victims. Some amateurish bits, but film is surprisingly not bad. Graphic sex scenes alternate with less graphic (though sadistic) violence. For the B-movie enthusiasts out there. Original Danish title: DVAERGEN. Also known as TEENAGE BRIDE.

Singe en Hiver, Un (1962, FRA) B&W-105m. Scope **½ D: Henri Verneuil. Starring Jean Gabin, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Suzanne Flon, Gabrielle Dorziat, Hella Petri, Henri Verneuil. In a little seaside community boozing war veteran Gabin swears off alcohol one day after miraculously surviving an air raid. Years later a lovesick young Spaniard (Belmondo) tempts him to return to his old habit. Catalyst drama benefits from fine performances, atmosphere, but is quite depressing. The plot also never catches fire. Verneuil reportedly considered this his best film. Based on a novel by Antoine Blondin. English title: A MONKEY IN WINTER, and IT’S HOT IN HELL.

Singles (1992, USA) C-99m. *** D: Cameron Crowe. Starring Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley, Jim True-Frost, Matt Dillon, Bill Pullman, Matt Le Gros, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Vedder, Cameron Crowe, Chris Cornell, Tim Burton. Slight but likable slice-of-life set in Seattle, an important breeding ground for new (grunge) rock bands in the early 90s. Film follows affairs and frustrations of several singles, like Fonda’s fling with rock “star” Dillon, or Sedgwick’s surprising pregnancy. Not always on target but refreshingly natural; it also features a lot of rock stars of the time in cameos (like members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, who all contributed to the soundtrack). Director Crowe (ALMOST FAMOUS) also scripted and coproduced. Photographed by Tak Fujimoto.

Sin Nombre, Los (1999, SPA) C-99m. *** D: Jaume Balagueró. Starring Emma Vilarasau, Karra Elejalde, Tristán Ulloa, Toni Sevilla, Brendan Price, Jordi Dauder. Original thriller about Vilarasau, whose daughter was found murdered, mutilated beyond recognition five years ago. Now, she receives a strange phone call from someone who claims to be her daughter, and she asks former policeman Elejalde for help, who’s also lost someone important. It turns out her daughter may have fallen prey to a secret organization called The Nameless, which has its roots in Nazi Germany. Intriguing plot keeps you guessing until the chilling end. Promising debut by director Balagueró (FRAGILES, REC), based on the novel by Ramsey Campbell. Photographed by Xavi Gimenez (TRANSSIBERIAN, THE MACHINIST). English title: THE NAMELESS.

Sirène du Mississippi, La (1969, FRA/ITA) C-123m. Scope *** D: François Truffaut. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Cathérine Deneuve, Michel Bouquet, Nelly Borgeaud, Marcel Berbert. Deliberately unconventional crime drama about tobacco plant owner Belmondo, who orders a bride (Deneuve) by mail only to have her disrupt his entire life. It turns out she is not what she seems to be. Plot is not exactly brilliant, but star performances and incredibly poetic dialogues more than make up for it. This film written by Truffaut and based on the novel Waltz Into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish) is more likely to appeal to film buffs than anyone else. Set on the island La Réunion and France. Produced by Claude Miller. Also shown in 110m. version. English title: MISSISSIPPI MERMAID.

Sisters (1973, USA) C-92m. *** D: Brian De Palma. Starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, William Finley, Olympia Dukakis. De Palma’s first thriller is an homage to his idol Alfred Hitchcock. Salt plays a reporter, who incidentally witnesses a murder (a la REAR WINDOW) and must investigate herself when the police refuse to believe her. It turns out that psychotic Kidder has something to do with it … or her diabolical twin sister? Uneven shocker hits bull’s eye in the final third. Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score ennobles this cult picture. Cowritten by De Palma, from his story.

Sisters of Death (1977, USA) C-87m. ** D: Joseph Mazzuca. Starring Arthur Franz, Claudia Jennings, Cheri Howell, Sheri Boucher. Cheap, mostly unconvincing thriller about several friends who are reunited mysteriously and finds themselves trapped in a large house. The father of a dead friend wants to take revenge for the alleged murder of his daughter. Quite muddled, but a certain cult potential cannot be denied. Filmed in 1972.

Sitting Target (1972, GBR) C-93m. *½ D: Douglas Hickox. Starring Oliver Reed, Jill St. John, Ian McShane, Edward Woodward, Frank Finlay, Freddie Jones, Jill Townsend. Tedious thriller about Reed, who escapes from prison to get his revenge on his bride St. John, who said she wouldn’t wait for his release in 15 years. Scenes go on and on and on, without meaning or reward. Car chase seqence at the end comes too late for this D.O.A. Good editing by John Glen, who edited and directed some Bond movies. Based on the novel by Laurence Henderson.

Six Days Seven Nights (1998, USA) C-101m. Scope ** D: Ivan Reitman. Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Jacqueline Obradors, Danny Trejo. Romantic adventure, strictly by-the-numbers, about successful business woman Heche and her holiday with dream lover Schwimmer, which turns into a nightmare when she crash-lands with pilot Ford on a deserted island. Predictable, rather contrived, but watchable. Schwimmer seems completely out of place (he’s cast against type), though, and Heche could easily be Ford’s daughter.

Six-Pack (2000, FRA) C-110m. Scope ** D: Alain Berberian. Starring Richard Anconina, Frédéric Diefenthal, Chiara Mastroianni, Bernard Fresson. Jonathan Firth. Glossy thriller about brutal serial killer Firth and policeman Anconina’s obsession with tracking him down. So much for originality. Stylishly filmed, fairly exciting, but grows almost unbearably improbable and pretentious in the second half. Overbearing ‘suspense’ score by Elia Cmiral. Based on the novel by Jean-Hugues Oppel.

666 Satan Returns (1996, HGK) C-95m. **½ D: Ah Lun. Starring Chingmy Yau, Donnie Yen, Francis Ng, Spencer Lam. Psycho-thriller with horror elements about police woman Yau, who is plagued by nightmares in which an evil force is beckoning her. In real life, a serial killer is cutting out the hearts of his victims. Is he a maniac believing to be the Devil Incarnate, and why is he obsessed with finding women who were born on June 6th, 1969? Flashy, stylishly shot thriller camouflages its faults rather well. Second-rate plot, pointless comic relief lessen effect. Yen is an appealing hero. Also known as 666 DEVIL REINCARNATES.

16 Blocks (2006, USA/GER) C-105m. Scope **½ D: Richard Donner. Starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, Jenna Stern, Casey Sander, Cylk Cozart, Richard Fitzpatrick. What looks like a change-of-pace for Willis – he plays an ugly, alcoholic, suicidal cop – turns into standard fare, when Willis must transport a witness to the court house, which is only 16 blocks away. Of course, things go wrong, and it turns out that Willis’ ex-partner Morse is interested in getting rid of the witness. Fair thriller set in New York, whose streets seem almost impenetrable. A slight disappointment given the involvement of LETHA WEAPON director Donner.

6th Day, The (2000, USA) C-123m. Scope **½ D: Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Robert Duvall. Sci-fi action thriller set in the near future where cloning pets is allowed. Goldwyn heads an illegal organization, which clones humans, but he hasn’t reckoned with Schwarzenegger, who realizes he has been cloned and tries to bring the villain down. Lots of action, intriguing ideas, but story set-up is too fast and proceedings are a bit confusing. Major liability: An overemphasis on (American) family kitsch, which doesn’t gel with the (violent) action. Sort of influenced by Schwarzenegger’s TOTAL RECALL, but not as thrilling.

Sixth Sense, The (1999, USA) C-106m. ***½ D: M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment, Donnie Wahlberg, Mischa Barton, Glenn Fitzgerald. Unique, chilling psycho drama about child psychologist Willis, whose life changes drastically after one of his former patients nearly kills him. He accepts the case of nine year-old Osment, who is continually afraid and terrified – the explanation for which shall not be revealed here. The treatment of the boy results in neglecting his own wife (Williams), and soon the case becomes very, very strange. Some dramatic flaws are offset by genuine creepy atmosphere and a brilliant ending that, if you think about it, is not entirely logical, but will send shivers up and down your spine. Osment is a stand-out as the suffering child, Willis adequate as the psychologist. Screenplay by director Shyamalan, who also appears briefly as a doctor. Fine photography by Tak Fujimoto.

Skip Tracer (1977, CDN) C-94m. ** D: Zale Dalen. Starring David Petersen, Al Rose, Sue Astley, Mike Grigg, John Lazarus. Independently produced drama about a ruthless debt collector/repo-man, who slowly realizes that his career is founded on the ruin of other people. Offers a bleak, sober view of society. Direction is not seamless. Also known as DEADLY BUSINESS.

Skull & Bones (2007, USA) C-74m. M D: T.S. Slaughter. Starring Derrick Wolf, Michael Burke, Jared DiCroce, Ryan Metzger. An independent film about „homocidal“ mania, where two gay college students, bored with life, invite a straight classmate, drug him and abuse him. When he accidentally dies, they dispose of his body and soon find more victims in nearby Ivy League hunks. Poorly done, with unconvincing amateur performances and an increasing amount of (unaesthetic) violence.

Skulls, The (2000, USA) C-106m. ** D: Rob Cohen. Starring Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Hill Harper, Leslie Bibb, Christopher McDonald, Steve Harris, William Petersen, Craig T. Nelson, Rob Cohen. Hot-shot student Jackson, on the verge of entering an elite university, is offered the chance to join secret, influential community of the Skulls. After doing so he soon learns that they won’t shy away from much to protect their members – not even murder. Contrived, marginally interesting thriller becomes increasingly stupid towards the end. Followed by two video sequels.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004, USA/GBR/ITA) C-106m. **½ D: Kerry Conran. Starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Bai Ling, Omid Djalili, Angelina Jolie. Interesting experiment, one of the first films shot entirely against a blue screen, with plenty of digital effects. In a world resembling the 1940s, but with incredible technology and super-gadgets, the title character (Law) joins forces with reporter Paltrow to find out mystery behind the killing of scientists. It turns out a certain Dr Totenkopf (Sir Laurence Olivier, whose performance was created with the help of archive footage) is out to destroy the world with flying robot planes. Impressively designed science-fiction, but plot is only so-so, relying too much on coincidences. Writer-director Conran spent years preparing the film.

Skyjacked (1972, USA) C-101m. Scope **½ D: John Guillermin. Starring Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux, James Brolin, Claude Akins, Jeanne Crain, Susan Dey, Roosevelt Grier, Mariette Hartley, Walter Pidgeon, Mike Henry, John Hillerman. Made at a time when disaster movies were still trying to be original, this thriller details the hijacking of a plane and subsequent panic on board. Heston plays the pilot, Mimieux the stewardess (and Heston’s lover in corny flashbacks). Short on suspense, but several twists make it interesting, with Brolin’s performance a stand-out. Based on David Harper’s novel Hijacked. Cinematography by Harry Stradling Jr.. Crain’s last film to date. Also known as SKY TERROR.

Slacker (1991, USA) C-100m. **½ D: Richard Linklater. Director Linklater’s first film, shot when he was 21 years old, is an examination of today’s youth, their ideas about life and their inconsequentiality in realizing them. Too episodic and slipshod to score a higher rating but frequently also entertaining and highly original. The cast consists of amateur actors, Linklater himself plays the guy in the taxi (who should have stayed at the bus station). See also DAZED AND CONFUSED.

Slalom (1965, ITA/FRA/EGY) C-95m. Scope **½ D: Luciano Salce. Starring Vittorio Gassman, Adolfo Celi, Daniela Bianchi, Beba Loncar. Quite entertaining spy comedy, obviously an attempt to spoof the James Bond series. Friends Celi and Gassman go on a skiing holiday in Italy, where they hope to get rid of their wives and have some affairs. Gassman’s presumed nightcap, however, turns out to be a secret agent, and she abducts him to Egypt, where he must play the stand-in for a deceased spy. Comic sequences are exaggerated, but this bit of 60s nostalgia isn’t bad, overall quite amusing. Reminiscent in some ways of THE PINK PANTHER (1963). Bianchi had played a Bond girl in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963), Celi did the villain in THUNDERBALL (1965). Score by Ennio Morricone. Original version might run longer.

Slaughter (1972, USA) C-91m. Scope **½ D: Jack Starrett. Starring Jim Brown, Stella Stevens, Rip Torn, Cameron Mitchell, Don Gordon, Marlene Clark, Norman Alfe. AIP’s answer to SHAFT (1971) is above average blaxploitation as Brown goes after those responsible for killing his (criminal) father. Colorful support, good editing and Stella Stevens in the nude should make it fine for fans, although plotting does drag a little. Followed by SLAUGHTER’S BIG RIP-OFF (1973).

Slaughterhouse (1987, USA) C-85m. **½ D: Rick Roessler. Starring Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh, Bill Brinsfield, Jason Collier. Quite good horror thriller about an old slaughterhouse owner and his fat, retarded son, who have their own ways of defending themselves against the local authorities who want to push them off their land. Body count rises when some teens decide to shoot an amateur horror movie on the premises. Doesn’t sound as if it could work but it (almost) does. Better performances than usual, potent effects, this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill thriller, although some weaknesses are all too obvious. Still, hard to understand why this was writer-director Roessler’s only movie. Followed by a sequel.

Slaughterhouse Rock (1988, USA) C-85m. **½ D: Dimitri Logothetis. Starring Toni Basil, Nicholas Celozzi, Tom Reilly, Donna Denton, Hope Marie Carlton. Fair horror movie about a musician who is plagued by nightmares and then visits the prison of Alcatraz where he finds the explanation for his dreams: A demon is trying to enter the world of the living and starts possessing his friends. Interesting mix between the Freddy Krueger films and possibly HELLRAISER (1987), let down mostly by unconvincing sequences and poor acting. The effects are good, though. Atmospheric score by Mark Mothersbaugh. Alternative titles: HELL ISLAND, ALCATRAZ HORROR.

Slayer, The (1982, USA) C-90m. ** D: J. S. Cardone. Starring Frederick Flynn, Michael Holmes, Sarah Kendall, Carol Kottenbrook, Carl Kraines, Alan McRae. Above-average slasher pic set on a remote island, where Kendall has a sense of déjà vu and her friends soon fall prey to the attacks of a killer. Good classical score, honorable attempts at creating suspense, not bad for an early 1980s slasher movie. Still, mainly for horror fans. Alternative title: NIGHTMARE ISLAND.

Sleeper (1973, USA) C-88m. ***½ D: Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory, Don Keefer, John McLiam. Outrageously funny science-fiction satire about a man frozen in 1973 and woken up 200 years later. Like in BANANAS, he is used as a pawn in a big-scale revolution. Intelligent and hilarious, if not always on-target. Score is brilliant. One of Allen’s best films.

Sleepers (1996, USA) C-147m. Scope **½ D: Barry Levinson. Starring Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Minnie Driver, Brad Renfro, Bruno Kirby, Vittorio Gassman. Four friends grow up together in New York City’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and share time in prison, when a silly prank ends fatally. There they are viciously abused by a warden and have to wait many years to get their revenge. Based on the (allegedly) autobiographical novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Drama is well-acted and well-made, as you would expect from such a director and cast, but badly paced, overlong and incredible.

Sleeping Beauty (1959, USA) C-75m. Scope **** D: Clyde Geronimi. Starring (the voices of) Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson. One of Disney most beautiful animated features, this brings the classic fairy tale splendidly to the screen. Princess Aurora is cursed by an evil witch at birth, spends her childhood with fairies in the wood, who still fail to protect her from fateful touching of the spindle. Filmed in 70mm Super Technirama (a widescreen process), this is perhaps Disney’s most stylish feature. Elements of fantasy are realized with great creativity and elegance, the voice performances and characters are immensely charming, and the orchestra score by George Bruns (Oscar-nominated) is simply excellent. Animator Don Bluth’s first movie, and Chuck Jones also did some uncredited work on this. Wolfgang Reitherman (THE JUNGLE BOOK) did some 2nd unit directing.

Sleepwalkers (1992, USA) C-91m. *** D: Mick Garris. Starring Brian Krause, Mädchen Amick, Alice Krige, Jim Haynie, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, Ron Perlman, Dan Martin, Glenn Shadix, cameos by Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Stephen King and Mark Hamill. Entertaining horror film, written by Stephen King, about a pair of Sleepwalkers (Krause and Krige), who are half human, half-feline and need the blood of virgins to rejuvenate themselves. Amick is to be their next victim, but the cats in town seem to object. Not terribly clever, but great fun, with good effects and a fine soundtrack. For horror fans and cat lovers (like King himself). Aka STEPHEN KING'S SLEEPWALKERS.

