WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY
Not all bad films are good. The inspiration behind Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey was apparently writer-director Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s understanding that A.A. Milne’s characters were going out of copyright, and so fair game for exploitation – but where is the fun?
It’s all in the concept. By the time you’ve sat down to watch the thing your enjoyment has all been used up. But you’ve paid your money, that’s the main thing.
Among the many tricks missed by the finished product is the obvious one of playing off the ‘innocence’ of the source material against the horror. An animated prologue explains how Pooh and Piglet went feral after Christopher Robin abandoned them, but even in their original state they look quite sinister.
Later, CR (Nikola Leon) returns to the Hundred Acre Wood with new wife in tow to find Pooh and Piglet in full Texas Chainsaw Massacre mode (they have already eaten Eeyore).
His discovery that Pooh and Piglet have become maniacs is less surprising than the fact that (to his wife’s alarm) he still believes in his childhood playmates. A smarter film would have had him dismiss them as imaginary before having his expectations upended in a classic return of the repressed. But you could waste a lot of time wishing this were a smarter film.
‘No Pooh, stop it Pooh’, CR says, feebly, as Pooh chains him up and tortures him (Piglet having already made short work of his bride) – he is the closest the film gets to depicting anything remotely childish, and also the closest it gets to provoking unintentional humour.
Clearly, there is something amusing about Pooh and Piglet becoming monsters, but somehow the film misses it. The pair are described as ‘creatures’ but might as well be ‘indestructible’ maniacs in masks or even robots (as in Danishka Esterhazy’s disappointing Banana Splits Movie from 2019). They don’t speak, another symptom of the film’s opting for the path of least resistance (though also possibly a shrewd move given the overall quality of the performances here).
Instead, accompanied by an overbearing score that randomly riffs on The Omen, they generically set about picking off a group of young women who have unwisely booked a nearby holiday home; though there is also time for a clash with local hoodlums, the leader of whom has an American accent.
Not that there is much sense of where we are, and no-one in this ‘universe’ has heard of A.A. Milne and his characters, which might have made the thing more self-referentially jolly. Still, it’s the kind of film which can’t help but make you think up ways in which it could have been better, and so perhaps should be required viewing for film students; on that level, we could even call it ‘inspiring’.
It ends so abruptly that I expected post-credits material (would Tigger pop up?) but Dave (I was watching it round his) turned it off before they finished; and I didn’t care, certain by now that nothing they could have come up with would have improved on anything from my own imagination – again, inspiring.
Tigger isn’t out of copyright yet anyway.
Who knows, perhaps the sequel will be an improvement, and if not there is plenty of other source material out there begging to be warped into something awful. I’m not sure of the copyright status of Rupert the Bear but there’s surely folk-horror potential in the woodland antics of he and his chums – even the TV theme has overtones of pagan worship (‘Everyone sing his name’).
THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957)
Is it conceivable that one day people will look back on Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey and find charm in its failure? No doubt there are young people out there for whom the film will represent their first encounter with the horror genre, and thus it will always have a place in their hearts. What a frightening thought.
But time certainly has a way of rendering things ridiculous and endearing, though it is hard to imagine that anyone ever took The Brain From Planet Arous seriously.
This extraordinary piece of SF nonsense from director Nathan Juran, showing on a Saturday afternoon on Talking Pictures, is as limited in its imaginative scope as Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey but much more enjoyable. Investigating reports of ‘something going on at Mystery Mountain’, scientist Steve (John Agar) finds himself in a cave, where he is possessed by a floating alien brain called Gor.
This unsurprisingly has an impact on his relationship – ‘You never kissed me like that before’, says his fiancée Sally (Joyce Meadows). But any compensatory thrills are soon overshadowed by his increasingly rough advances and eccentric behaviour, not to mention his new-found ability to make planes explode in mid-air with the power of his mind alone, a skill he demonstrates in front of the US military in the expectation that they and the rest of the world will bow to his demands.
But by then his wife has made her own journey to Mystery Mountain, where she has found the body of Steve’s friend Dan (who Steve claimed was in Vegas) and another floating alien brain, called Vol. Vol, unlike Gor, is exceptionally polite, so polite that, in another film, we might have been suspicious and doubted his veracity as he explains that Gor is an escaped criminal from Arous, who he has been sent to catch.
Vol, however, is undeniably good to Gor’s evil, and so obliging that, when he asks for a suitable host body and is offered the dog, he is OK with that. He explains (outside of the dog) that Gor’s ‘Achilles heel’ is a part of the brain (human and alien brains being similarly constructed, apparently) called ‘the fissure of Rolando’. Though when Steve does finally take an axe to Gor, it isn’t with what you would call surgical precision.
Usually the square-jawed hero, Agar seems to enjoy playing Steve under the influence of Gor: kicking the dog, virtually assaulting his wife, and grinning frenziedly, eyes all pupil, as he concentrates on downing another passenger plane. Later on, he develops a textbook mad cackle.
Once Gor is despatched, Vol leaves – oddly (given his politeness) without saying goodbye – so that when, finally, Sally asks the dog to confirm her account of things, it doesn’t respond, amusing Steve no end: ‘You and your imagination!’, he teases her.
It’s an odd note to end on considering the amount of unbelievable things that have actually happened, and bearing in mind the amount of carnage Steve is technically responsible for: Dan, a couple of passenger planes, a general ‘burned to a crisp’ and also the local sheriff, whose body is still lying in the room where the couple are enjoying their climactic clinch.
We could say that The Brain From Planet Arous amuses because of a certain innocence which Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey (which should be dealing in innocence) lacks. Yet the way in which the first film focuses madly on its central golden couple while dismissing the deaths of anybody around them suggests something sociopathic in the very notion of innocence itself. One would not be surprised to hear Steve’s closing chuckle blossoming into Gor’s maniacal laugh as the credits roll.