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Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Lunar Nazis

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Mark Kermode | 16:59 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

In a week of cinematic surprises - Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins is now an actual film that actually features the actual voice of Stephen Fry while on the far side of the moon the Iron Sky invasion is about to begin...

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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm soooo looking forward to Iron Sky.

  • Comment number 2.

    What happens if the film (Iron Sky) turns out to be completely terrible? Are we assured of an impartial Kermodian assessment?

  • Comment number 3.

    Judging by the clips of Iron Sky they can't go wrong. No matter how terrible the script might be. I would'nt be suprised if the Video Game rights aren't already in the pipeline too.

    Just out of curiousity how much would it cost to have Stephen Fry to narrate one's life story?

  • Comment number 4.

    Iron Sky's visuals look ominous enough... Der. Woisevork. Seems. A. Vittle. Stunted. Dough.

    But, I'm there if it's ever released.

  • Comment number 5.

    Surely the best example of this is the legendarily bad 1966 horror movie 'Manos: The Hands of Fate'. Texas-based ex-fertiliser salesman Hal Warren, on meeting Stirling Silliphant, bet the Oscar-winning screenwriter that he could finance, produce, write, direct and star in a movie all by himself (presumably not believing Silliphant's claims of just how expensive and collaborative the movie-making process was).

    Amazingly, he managed it, although there are many tales of his on-set tantrums. The end result is a riot of satyrs, implied necrophilia and lounge jazz, and has entered the cult movie lexicon as one of the most fascinatingly, wretchedly awful movies ever made. But Hal Warren won his bet. Believe it or not, a sequel is currently in the works.

  • Comment number 6.

    Now all those Sunday Sport stories about the WWII Wellington bomber that crashed on the moon make sense. Ask your colleague, Tony Livesey about it.

  • Comment number 7.

    On a completely different subject, what are your thoughts on the possibility of Blade Runner prequels and sequels, now that Warner Brothers and Alcon have acquired the rights? I think its a great idea, as long as the films are treated with respect. Hopefully Ridley Scott or one of the other big directors, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, would be involved, with a script written by Ron D Moore (Battlestar Galactica)

  • Comment number 8.

    Iron Sky - Finally!
    A movie I won't mind being 'terrible'

  • Comment number 9.

    Hopefully better than Amazon Women on the Moon, although Nazi's and Amazon Women would be a great combo.

    On the other hand I feel great envy for the generation that has the tech to make good looking indie films, even if it may produce more dross, at least it's dross that wasn't designed by accountants.

  • Comment number 10.

    I anxiously waiting for Benjamin Sniddlegrass to appear on the Lovefilm list so that I can reserve it on blu-ray.

    Mind you, I can't even get Belleville Rendezvous or Going Postal on Lovefilm, so what chance is there?

  • Comment number 11.

    Ironsky is one of those films that will gain cult status just for having a ridiculously good/bad idea, regardless of how good/bad the actual film is. It will be to 2012 as Snakes on a Plane was to 2006.

  • Comment number 12.

    "It will be to 2012 as Snakes on a Plane was to 2006."
    Have it's original director thrown off. Be rewritten to add ideas supplied by internet nerds who paraphrase ronseal adverts? (If Chris Nolan took ideas from the guys posting on the Batman Rises threads he'd end up with Batman and Robin!!!) Then bomb at the box office
    Hopefully it has more in common with Roger Corman than Paul WS Anderson

  • Comment number 13.

    This is the exact reason why I and other friends have ceased listening to the podcast. I was an avid listener but got sick of the fanboy grot, which seems to be repeating itself week after week. I began to forward the podcast on to the top ten, shortly followed by the film reviews but now I don’t bother at all and occasionally view the blog but it looks like that’s doomed now too. If it’s not Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins, it’s a boring anecdote about a Kermodian rant waking someone from a coma, retold week after week Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z. Sorry Mark, you are a king but the show has become full of itself. let’s return to movie reviews please.

  • Comment number 14.

    Rango reviewed by Mark Kermode
    A somewhat grudging admission that Rango is quite good and that he enjoyed it.

    OK, Verbinski did the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (the 1st one was OK'ish, the sequels were cash-in cr@p), maybe Verbinski now has the freedom to do more personal projects.
    What I've seen of Rango looks well animated and reasonably fun - and only in 2D too.

    Come on Mark, there are a lot of animation fans on this blog, tell us straight out when you like something. Myself, Rango is a film I want to catch.

    Ditto Iron Sky; I hope it has it's tongue firmly in its cheek. Good, fun, cheaply made 'low concept' films are hard to find nowadays,

  • Comment number 15.

    I must admit I agree with Paul in that this is the kind of thing that has made the radio show and podcast that little bit less essential to listen to each week.