Sleep With Me (1994, USA) C-86m. ** D: Rory Kelly. Starring Meg Tilly, Eric Stoltz, Craig Sheffer, Lewis Arquette, Todd Field, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, June Lockhart, Quentin Tarantino. Disappointing romantic comedy drama about the relationships of various Generation X characters. Six writers contributed, resulting in a rather incoherent, hardly funny or enlightening drama. The only notable scene in this movie is Quentin Tarantino’s cameo (explaining the subtext of TOP GUN). Posey has a nude scene.

Sleepy Hollow (1999, USA) C-111m. **½ D: Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken, Marc Pickering, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Claire Skinner, Mark Spalding, Miranda Richardon. Dark horror fantasy in the tradition of director Burton’s BATMAN movies, based on Washington Irving’s story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. Depp plays a constable from New York City who is sent to the remote village of Sleepy Hollow, where a headless horseman decapitates his victims and steals their heads. Wonderful photography by Emmanuel Lubetzki, immaculate production design, stellar cast, but script is unpleasant in tone and never manages to ignite much interest. Burton devotees will embrace this technically faultless fairy-tale, others may feel overcome with the richness of the décor that threatens to suffocate the plot. Most effective in the action scenes involving Headless Hess  Walken. Filmed several times before, but never this auspiciously. Martin Landau appears unbilled in the opening scene.

Sleuth (1972, USA) C-138m. ***½ D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine. A mystery writer (Olivier) invites his wife’s lover (Caine) to his manor determined to make him pay. To reveal any more plot details would be unthinkable. Classic tour-de-force for two great British actors. Script by Anthony Shaffer, based on his play. Cinematography by Oswald Morris. Good score by John Addison. Last film of director Mankiewicz (JULIUS CAESAR, CLEOPATRA).

Slime People, The (1963, USA) B&W-76m. D: Robert Hutton. Starring Robert Hutton, Les Tremayne, Robert Burton, Susan Hart, William Boyce. Cheap, unconvincing monster movie about slime people, prehistoric creatures who were forced out of hiding under the earth’s surface due to nuclear testing. A late example of the wave of American monster movies of the 50s and 60s, and possibly one of the cheesiest. The only competent thing about it is its score and that is probably stolen.

Sling Blade (1996, USA) C-135m. **½ D: Billy Bob Thornton. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Robert Duvall, Brent Briscoe, Jim Jarmusch. Partly engrossing drama about a mentally handicapped man (Thornton), whose killing of his mother’s brutal lover sent him to an insane asylum. Now he is released and must deal with the world around him. He befriends a boy, who seems to suffer the same fate as he did all these years ago. Thornton, who wrote the script based on his own stage play (filmed in 1994 as a short), knows which buttons to push, but the movie is overlong and predictable, you know what will happen long before it does. Good performances. Thornton won an Oscar for his screenplay and was nominated for Best Actor. This film made him famous.

Slither (1973, USA) C-96m. *** D: Howard Zieff. Starring James Caan, Peter Boyle, Sally Kellerman, Louise Lasser, Allen Garfield, Richard B. Shull, Alex Rocco. Entertaining, likable roadmovie comedy about ex-con Caan, who ‘slithers’ into a mad adventure as he joins Boyle in finding $312,000 of embezzled money entrusted to a pal seven years ago. Funny and unpredictable at first, film unfortunately bogs down towards the end. Still worth watching. Photographed by Laszlo Kovacs.

Slither (2006, USA/CDN) C-96m. **½ D: James Gunn. Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Tania Saulnier, Don Thompson, Rob Zombie, Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn. An alien, worm-like organism crashes near a small village and infects red-neckish Rooker, leading to a zombie-like epidemic. Yucky, nasty splatter movie plays like a cross between ALIEN (1979) and SHIVERS (1975), later becomes standard zombie-fare. Still, not bad, with good effects, a sense of humor and a couple of good performances. Horror movie fans will savor lots more references to genre classics. From the writer of the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake.

Slugs, Muerte Viscosa (1988, SPA/USA) C-89m. *½ D: Juan Piquer Simon. Starring Michael Garfield, Santiago Alvarez, Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Frank Brana, Manuel de Blas. Pretty disgusting splatter movie in the vein of all the eco-horror movies of the 1970s. Slimy, black, bloodsucking slugs go on a rampage in a U.S. town. Worthless plot, ultra-gory effects. Also known as SLUGS – THE MOVIE.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008, GBR) C-120m. SCOPE ***½ D: Danny Boyle. Starring Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Rajendranath Zutshi, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan. Exhilarating, well-filmed underdog story of Indian simpleton, who is one question short of winning 20 million Rupies in popular TV quiz show. In flashbacks we find out about his lfe story and how he came to know the answers to the most difficult questions. Perfectly captures the pulse-pounding lifestyle in overpopulated India, with fine music and compelling performances. A crowd-pleaser and multiple award-winner, including 8 Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Score, Song, Sound). Based on the novel Q & A by Vikas Swalup.

Smoke (1995, USA) C-112m. ***½ D: Wayne Wang. Starring Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Stockard Channing, Harold Perrineau, Jr., Forest Whitaker, Victor Argo, Erica Gimpel, Clarice Taylor, Giancarlo Esposito, Ashley Judd. Keitel plays the owner of a cigar store at an intersection in Brooklyn, New York, at which several people’s lives intertwine. Extraordinary script by Paul Auster manages to enchant the viewer with believable stories about people who seem real and not just invented. The cast is fine, and the music score is perfect. A small gem. Followed immediately by BLUE IN THE FACE.

Smokin’ Aces (2006, USA/GBR/FRA) C-109m. Scope **½ D: Joe Carnahan. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Joseph Ruskin, Alex Rocco, Wayne Newton, Jeremy Piven, Alicia Keys, Ben Affleck, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, Common, Christopher Holley, Andy Garcia, Jason Bateman, Chris Pine, Tommy Flanagan, Curtis Armstrong. Pretty crazy gangster thriller about Las Vegas entertainer Piven, who’s about to testify against the mafia, who want him dead and will give anyone who kills him one million dollars. Needless to say, there’s bounty hunters, assassins and contract killers all closing in on his penthouse on Lake Tahoe. Cool, extremely violent thriller keeps you watching, but there’s not much plot behind the countless shoot-outs. Written by the director.

Snake Eyes (1998, USA) C-98m. *** D: Brian De Palma. Starring Nicholas Cage, Gary Sinise, John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw, Kevin Dunn, Michael Rispoli, Joel Fabiani, Luis Guzmán. During a box fight a crowd of 14,000 fans witness the shooting of the U.S. Defense Minister. His bodyguard (Sinise) is shattered to have failed to protect the man and his corrupt colleague (Cage) smells the chance to become a hero in the subsequent investigation. Soon he discovers the Minister may have fallen prey to a conspiracy, and there's a person in the box arena that may prove to be a key witness. Crackerjack thriller features dynamite performances by its stars and director De Palma keeps things at a breathless pace. Unfortunately, credibility wanes towards the end, but still, this is a superior, entertaining thriller that's never boring.

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1977, HGK) C-93m. Scope ** D: Yuen Wo-Ping. Starring Cheng Long (=Jackie Chan), Yuan-Hsiao Tien, Huang Cheng-Li, Wang Chiang, Shih Tien, Hsu Hsia. Chan works as a servant in a martial arts academy and wants to become a fighter himself but is always kicked around by his superiors. One day he meets an old bum who turns out to be a master on the run from warriors who intend to steal a Kung Fu technique. Chan helps him and is taught that technique in return. A poorly plotted action film, not really a showcase for Chan’s fighting expertise. Direction by Wo-Ping is quite good, but score is overbearing. Most interesting segment features a fight between a cat and a cobra! Produced and cowritten by Ng See-Yuen. The director and Chan reteamed a year later for the superior DRUNKEN MASTER.

Snakes on a Plane (2006, USA) C-105m. Scope ** D: David R. Ellis. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith Dallas, Lin Shaye, Gerard Plunkett. Much-hyped horror action thriller about Jackson, an FBI agent, who is protecting an important witness. On a continental flight they suddenly find themselves under attack by dozens of poisonous snakes. What sounds like the plot of a 70s AIRPORT sequel (that was too ridiculous to be made) becomes fairly exciting in latter half. With material this dumb they should have made a comedy, though. Trivia note: One of the first movies that thrived on internet buzz before release; it became so huge that producers found it necessary to arrange some reshoots to turn it from PG-13 material into an R-rated movie. Even so, it made little in returns.

Snatch. (2000, GBR/USA) C-103m. **½ D: Guy Ritchie. Starring Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt, Rade Serbedzija, Jason Flemyng, Guy Ritchie. More of the same from the director of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS. A convoluted, occasionally funny gangster comedy about a group of petty criminals who get involved in a diamond robbery and a fixed bare-knuckle boxing fight. Pitt is amusing as an Irish gypsy, but everything about the coolness and hipness of this movie seems forced and pretentious. Approach and style are certainly original, but plot is basically just another PULP FICTION imitation. For those who prefer coolness over content.

Snow Falling on Cedars (1999, USA) C-127m. Scope *** D: Scott Hicks. Starring Ethan Hawke, Youki Kudoh, Rick Yune, Max von Sydow, James Rebhorn, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, Daniel von Bargen, Max Wright, Sam Shepard, Zeljko Ivanek. Excellent cast in impressive filmization of the novel by David Guterson. In a coastal town of the 1950s, Japanese immigrant Yune is accused of having killed a fisherman. Their private feud and the upcoming anniversary of the Peal Harbor attack work against the defendant. Incidentally, reporter Hawke, who was once in love with Yune’s wife, will be the deciding factor in the trial. Beautifully filmed, very well-directed drama loses its focus in the mid-section, and Hawke’s character seems a little too weak for being the central one. Still, well-worth watching if only for director Hicks’ visual style and sensitive approach. Score by James Newton Howard.

Snow White (1997, USA/GBR/CZE) C-100m. **½ D: Michael Cohn. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neill, Gil Bellows, Taryn Davis, Brian Glover, David Conrad, Monica Keena. Flawed adaptation of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, made for theaters but premiered on television or video. Snow White’s evil step-mother Weaver does everything to get rid of the beautiful child. Father Neill suspects nothing of his wife’s evil plans. Well-produced and quite atmospheric, but adds only few new aspects to the familiar story. Wants to be an adult version of the fairy tale but is too harmless for that. Filmed in the Czech Republic. Also known as THE GRIMM BROTHERS’ SNOW WHITE and SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, USA) C-83m. ***½ D: William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen. Starring (the voices of) Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Pinto Colvig. This milestone in animation filmmaking was Walt Disney’s first feature and remains immensely charming after so many decades. Classic story by the Grimm Brothers is brought to life with incredible detail and care. Excellent score by Leigh Harline. Winner of a special Oscar.

Snuff Bottle Connection (1980, HGK) C-87m. **½ D: Tung Chin-Hu, Lily Li. Starring Alexander Fu-Sheng, Liu Chung-Liang, Huang Cheng-Li, Ti Lung, Roy Horan. Above-average eastern about two friends fighting a Russian espionage ring, who uses snuff bottles as a sign of recognition. Well-drawn characters, good score, OK direction, well-choreographed action; only the B-plot prevents the film from scoring a higher rating. Produced by Ng See-Yuen (GAME OF DEATH II).

Snuff-Movie (2005, GBR/ROM) C-93m. **½ D: Bernard Rose. Starring Jeroen Krabbé, Lisa Enos, Hugo Myatt, Joe Reegan, Teri Harrison. Director Rose’s follow-up to his acclaimed IVANSXTC (2000) is pretty much a companion piece, as he tries to keep things as realistic as possible and still succeed in making a horror-themed movie. Krabbé plays a controversial filmmaker, who has retired after the cult murder of his pregnant wife 14 years ago (resembling the Polanski-Tate-Manson case of the late 60s). Now he is calling actors to his house, who will star in a re-enactment of the fateful day. Is everything real or ‘just’ a movie? Interesting experiment with cinematic techniques remains too pretentious as the actors are not convincing enough and the point of it all is not exactly clear. Some potent gore effects. Rose also scripted and photographed the picture. Also known as SNUFF.

Society (1989, USA) C-99m. M D: Brian Yuzna. Starring Billy Warlock, Connie Danese, Ben Slack, Evan Richards, Patrice Jennings, Tim Bartell, Charles Lucia, Heidi Kozak. Teenager Warlock has been having some strange visions lately, and suspects his (real?) parents of being members of a secret and terrible society. Slowly, a conspiracy is unraveled. Awfully slow, awfully pretentious horror film is much too tame and conventional for over an hour, then resorts to off-putting splatter and gore. Jarring. Some of the effects are good, though. First film by the producer of RE-ANIMATOR. 

Sodom and Gomorrah (1962, USA/ITA/FRA) C-155m. ** D: Robert Aldrich. Starring Stwart Granger, Pier Angeli, Stanley Baker, Rossana Podestà, Rik Battaglia, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Scilla Gabel, Antonio De Teffè (Anthony Steffen), Gabriele Tinti, Enzo Fiermonte, Daniele Vargas, Claudia Mori, Mimmo Palmara, Anouk Aimée, Tom Felleghy, Alice & Ellen Kessler. Second-rate biblical epic (not even in widescreen) about Hebrew Granger who leads his people toward title communities, learns that it’s a city of vice. Talky drama, every bit as stale as standard sword-and-sandal fare, despite having a very good director at the helm (and Sergio Leone directing the second unit!). Score by Miklós Rozsa.

Soeurs Bronte, Les (1978, FRA) C-115m. **½ D: André Téchiné. Starring Isabelle Adjani, Narie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Gregory, Patrick Magee. An attempted biography of the famous Bronte sisters, who produced literary masterpieces in England of the 19th century. Good location-filming, but film is hampered by a slow pace, which makes it seem overlong. Nevertheless, a highly interesting film with a good cast. Filmed in French and English versions, the latter being titled THE BRONTE SISTERS.

Solamente Nero (1978, ITA) C-108m. *** D: Antonio Bido. Starring Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Massimo Serato. Well-plotted giallo about young professor who returns to his home-town near Venice and is faced by a murder series that might have something to do with the killing of a young girl twenty years ago. Complex, suspenseful (and slowly paced) mystery with good score is reminiscent of Dario Argento’s giallos of the 70s (if not as stylish) but can stand well on its own. It’s also not very violent. English title: BLOOD STAINED SHADOW. Shot in Panoramic (1,85:1).

Soldaat van Oranje (1977, NED/BEL) C-167m. *** D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbé, Susan Penhaligon, Edward Fox, Lex van Delden, Derek de Lint. Sprawling epic detailing the Dutch resistance movement during World War Two. Hauer is one of six students, who become resistance fighters for the Dutch queen. Well-acted, well-produced drama is almost impossible to rate in truncated, incoherent 114m. version. A good, maybe even great film, but a waste of time in shorter versions. Based on the book by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. English titles: SOLDIER OF ORANGE and SURVIVAL RUN.

Solo (1996, USA/MEX) C-94m. Scope ** D: Norberto Barba. Starring Mario Van Peebles, William Sadler, Adrien Brody, Seidy Lopez, Abraham Verduzco, Barry Corbin. Van Peebles plays an android created in a secret government experiment, who should function as a killing machine. When he fails to fulfill his first mission because he refuses to kill innocent civillians, he flees from the wrath of a colonel (Sadler) into the jungle. OK action movie with few novelties. Not very violent, and also less mean-spirited than most shoot’em-up flicks. Based on the novel Weapon by Robert Mason.

Sol Sangriento (1974, SPA/FRA) C-86m. ** D : Alfredo S. Brell (=Aldo Sambrell). Starring Christopher Mitchum, Claudine Auger, Michel Bouquet, Albert Minsky, Aldo Sambrell, Luis Induni. Odd mixture of adventure, romance and western about guitar-wielding stranger (Mitchum), who signs up to work at a coppermine and falls in love (unconvincingly) with the sleazy owner’s wife (Auger). Some awkwardly directed scenes (Sambrell is better-known for countless spaghetti western roles), poorly scripted, with some expected exploitation thrown in, but watchable. Truly 70s. Based on the novel La Dynamite Est Bonne à Boire by Frédéric Dard. English titles: DYNAMITE IS GOOD TO DRINK, POWDERBURN, BLOODY SUN.

Solyaris (1972, RUS) C/B&W-165m. Scope ***½ D: Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jüri Järvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky, Nikolai Grinko, Anatoli Solonitsyn. A science-fiction classic, the Russian counterpart, if you will, to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. In the near future, where the study of the planet Solyaris has become a national endeavor, psychologist Banionis prepares to travel to the space station in the planet’s orbit. He refuses to believe reports that strange powers are turning your subconscious into reality. The source of this seems to be Solyaris’ ocean, which is compared to a giant brain. Philosophical, intellectual science-fiction, slow and pensive, like any of director Tarkovsky’s works. A must-see, with excellent use of classical music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris. Also known as SOLARIS.

