Will Any Gentleman...?
Rise to the bait, that is, of a music hall hypnotist. “I dreamt I’d taken money from the bank, and I—and I fooled around with a strange woman, insulted the maid, and smashed the furniture, even—even sent for Charley, imagine him with the life he leads looking after me.”
A grand farce, right down to its detective sergeant inspector. “An overdraft without what??” Which works out to “sixty sheets of paper from the bathroom,” a bumf economy. The definition of hypnotism is from the maid, “what my sister was by a soldier.”
Exquisitely designed and rendered for Erwin Hillier’s Technicolor camera.
“Henry, that isn’t Scotch.”
“What is it, Irish?”
“I think it’s Welsh.”
It would make a cat laugh out loud. “Young woman, kindly mind your own business.”
“Well, it very nearly was my business!”
This happened to Dr. Watson, famously. “Oh, you do not believe in the mystic power, hmmm? You are another septic!”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “efficient”.
The Dam Busters
It comes down to a narrow thing in the last scene, which is not the least important reason for the “understatement” noted by Variety and Halliwell.
The boffin and the bomber pilot, it would be under any other circumstances.
Film4 went a long way toward grasping the nature of this, Time Out was in the dark entirely.
The unusual structure sets this up, the boffin (he works at Vickers) is Wallis, he’s shooting marbles across a tub of water as scientifically as possible in the opening scene, his children fetch them and note the results for him.
The bomber pilot, Gibson, is just on leave after many sorties when he’s called in to form a squadron and conduct the raid. Special training and equipment are required, it all has to be invented, and in a short time.
The argument of the film is too tenuous to state, its terms are partly the vicissitudes of genius (The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell) and the filthy business of war (They Were Expendable). A Bridge Too Far has something of the idea when conveying a failed operation, but this one is successful.
A very influential film, notably on Aldrich’s The Flight of the Phoenix at more than several removes. Essentially the tempo reflects this, the placement of the Nelson story (scudding cannonballs across the waves).
The deeply English sense of the BBC production has been lightened in several ways, there is no sense of horror in Englishness being abandoned, rather there is a positive application as nowhere else of the police state in absolute control.
This is the one key, it drives the film. Big Brother Is Watching You, and he really is, one of his minions anyway, at every moment.
Probably even in your dreams, as the telescreen says.
Around the World in Eighty Days
The boundary line of criticism can be simply drawn between those who have seen the work in Todd-AO, and those who haven’t.
The rare artistic experience of this film is the internal perspectives and the vastness of the scope in every image, instantly recognizable as the basis of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (which must be seen in Cinerama to be fully grasped).
Passepartout in the arena, London Fogg everywhere, Satyajit Ray’s joke about India and Indians, the most excellent gentlemen of the Reform Club, Princess Aouda of exquisite breeding and knowledge of whist, the world introduced by Murrow and Méliès, as if seen for the first time, full of old hands.
The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst
Amethyst under the guns of the People’s Liberation Army evacuates her wounded, negotiates with the Communists and slips out to sea under cover of night.
A magnificent film, beginning with the disaster and extended through the long halt and the weary business of dealing with a local warlord to the stratagem and its success.
Chase A Crooked Shadow
A case of murder arrived at through long vicissitudes taken from Hitchcock (To Catch a Thief, Suspicion, Rebecca) and applied in another constructive sense.
The quarry is a diamond heiress whose father and brother are dead.
The fast three-minute drive above the sea near Barcelona takes three minutes of screen time, the material goes at length into Dominique after passing through, most surprisingly, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (also The Naked Edge).
It genuinely seems to have fooled all the critics, Bosley Crowther at the head of them. “It’s just a moderately well-done program picture,” he wrote in the New York Times, “with a couple of standard thrills.”
Shake Hands with the Devil
Events leading up to the formation of an Irish Free State. The peace treaty from “total war” involves the liquidation of a brutal Black-and-Tan colonel, and finally of a diehard Republican.
The American viewpoint is that of a World War I veteran studying medicine under the diehard, a university professor and surgeon. The final image of a revolver on the shingle became three years later an upended GI helmet in The Longest Day.
Anderson is the specialist of films that are completely written down to the last detail and out to the edge of the frame, the symbolic referents cover every aspect of Ireland in the Twenties with regard to England, the subtle thematic crosscurrents make for the vital difficulty of analysis that has always stunned the critics.
The Irish cast is of the best (Cyril Cusack, Richard Harris, Niall MacGinnis, Donal Donnelly et al.), with Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike among the Anglo-Irish, Dana Wynter, Allan Cuthbertson, John Le Mesurier and Lewis Casson among the English, Glynis Johns as the Irish barmaid, Don Murray the Yank at Dublin, and James Cagney the physician-commandant.