    Is there any way of having 2 podcasts, one that skips to the top 10 and reviews (similar to how show used to be), and another that has the added in jokes etc that are starting to get a bit old. If so I think that you could win back some listeners.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have to say it's very strange to me that lighthearted movies are made which make references to actual tragic events that happened in the world. I mean if I were to make a movie about the Virginia Tech shooter coming back from the dead and then advertize it going "This summer, the shooter is back! And he's more crazy than ever! Can he be stopped? I guess you'll have to buy a ticket and see! Don't forget to bring popcorn when you go see my fun movie!" I'd be heavily criticized for being way out of line. Yet when your name is e.g. Quentin Tarantino you can go and make Inglourious and (a lot of) people will hail your movie. What am I missing here? I mean I understand that some movies may actually have their heart in the right place (Inglourious not being an example of this, in my opinion) and are maybe trying to say something interesting through some weird story (I hope Iron sky is an example of this) but I think it's basically very inappropriate to treat this subject matter (WWII) this frivolously. I mean it should be justified. I think we can all agree on that. There has to be valid reason for someone to make WWII references. And if "to entertain" is seen as a valid reason by someone, well I'm sorry but I think that's kind of strange. I mean WWII is kind of a distressing thing to think about... Any thoughts on this, people?

  • Comment number 17.

    @16: You may have had a point - perhaps 60 years ago - but I think that ship has sailed, as far as inappropriate WW2-themed films are concerned: Nazis have long been one of the staple subjects of exploitation cinema (lampooned in "Grindhouse" by the trailer for Werewolf Women of the SS).

    Even in the realm of mainstream cinema, everything from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" through "The Boys From Brazil" and onto "Sophie's Choice" are essentially using Nazi imagery and themes in the name of entertainment. As to whether or not this is healthy, well that's another argument.I suppose mediums such as fiction and cinema allow a degree of 'working out' of subject matters often too difficult or complicated to cover adequately in normal discourse.

    p.s. as for contemporary exploitation of terrible events for entertainment, wouldn't Van Sant's interpretation/exploitation of the Columbine shootings in Elephant count?

  • Comment number 18.

    There have been plenty of lighthearted movies made about WWII. Some of them made during WWII (e.g. The Great Dictator, To Be or Not To Be). So if it was acceptable to people at the time, perhaps the idea of lightheartedness could be acceptable to us now. The idea of nazis on the moon is so fantastical that surely nobody (not even 5Live's own Tony Livesey, former editor of the Sunday Sport) would take it seriously.

    Surely the same argument could be applied to shows like "Dad's Army", "Hogan's Heroes", "Allo, Allo". And yet I don't think anybody seriously objects to those, now (except on the grounds that they might not be very good). I remember that when "Allo, Allo" started there was some objection because it sent up the brave people of the Maquis and the Resistance although it also sent up escaped RAF pilots, the Wehrmacht, Gestapo, SS, Italian Army, British spies masquerading as policemen etc.

    I will admit, that I had a bit of a problem with "Life is Beautiful" because I felt it gave a very unrealistic view of what life in a concentration camp must have been like and perhaps I didn't feel comfortable about laughing about matters relating to that subject. I didn't really get the point of that film but I don't have a problem with a parody like Tarantino's IB, I don't see why it is any more objectionable than the depiction of Nazis in the Indianna Jones movies.

    Incidentally, both The Great Dictator(1940) and To Be or Not to Be(1942) both stand up well, today and give us an insight into what people were thinking during the war e.g. Chaplin seems to have some knowledge of how Jews were being mistreated in 1940

  • Comment number 19.

    Isn't the real suprise that the producers of Benjamin Sniddlegrass got past J K Rowlings rotweiler lawyers protecting her cash cow?

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm going to let your replies to my comment sink in a bit and reply later on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. It's appreciated.

  • Comment number 21.


    Perhaps BSATCOP would come under fair use legislation - even if it's making a profit it's a means of raising the profile of both the show and Harry Potter, and therefore neither's legion of lawyers are queuing up to touch it

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm thrilled that Iron Sky has finally finished principal photography. Definitely a movie that will become a 'guilty pleasure' for many people. Looks fantastic. No matter how camp or bad it may be, it will be great! Looking forward to it.

  • Comment number 23.

  • Comment number 24.

    @Sapphire77. I think you're underestimating the extent to which: a) events that remind us of the tragedy of life also remind us of the absurdity of life and b) the importance that the coping mechanism of black humour plays for psychological survival in the face of tragic events.

    In order not to succumb to despair and thus become completely dysfunctional in the face of tragedy, that is, in order to be able to "keep going" we need both cognitive and emotional defences against the horror. Movies that make fun of WWII (or any other tragic event) can assist in us processing overwhelming information and provide some emotional catharsis.

    In constructing this reply, though, I've had to acknowledge to myself that it is a very confronting issue. I've never watched Life is Beautiful or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Why? Because I never find myself in the mood to watch a depiction of children in concentration camps. Why would I want to expose myself to something so harrowing?

    Yet I loved Inglourious. I think the opening scene in the farmhouse is one of the most suspenseful and menacing scenes put to film - and what happens? - 2 men sit at a table and talk. I think the opening scene that depicts such emotional complexity and intensity makes up for some of the absurdities that follow. But I have no problem with the revenge themed fantasy of Jews succeeding in killing Hitler and ending the war. In fact I'm surprised that Jews wreaking revenge on Nazis isn't a genre all its own.