Somebody to Love (1994, USA) C-102m. *** D: Alexandre Rockwell. Starring Rosie Perez, Harvey Keitel, Anthony Quinn, Michael DeLorenzo, Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, Samuel Fuller, Elizabeth Bracco, Edward Bunker, Tito Larriva, Sam Rockwell, Quentin Tarantino. Low-key, uneven but charming slice-of-life about luckless taxi dancer Perez, her former lover Keitel and her latest acquaintance DeLorenzo, who has hopelessly fallen in love with her. If you can tune in to the story, this is actually quite rewarding. The scene with filmmaker Fuller is especially touching. Another endearing ‘loser-drama’ from Rockwell (IN THE SOUP).

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1996, HGK) C-113m. *** D: Patrick Leung. Starring Aaron Kwok, Samo Hung, Ann Hui, Michael Tong, Clifton Ko. Earnest drama about Kwok, who enters the kickboxing world in order to still his desire for greatness and to impress his girlfriend Hui, whose brother is the Hong Kong champ. Meandering script is not perfect, but story is nicely unpretentious and features fine supporting work by Samo Hung as Kwok’s coach. The grim finale is best part of the film. Executive produced by John Woo, who was assisted by director Leung in his classics THE KILLER (1989) and HARD-BOILED (1992). Leung followed this with BEYOND HYPOTHERMIA (1996). Also known as THE TRIUMPH.

Some Girls Do (1969, GBR) C-92m. **½ D: Ralph Thomas. Starring Richard Johnson, Daliah Lavi, Beba Loncar, James Villiers, Vanessa Howard, Maurice Denham, Robert Morley, Sydne Rome, Adrienne Posta, Florence Desmond, Joanna Lumley. Sequel to DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967) and all the other earlier Bulldog Drummond pictures is fairly enjoyable, as gentleman spy Drummond goes after villain who intends to use supersonic device and an army of sexy girl robots to rule the world. Somewhat muddled plot, little action but exotic settings, funny performances and a lot of eye candy keep your attention. Rome, in her first film appearance (aged 17!) is drop-dead gorgeous. This was also Lumley’s first role. Unavailable on home video for almost four decades(!), it was released to DVD in Britain in 2005.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978, USA) C-97m. **½ D: John Carpenter. Starring Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Grainger Hines. TV director Hutton moves into high rise apartment complex, is targeted by psychopath who spies on her day and night. Okay thriller with references to Hitchcock (particularly REAR WINDOW) and a competent performance by Hutton. Though sometimes you will wonder why her apartment is so brightly lit and the curtains are not drawn. Interestingly, this premiered about a month after Carpenter’s horror classic HALLOWEEN. Made for television. Aka HIGH RISE.

Something Evil (1972, USA) C-73m. **½ D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Sandy Dennis, Darren McGavin, Ralph Bellamy, Jeff Corey, Johnny Whitaker, John Rubinstein, David Knapp, Steven Spielberg. Interesting early Spielberg effort (made for TV) about a family who move into a house in the country and slowly learn that it is haunted by an evil spirit. Quite eerie and atmospheric, but also annoying in the hysteria scenes concerning mother Dennis. Rather slow, despite short running time. Still, one of the better ‘evil house’ films. Written by Robert Clouse (ENTER THE DRAGON).

Something’s Gotta Give (2003, USA) C-124m. Scope *** D: Nancy Meyers. Starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Paul Michael Galser, Rachel Ticotin. Wonderful comedy drama about womanizer Nicholson, whose latest girlfriend is writer Keaton’s daughter. When he is taken ill with heart problems, Keaton looks after him and a romance starts budding, which neither of them could have foreseen. Well-observed character study, with fine performances. Keaton and Nicholson make a great match.

Sonatine (1993, JAP) C-94m. M D: Takeshi Kitano. Starring „Beat“ Takeshi, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe. Very strange comedy about a group of Yakuza gangsters who come to Okinawa and soon find themselves under attack by a rival gang. They withdraw to a remote beach and wait for something to happen. You’ll also wait for something to happen in this violent gangster film. All comic situations are misfires (at least to Western audiences), and the fact that the violence should be considered funny here, makes the film all the more questionable. Japanese television star Kitano has been compared to Quentin Tarantino, but the only similarity can be found in the comic-book violence that pervades both men’s films.

Sono Sartana, il Vostro Becchino (1969, ITA) C-98m. Scope ** D: Anthony Ascott (=Giuliano Carnimeo). Starring John (Gianni) Garko, Frank Wolff, Klaus Kinski, Gordon Mitchell, Ettore Manni, Sal Borgese. Standard spaghetti western about cool gunslinger Sartana (Garko), who is double-crossed by someone robbing a bank in his guise. He tries to seek out those responsible – in special Sartana fashion. Prolific western director Carnimeo shows style, but film’s plotting is listless. No suspense whatsoever. English titles: ANGEL OF DEATH: SARTANA, I AM SARTANA YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH, I’LL DIG YOUR GRAVE, SARTANA THE GRAVEDIGGER.

Sons and Lovers (1960, GBR) 103m. Scope ***½ D: Jack Cardiff. Starring Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller, Mary Ure, Heather Sears, William Lucas, Donald Pleasence. Serious, intelligent drama about aspiring young artist Stockwell, who turns down an offer to go to London just to stay with his family in a coalmining town. Complex coming-of-age film topicalizes love, friendship, emancipation and life in general. A thoughtful portrait of a young man who is unable to make a stand because of his domi-neering mother. Based on D.H. Lawrence’s novel. Fine, Oscar-winning cinematography by Freddie Francis.

Sora Tobu Yûreisen (1969, JAP) C-61m. SCOPE **½ D: Hiroshi Ikeda. Starring (the voices of) Kyôko Ai, Hiroshi Masuoka, Gorô Naya, Judy Ongg. A young boy saves his father’s company’s boss after a road accident, brings him into an old mansion, where they make the acquaintance of a skeleton captain and his flying phantom ship. However, the real menace comes from a seemingly harmless softdrink that is supposed to bring world domination to its creator. So fast-paced (and short) it almost seems like a TV series episode, this anime is quite uneven, but has some astounding, spectacular action set-pieces. Hayao Miyazaki contributed to the animation of the giant robot (an interesting prelude to those in LAPUTA). Dramatic score by Kosuke Onozaki. English title: FLYING PHANTOM SHIP.

Sorcerers, The (1967, GBR) C-83m. **½ D: Michael Reeves. Starring Boris Karloff, Catherine Lacey, Ian Ogilvy, Elizabeth Ercy, Victor Henry, Susan George. Nice directorial touches enliven unconvincing tale of scientist Karloff’s hypnosis experiment with Ogilvy, which allows him and his wife to control the young man’s will. Watch for some early psychedelic elements. British wunderkind/enfant terrible Reeves made one more film – the acclaimed WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) – before committing suicide at the age of 24.

Sorella di Ursula, La (1977, ITA) C-91m. *½ D: Enzo Milioni. Starring Barbara Magnolfi, Stefania D’Amario, Vanni Materassi, Marc Porel, Anna Zinnemann. Two Austrian sisters are on holiday in Italy looking for their mother who abandoned them when they were young. One of the young women seems to be a psychic, and then a killer starts his work in the hotel. Cheap, poorly plotted and poorly acted thriller, a late giallo, but far from exciting. Filled with gratuitous nudity and sex. Also known as THE SISTER OF URSULA, and CURSE OF URSULA.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988, USA) C-80m. ** D: David DeCoteau. Starring Andras Jones, Linnea Quigley, Robin Stille, Hal Havins, John Stuart Wildman, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, George ‘Buck’ Flower. What a title! Mindless horror comedy about three college pals who break into a shopping center with some ‘sorority babes’ at night and just happen to release an imp from his prison (a trophy). The creature then unleashes his magic powers on them. Starts nice, but bogs down later. At least it’s short. Alternative title: THE IMP.

Sorority House Massacre (1986, USA) C-90m. *½ D: Carol Frank. Starring Angela O'Neill, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio. Typical 80s slasher pic unashamedly rips off the plot of HALLOWEEN as brutal killer escapes asylum to terrorize girls at a sorority. O'Neill has frightening dreams until the real horror starts. Unintentionally hilarious dialogue, poor direction. Improves a little in the second half, but good only for a few laughs. Originally released at 74m., followed by a sequel in 1991.

Sôseiji (1999, JAP) C-83m. **½ D: Shinya Tsukamoto. Starring Masahiro Motoki, Ryô, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Shiho Fujimura. Artsy psycho horror drama set at the turn of the century about a young doctor, who has taken in an amnesiac woman and fallen in love with her, much to the chagrin of his parents. When his parents suddenly die, he suspects she may be the reason, but as it turns out, there’s a mysterious, cruel twin who wants to take over his identity. Interesting, to say the least, but also quite off-putting and heavy-going. Cult director Tsukamoto adapted a novel by mystery writer Rampo Edogawa. As usual, he also photographed and edited the movie. English title: GEMINI.

Soupe aux Choux, La (1981, FRA) C-98m. Scope *** D: Jean Girault. Starring Louis de Funès, Jean Carmet, Jacques Villeret, Claude Gensac, Henri Génès, Marco Perrin, Christine Dejoux. Latter-day de Funès comedy (his next-to-last movie) about two old-timers (de Funès and Carmet) living happily somewhere in rural France, who are suddenly visited by an extra-terrestrial (Villeret). De Funès cordially invites the hapless alien in and offers him his cabbage soup (“soupe aux choux”), not knowing that it will become a big hit in space – and change his life forever. Plot sounds ridiculous but film is very funny and at the same time sentimental, even philosophical. Among fans this is one of de Funès’ most fondly remembered movies. He even cowrote the screenplay, an adaptation of a novel by René Fallet. Good score by Raymond Lefevre.

Souris Chez les Hommes, Une (1964, FRA) B&W-90m. **½ D: Jacques Poitrenaud. Starring Dany Saval, Louis de Funès, Maurice Biraud, Robert Manuel, Dora Doll, Jean Lefebvre, Claude Piéplu, Dany Carrel. De Funès and his buddy Biraud lead double lives: By day they are respectable members of society, by night they are burglars. One day they are observed by teen Saval, who wants to become their assistant. Mild comedy, based on a novel by Francis Ryck. This was released only weeks before de Funès’ international breakthrough with LE GENDARME DE ST. TROPEZ. Also known as UN DROLE DE CAID, and A MOUSE WITH THE MEN.

Southern Star, The (1969, GBR/FRA) C-104m. Scope **½ D: Sidney Hayers. Starring George Segal, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Ian Hendry, Johnny Sekka, Michel Constantin, Charles Lamb. Jules Verne adaptation set in Africa (Senegal, to be exact) where Segal and Andress chase a precious diamond known as the ‘Southern Star’. Welles adds spice as villainous, Colonel Kurtz-like character, but interest comes and goes at whim, despite solid direction and nice location filming. Segal is nicely subdued, Andress is briefly seen in the nude. Orson Welles is said to have directed the opening sequence of the film.

Southland Tales (2006, USA/FRA/GER) C-145m. SCOPE *** D: Richard Kelly. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Janeane Garofalo, Beth Grant, Christophe rLambert, John Larroquette, Bai Ling, Jon Lovitz, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn, Justin Timberlake, Zelda Rubinstein, Curtis Armstrong. Writer-director Kelly’s follow-up to his cult hit DONNIE DARKO (2001) has a similar science-fiction scenario. In (the near future of) 2008, our society is on the brink of upheaval. Presidential election campaigns are overshadowed by a quasi-terrorist movement, and two main characters’ lives are examined in this setting: Johnson, a movie star with political ties, suddenly suffers from amnesia, and private Scott, who seems to have a twin brother, is a pawn in a clandestine operation. And there is Liquid Karma, a new invention that works like a perpetuum mobile, and an intriguing rift in the time-space continuum. Difficult to follow at times, with a Bible-quoting stream-of-consciousness narrative, but fascinating, even hypnotic all the way, referencing enough cult movies to satisfy buffs. This can best be compared to the works of David Lynch. Good score by Moby. Film’s release was accompanied by the publication of three graphic novels (by Kelly), which stand as prequels to the story told here. Originally premiered in Cannes at 160m.

Soylent Green (1973, USA) C-97m. Scope ** D: Richard Fleischer. Starring Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Brock Peters, Dick Van Patten. Science-fiction drama set in 2022, about police detective Heston, who investigates the death of a wealthy government official. 40 million people live in Manhattan alone, most of them starving, making New York City a place of constant riots. Soylent Green denotes a special food product that may secure the survival of the human race. Poorly paced sci-fi lacks excitement and suspense. A disappointment, based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Robinson, as Heston’s assistant, is marvelous in his final film appearance.

Spaceballs (1987, USA) C-96m. *** D: Mel Brooks. Starring Mel Brooks, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, John Candy, George Wyner, Dick Van Patten, Michael Winslow, John Hurt, voices of Dom DeLuise, Joan Rivers. Hilarious STAR WARS spoof masterminded by Brooks. Lord Dark Helmet (Moranis) is piloting space ship Spaceballs 1 to steal a planet’s atmosphere, and the princess who lives there has just run away from her wedding to Prince Valium. Enter mercenary Lone Starr (Pullman), who not only falls in love with the princess but also battles Dark Helmet with the help of his assistant Barf. Lots of gags, most of which work. Also spoofs other sci-fi classics along the way. Especially good fun for buffs.

Space Cowboys (2000, USA) C-130m. Scope ** D: Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Rade Serbedzija. Eastwood plays a former air force pilot, who almost made it into space in the late 1950s. When an old Russian satellite threatens to plummet onto the Earth, he is finally sent up (with his former buddies, all in their sixties), because he is the only one who can repair it. Well-filmed but completely unbelievable space thriller/drama, worth watching only if you want to see Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner enjoy themselves.

Space Truckers (1996, USA) C-96m. Scope ** D: Stuart Gordon. Starring Dennis Hopper, Stephen Dorff, Debi Mazar, George Wendt, Vernon Wells, Barbara Crampton, Shane Rimmer, Charles Dance. Hopper is a ‘space trucker’ who tries to save the world when he notices that his cargo is robots programmed to kill. Dorff and Mazar lend a hand. Careful script saves this sci-fi action comedy which could easily have bombed. Story thrust is lost after fifty minutes. Not very violent.

Spada per Brando, Una (1970, ITA) C-88m. Scope M D: Alfio Caltabiano. Starring Paul Winston, Karin Schubert, Tano Cimarosa. Robin Hood-like hero (stone-faced Winston) fights against a secret society whose members wear skull-masks. Silly, incoherent adventure with horror motives also goes for some low-brow comedy, which destroys the film. Title means ‘A Sabre for Brando’.

Spanish Prisoner, The (1997, USA) C-110m. *** D: David Mamet. Starring Campbell Scott, Steve Martin, Ben Gazzarra, Ricky Jay, Rebecca Pidgeon, Felicity Huffman, Ed O’Neill. Scott plays an inventor, whose latest coup would help his firm to ensure market domination for several years. However, his superior Gazzarra hesitates when it comes to paying him a bonus. It turns out that a chance acquaintance, millionaire Martin, might help him in this situation. Further details shall not be revealed. Mamet uses his writing skills to provide a complicated but logical and even intriguing plot, but this is basically for the brain and not for the eyes, ears or the gut. Slightly too calculated but overall worthwhile.

Spartacus (1960, USA) C-187m. Scope ***½ D: Stanley Kubrick. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, Charles McGraw, Woody Strode, Tony Curtis, Richard Farnsworth. Lively, dramatic epic about the life of Roman slave Spartacus (Douglas) and his rebellion against Roman authorities, which leads to a war of giant proportions. Exceptional, like all of director Kubrick’s projects, this is one of his most magnificent films, topped only perhaps by his 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Excellent screenplay (based on the novel by Howard Fast) includes more human aspects than all of its imitations combined and is brilliantly performed (especially by Olivier as Spartacus’ antagonist). A technical triumph, which becomes especially evident in the 1991 restored version: Expert direction by Kubrick, marvellous cinematography by Russell Metty (TOUCH OF EVIL), and a brilliant, incredibly rich score by Alex North. Only fault is overlength. A definite influence on BRAVEHEART (1995) and GLADIATOR (2000), both Best Picture Oscar-winners, which this film didn’t achieve despite being better. It did win Oscars for Peter Ustinov (Best Supporting Actor), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. Trivia note: Anthony Hopkins dubbed Laurence Olivier in the restored bathing scene, because Olivier had died and the original soundtrack was damaged beyond repair. Fully restored version runs 198m. Italian in-name-only sequel: IL FIGLIO DI SPARTACUS (1963) starring Steeve Reeves.