The beautiful cinematography and vigorous filming, down to the gangster shootout and Western showdown, were noted even at the time.
The Wreck of the Mary Deare
The furiously complicated attendant details merely point up the vast consequences of a single nightmare, the attempted sinking of a cargo ship in the English Channel to hide the fact that its main hold is empty.
The nightmare is the third mate’s, become captain amidst the fray and left alone on board the purposely damaged ship without a radio in gale force winds.
This is the famous opening scene, the finale is also celebrated, an underwater examination of the cargo.
Where it lost Variety and especially Howard Thompson of the New York Times was at the Court of Inquiry in the middle, an important phase of the ongoing nightmare.
Brooks’ Lord Jim has many of the overtones, Perry Mason took on “The Case of the Malicious Mariner” (dir. Christian Nyby), a rather similar affair.
The precision of the filming reflects the analysis by Ambler out of the novel, which in its own right Thompson says rendered Anderson’s work superfluous, “what the picture lacks, simply and sadly, is sustained excitement.”
All The Fine Young Cannibals
Their feast is kept in constant view, endless sustenance is provided them, it dawns even here at length that those others are not sacrifices.
Such a study of raw youth compares with Clouzot’s La Vérité, a satirical account. The labor is very exacting, the writing and direction somewhat arduous, the thousand aperçus pay off in one grand vision, the simple progression from child to adult.
This was not lost on critics, they were lost on the way to a deadline. Variety nevertheless correctly saw that “under scrutiny is the accelerated world of troubled youth” which is indeed “ludicrous”. Leonard Maltin, “clichés abound...” Don Kaye (Rovi), “soapy and muddled”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “not even unintentionally funny.”
The Naked Edge
A man makes a killing in the stock market, takes over the firm he works for with the aid of a promoter, this coincides with the murder of the firm’s boss and the theft of a large sum. The wrong man is convicted, the partnership thrives, the man’s wife begins to suspect. Her investigations bring to light the murderer, who tries to kill her.
Thus the bare bones and the surprise ending, which are filmed with many stark effects and a few surprising touches of Hitchcock in direct homage (Suspicion on the cliffs of Dover, for example).
The man is an American with an English wife, the firm is British and all the rest of the characters save one, a European playwright whose married protectress would like him to write “one of those angry young man things, worked out over a mussed bed”. The convicted man’s wife and young daughter live in penury and are visited by the American’s wife, posh and blonde in the Hitchcock manner.
The New York Times considered this “synthetic” and objectionable.
Flight from Ashiya
Two fliers and a paramedic in the Air Rescue Service of the United States Air Force set out from a base in Japan with four crewmen and a second plane to rescue survivors of a Japanese freighter sunk in a typhoon.
Three flashbacks punctuate the action. The young co-pilot remembers an Alpine rescue that failed when the downdraft from his helicopter’s rotor blades caused a second avalanche, the pilot remembers the wife he lost in a Japanese prison camp, the Japanese-Polish paramedic (“my father was a Buddhist, my mother was a Seventh-Day Adventist”) remembers the Arab girl he wooed against custom after parachuting into Tunisia.
The seas are high, the typically complex Anderson formulation met with derisory incomprehension from such critics as Howard Thompson of the New York Times.
The weapons of the future as stainless-steel models (cp. Annakin’s Battle of the Bulge).
A jockey and Hanna Reitsch perfect the V-1.
Agents from London encounter a strange world, out of or into Litvak’s The Night of the Generals, Bucquet’s The Adventures of Tartu, and Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain.
Hathaway’s 13 Rue Madeleine ends the film.
The Quiller Memorandum
To London, following the death of KLJ in Berlin (there was another man before him, Metzler). It details the existence of a Nazi group under the leadership of a man named Oktober.
One significant alteration of the published screenplay, after Quiller climbs out of the river, reflects Pol’s later object lesson by introducing a taxi ride and pursuit that resembles Reed’s The Man Between.
Anderson’s excellent filming gives a rare picture of Berlin the modern city, with certain memories like the Olympic Stadium (where Quiller enters the picture) and the decayed estate where the group have their headquarters.
The anonymous New York Times reviewer put forth that it was an absurdity, despite a certain rather obvious similarity to The Dam Busters. Halliwell’s opinion was “disappointingly thin”.
The reflection of Ike in the adverse party base is very marvelous.
The Shoes of the Fisherman
The dramatic point is a consideration of St. Peter’s character as the foundation of the church.
He is the common fisherman who is summoned by Jesus to partake in the ministry (all are called to sainthood), who defends Christ with a sword and denies him, and whom the resurrected Christ commands to “feed my sheep”.