    I think Inglourious is a pretty subversive film in that it touches on important issues of WWII and I have to give Tarantino (and Mel Gibson, sadly) props for uncompromisingly forcing yanks to read subtitles in mainstream movies. Tarantino at least respected the cultures of Europe by depicting everyone speaking their own language. That's a HUGE difference to the canon of American movies depicting WWII.

    Have you seen Stalag 17? Made in 1953 while the memories of WWII were fresh for the participants. A mix of comedy, drama, absurdity, betrayal, survival. It's one of those "everything" movies that makes you laugh, cry and want to punch someone.

    Depictions of WWII is a huge topic. My fantasy is that one day we could have the Kermode boards where we could all have threaded discussions about movie genres, etc. instead of having to feel that we're taking up too much space on the message boards and so ending with...hope you're doing well Sapphire77 and thanks for raising the issue.

  • Comment number 25.

    Alina wrote: "I think you're underestimating the extent to which: a) events that remind us of the tragedy of life also remind us of the absurdity of life and b) the importance that the coping mechanism of black humour plays for psychological survival in the face of tragic events."
    Well yes, you're absolutely right about that. I agree and what you are referring too is a good example of a "valid reason". But that is very serious. And e.g. I honestly don't think Tarantino made IB with that in mind.
    And regarding IB... When I first heard he was going to make a movie "about" the war I thought he was going to make a more serious, more mature movie than some of his previous work. With IB, he was supposedly going to "show the barbarity that was shown on all sides". Not just the Nazi side. And with a title like IB I thought he was going to make a movie which would say that violence isn't glorious. But it seemed to me to be the opposite when I saw it. He wants you to cheer as the evil doers get slaughtered. And that reminds me of Mark's review of Rambo when he said that (correct me if I'm wrong) he thought it was morally repugnant as it was designed so the audience applauds the atrocities commited against those who commit atrocities and that the film left him depressed at the end. Personally, I had the same reaction to IB. I know many people see it as an innocuous movie but I experienced it as an angry, ugly piece of work. I really think Tarantino may have some maturity and anger issues, which is a suspicion I have which seemed to be confirmed when I saw a video of him spitting at a man on the red carpet after using the F word on top of giving him the finger.
    The film has its moments though. The first scene which you mentioned is indeed very well done. The "rat" comparison I thought was very well written, for instance. But overall I think it's poor and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't see how it's subversive but, who knows, maybe I missed something the one time I saw it.
    Anyway, I haven't seen many of the films you all mentioned. So I can't really say that much about that. There may be deeper layers, if you will, that have to be considered before dismissing a film as being inappropriate for having Nazis in it whilst being (seemingly) lighthearted. But it just seems to me (and I may be completely wrong when it comes to this) that some (suprisingly) fail to fully realize the seriousness of certain events, resulting in pieces of work which I experience as being all too frivolous for my taste. Which incidentally reminds me of Paul Verhoeven when he said that to a lot of today's youth WWII is just another history lesson which doesn't really make that much of an impression on them. Anyways, to me, when you're going to make references in your movie to tragedies that happened in the world, you have to be careful. It's not like you can do anything in a movie and it doesn't matter. Because it does.
    Antimode wrote: "So if it was acceptable to people at the time, perhaps the idea of lightheartedness could be acceptable to us now."
    Well, I'm sure there were also people at the time who (more or less) felt like I do but it's an interesting point you're making. Like I said, I either wasn't aware of or I hadn't seen the movies you all mentioned. So the thought didn't really occur to me at the time I wrote my comment. I mean I love film but it's not like I've seen all the classics.
    Anyway, thanks again for all of your interesting replies.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sapphire77 said:
    "I really think Tarantino may have some maturity and anger issues"

    You think? The thing that strikes me about Tarantino is that, as much as I sometimes admire him, I'd never want to hang around with him.

    I'm certainly not a general defender of Tarantino. I think Desperado is one of the most dire films ever made and I share Mark's frustration that when he's good, he's very very good and when he's bad he's horrid. I think he's extremely good at scenes but finds it difficult to sustain a movie.

    But, IG referenced a whole canon of WWII films that only older film viewers and fans of a genre are likely to be able to recognise. Arguably WWII is the most depicted event on film. The whole question of representation of WWII in film is interesting and that's why I'm glad you've raised it.

    I appreciate your question about the point at which our satisfaction at seeing evil-doers get their comeuppance becomes a glorification of depicted atrocities. That is an important question to which there are no easy answers.

    Beeb, please get the Kermode film discussion group up and running soon.

  • Comment number 27.

    Udo Kier - the King of Schlock - in IRON SKY?

    One ticket sold!

  • Comment number 28.

    > Just out of curiousity how much would it cost to have Stephen Fry to narrate one's life story?

    In my case, not much.

  • Comment number 29.


    Bonnnnnnggggg. Desperado isn't a Tarantino film I'm afraid. However, I share the sentiment you express in regards to Tarantino in general, as well as the points you make about Inglorious.


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