Spasmo (1974, ITA) C-93m. SCOPE **½ D: Umberto Lenzi. Starring Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov, Adolfo Lastretti, Monica Monet, Guido Alberti, Tom Felleghy. One of exploitation filmmaker Lenzi’s best movies is a typical giallo about Hoffmann, who takes off with somebody’s girlfriend (Kendall), then kills a stalker in self-defense. Then doubts arise: Did he really kill someone? Which role does his rich brother Rassimov play? Is he going insane? Thriller is slightly uneven, but well-worth watching for fans, especially because of beautiful Ennio Morricone theme. Trivia note: George A. Romero shot 10 minutes worth of footage inserted for the film’s U.S. release! Also known as THE DEATH DEALER.

Spasms (1983, CDN) C-86m. *½ D: William Fruet. Starring Peter Fonda, Oliver Reed, Kerrie Keane, Al Waxman, Miguel Fernández, Angus MacInnes. Scientist Reed has a telepathic link to a giant, deadly serpent(!) and asks ESP expert Fonda to help him out. If that’s not enough to make you laugh out loud, the rest of the plot will – unless it will make you cry, because it’s so bad. One or two good attack scenes and that’s it. Filmed in 1981. Score by Tangerine Dream. Based on the novel Death Bite, which is also the film’s alternative title.

Special Effects (1984, USA) C-105m. **½ D: Larry Cohen. Starring Zoe Tamerlis, Eric Bogosian, Brad Rijn, Kevin O’Connor, Bill Oland. Ambitious B-movie about a starlet, who has abandoned her family to make it in Hollywood, only to fall prey to (and be killed by) a lecherous film director. He even persuades her desperate husband to star in a film about her murder. Interesting, even intriguing thriller, but slow pace, redundant stretches bring it down. Bogosian is too harmless to be a credible villain. But make sure you stick around for the ending. A 93m. print also exists.

Specialisti, Gli (1969, ITA/FRA/GER) C-84m. Scope ** D: Sergio Corbucci. Starring Johnny Halliday, Mario Adorf, Gastone Moschin, Sylvie Fennec, Françoise Fabian. French rock star Johnny Halliday is a poor man’s Clint Eastwood, who comes to the Western town of Blackstone to avenge the death of his brother. The decadent citizens would rather see him dead. Mario Adorf plays a Mexican. Did anyone say THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY? Still, spaghetti western is not bad, with the characters better defined than usual; it just could have used a better script. Fennec, who plays Sheba, is stunningly beautiful. English title: DROP THEM OR I’LL SHOOT.

Specters (1987, ITA) C-93m. D: Marcello Avallone. Starring John Pepper, Katrine Michelsen, Donald Pleasence, Massimo de Rossi, Erna Schurer. Tedious, dull horror movie made in Italy about hidden chamber discovered in the Roman catacombs, which houses a terrible monster. Pleasance plays an archeologist who works there. Not badly made, but the story is simply atrocious. Italian title: SPETTRI.

Spellbound (1945, USA) 111m. *** D: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll, Alfred Hitchcock. A bit of Freudian psychology from the Master, this melodrama centers around psychoanalyst Bergman’s infatuation with newly arrived doctor Peck. Soon she realizes that he is a troubled man with a terrible secret, he cannot even himself disclose. Slightly overlong but always on-target, the dream sequences (designed by Salvador Dalí) are epecially stunning. Good work from Hitch. Based on Francis Beeding’s novel The House of Dr. Edwardes. Fine dramatic score by Miklós Rósza, produced by David O. Selznick.

Spetters (1980, NED) C-112m. *** D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Hans van Tongeren, Toon Agterberg, Renée Soutendijk, Maarten Spanjer, Marianne Boyer, Jeroen Krabbé, Rutger Hauer. Original coming-of-age drama about the lives of three friends, who are all ambitious motorcyclists and dream of being champion one day. Tramp Soutendijk tries to give their careers a boost. Film shows that triumph and tragedy are often closely related. Well-scripted, well-paced, another compelling drama by Dutch director Verhoeven. Hauer - star of Verhoeven’s TURKS FRUIT - plays a race champion; his role is quite small. Original version allegedly runs 122m.

Spettro, Lo (1963, ITA) C-97m. *** D: Robert Hampton (=Riccardo Freda). Starring Barbara Steele, Peter Baldwin, Leonard Elliott, Harriet Medin, Umbero Raho. Follow-up to L’ORRIBILE SEGRETO DEL DOTTOR HICHCOCK (1962), about crippled, suicidal doctor Elliott, whose wife Steele plots to kill him with the help of her lover Baldwin. However, the body does not stay dead for long. Atmospheric, moody Gothic chiller is slowly paced but consistently interesting, quite violent for its time, too. Good score and main theme by Francesco de Masi, Franco Mannino, Román Vlad. Cowritten by director Freda. English titles: THE GHOST, THE SPECTRE.

Sphere (1998, USA) C-134m. Scope *** D: Barry Levinson. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber, Queen Latifah. Filmization of Michael Crichton’s excellent science-fiction novel is pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment, but not without flaws. A group of scientists is flown to a vessel which was discovered on the Pacific ocean floor. It seems the (space?) ship has been there for almost 300 years, but how is that possible? A strange sphere inside it may know the answer. Film is off to an abrupt start, and despite being tightly paced not really evenly structured. It leaves open a few questions, which those who have read the novel won’t mind. The suspense is extremely fine, which is what makes up the film’s rating.

Spider (2002, GBR/CDN) C-98m. ** D: David Cronenberg. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynn Redgrave, John Neville. Psycho drama about mental patient Fiennes, who takes board at a London home/asylum some time around WW2. Slowly we learn through flashbacks what made him the broken man he is. Intriguing premise, but plodding execution makes this a lesser Cronenberg effort. The fact that we are asked to identify with or care for the handicapped main character makes the movie difficult to access, if not even depressing. Classical score by Howard Shore makes things even worse. Written by Patrick McGrath, based on his novel.

Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told (1968, USA) B&W-84m. ** D: Jack Hill. Starring Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig. Corny, bizarre curio about a retarded backwoods family, whose caretaker (Chaney, in his last film role) is in charge. The adolescent girls play strange murder games, and the ‚boy‘ (Haig) is the bald and handicapped title character. When some other, straight family members come to claim their inheritance, there is murder and mayhem. Filmed in the mid-60s, which accounts for relative tameness of the going-ons, but overall subject matter is quite bizarre, so buffs should seek this out. Director Hill also scripted and edited the picture. Also known as ATTACK OF THE LIVER EATERS, CANNIBAL ORGY, and THE LIVER EATERS.

Spider-Man (2002, USA) C-121m. ** D: Sam Raimi. Starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Randy Savage, Macy Gray, Scott Spiegel, Lucy Lawless, Robert Kerman, Stan Lee. Big-budget adaptation of the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko is one big disappointment. Uninvolving plot, ordinary design (remember DICK TRACY or the BATMAN movies?), and special effects that make the film look like a computer game. What’s left is some exciting action footage and Dafoe’s great performance as the villain. Sticks relatively close to its source. Score cowritten by Danny Elfman.

Spider-Man 2 (2004, USA) C-126m. Scope *** D: Sam Raimi. Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy, Bill Nunn, Willem Dafoe, Cliff Robertson, Ted Raimi, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, John Landis. First sequel to the 2002 blockbuster is a better movie, as Spidey aka Peter Parker (Maguire) is faced with tremendous personal problems (his job, his family, his love interest), as well as a fierce villain in the form of scientist-turned-tentacled-monster Molina. Better effects, better storyline, this one includes a lot of emotions to make for engrossing viewing. And the action set-pieces are a wow. Oscar-winner for Best Visual Effects. Version 2.1 runs 9m. longer. Score by Danny Elfman.

Spider-Man 3 (2007, USA) C-139m. Scope **½ D: Sam Raimi. Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Willem Dafoe, Cliff Robertson, Stan Lee. Bigger, longer, but not better sequel brings on two new villains, the Sandman, an ex-con, who was involved in the murder of Spiderman’s uncle, and (later in the story) a creepy fungus-infected Spiderman-rival (Venom). Makes Spidey appear foolish too often and has many plot contrivances, but the action delivers again. Score by Christopher Young this time.

Spiderwick Chronicles, The (2008, USA) C-95m. SCOPE *** D: Mark Waters. Starring Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn, Andrew McCarthy, and the voices of Seth Rogen, Martin Short. Fantasy adventure based on the books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black about three siblings (a teenage girl and two twin boys, both played by Highmore), who move into the old, derelict estate of their great-aunt with their mother. It turns out the place is home to many secrets, among the most precious the children’s great-great uncle’s Guide to Fairies, which describes a magical world they at first cannot see. When they learn that an evil ogre is after the book, a fantastic adventure for them begins... Well-made, effective fantasy does the books justice and adds some fun ingredients. Not great, but pretty well-done. Good score by James Horner. Adaptation by Karey Kirkpatrick, David Berenbaum and John Sayles. Photographed by Caleb Deschanel.

Spies Like Us (1985, USA) C-102m. *** D: John Landis. Starring Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, Frank Oz, Terry Gilliam, Costa-Gavras, Ray Harryhausen, Matt Frewer, Bob Hope, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi, Michael Apted, B.B. King, Larry Cohen, Martin Brest. Enjoyable comedy makes fun of the Cold War, as two bumbling idiots (Aykroyd and Chase) are sent out as spies (read: decoys) to Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Film offers a couple of genuine belly-laughs, Chase and Aykroyd are a great team. Lots of cameos add to the fun. Cowritten by Dan Aykroyd.

Spie Uccidono in Silenzio, Le (1966, ITA/SPA/FRA) C-85m. Scope D: Mario Caiano. Starring Lang Jeffries, Erika Blanc, Andrea Bosic, Emma Danieli. Italian James Bond imitation whose plot isn’t worth mentioning. Too serious and too pretentious, this – unlike the Bond series – has aged terribly. Some nice directorial touches cannot save it. English titles: SPIES KILL SILENTLY, SPY STRIKES SILENTLY.

Spie Vengono dal Semi Freddo, Le (1966, ITA) C-79m. M D: Mario Bava. Starring Vincent Price, Fabian, Laura Antonelli. Idiotic comedy about mad scientist who plants bombs into attractive women that explode when kissed. This way he wants to attain world domination. Too bad no one planted a bomb in this trashy sequel to DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE. It seems incredible Bava made this because it’s badly directed! And isn’t Vincent Price’s voice dubbed? Other prints run 85m. English title: Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs

Spirited Away (2001, JAP) C-125m. *** D: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (the voices of) Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Jason Marsden, John Ratzenberger (English version). Complex, often fascinating animated feature from Japanese genre master Miyazaki. A little girl, about to move to a new home in the country, follows her parents into an abandoned theme park, which is a resting place for spirits. Separated from her parents, the frightened girl finds a huge bath house and must try to fit in with all kinds of weird characters. Anime of epic proportions creates a marvelous, inspiring fantasy world (much like the director’s PRINCESS MONONOKE), but remains perhaps slightly too grotesque for its own good, as this renders the film a bit episodic. Still, first-rate in many respects. Excellent score by Joe Hisaishi. Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature. Filmed in an aspect ratio of 2.00:1. Also known as SEN, SEN AND THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF CHIHIRO, and most commonly SPIRITED AWAY. Japanese original title: SEN TO CHIHIRO NO KAMIKAKUSHI.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002, USA) C-83m. Scope ** D: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook. Featuring the voices of Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi, Chopper Bernet, Charles Napier. Pleasant-enough animated feature from DreamWorks follows the exploits of a wild stallion, as it grows up to be the leader of its herd and must live through one or the other adventure in the Old West. Very little interest springs from derivative plot, the (computer-animated scenes don’t really thrill. For horse-loving, undiscriminating kids.

Spiritual Kung Fu (1979, HGK) C-94m. Scope D: Lo Wei. Starring Jackie Chan. Someone steals a valuable book containing instructions for an almost unbeatable fighting technique from a Shaolin monastery. Chan, with the help of red-haired ghosts(!), tries to get it back from the villain. Weak, incoherent eastern with poor comic elements contains enough action to please Jackie’s fans but hardly anyone else. Produced by the director, who reworked this in 1985.

Splinter (2008, USA) C-82m. SCOPE ** D: Toby Wilkins. Starring Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Rachel Kerbs. Not-bad but barely original horror movie set in and around a gas station where two young lovers have been taken hostage by a pair of criminals. Too bad, there’s also an infectious splinter-like virus around. Some nice gore effects, but movie never rises to full-fledged excitement. Has been compared to George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), but that’s too much praise for it. Performances are fairly good, direction a bit too hectic. Director Wilkins also coscripted.

SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The (2004, USA) C-90m. *½ D: Stephen Hillenburg. Starring (the voices of) Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, and (in person) David Hasselhoff. Pretty obnoxious big screen version of the TV series contains the same low-brow, dark-humor jokes, packed into a story of SpongeBob and Patrick trying to find Neptune’s crown and thereby saving Mr. Krabs from his certain demise. Fans might boost the rating by a star, but for others this is just too hysterical and violent.

Spontaneous Combustion (1990, USA) C-97m. *½ D: Tobe Hooper. Starring Brad Dourif, Cynthia Bain, John Cypher, William Prince, Dey Young, John Landis. In the 1950s a young couple suffers radioactive contamination due to the government’s nuclear testing. The woman nevertheless gives birth to a boy, who some thirty years later has the power to set people on fire. Ambitious story (by Hooper) goes absolutely nowhere with a completely unconvincing script. Dourif is quite good in the lead role.

Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium (2006, USA) C-82m. **½ D: Christopher Saint Booth. Featuring Charles Mattingly, Tina Mattingly, Keith Age, Christopher Saint Booth, Philip Adrian Booth. Interesting documentary about Waverly Hills Sanatorium a monstrous, derelict building that used to be a hospital, and has now a reputation of being haunted. Through interviews and historical flashbacks filmmaker Booth tries to explain its fascination and offers paranormal evidence from orbs, EVPS to actual ghost apparitions. Not fully convincing but quite chilling.

Spy Game (2001, USA/GBR) C-126m. Scope **½ D: Tony Scott. Starring Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, David Hemmings, Charlotte Rampling. Redford plays a CIA man who is about to retire, when he hears of the imprisonment of a colleague he trained (Pitt). In flashbacks, we learn about the men’s relationship, while there are only 24 hours for Redford to persuade the CIA to save Pitt from execution. Starts out interesting, but loses its way in the second half, when there is at least one flashback too many, making the story seem like a contrivance. The stars are good, though, as is Scott’s direction.

Spy Kids (2001, USA) C-88m. *** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Robert Patrick, Danny Trejo, Mike Judge, Richard Linklater, George Clooney. Fast-paced actioner about former spies Banderas and Gugino, who have two children now and are living a quiet existence. Then one day they called back into action and their kids are thrust into an adventure of giant proportions. Loud, effects-filled, well-designed movie is aimed at children, but adults will find it fun, too. A bit too comic-bookish perhaps in characterization and plot. Sort-of the follow-up to Rodriguez’ episode in FOUR ROOMS (1995). Score by Danny Elfman. Followed by two sequels.

Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002, USA) C-100m. *** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Matt O’Leary, Emily Osment, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Alan Cumming, Bill Paxton, Tony Shalhoub. Exciting, hi-tech sequel pits the spy kids against rival spies from their O.S.S. organisation, which assigns them to retrieve a special device hidden somewhere on a mysterious island. Plot again serves as the excuse for some stunning computer-generated effects, but laughs and scares are also there. A tad better than the first film. Vega gives another eye-opening performance.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003, USA) C-84m. ** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, Mike Judge, Salma Hayek, Matt O’Leary, Emily Osment, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tony Shalhoub, Steve Buscemi, Bill Paxton, George Clooney, Elijah Wood. Disappointing continuation of the series plunges the boy (Sabara) into a virtual reality computer game in order to save his sister, who’s stuck in Level 4. Most of the film takes place inside the computer game, a completely digital environment. This ‘digital file’, as Rodriguez calls it, is kept alive only by some star cameos. Game-addicted kids might like it.

Spy Next Door, The (2010, USA)  C-94m. *** D: Brian Levant. Starring Jackie Chan, Amber Valetta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Alina Foley, Magnús Scheving, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez. Chan plays a spy, who romances a suburban single mom in his cover identity. When he has the chance to babysit her children, he eagerly embraces this opportunity to win their trust. However, a Russian villain has set his eyes on his home and a valuable file on his computer. Paper-thin plot has been done several times before, but Jackie Chan is so likable, he pulls this off with ease, despite some sub-par performances. Also known as DOUBLE MISSION, SPY DADDY.

