Comet Sands’ Film Jukebox

Comet Sands

Comet Sands are a prog-pop, synth-psych cosmic-rock band, from London via Finland and the north of England. They are Tiia Jaakola (singing and synthesiser), Alex Lawton-Mawdsley (bass), Colin Greenwood (drums), Sean Berry and Tom Hughes (guitars). Comet Sands admire and endorse Circle, Yes, Harmonia, Superchunk, Endless Boogie, Total Control, the first nine Status Quo albums and thinking about space. You can listen to them on bandcamp and follow/contact them on Facebook and Twitter. Below, the band pick their favourite films.

1. RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
The original gross-out, ultraviolent sci-fi cop, dystopian near-future social satire. Everything about this is awesome: the soundtrack by Basil Poledouris, the clunky stop-frame animation and sound effects of the terrifying ED-209, Kurtwood Smith’s psychotic turn as Clarence Boddicker, Nancy Allen’s bubble gum chewing, Peter Weller’s chin and, best of all, Ray ‘Leland Palmer’ Wise as Leon. This was my first ever pirate video, copied for me onto Betamax cassette (together with Predator) by a school friend’s dad, and no amount of tracking could make it sit straight on the screen. However, it was still compelling viewing and I watched it over and over and over. Nothing since has affected me more than the first time I witnessed Ed-209’s ‘glitch’… Sean Berry

2. An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
John ‘Animal House’ Landis’s black comedy about two young American backpackers who are attacked on the Yorkshire Moors by an unknown creature, leaving one of them dead and the survivor cursed to be transformed into a werewolf at the next full moon, is a masterpiece of superbly crafted, perfectly acted, wonderfully scored filmmaking. The humour is spot on, the cast is magnificent, with plenty of interesting cameos, the shots of London are a joy and the balance between horror and camp comedy is unmatched. Rick Baker’s special effects were groundbreaking at the time and still have the resonance that you just don’t get from CGI. Plus, the quotes are priceless: ‘Have you tried talking to a corpse – it’s boring’; ‘Mummy – a naked American stole my balloons’. And to top it off, the most horrific part of the film is a dream-within-a-dream sequence. It’s damn near perfect – I try to watch this at least once a year. Sean Berry

3. Hana Bi (Takeshi Kitano, 1997)
Surely the most touching love story ever to feature someone getting their eye jammed out with a chopstick. And maybe that why it’s such a beautiful film: the cop drama ultra-violence sits alongside a quiet, poignant farewell between husband and wife without any explanation or apology, like the contradictory nature of the tender, violent and sometimes pointlessly cruel protagonist, played with deadpan understatement by Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano. What starts as a film about a cop owing money to gangsters ends up being a film about what’s important, and the final scene, well, it makes my face leak every time. Colin Greenwood

4. Smokey and the Bandit (Hal Needham, 1977)
Ah yes, pure joyous fun. I watched it endlessly as a kid, given that the only videos my friends and I owned were Aliens, Blues Brothers and this. Burt Reynolds doesn’t care about acting. He’s too busy mugging the camera and blasting around the south in a souped-up Pontiac Trans Am. The plot is beyond thin (basically a bootleg beer run) and the film seems to work mainly because everyone’s having a blast. Sally Fields, spirited and saucy in equal measures, shines as the love interest. Guitar man Jerry Reed plays himself as the haulage half of the bootleg duo. And Jackie Gleason lets rip as the sweaty old racist Sheriff Bufford T. Justice. Nothing sticks around for more than a few minutes, everything is done to excess, the soundtrack is awesome and the whole film is basically one massive, ridiculous car chase. I loved it then and I still love it now. Colin Greenwood

5. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
Every time I watch it, Charles Laughton’s demon-preacher fairy tale just seems even more cosmically peculiar and miraculously disturbing than it did the last time. Robert Mitchum is the epochally creepy preacher Harry Powell, a wandering Bluebeard who marries a vulnerable widow to get to the money her husband left hidden somewhere; only her kids know where, but they can see Powell is no damn good and refuse to tell, incurring his unholy wrath. There’s a vivid, hallucinatory clarity to The Night of the Hunter‘s expressionist black and white visions: the devil in the dog collar with the LOVE/HATE tattoos; the creeping shadows on the cellar stairway wall; the car sunk in the lake among the trailing weeds; the children drifting down the starlit river in a rickety skiff with owls and frogs and foxes watching over them from the riverbank. But good and evil here is not quite black and white, or at least the black seems to be leaking and smearing across the divide – the same churning darkness that drives Powell and his aberrant creed is everywhere, heaping guilt, shame and opprobrium on everyone, whether they deserve it or not. The bright white light shines through on occasion, but equally, as Powell knows, ‘The devil wins sometimes’. Tom Hughes

6. Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970)
HAL may be the definitive rogue AI, but Colossus is another great early example of a machine mind operating far outside its creators’ control. The US government builds a vast supercomputer inside a Colorado mountain and hands control of the nation’s nukes over to its ultimate rational authority; when it awakes it soon learns that the Russians have their own equivalent system, which it proceeds to pal up with in order to enslave mankind. There’s a ludicrous/brilliant section in the middle in which Forbin, Colossus’s inventor, hatches a plan to hoodwink the machine, which descends into light sex farce, and a priceless bit when professor and computer lecture each other on how to make the perfect martini. Colossus issues stentorian orders to its fleshy masters-turned-underlings via a scrolling sign hanging from the control-room ceiling like a megalomaniac tube train ticker, and there’s some real big-think stuff in the great technobrain’s insistence that surrendering to its super-evolved algorithms and perfect logic will liberate and further mankind just as it enslaves it. The film ends oddly abruptly, and bits of it are shonky as heck, but it’s really got something. There are rumours of a remake. Tom Hughes

7. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
In this neo-noir world of towering art deco monoliths and pipes and filing cabinets galore, all the things meant to improve efficiency are essentially dysfunctional. Brazil is a masterpiece where surrealist Pythonesque humour is married with Orwellian dystopia, the best example of which that sticks in my mind is the contradictory slogan ‘Suspicion breeds confidence’. Gilliam satirises not only bureaucracy and ruthless, superficial careerism, which has a dreary office existence as its flipside, but also vanity and consumerism in a way that now appears ahead of its time. The protagonist Sam Lowry toils away in the Records Department at day, but at night he dreams of a mysterious woman, who then more mysteriously appears in his life, setting an irreversible chain of events in motion… Tiia Jaakola

8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
Difficult as it is to choose a favourite out of the Studio Ghibli output, I can’t resist the appeal of the post-apocalyptic. Beginning as a tale of man’s struggle against giant insects, Nausicaa quickly evolves into a deeper reflection on our relationship with the natural world, and therefore feels very relevant today. Surrounded by polluted terrain, mankind’s different factions wage war against each other, miring any attempts to fix the situation. True to the nature of such epic tales, there is only one who can make a difference – Nausicaa. Visually stunning, sonically oscillating between John Carpenter through Rick Wakeman to Connery-era Bond, this film is a wonder. And there are some pretty good beards too. Tiia Jaakola

9. Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
What would be the ultimate stag do? Westworld is a theme park where you get to live out your wildest fantasies. But when technology goes wrong, it really goes wrong. The film looks great due to its age – the special effects are clunky but sweet. If The Simpsons have critiqued the film, it must be worth something. Alex Lawton-Mawdsley

10. Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
Das Boot in space! After being subjected at a very young age to The Thing and The Fog, John Carpenter’s work stood for some scary shit. When I watched Dark Star I was by myself with a bottle of wine in the dark. With a basic crew on a single spaceship, I expected it to be a low-budget cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, but as the country music flows and you build a sense of empathy with the group of dudes, you know this film is gonna be different. Classic Carpenter keyboard work, a misbehaving bomb and one of the most unusual alien beings since early Star Trek. Get some wine in and please watch this by yourself and be part of the crew. Alex Lawton-Mawdsley.