Spy Who Loved Me, The (1977, GBR) C-125m. Scope ***½ D: Lewis Gilbert. Starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn. James Bond goes against villain Jürgens, who has abducted nuclear weapons – planning to destroy the world! 007 must join forces with beautiful Russian agent Bach in order to stop the madman’s evil scheme. Exceptional globetrotting adventure, loaded with gimmicks, more serious than other Bond films, but not without the trademark humor. Excellent production values make this the best 70s Bond. Marvelous photography by Claude Renoir. Followed by MOONRAKER.

Squadra Antiscippo (1976, ITA) C-95m. ** D: Bruno Corbucci. Starring Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Toni Ucci, Alberto Longoni. Slightly sub-standard police movie about grungy cop Milian, who may be the only one with the wits to stop ruthless crimelord Palance. Quite violent fare, with a plot that drags on. Milian is the whole show here; he is so cool that he even wears his woolly cap in bed! Film started an entire series and was followed by ten(!) sequels. English title: THE COP IN BLUE JEANS.

Squartatore di New York, Lo (1982, ITA) C-93m. Scope ** D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Ochipinti, Alexandra delli Colli, Lucio Fulci. Gory slasher movie by none other than splat-master Lucio Fulci. A psycho killer, talking like Donald Duck, is stalking women in the streets of New York. Police investigators are baffled. Typically violent for its time, a direct descendant of the giallo, only less intricate and atmospheric. Some nice directorial touches and good photography by Luigi Kuveiller (PROFONDO ROSSO) make it worthwhile for genre fans. Cowritten by Fulci. English titles: THE NEW YORK RIPPER, PSYCHO RIPPER and THE RIPPER.

Squirm (1976, USA) C-92m. **½ D: Jeff Lieberman. Starring Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, Peter Mac-Lean. If you think worms are ugly then stay away from this shocker about young New Yorker who has to contend with slimy creatures who are driven out of the earth by a power shock. The direction lifts it above average but film is rather an ecological thriller than a horror film. The American PG-rating tells it all.

Stalker (1979, RUS) C/B&W-161m. ***½ D: Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Aleksandr Kajdanovsky, Alisa Frejndlikh, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Natasha Abramova. Art film drama with science-fiction elements: Ex-convict Stalker agrees to lead two intellectuals, writer Solonitsyn and scientist Grinko into the ‘Forbidden Zone’, a deserted wasteland that is said to have strange powers ever since a meteorite crashed into it. The Zone and its laws seem beyond human comprehension… Long, slow, hypnotic masterpiece of filmmaking, perhaps just a tad too cold, reflects upon mankind’s need to ‘know’ and human fallability. Again, Tarkovsky makes excellent use of classical music. He also cowrote the script with Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky, based on their story. Shot in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

Stand, The (1994, USA) C-360m. **½ D: Mick Garris. Starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan. TV-adaptation of Stephen King’s mega-novel about disease wiping out civilization, which leads to a good-versus-evil fight among the few survivors. Film is well-made and interesting to say the least, but it stands and falls with Sheridan’s devil/bad guy, who looks and behaves all too human. Besides, the ending really drags. Cameos include Sam Raimi, Kathy Bates and King himself, who also penned the teleplay (and none too well).

Stand by Me (1986, USA) C-89m. *** D: Rob Reiner. Starring Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Gary Riley, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cusack, Madeleine Swift. Classic coming-of-age tale written by Stephen King (of all people), about four twelve-year-old friends in 1960 Maine, who embark on a journey to find the dead body of a kid in the woods.  Effective drama about friendship and growing up uncovers childhood traumata with shocking simplicity. A bit slight but funny, with some priceless oldies on the soundtrack. The screenplay was Oscar-nominated. Wheaton is remarkable as Stephen King’s alter ego.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001, USA) C-142m. *** D: Jan Harlan. Narrated by Tom Cruise. Featuring interviews with Woody Allen, Arthur C. Clarke, Shelley Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Malcolm McDowell, Matthew Modine, Jack Nicholson, Alan Parker, Sidney Pollack, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Douglas Trumbull, Peter Ustinov, the Kubrick family. Meticulous documentary about the life and oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick, one of the most acclaimed, most maniacal, most ingenious film directors of the 20th century. His upbringing and education, his early jobs are revealed, his films are discussed and commented upon by collaborators and admirers. Highly interesting stuff, although sheer length numbs you a little. One would also have expected more information about the movies themselves. Still, no film buff should miss this. Some of the most interesting (and intelligent) commentary comes from Martin Scorsese and Jack Nicholson.

Stardust (2007, GBR/USA) C-127m. Scope ** D: Matthew Vaughn. Starring Ben Barnes, Clare Danes, Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Nathaniel Parker, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais. Fantasy adventure based on a book by Neil Gaiman about a fantasy world in 19th century England which can be accessed through a hole in a stone wall. A young man fathers a child with an imprisoned princess there, many years later the son, who grew up in the real world, has the chance to become the prince, if he can find magic stone before an evil witch. Despite swift pace, this has too much of everything, too much wacky humor, too much violence and in the end it doesn’t gel – unless watching De Niro in women’s clothes is your idea of fun. Even Danes seems miscast.

Star Quest (1994, USA) C- 94m. ** D: Rick Jacobson. Starring Steven Bauer, Brenda Bakke, Alan Rachins, Emma Samms, Cliff De Young, Ming-Na Wen. Eight international scientists on a mission to a distant solar system are shocked to find one of their crew members dead after they are waken from hibernation ... and more deaths follow soon. B-sci-fi, produced for television, is derivative (it rips off the first scene of PLANET OF THE APES) but otherwise not that bad. Interesting plot twists make it watchable. De Young is good. U.K. title: TERMINAL VOYAGE.

Starquest II (1997, USA) C-93m. M D: Fred Gallo. Starring Adam Baldwin, Gretchen Palmer, Robert Englund, Jerry Trimble, Duane Davis. Perfectly unbearable science-fiction about several characters waking up aboard a space vessel, only to discover that the Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear war. It turns out that human-looking aliens (led by Englund) want to breed humans. Offensively stupid characters, pointless violence, nudity and simulated sex. For the least demanding viewers only. One wonders why Englund signed up for this trash. Alternative title: MIND BREAKERS. No obvious relation to STAR QUEST.

Starship (1985, AUS/GBR) C-88m. ** D: Roger Christian. Starring John Tarrant, Deep Roy, Donogh Rees, Cassandra Webb, Arthur Sherman. Science-fiction film from a STAR WARS collaborator about a mining colony in outer space, where humans are used as workers. When some of them find out they are about to be replaced by robots, they rebel against the authorities. Low budget hampers film considerably, though it also isn’t very entertaining or exciting. Watchable but rather boring. Andrew Lesnie (LORD OF THE RINGS) did the 2nd unit photography. Alternative titles: 2084, and LORCA AND THE OUTLAWS.

Starship Troopers (1997, USA) C-129m. M D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clanc Brown, Seth Gilliam, Michael Ironside. Mankind is at war with gigantic insects in this worthless science-fiction film - or is it a satire? Either way, some impressive effects and over-the-top violence (as expected) cannot save this adaptation of Robert A. Henlein’s award-winning science-fiction novel. The human drama is laughable, the acting atrocious (by a Beverly Hills 90210/Melrose Place cast). You know you’re in trouble when the audience in the movie theater considers almost every scene a laugh riot. This is actually worse than INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Starsky & Hutch (2004, USA) C-101m. Scope **½ D: Todd Phillips. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Fred Williamson, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Jason Bateman, Amy Smart, Carmen Electra, Chris Penn, Paul Michael Glaser, David Soul, Will Ferrell. Quite funny revival/spoofing of the TV series of the late 1970s with Stiller and Wilson playing cops, who try to pin cocaine dealer Vaughn. Something’s missing from the plot, but if you want to see what the 70s were like in terms of clothes, styles, applications etc. then this is your movie.

Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979, USA) C-132m. Scope *** D: Robert Wise. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei. The 'Star Trek' crew makes a welcome return to the screen after their exciting TV adventures in the late 1960s. The big-budget somewhat belies their origins, and film's simple story hints at this incompatibility. A huge energy field approaches the Earth, destroying everything in its path and the Enterprise tries everything in its power to avert disaster. The likable characters (portrayed by the - still young - actors from the original series) carry this film. Excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith provides the excitement denied by the plot, and Douglas Trumbull's brilliant effects are reminiscent of his work for Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. A must for Trekkies, acceptable sci-fi for others. Also shown at 143m. Followed by eight sequels until 1998.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999, USA) C-136m. Scope *** D: George Lucas. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Hugh Quarshie, Frank Oz, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Coppola. The beginning of the most successful space saga of all time has Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) trying to negotiate peace, but soon they find themselves in the midst of an intergalactic political crisis, which might escalate any moment. On a rescue mission they make the acquaintance of Annakin Skywalker (Lloyd), a young boy with the gift of a Jedi… Excellent digital effects will take your breath away (especially during the race sequence and the bombastic finale), although the plot lacks scope and transparency – just what the beginning of an epic saga actually needs. The story and the characters would have needed more fleshing out, but the film’s pace doesn’t seem to leave enough time. Still, good fun all the way. Seqeuls in existence: STAR WARS (EPISODE IV), THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (EPISODE V) and RETURN OF THE JEDI (EPISODE VI).

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977, USA) C-125m. Scope ***½ D: George Lucas. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, voice of James Earl Jones. ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ Fast-paced, exciting science-fiction adventure that has become the most popular film of all time. Story – obviously aimed at kids - concerns rebellion against the Dark Force in unnamed galaxy. Protagonists Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Han Solo (Ford), Princess Leia (Fisher), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guiness) join forces against the mysterious, invincible Darth Vader. Dazzling special effects, spirited direction, a film that revolutionized the sci-fi genre and created a cult following, the biggest in all filmdom (it’s a close race with STAR TREK). C-3PO and R2D2 provide brilliant comic relief. Try comparing the characters with those in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Winner of seven Oscars (including one for John Williams’ memorable score). Originally released at 121m., restored in 1997. Followed by two sequels and three prequels, starting with STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980, USA) C-127m. Scope **** D: Irvin Kershner. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Alec Guiness, Jack Purvis, Julian Glover, Christopher Malcolm, John Ratzenberger, Treat Williams, voice of James Earl Jones. Sequel to the original STAR WARS (1977) is perfect entertainment. Story is merely a continuation of the battle between good and evil forces in space. Skywalker (Hamill), Leia (Fisher) and Solo (Ford) are trying to flee from deadly, increasingly powerful grasp of Darth Vader. However, their paths separate soon after a decisive battle on an ice planet. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a rollercoaster ride of a movie: Brilliant pacing (especially in the first 40 minutes), first-rate effects and more intriguing plotting than in EPISODE IV make for an awe-inspiring experience. This is without a doubt the best STAR WARS movie, an impressive achievement, one of the top three science-fiction movies of the decade. Story by George Lucas, screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Winner of two Oscars, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. Restored version released in 1997. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983, USA) C-134m. Scope *** D: Richard Marquand. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Alec Guiness, Warwick Davis, Jack Purvis, voice of James Earl Jones. Final installment in the much-loved STAR WARS series is a slight disappointment considering the high standard of its predecessor. The Empire is about to complete a new Death Star and Luke Skywalker seeks out Darth Vader for a final confrontation. Episodic, less thrilling, but production design and special effects are still dazzling. David Fincher was among the visual effects crew. Restored version released in 1997. Followed by two EWOK films made for TV and the prequel STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).

State of Grace (1990, USA) C-134m. **½ D: Phil Joanou. Starring Sean Penn, Gary Oldman, Ed Harris, Robin Wright (Penn), John Turturro, John C. Reilly, Joe Viterelli, Burgess Meredith, James Russo. After a ten-year absence, Penn returns to his home turf of Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y.C., and joins forces with Oldman and his brother Harris, who are the leaders of a powerful gang. Strong characterizations in unfocused script that does not justify film’s overlength. Some stylish bits, but should have been a much better film. Score by Ennio Morricone. Photographed by Jordan Cronenweth (BLADE RUNNER).

Stay Awake, The (1987, SAF) C-91m. *½ D: John Bernard. Starring Shirley Jane Harris, Tanya Gordon, Jayne Hutton, Ken Marshall, Heath Porter. Some twenty years after a serial killer’s execution the man’s ghost terrorizes some girls spending a ‘stay-awake’ night at their sorority. Absolutely nothing happens in the first 40 minutes, the rest plays in semi-darkness. Some stylish camerawork aside, this is a stupid horror film (from South Africa).

Stealing Beauty (1996, ITA/FRA/GBR) C-118m. Scope *** D: Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring Jeremy Irons, Liv Tyler, Joseph Fiennes, Sinead Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Stefania Sandrelli, Jean Marais, Jason Flemyng. Quiet, stimulating coming-of-age drama about 19-year-old American (virgin) Tyler, who spends her holiday in Tuscany, Italy, with friends, who have all known her late mother. While trying to find her roots, she also discovers her own character and sexuality. Playful, perhaps too light-weight but film escapes heavy-handedness thanks to fine direction and score. Ravishing Tyler’s naturality provides a heavy dose of eroticism. Irons is also fine as a dying admirer of her beauty.

Step Brothers (2008, USA) C-98m. **½ D: Adam McKay. Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Seth Rogen. Low-brow comedy about two 40-year-old men, who still live at home. When Ferrell’s mom falls in love with Reilly’s dad and marries him, they are forced to share their laziness and become competitors. Juvenile humor abound, but also features some laugh-out-loud gags. For Ferrell’s fans.

Stepfather, The (1987, USA) C-89m. **½ D: Joseph Ruben. Starring Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Charles Lanyer, Stephen Shellen, Stephen E. Miller. Contrived, partially effective thriller about psychopath O’Quinn, who has just killed his entire family and moves on to a new one, obviously having wiped out all traces. How long does it take his anxious stepdaughter to find out about him? Story plays out with these typical plot coincindences, but O’Quinn’s performance is convincing. Followed by two sequels.

Stepford Wives, The (2004, USA) C-93m. ** D: Frank Oz. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, David Marshall Grant, Jon Lovitz, Faith Hill. Remake of the 1975 horror film becomes a satire on the picture-perfect suburban existence. Ousted network exec Kidman moves to Stepford with her husband Broderick and their two children, and soon learns that not everything is a neat and perfect as it seems. Watchable until the finale, which undermines film. This should have remained as serious as the original. Based on the novel by Ira Levin.

Stepmom (1998, USA) C-125m. Scope *** D: Chris Columbus. Starring Julia Roberts, Ed Harris, Susan Sarandon, Jena Malone, Liam Aiken, Lynn Whitfield, Darrell Larson. Sarandon can't come to terms with the fact that her ex-husband Harris's new girlfriend Roberts has no feeling for their kids. This triangular relationship is constantly in danger of exploding and finally does when Roberts fails to look after the son, young Aiken. Sarandon decides to fight for her children, at any cost, but is forced cooperate when she learns that she may be incurably ill. Well-acted, especially by Sarandon, but creates contradictory feelings in the viewer, as to whom of the women to like. Satisfactory plot development makes this slightly overlong drama recommendable, but Hollywood haters should stay away.

Step Up (2006, USA) C-104m. Scope ** D: Anne Fletcher. Starring Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Damaine Radcliffe, De’Shawn Washington, Mario, Drew Sidora, Rachel Griffiths, Josh Henderson. Romantic comedy drama about social underdog and foster child Tatum, who breaks into a dance and drama school one day and destroys some props. He is caught by the police and ordered to do some social work at that school. Since he can dance very well, he is discovered by dance student Dewan, whose partner just injured himself. Contrived movie for dance fanatics. Some of the editing in the early scenes is really good. Followed by a sequel.

Sterben im Reich der Wollust (2005, GER) C-75m. n/r D: Eva Bense. German documentary about the Japanese obsession with sex and death (eros and thanatos), which has become part of their culture. Director Bense looks at the film history (from the Pink Eiga sexploitation movies of the 1960s and 1970s to present-day erotic cinema), the sex industry and interviews filmmakers and artists who work in this field. A good pick for those interested in this aspect of Japanese culture, also contains some interesting information for movie buffs.

Sterminatori dell’Anno 3000, Gli (1983, ITA/SPA) C-83m. Scope D: Jules Harrison (=Giuliano Carnimeo). Starring Fred Harris, Alicia Moro, Robert Jannuci, Venantino Venantini, Luca Venantini. Poor MAD MAX imitation has several characters trying to find water on a barren, post-apocalyptic Earth. The usual car stunts ensue. Director Carnimeo tries to make this a spectacle, but film is neither thrilling nor entertaining. Aka DEATH WARRIORS, EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000.

St. Helens (1981, USA) C-90m. **½ D: Ernest Pintoff. Starring Art Carney, David Huffman, Cassie Yates, Albert Salmi, Ron O’Neal, Tim Thomerson. Obviously constructed story about the events leading up to 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Geologist Huffman travels to St. Helens to study it, Yates is his love interest. Carney plays a stubborn hermit called Harry Truman. Characters are awfully clichéd, but still film has something going for it. Quiet narrative, with lots of nature shots, punctuated by devastating climax (with real footage). Interesting score by Goblin, of all people. Also known as ST. HELENS, KILLER VOLCANO.

Stigmata (1999, USA) C-103m. Scope **½ D: Rupert Wainwright. Starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Rade Serbedzija. Flashy, stylish camerawork (by Jeffrey L. Kimball, who shot JACOB’S LADDER and TRUE ROMANCE) and direction save this otherwise uninspired horror thriller about party girl Arquette, who one day suddenly suffers Stigmata, the wounds of Jesus Christ upon crucifixion. Byrne, an investigator from the Vatican, takes some time to figure out the meaning. Effective despite a one-dimensional plot, film also comes up with a message at the end, but serious movie goers might not last that long. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan contributed to the music score.

Still Smokin’ (1983, USA/NED) C-91m. ** D: Tommy Chong. Starring Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Hans van in’t Veld, Linnea Quigley. Fifth film venture for cult comedy duo Cheech & Chong is one of their weakest. They travel to Amsterdam, where they should attend a film festival. This premise serves as a framework for some stand-up routines of the boys, most of which aren’t funny, some are even tasteless. Only for their fans, who will probably like it (the wrestling match with the invisible man is actually quite good).

Stir of Echoes, A (1999, USA) C-99m. *** D: David Koepp. Starring Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Kevin Dunn, Illeana Douglas, Liza Weil. Eerie chiller about family father Bacon, who is hypnotized by a friend and suddenly has frightening visions of murder. Strangely, his five-year-old son may be in touch with a dead girl who is haunting their Chicago home. Slightly predictable horror thriller bears resemblance to the superior THE SIXTH SENSE but delivers the goods nevertheless, with Bacon’s performance a highlight. Based on the novel by Richard Matheson.

Stoner (1975, HGK/AUS/USA) C-103m. Scope ** D: Huang Feng. Starring George Lazenby, Angela Mao, Samo Hung, Betty Ting-Pei, Yuen Wah. Solidly filmed but slowly paced action thriller about Australian cop Stoner (Lazenby), who travels to Hong Kong in order to infiltrate and stop crime syndicate that is getting its latest drug, a heroin derivate, ready for the mass market. One of three Hong Kong action films with Lazenby, made after he failed to hold on to the James Bond role. Climactic fights are good, rest is too sluggish. Produced by Raymond Chow and Leonard Ho. Also known as HONG KONG HITMAN and A MAN CALLED STONER.

Storia Moderna, Una (1963, ITA) 94m. **½ D: Marco Ferreri. Starring Ugo Tognazzi, Marina Vlady, Walter Giller, Linda Sini, Riccardo Fellini, Achille Majeroni, Pietro Tattanelli. Mildly amusing sex comedy about 40-ish playboy Tognazzi and his marriage to virgin Vlady. He is unable to cope with his ‘new’ life as a husband, and their sex life suffers. Nicely shot, but lacks the edge of Ferreri’s later work. Subtitled version is not recommended. On-screen title: L’APE REGINA. Aka THE CONJUGAL BED.

Story of Us, The (1999, USA) C-95m. **½ D: Rob Reiner. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Bruce Willis, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Julie Hagerty, Tim Matheson, Red Buttons, Paul Reiser. Sporadically funny comedy about the marriage and separation of Willis and Pfeiffer, a couple who go through a seemingly typical estrangement procedure. Interesting structure, good performances by its stars, but film doesn’t treat its central issue seriously (or funnily) enough. It wavers undecidedly between comedy and drama. The stars’ fans won’t mind.

Storytelling (2001, USA) C-87m. **½ D: Todd Solondz. Starring Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Wisdom, Paul Giamatti, Xander Berkeley, Mark Webber, John Goodman, Julie Hagerty, Franka Potente, Conan O’Brien. Another attack by Solondz (HAPPINESS) on American bourgeois manners in this uneven two-part film. In the first story, student Blair has problems with her disabled boyfriend and ultimately degrades herself. In the second, longer segment, loser Giamatti tries his hands at documentary filmmaking and starts following the life of aimless teenager Webber in a typical American family. Provocative study of sexuality and teenage boredom has some daring sequences and good performances, but ending is weak. Written by the director.

Strada, La (1953, ITA) 102m. ***½ D: Federico Fellini. Starring Anthony Quinn, Giuiletta Masina, Richard Basehart, Aldo Silvano, Marcella Rovere, Livia Venturini. Classic tragedy, Federico Fellini’s first big international success. Simple but moving tale of young girl (Masina) who is ‘sold’ to a varieté artist (Quinn) by her family and has to endure his brutishness and rough treatment. On the road they encounter circus clown Basehart, who offers her to travel with him, but the simple-minded woman prefers to stay with her master, whom she obviously hopes to change. Wide-eyed Masina (Fellini’s wife) is absolutely unfor-gettable, Quinn is no less impressive. Fine score by Nino Rota. Script by Tullio Pinelli and the director. Produced by Carlo Ponti and Dino de Laurentiis. Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Film. Original version runs 115m. and may be an improvement over 102m. print that is shown on German television.

Strada per Forte Alamo, La (1964, ITA) C-67m. Scope **½ D: Mario Bava. Starring Ken Clark, Jany Clair, Michel Lemoine, Adreina Paul. Rare Mario Bava western (his first) is a rousing spectacle despite short running time. Outlaw Clark goes straight, after an innocent woman gets killed in one of his bank robberies and defends a caravan to Fort Alamo against violent hordes of Indians. Bava has created a romantic western with an unusual but universal theme – the thin line between good and evil. Made at the advent of Euro westerns, this is certainly his best. Bava used the pseudonym John Old and also photographed the picture in collaboration with Ubaldo Terzano. Good score by Piero Umiliani. Some prints may run 82m. English titles: THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO and ARIZONA BILL.

Strage dei Vampiri, La (1962, ITA) B&W-78m. **½ D: Roberto Mauri. Starring Walter Brandi, Graziella Granata, Paolo Solvay (=Luigi Batzella), Dieter Eppler, Alfredo Rizzo. Gothic horror film is a simplified version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Count Brandi and his wife Granata celebrate their wedding, when a vampire appears and bites the bride. Hapless Brandi finds help in doctor Nietzsche(!). Atmospheric vampire movie, with good photography, a nice score and a seductive leading lady. Drawbacks: Brandi and vampire Eppler give campy performances, and the pace is slow. English titles: CURSE OF THE BLOOD GHOULS, CURSES OF THE GHOULS, and SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES.

Straight Story, The (1999, USA/FRA) C-111m. Scope *** D: David Lynch. Starring Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Heitz, Everett McGill, Jennifer Edwards-Hughes, Harry Dean Stanton. Stubborn 73 year-old Alvin Straight (Farnsworth), living a quiet suburban existence, repairs his lawn-mower one day and intends to drive with it to his brother, who lives more than 300 miles away. Straight hasn’t seen his brother Lyle in ten years and considers it time to reconciliate with him, since Lyle has recently suffered a stroke. Alvin encounters many different people on his way, most of them he shares his ‘wisdoms’ with, but there are also those who spur him on in his journey. As slowly paced as Straight’s odyssey, this film is a triumph of acting. Farnsworth creates true fireworks (especially in the scene with that fellow WW2 veteran). Spry cinematography by the legendary Freddie Francis, who captures the American countryside in poetic images, heartfelt score by Angelo Badalamenti. For director Lynch, an unusually soft-spoken drama, out of step with the modern world of action movies. This will leave the viewer somewhat changed after leaving the theatre. Based on a real story. French title: UNE HISTOIRE VRAIE.

Strange Days (1995, USA) C-144m. Scope ***½ D: Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, Brigitte Bako, Richard Edson, William Fichtner, Josef Sommer. Riveting, very well-made futuristic action thriller: In 1999 L.A., ex-cop Fiennes has turned to dealing with so-called Squid, CDs which contain recorded first-person experiences. Now, on the brink of a new milllenium, a politically motivated killing causes street violence and chaos. What’s more, a killer is using the device to record his murders. Fiennes looks for help in tough driver Bassett, while his ex-girlfriend Lewis has now joined villain Wincott. Stylish, intriguing sci-fi thriller, from a story by James Cameron. Fiennes is excellent in this BLADE RUNNER (1982) deviate.

Strangeland (1998, USA) C-81m. ** D: John Pieplow. Starring Kevin Gage, Elizabeth Pena, Brett Harrelson, Robert Englund, Linda Cardellini, Tucker Smallwood, Dee Snider. Grisly modern horror thriller starring performance artist Snider as an excessively tattooed and pierced serial killer who abducts, abuses teen girls and stitches their mouths shut. Detective Gage is the one who must track him down. Not bad in terms of direction, even the plot tries to be unpredictable, but film itself is hardly exceptional. Englund and Pena have cameos at best. Also known as DEE SNIDER’S STRANGELAND.

Stranger in Our House (1978, USA) C-93m. ** D: Wes Craven. Starring Linda Blair, Lee Purcell, Jeremy Slate, Jeff McCracken, Fran Drescher. After LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and HILLS HAVE EYES, director Craven went on to make this incredibly tame but okay TV movie. After her parents die in a car crash, Blair’s cousin goes to live with them and soon strange things start to happen. Is it witchcraft? Watchable but Craven fans will miss his humour and horror. Also known as SUMMER OF FEAR.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006, USA) C-113m. **½ D: Marc Forster. Starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Tom Hulce, Linda Hunt. Fantasy drama about Ferrell, who leads an exceptionally boring life working for the IRS. One day he hears a voice that seems to be narrating his life, and when that voice announces his pending death, Ferrell is anxious to find out who the voice is. Actually it belongs to acclaimed writer Thompson, whose latest novel seems to be about him. Comedy drama ahs some good performances, but script works on a few coincidences and unlikelihoods too many. The score is good.

Stranger Than Paradise (1984, USA/GER) 89m. *** D: Jim Jarmusch. Starring John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson, Cecilla Stark, Tom DiCillo. Original, independently filmed road-movie about three disoriented, aimless young people touring America. Jarmusch’s first feature film (expanded from a 30m. short) takes the viewer on a black-and-white odyssey through a strange place. Stylish, slow, with dry humor, film is not for all tastes but fascinating once you are attuned to it. Winner of the Camera D’Or in Cannes (Tom DiCillo) and Best Film in Locarno. Written and edited by the director. Paul Bartel and Wim Wenders receive special thanks.

Strangolatore di Vienna, Lo (1972, ITA/GER) C-81m. ** D: Guido Zurli. Starring Victor Buono, Brad Harris, Franca Polesello, Karin Field, John Ireland. Buono plays a butcher, who has just been released from the nut house, where he spent three years after hitting somebody with a liver(!). Once back he takes up his business again, much to the chagrin of his wife. Soon he’ll find a new way of stuffing his sausages. Gulp! Horror film with black humor has nice Viennese settings but doesn’t thrill or create suspense. Buono seemingly recreates his role from the 1964 THE STRANGLER. A curio, for buffs. Interesting score by Alex Alexander. English titles: THE MAD BUTCHER, THE MAD BUTCHER OF VIENNA, MEAT IS MEAT, THE STRANGLER OF VIENNA, THE VIENNA STRANGLER.

Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh, Lo (1971, ITA/SPA) C-100m. Scope *** D: Sergio Martino. Starring George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, Alberto de Mendoza, Cristina (Conchita) Airoldi, Carlo Alighiero. Interesting giallo-mystery about Fenech, the bored wife of businessman de Mendoza, who seems to have masochistic fantasies involving former lover Rassimov. During a stay in Vienna, she becomes involved with ladykiller Hilton, while there is a real killer stalking young women at night. Serpentine story does not always make sense, and film has some pacing flaws, but overall remains a most watchable thriller with stylish, creative direction and a good score by Nora Orlandi (reused by Quentin Tarantino in KILL BILL: VOL.2!). Fenech’s tour-de-force performance makes this an absolute must for her fans. More in Dario Argento’s psychological mold than other examples of this genre. Cowritten by Ernesto Gastaldi. Beware edited prints. English titles: BLADE OF THE RIPPER, NEXT!, THE NEXT VICTIM, and THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH.

Strategia del Ragno, La (1970, ITA) C-100m. ***½ D: Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring Giulio Brogi, Alida Valli, Pippo Campanini, Franco Giovanelli, Tino Scotti, Allen Midgette. Stunning mystery drama about Brogi’s visit of a quiet village somewhere in rural Italy. He intends to find out the truth about his father, a revered anti-Fascist, who was murdered there in 1936. Valli, his father’s former lover, seems to be the only person happy to see him. Why are the other inhabitants behaving so strangely? Bertolucci’s brilliant direction shows a man seeking for a truth which constantly evades him, which, in turn, keeps him going. Enigmatic, beautifully shot, a must-see, although this sometimes seems like a cinematic experiment. Valli is excellent. Photographed by Vittorio Storaro, fine use of music by Verdi and Schönberg. Based on the story ‘Theme of the Traitor and Hero’ by Jorge Luis Borges. English title: THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM.

Straw Dogs (1972, USA) C-118m. ***½ D: Sam Peckinpah. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Susan George. Mathematician Hoffman moves to rural Cornwall with his beautiful wife and finds himself menaced by the local people. Superbly edited, well-filmed treatise on violence with Hoffman delivering a first-rate per-formance. This thriller-drama rates among Peckinpah’s best films, with the showdown a real stunner.

Street Fighter, The (1974, JAP) C-91m. Scope *** D: Shigehiro Ozawa. Starring Sonny Chiba, Doris Nakajima. Tough, violent eastern featuring Sonny Chiba in his breakthrough role: he plays a man without compromise, who lives by his own code of ethics. This first of four STREET FIGHTER films details his one-man battle against the Yakuza. Technically well-made but with a poorly constructed plot, film benefits from Chiba’s fierce portrayal of the hero. The showdown is the definite highlight. Followed by RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER.

Street Trash (1987, USA) C-102m. M D: Jim Muro. Starring Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Marc Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, Nicole Potter, Roy Frumkes. Infamous splatter movie about a deadly booze that makes local bums melt. A low-budget mess that lives up to its title. Rather poor effects, an absolutely dreadful picture. One wonders what Peter Jackson might have made of this material. Written by Roy Frumkes (DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD).

Strings (2004, DEN/SWE/NOR/GBR) C-92m. Scope **** D: Anders Ronnow Klarlund. Starring (the voices of) James McAvoy, Catherine McCormack, Julian Glover, Derek Jacobi, Ian Hart, Claire Skinner, David Harewood, Samantha Bond. Beautiful, poetic fantasy drama set in a mystic kingdom of puppets, whose strings reach up into the heavens. After the suicide of the king, his son is deceived by his uncle into believing his father was murdered by the enemy, so he sets out to get his revenge, little-knowing that the man accompanying him has been ordered to kill him. Meanwhile, his sister becomes wooed by the evil army commander and his uncle is preparing for the throne. While it may take a while to get attuned to wooden puppets acting out a story, this easily manages to engross you, as it’s superbly directed, with incredibly atmospheric, stylish cinematography and an excellent classical score. Philosophical plot is epic in its proportions, almost Shakespearean. Even the puppets have a hauntingly beautiful aura. A must-see, but a bit too dramatic for young children. Despite its extensive festival run, it remains too little known, may become a cult film. Movie references range from STAR WARS to LORD OF THE RINGS. From the director of BESAT (1999).

Stripes (1981, USA) C-106m. **½ D: Ivan Reitman. Starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, Bill Paxton. Low-brow but engaging comedy with a cast of stars-to-be. Loser Murray enlists in the army with his pal Ramis and turns the whole company upside down. Some funny, raunchy bits, a cult film for some. Cowritten by Ramis, who would later direct Murray in GROUNDHOG DAY.

Stuart Little (1999, USA) C-82m. **½ D: Rob Minkoff. Starring Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Jeffrey Jones, Julia Sweeney, Estelle Getty and the voices of Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Chazz Palmintieri, Jennifer Tilly, Bruno Kirby. Fantasy comedy about little orphaned mouse Stuart Little, who is adopted by a family and must make friends with his new brother – and the cat who’d rather have him out of the house. Cute is the word to describe this comedy, which comes up with dazzling animal effects, but might not appeal to anyone older than 7. Based on a novel by E. B. White.

Stuck (2007, USA/CDN/GBR/GER) C-85m. *½ D: Stuart Gordon. Starring Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stuart Gordon. Another low-point in RE-ANIMATOR (1985) director Stuart Gordon’s career (not to mention Suvari’s). Based on a true story, this real-life horror story is about a nurse (Suvari) who runs over a bum (Rea) with her car – only he gets stuck in her windshield and survives. She panicks and doesn’t know what to do. Rather pointless, shock and suspense-free story that would have been okay as a 60-minute Masters of Horror episode, but as a feature it’s too weak.

Study in Terror, A (1965, GBR) C-84m. *** D: James Hill. Starring John Neville, Donald Houston, John Fraser, Anthony Quayle, Robert Morley, Barbara Windsor, Adrienne Corri, Frank Finlay, Judi Dench, Peter Carsten, Christiane Maybach, Charles Régnier. Victorian sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Neville) investigates killings of prostitutes in London’s Whitechapel, must face infamous Jack the Ripper. Excellent cast in mystery thriller that’s always on-target, exciting during finale. Good British filmmaking, with atmospheric cinematography by Desmond Dickinson. Based on a story written by Ellery Queen, character of Holmes of course based on writings by Arthur Conan Doyle. Also known as FOG and reportedly shown at 94m.

Stuff, The (1985, USA) C-87m. **½ D: Larry Cohen. Starring Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello, James Dixon, Brooke Adams. Quite funny, entertaining horror comedy about a new dairy product, titled ‘The Stuff’, which turns out to be addictive - and lethal. Not bad, with surprisingly good effects, but some plot elements are improbable, even for a horror film. Moriarty is almost too laid-back as an industrial spy trying to get behind the recipe. Director Cohen (Q, IT’S ALIVE) also scripted and executive produced the film. Also shown at 93m.

subUrbia (1996, USA) C-121m. *** D: Richard Linklater. Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Annie Carey, Samia Shoaib, Ajay Naidu, Nicky Katt, Jayce Bartok, Parker Posey, Dina Spybey. Scathing, compelling portrayal of an aimless youth, from the director of SLACKER and BEFORE SUNRISE. A group of 20 year-olds, sick and tired of their life, hang out in a suburban parking lot, conversing about racism, fame, sex and their futures. The visit of a former pal - now a famous rock star - stirs up emotions in them as they begin contemplating the point of their existence. Intelligent script by Eric Bogosian (whose stage play this is based on) and outstanding performances (especially Ribisi’s) make this a must for anyone who can identify with what is being discussed in the film. Music composed and performed by cult band Sonic Youth; the entire soundtrack (which features other bands, too) is fine. 

Suchîmubôi (2004, JAP) C-126m. ***½ D: Katsuhiro Otômo. Starring (the voices of) Anne Suzuki, Masane Tsukayama, Katsuo Nakamura, Manami Konishi, Kiyoshi Kodama. Amazing science-fiction anime does not take place in the future but in 1860s England, which is brimming with new inventions at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Young Jimmy Ray Steam’s father and grandfather have developed an extremely powerful steam-driven device by capturing a geysir in Iceland, and now everyone seems to be after it, in order to present it at the world EXPO in London. With his father corrupted by the machine’s power, the boy is at a loss who to trust and to believe when he comes in possession of the device. Spectacular, riveting anime maintains a fever pitch and is stunningly animated, with incredibly detailed depictions of Victorian buildings and life. Excellent score by Steve Jablonsky. From the director of AKIRA (1991), who spent no less than 8 years on this. Beware 106m. version. English title: STEAMBOY.

Sudden Fury (1975, CDN) C-91m. **½ D: D. Brian Damude. Starring Dominic Hogan, Dan Hennessey, Hollis McLaren, David Yorston, Gay Rowan. On a trip through the country-side, a couple starts quarreling about the woman’s inheritance. After a terrible accident, the man sees the chance of getting rid of his wife… if it wasn’t for a car driver that saw them both. Story-driven, intriguing little thriller, too redundant in spots, but a pleasant surprise for those willing to discover it.

Sudden Impact (1983, USA) C-117m. **½ D: Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Paul Drake. Third sequel to DIRTY HARRY has Eastwood go after female revenge killers. Not much originality, but solidly filmed, even exciting, a definite showcase for Eastwood’s macho character. Violent and nasty, but this is why HARRY is DIRTY. Fans of the series will like it. Score by Lalo Schifrin. Followed by THE DEAD POOL.

Sugar & Spice (2001, USA) C-84m. Scope **½ D: Francine McDougall. Starring Marla Sokoloff, Marley Shelton, Melissa George, Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, Alexandra Holden, Sara Marsh, James Marsden, Sean Young, Kurt Loder, Jerry Springer, Conan O’Brien. Quite amusing farcical comedy about a group of cheerleaders, one of whom (Shelton) is pregnant by her highschool sweetheart (Marsden). When she learns the hardships of life, she and her friends decide to rob a bank, seeking advice from old movies. Starts out as a fast-paced homage to such 90s classics as RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) or SCREAM (1996) with a teen twist, but script becomes a little too silly in second half. Short running time helps.

Sugar Colt (1966, ITA/SPA) C-106m. Scope ** D: Franco Giraldi. Starring Hunt Powers (=Jack Betts), James Parker (=Joaquín Parra), Soledad Miranda, Georges Rigaud. Former gunslinger Powers is hired to clear up mystery of disappeared army corps, who were returning from the Civil War (circa 1866). He disguises as a doctor and travels to Snake Valley, the place of the supposed disappearance. Direction, editing not bad, has a better screenplay than usual, but film is overlong and story is dull. For patient western fans. Star Powers looks like a young George Clooney.

Sugar Hill (1974, USA) C-91m. ** D: Paul Maslansky. Starring Marki Bey, Robert Quarry, Don Pedro Colley, Richard Lawson, Betty Anne Rees, Zara Cully. Interesting but poorly plotted and slowly paced blaxploitation horror movie about title character (Bey) who conjures up an army of black zombies in order to avenge the murder of her lover. Effective arrangements of faces, otherwise pretty flat. Originality boosts this rating from to **. Also shown at 83m. Alternative titles: VOODOO WOMAN and THE ZOMBIES OF SUGAR HILL.

Sugarland Express (1974, USA) C-110m. Scope ***½ D: Steven Spielberg. Starring Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, Michael Sacks, William Atherton, Gregory Walcott, Steve Kanaly. Young mother Hawn helps her husband Atherton to flee from a correctional facility, and together they take it on the lam (fleeing from dozens of police cars) to pick up their child from a foster family in Sugarland, Texas. Soon their naïve determination turns them into heroes, with hundreds of people spurning them on in their plight. Stunning, first-rate drama with a great sense of humour, well-directed (this was Spielberg’s first theatrical feature!) and lushly photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond. Atherton gives the performance of a lifetime. The finale is especially effective and shows a maturity not to be found in most other debut films. Score by John Williams.

Sûito Homu (1989, JAP) C-100m. **½ D: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Starring Juzo Itami, Nobuko Miyamoto, Nokko, Shingo Yamashiro, Tsutomu Yamazaki. Uneven mix of horror and comedy about a television crew, who are granted access to a mysterious mansion that is said to be haunted. They want to make a documentary about the works of an artist who died there 30 years ago, but soon find themselves in eerie situations. The characters are caricatures, but film wants to sell you serious horror with potent splatter effects, so this isn’t convincing and will work only for hardcore fans, others beware. A major hit in Japan, also adapted as a video game. Good cinematography. Written by the director. English title: SWEET HOME.

Sum of All Fears, The (2002, USA/GER) C-124m. Scope **½ D: Phil Alden Robinson. Starring Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Ken Jenkins, Liev Schreiber, Bruce McGill, John Beasley, Philip Baker Hall, Alan Bates, Bridget Moynahan, Josef Sommer, Ciarán Hinds, Ron Rifkin. Tom Clancy adaptation with Affleck taking over Jack Ryan role from Harrison Ford. The CIA man becomes a key figure in a conflict between the U.S. and Russia deliberately created by Neo-Nazi Bates, who is in possession of an old atomic bomb and intends the super-powers to wipe out each other. Script is preposterous, but entertainment and excitement you cannot deny. One of Jerry Goldsmith’s last film scores.

Sung Horn (2003, THA) C-80m. ** D: Thammarak Kamuttmanoch. Starring Apichej Kittikornjaroen, Woravej Danuwong, Kavee Tanjararak, Supatchaya Reunreung, Pisamai Wilaisak. Three young men who have known each other since childhood and are colleagues at work have strange encounters with 3 different people. One of them, an old woman, seems to be able to foretell the future. What does this all mean? Good question. The famous Pang brothers (writers and editors) leave us groping in the dark for too long and film isn’t very well made. A sub-par mystery with a competent score. English title: OMEN.

Sunshine (2007, GBR/USA) C-107m. Scope *** D: Danny Boyle. Starring Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Benedict Wong, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Mark Strong. In the near future, mankind faces extinction due to a dying sun. Something is preventing nuclear fusion to take place and has turned the Earth into a frozen wasteland. Years after a failed mission, another spaceship, Icarus 2, is sent to the sun with a massive bomb intended to be dropped into the star to restart it. The mission is mankind’s last hope. Well-made, suspenseful science-fiction thriller with (appropriate) nods to Kubrick and Scott has a few unnecessary, contrived script complications, but it’s all feasible and remains compelling throughout. Good, symphonic score by Underworld. Fine effects. Written by Alex Garland.

Superbad (2007, USA) C-119m. **½ D: Greg Mottola. Starring Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone. Three high school seniors are looking forward to their last party before college and intend to have fun with girls and alcohol, but their fake ID doesn’t work and they go on an oddyssey through the night to get alcohol, meeting all kinds of demented characters. Comedy starts out hilarious and maintains this pitch for half an hour, but then the policemen joke is padded out over the rest of the film, which is kind of annoying. For the AMERICAN PIE crowd.

Supercolpo da 7 Miliardi (1967, ITA) C-101m. **½ D: Bitto Albertini. Starring Brad Harris, Elina De Witt, Franco Andrei, Ferdinando Poggi, Arrigo Peri, Dana Andrews. Agreeable Euro-heist movie features Harris as a James Bond-like specialist, who prepares for a daring diamond robbery: He wants to steal the world’s largest diamond from a ship by docking on it with a submarine and drilling a hole in the hull! Interesting heist sequences should satisfy fans. English titles: THE 1000 CARAT DIAMOND, and THE TEN MILLION DOLLAR GRAB.

Superfly (1972, USA) C-93m. **½ D: Gordon Parks Jr. Starring Ron O’Neal, Carl Lee, Sheila Frazier, Julius Harris, Charles McGregor. 70s blaxploitation cult about drug pusher O’Neal, whose life is followed until his attempts to break out of the business. Hardly any plot or action worth speaking of, only some groovy music (by Curtis Mayfield) and the general blaxploitation coolness. Followed by SUPERFLY T.N.T. (1973) and THE RETURN OF SUPERFLY (1990).

Superman (1978, GBR) C-143m. Scope **½ D: Richard Donner. Starring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder, Jack O’Halloran, Valerie Perrine, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York, Larry Hagman, John Ratzenberger, Richard Donner. Long-awaited modern-day send-up of the famous comic (and 40s/50s serial) is nothing but grand-scale tomfoolery. Film follows the Man of Steel’s upbringing, youth and manhood – from the Planet Krypton, via his foster parents’ Smallville to Metropolis  (New York in disguise), where he must finally come to terms with his superpowers and defend his city against megalomaniac Hackman. Longish story setup, unexciting, often redundant plot and relatively poor effects put the legend to shame. It’s more a drama for Supie’s fans than a thrilling action movie. Won many rave reviews when originally released. Robert Benton and Mario Puzo(!) were among the writers, Richard Lester coproduced sans credit. John Williams’ score is strangely unmemorable. Co-edited by Stuart Baird. Photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth. Winner of a Special Oscar for Visual Effects. Restored to 151m. in 2000. Followed by three sequels.

Superman II (1980, GBR) C-127m. Scope ** D: Richard Lester. Starring Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Sarah Douglas, Margot Kidder, Jack O’Halloran, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Terence Stamp, John Ratzenberger, Richard Donner. In this sequel, Superman must battle escaped criminal Luthor (Hackman) and three galactic villains, who were introduced in the first film. The superhero also finally makes out with Lois Lane (Kidder). Plot is childish and at the same time also violent and mean-spirited. All scenes involving the villains (led by Stamp) are utterly annoying. Filmed back-to-back with the original SUPERMAN, with much of the same crew. Some alternative versions are in circulation. Followed by SUPERMAN III.

Superman Returns (2006, USA/AUS) C-154m. SCOPE *** D: Bryan Singer. Starring Brando Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint. Entertaining revival of the DC comics superhero. Superman (Routh) returns after being gone for 5 years (and still looks like he’s in his early 20s). Lois Lane (Bosworth) is married and has a son, and Lex Luthor (Spacey) is bent on world domination again. Spectacular special effects enliven this often overlong fantasy. There’s not much plot to be had, but it’s professionally done by the X-MEN director.

Supermarkt (1974, GER) C-84m. ** D: Roland Klick. Starring Charly Wierczejewski, Michael Degen, Walter Kohut, Eva Mattes, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Eva Schukardt. Thriller drama detailing 18 year-old Wierczejewski’s descent into criminality, as he flees from a police station and gets swept into the underworld of Hamburg, Germany. Unpleasant, muddled and depressing film received some critical praise in its homecountry. Writer-director Klick’s follow-up to DEADLOCK.

Supernova (2000, USA) C-91m. Scope **½ D: Thomas Lee. Starring James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney. A rescue ship receives a distress call from deep space, and when they arrive there, they lose almost all of their fuel. A blue giant nearby might be on the verge of turning into a supernova, and then a survivor approaches the vessel, carrying an unusual object that emanates a deadly force. Direction, editing, cinematography are tops in this sci-fi horror movie that isn’t always on-target plotwise but manages to create suspense. Excellent special-effects. Recommended to sci-fi fans. Thomas Lee is a pseudonym for Walter Hill, who had his name removed during post-production. Film was reportedly edited by Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Sholder!

Super Power (1979, HGK) C-85m. Scope ** D: Lin Chin Wie. Starring Carl R. Scott, Billy Chong. When an influential man refuses to side with opium smugglers, they try to kill him and face fierce opposition in the man’s sons. Very violent kung fu actioner set in modern day Hong Kong is pretty dull but improves in the second half. Nothing extraordinary, though.

Super Size Me (2004, USA) C-104m. *** D: Morgan Spurlock. Naive experiment becomes starting point for interesting examination of America’s eating habits, as every-day guy Spurlock decides to live off McDonald’s food (and nothing but) for a period of 30 days. Three doctors, his girlfriend and himself comment on the truly alarming changes in his body (and mind). Throughout we are told some unsettling facts about what and how we eat. A Michael Moore-like attack on the fast-food industry and its customers that includes some bitter truths. Interestingly, McDonald’s dropped the Super Size Me option on its meals soon after film premiered.

Superstition (1982, CDN) C-88m. ** D: James W. Roberson. Starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, Lynn Carlin, Larry Pennell. A 17th century witch, drowned instead of burned, resurfaces in the present day to kill a family who have just moved into their new house. Standard witch horror, unimaginatively directed and rather pretentious, still has some effective scenes. Horror buffs might want to give this one a look, it’s surprisingly watchable despite flaws. Produced by Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna (one of their first films). Also known as THE WITCH in many countries.

Supervixens (1975, USA) C-102m. ** D: Russ Meyer. Starring Shari Eubank, Charles Napier, Uschi Digard, Henry Rowland, Christy Hartburg, Sharon Kelly, John LaZar, Stuart Lancaster, Haji, Russ Meyer. Bizarre, almost surreal sex film about a man who runs from the law because he is suspected of having killed his lover. On his journey through the desert he meets several characters, most of them randy women with large breasts. Episodic, overlong film is helped by some comic relief, good editing (by Meyer himself) and a delicious performance by Charles Napier as a deranged, impotent lawman. Meyer also produced, wrote, and photographed the film. Art direction by Michel Levesque (SWEET SUGAR). Originally 105m.

Surf’s Up (2007, USA) C-82m. **½ D: Ash Brannon, Chris Buck. Starring (the voices of) Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods, Diedrich Bader, Mario Cantone, Kelly Slater, Ash Brannon, Chris Buck. Animated comedy about penguin surfer Cody (LaBeouf), who travels from Antarctica all the way to a Pacific island, where the annual Big Z memorial contest takes place (to mark the anniversary of the legendary surfer’s death in the waves). It’s a hyped-up event, and our little hero seems to stand no chance against superstar Tank (Bader), when he meets someone special in the island’s jungle. Some impressive animation, especially in the surfing scenes, but not funny or gripping enough to make it stand out. You have to give the filmmakers credit for using a documentary-like approach (with the two directors providing the off-screen voices of the crew), but smaller children will probably not understand that.

Surrogates (2009, USA) C-89m. SCOPE *** D: Jonathan Mostow. Starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames. Interesting science-fiction thriller that utilizes themes from sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick (BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL). In the not-so distant future most people make use of so-called Surrogates, incredibly human-like androids that can be remote-controlled from the users‘ homes. They see, hear and feel everything that their surrogates do. Willis is a cop who investigates a possible murder – the first in years – and interviews Crimwell, the renegade inventor of the surrogates. Not a world-beater, but entertaining, exciting and fun to watch. Based on a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele.

Sur un Arbre Perché (1970, FRA/ITA) C-86m. **½ D: Serge Korber. Starring Louis de Funès, Geraldine Chaplin, Olivier de Funès, Pierre Richard. Rather silly comedy about highway magnate de Funès misfortunes when he picks up two hitchhikers and has an accident, driving off a cliff. The car’s fall is stopped by a tree growing out of the rocks! Consequently they spend several days getting to know each other and waiting for help. Energetic de Funès must sit still for once and apart from some fine photography, film remains flat. Film buffs are called to attention: The Nosferatu-spoof as film within the film is a riot! Otherwise the film features a little bit of everything. Mostly for fans of the comedian and the time period.

Survival Zone (1983, SAF) C-77m. ** D: Percival Rubens. Starring Gary Lockwood, Camilla Sparv, Morgan Stevens, Zoli Marki. Quite obvious MAD MAX clone tries not only to imitate the action but also the classic’s intensity. In the near future, a ruthless gang led by brute ‘Bigman’ terrorizes a farmer’s family. A blond hero comes to their rescue. Low budget hampers proceedings considerably, but for a no-budget movie results are respectable. Uncut print runs 90m.

Survive Style 5+ (2004, JAP) C-120m. **½ D: Gen Sekiguchi. Starring Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Kyôko Koizumi, Hiroshi Abe, Ittoko Kishibe, Yumi Asou, Vinnie Jones, Sonny Chiba. Completely whacked-out cult thriller fantasy about several characters whose lives are intertwined: Asano wants his wife dead – and stay dead – and hired killer Jones should do the job. In another plot strand a family father is hypnotised into believing he’s a chicken, with the weirdest results. Goes from hypnotic to pretentious in the wink of an eye, but has to be seen to be believed. Jones has the best scenes as the impulsive hitman, who keeps asking everyone “What is your function in life?” For cult movie fans.

Suspect, The (1944, USA) 85m. *** D: Robert Siodmak. Starring Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Dean Harens, Molly Lamont, Henry Daniell, Rosalind Ivan. Laughton’s marriage is unhappy (to say the least) but his wife Ivan won’t divorce him, not even when he dates beautiful Raines. Murder seems the only possible solution. Laughton is fine in good suspenser. Ivan may be the bitchiest wife in movie history. Based on This Way Out, a novel by James Ronald.

Suspects, Les (1974, FRA/ITA) C-88m. ** D: Michel Wyn. Starring Mimsy Farmer, Paul Meurisse, Michel Bouquet, Michel Lonsdale, Luigi Pistilli, Edmund Purdom. Murder mystery, fashioned like a police report, which tries to reconstruct the weeks leading up to American tourist Farmer’s murder. Solidly filmed, with a good cast, but uninteresting and boring. Based on a novel by Paul Andréota.

Suspiria (1977, ITA) C-98m. Scope ***½ D: Dario Argento. Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, Flavio Bucci, Udo Kier, Rudolf Schündler. Argento’s follow-up to PROFONDO ROSSO was to be his breakthrough film, a breathtaking symphony of terror about a young American student (Harper) who comes to a ballet school in Freiburg, Germany, and slowly discovers that it is ruled by an evil witch. Chilling, terrifying horror opus punches its shock scenes across, brilliant soundtrack (by Goblin and Dario Argento) contributes to one of the densest, most hauntingly sinister atmospheres ever created on film. Superb art direction and cinematography (by Luciano Tovoli) plunge the architecture of the sets in stylish red and blue. Perhaps Argento’s artistically most accomplished piece of work. Watch it in a theater for maximum effect. SUSPIRIA is the first part of the (unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’-trilogy, based on Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas de Quincey. Screenplay by Argento and Daria Nicolodi. Produced by Claudio Argento (SANTA SANGRE). Followed by INFERNO in 1980.

Suture (1993, USA) C-96m. *** D: Scott McGehee, David Siegel. Starring Dennis Haysbert, Mel Harris, Sab Shimono, Dina Merrill, Michael Harris. Remarkable, intelligent drama about identity and how it can be asserted and understood. After the murder of their father, two half-brothers (Haysbert, Michael Harris) are re-united. Miller cold-bloodedly plots to use their striking resemblance to switch identites by killing Haysbert with a car bomb, so that he is rid of suspicions involving the death of their father. However, Haysbert survives the explosion – as an amnesiac – and unknowingly is taken for his half-brother. An intriguing point only the audience knows: The brothers actually don’t resemble each other at all, as Miller is white and Haysbert is black! Complicated, uneven, slow, but highly interesting, with some good acting and a riveting finale. Siegel and McGehee’s first film was executive produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Svegliati e Uccidi (Lutring) (1966, ITA/FRA) C-102m. *½ D: Carlo Lizzani. Starring Robert Hoffmann, Lisa Gastoni, Gian Maria Volonté, Claudio Camaso, Renato Niccolai, Ottavio Fanfani. Early Italian crime movie lacks the pace and verve of later examples. Film chronicles the relationship between jewel thief Hoffmann and nightclub singer Gastoni, as they run from the police. Then Gastoni contacts the commissioner to prevent Hoffmann from getting in too deep. Barely interesting. Edited by Franco Fraticelli. A song is by Ennio Morricone. English titles: TOO SOON TO DIE, WAKE UP AND DIE.

Swarm, The (1978, USA) C-116m. Scope M D: Irwin Allen. Starring Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, José Ferrer, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda, Cameron Mitchell. Terrible disaster movie from Mister Disaster himself, Irwin Allen. Caine plays a scientist, who may be the only one who can stop giant swarm of African killer bees terrorizing an American town (and soon the whole country). Almost completely worthless plot, no suspense at all. Incredible, why so many vintage Hollywood stars signed up for this one. The pits. Expanded to 156m.(!) for home video. Scripted by Stirling Silliphant, from a novel by Arthur Herzog Jr. Score by Jerry Goldsmith.

S.W.A.T. (2003, USA) C-117m. Scope **½ D: Clark Johnson. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, LL Cool J, Josh Charles, Olivier Martinez. Entertaining-enough action movie about ousted cop Farrell, who gets a chance of redemption on Jackson’s S.W.A.T. team, especially when French prisoner Martinez is offering anyone who frees him $100 million. Some good action scenes, but with cardboard characters and an instantly forgettable plotline. Based on a TV series from the mid-1970s.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, USA/GBR) C-116m. *** D: Tim Burton. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly. Tim Burton takes us to 19th century London, where barber Depp returns after spending 15 years in exile. He intends to get his revenge on corrupt judge Rickman, who once stole his wife and his now planning to marry his daughter. Depp, using a new persona, joins forces with widow Carter, who takes him up in her house. Soon there is murder and mayhem. Beautifully designed musical, right out of Burton’s universe. Great songs, too. Oscar-winner for Best Art Direction.

Sweet Angel Mine (1996, CDN/GBR) C-89m. ** D: Curtis Radclyffe. Starring Oliver Milburn, Margaret Langrick, Anna Massey, Alberta Watson. A young man searching for his lost father stumbles upon a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, which is inhabited by three women, mother, daughter and grandmother. Odd psycho thriller whose script is so enigmatic it seems pretentious. Some of the photo-graphy is nice and the guitar score not bad either. Worth a look but depends on your taste. 

Sweet Bird of Youth (1962, USA) C-120m. Scope ***½ D: Richard Brooks. Starring Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Ed Begley, Rip Torn, Mildred Dunnock, Madeleine Sherwood, Philip Abbot, Corey Allen. Writer-director Brooks’ second adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play after the classic CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Newman again excels in the lead role as an ambitious young man who returns to his hometown after seeking his fortune in Hollywood. All he has come back with is an alcoholic former movie queen (Page). Influential politician Begley, whose daughter Newman once planned to marry, does not want to have him in town. There are indications that this play about people lost in their dreams and hopes may have been better in the original stage version. Still, the superb cast makes this a memorable experience. Begley won an Oscar for his commanding performance.

Sweetest Thing, The (2002, USA) C-90m. *½ D: Roger Kumble. Starring Cameron Diaz, Chrisitna Applegate, Thomas Jane, Selma Blair, Parker Posey, Lillian Adams, Jason Bateman, James Mangold, Johnathon Schaech. Obnoxious comedy about a trio of girlfriends (late twens, presumably), who are all looking for fun… and Mr Right. One day Diaz passes up the opportunity to date Jane, then decides to follow him across the state to his brother’s wedding. Filled with pointless, mostly unfunny vignettes and at least one awful song. Rather dumb film targeted at women has a handful of amusing scenes to save it from total disaster. From the director of CRUEL INTENTIONS (1999).

Sweet Hereafter, The (1997, CDN) C-110m. Scope ***½ D: Atom Egoyan. Starring Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Bruce Greenwood, Tom McCamus, Arsinée Khanjian, Alberta Watson, Gabrielle Rose, Maury Chaykin, David Hemblen. Egoyan’s best film, adapted from a novel by Russell Banks. Lawyer Holm travels to remote Canadian town which has been shattered by a school-bus accident that killed nearly all of the town’s children. He tries to persuade the mourning parents to sue whoever may be responsible – if in fact anybody is. Holm’s motivation is his drug-addicted daughter, whom he hasn’t seen in a long time, but who keeps calling him for help – which he isn’t ready to give. Stunning film, operating on three time levels, is richly textured and superbly acted, especially by Holm. Slow, but very rewarding, an experience you will not soon forget. Egoyan also produced. Winner of the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Sweet Home Alabama (2002, USA) C-108m. Scope ** D: Andy Tennant. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, Mary Kay Place, Fred Ward. Utterly contrived comedy about hot-shot fashion designer Witherspoon, whose upcoming marriage to the son (Dempsey) of the New York mayoress (Bergen) may be prevented by one obstacle: She’s still married to some guy in her home-town of Greenville, Alabama. She travels there, intending to get her divorce, but the past catches up with her. Some good performances make this scripting mess watchable. Goes expectedly overboard in the finale. For fans of Witherspoon (who’s gorgeous).

Sweet November (2001, USA) C-119m. *½ D: Pat O’Connor. Starring Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Jason Isaacs, Greg Germann, Liam Aiken, Frank Langella. Romantic drama about ad exec Reeves, who lives for work, until he loses both his job and his girlfriend one day. How convenient that beauty Theron has just offered him to spend a month with him to cure him of stress and other bad character traits. Artificial and contrived from the word go, this drama turns into a tear-jerker at the end and becomes very annoying. Theron seems very natural and comes off best. Otherwise, this is pure Hollywood kitsch; a remake of a 1968 movie.

Sweet Sugar (1972, USA) C-86m. *½ D: Michel Levesque. Starring Phyllis Davis, Pamela Collins. Standard W.I.P. exploitation: Good-looking Davis is convicted to Camp 21, a sugar plantation, where there’s violence and lesbian love. What distinguishes this one from the rest is some (incredibly profane) comic relief and over-the-top performances, which makes the film almost recommendable - on a so-bad-it’s-good basis - since there are some truly laughable scenes. Released at 90m. in the U.S. (and given inexplicably better reviews).  

Swept From the Sea (1998, GBR/USA) C-114m. Scope **½ D: Beeban Kidron. Starring Rachel Weisz, Vincent Perez, Ian McKellen, Kathy Bates, Josh Ackland, Tony Haygarth, Zoë Wanamaker, Tom Bell. Impressively filmed love epic set in Cornwall about the romance between social underdog Weisz and her ship-wrecked Russian lover Perez. Despite the scepsis of the villagers they fight for respect and plan to have a family. Story thrust is almost non-existent, although wonderful photography (by Dick Pope) and grand score (by John Barry) make it seem better than it really is. From the novel Amy Foster by Joseph Conrad.

Swiri (1999, KOR) C-125m. **½ D: Kang Je-gyu. Starring Han Suk-kyu, Choi Min-sik, Kim Yunjin, Song Kang-ho, Johnny Kim. Action melodrama is one of the first Korean blockbusters, with a story about a police squad, who must stop specially trained terrorists who intend to blow up a mega-bomb during a crucial football match between North and South Korea. What could have become a Korean DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995) is much too talky and slowly paced. Still, an ambitious film, with several explosive action set-pieces. Written by the director. Also known as SHIRI.

Swiss Conspiracy, The (1976, USA/GER) C-90m. ** D: Jack Arnold. Starring David Janssen, Senta Berger, John Ireland, John Saxon, Ray Milland, Elke Sommer, Anton Diffring, David Hess. Thriller about the mysterious blackmailing of five wealthy customers of a Swiss bank, who are asked for ransom or else their secrets will be made known. Poorly plotted, but setting and B-movie all-star cast makes this watchable (although Milland and especially Sommer are terrible). Director Arnold’s last feature.

Switchblade Sisters (1975, USA) C-91m. **½ D: Jack Hill. Starring Robbie Lee, Joanne Nail, Monica Gayle, Asher Brauner, Chase Newhart, Marlene Clark, Kitty Bruce. Better-than-usual B-action drama about a girl gang led by Lee, who clash with rival gangs, the police – and themselves. Rather cheap, but corny performances (especially by Lee and Gayle) make it worthwhile. Rediscovered by Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures. Tak Fujimoto was second unit photographer. Also known as THE JEZEBELS, PLAYGIRL GANG.

Swordsman, The (1990, HGK/TIW) C-120m. *** D: King Hu, Tsui Hark, Ching Siu-Tung. Starring Sam Hui, Jackie Cheung, Cecilia Yip, Liu Suen, Lau Siu-Ming. Kinetic fantasy action adventure has several clans in search of stolen ancient scroll that gives the owner magical sword-fighting power. Good choreography and less screwy plot than usual make this a terrific Hong Kong actioner. Legendary director Hu’s (A TOUCH OF ZEN) last film. Based on an epic novel by Louis Cha. Followed by two sequels. Original title: SIU NGOU GONGWU.

Swordsman 2 (1992, HGK) C-106m. *** D: Ching Siu-Tung. Starring Jet Li, Brigitte Ching-Xia Lin, Michelle Li, Rosamund Kwan, Yan Yee-Kwan, Fannie Yuen. Follow-up to THE SWORDSMAN is fantastic martial arts spectacle, stylishly directed and very well-choreographed: Members of the Sun-Moon sect are out to rescue their master, who has been kidnapped by evil usurpers. The battle may be decided by an ancient, magical scroll. The plot is sometimes hard to follow, but atmosphere, established by stylish color cinematography, and tremendous action sequences make this a must for genre fans. Extensive use of gore may make the film unsuitable for squeamish viewers, however. Original title: TUNG FONG BAT BAI II. Tsui Hark produced and cowrote the screenplay, which is based on a novel by Louis Cha.

Swordsman 3 (1994, HGK) C-93m. *** D: Ching Siu-Tung, Raymond Li. Starring Brigitte Ching-Xia Lin, Joey Wang, Yu Rong Guang, Steve Lee. Third film in the SWORDSMAN series is no less fascinating, as Kung Fu master Asia (Lin) returns from the dead to exact revenge on those who are using her name for foul purposes. Guang plays a warrior who has led Spanish conquerors to her grave searching for a powerful scroll. His initial admiration for her turns into contempt after he sees what Asia does to her former (female) lover Wang. A highly aesthetic martial-arts fantasy with stunning use of slow-motion, like its predecessors based on writings by Louis Cha. Produced by Tsui Hark. Alternative English title: THE EAST IS RED. Original running time is 100m., original title TUNG FONG BAT BAI III.

Szaffi (1986, HUN/GER/CDN) C-72m. **½ D: Attila Dargay. Starring (the voices of) András Kern, Judit Pogány, Hilda Gobbi, Györgyi Bárdy. Historical animated feature about Hungarian prince Jonas, who grows up among gypsies after Austrians take over his castle and his father is murdered. As a young adult, he comes to claim his inheritance. This fairy tale comedy is okay for kids. Quality of the animation is fair. German title: JONAS UND DER VERSCHWUNDENE SCHATZ.