The subject is Christ’s teachings, and it is broached finally in the world and the Vatican filmed realistically, so that, while it is easy to see the progression from The Quiller Memorandum with its “adverse party” as a direct one, only perhaps a misunderstanding of The Shoes of the Fisherman can explain the necessity of Pope Joan.
Anderson would accept the blame, say you? Here he is presiding over an extraordinary meeting, the authors of Teahouse of the August Moon and Brotherly Love, in a well-constructed screenplay of deft virtuosity with the most difficult material. The only solution is an open construction by the director allowing the main themes to surface independent of the main bloc or stream of images. If the audience won’t understand the jealous wife (Barbara Jefford) almost running down Pope Kiril I (Anthony Quinn) in mufti, what must he do to identify her with the Church, she whom Father Telemond (Oskar Werner) hates and yet cannot leave? Her husband, a TV news reporter (David Janssen) identified with Murrow, has a “tiny folly”, his mistress whom he forsakes to shower “buckets of champagne, crown jewels” and the like upon his wife. “The Church will survive whatever follies I may commit,” says Pope Kiril, who sells all it possesses to feed the starving Chinese lest war break out. But the instrumentality of this is the Gospel injunction in itself, which means not resting on your laurels.
Kiril is thought of as an instrument, the silence enjoined upon him is the absolute silence to which Father Telemond is condemned by the Vatican Commission for his worldly books, and the stricture placed by Cardinal Rinaldi (Vittorio De Sica) on the reporter, but for the Pope, “even if it were the last word of the last living man, it must be shouted loud and clear.”
Judas, who berated Christ for not feeding the poor with the ointment on his feet, “because he was a thief, and had the bag,” is identified with the elder brother of the prodigal son, and both are represented in the person of Cardinal Leone (Leo McKern), the persecutor of Fr. Telemond out of jealousy for the Pope’s affection.
Only L’Age d’Or has the skill of intuitiveness displayed here, and only If.... can match the death of the pope (John Gielgud) who precedes Kiril. Cardinal Leone is interrogating Fr. Telemond, there is a Stone Age skull in the Vatican Museum bashed by an axe, was that murder right or wrong? “I don’t know,” is the reply, maybe it was part of the evolutionary plan. The pope’s collapse is announced.
Pope Kiril receives a Russian envoy whose meticulously memorized message anticipates Luca Brasi in The Godfather. Frank Finlay’s performance in this part is so studious, deep and original as to serve as a benchmark to several outstanding minutes throughout the film in excelsis amid the general realism steadfastly maintained, such as the frames given to De Sica’s reaction shot as he hears Kiril’s Mosaic tale from Siberia.
The Soviet Premier (Laurence Olivier) is identified with Nebuchadnezzar, say, as “servant of God” by the simple device of giving him a halo in one shot, an overhead light above his face against a blank screen (saintly, in the parlance of painting, dead or alive).
Kiril walks through Rome, “hungry to watch people simply living,” as one of a dozen siblings he is “always hungry.” The dour wife complains, “I wish I found life as appetizing as all that.” Her love is “mislaid,” he tells her. At his coronation, he cites St. Paul on charity.
A hundred details may be grazing on the surface, the structure gives room for them all. Absolute power is given to a pope, his schedule is a way of limiting it, Cardinal Leone observes. The newly-elevated pope is asked by his valet, “coffee, tea, or milk?”
“The meeting you suggest is perilous, and leaves us all vulnerable.” Anderson’s vindication is “an hard saying, who can hear it?”
“Tu es Petrus”, with a warlike disposition at times, and a tendency to denial.
It is to be understood that the book Fr. David Telemond is trying to publish is Gospel.
The marvelously aggressive anagrams of the screenplay have an open surrealism in the filming to match. Dr. Ruth Faber turns to her car, Kiril in a cassock behind her is interrupted by a man leading a horse between them. Later, the pair are again interrupted by a Roman mother’s voice shouting “Angelo!” from upstairs.
The peculiar satire of a political situation locks two Marxist states in a potential war (Russia, China).
The finale evokes 8½ in the coronation of Pope Kiril I, beginning with the procession down the staircase.
No film was ever more like a poem, a medieval satire seems to play continually in the background of every scene, translating its images simultaneously for the cinema.
The Church mobilizes two claimants to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire as a unified force against the Saracens invading Italy, victory is achieved, the Pope is revealed as a woman made pregnant by the new Emperor.
Pope Joan is one of the great benchmarks of cinema, a film that confounded the critics (Variety called it “too disjointed and rambling to make much sense”) despite the pellucid clarity of its many performances and a shortened version designed to simplify matters.
The Man of Bronze
It’s a real work of genius, staying in Gower Gulch past television, deploying a fearsome technique with understatement, making its points with utter fulsomeness, and withal as surreal in its images as the context will allow, and on top of that as well-informed, witty and consequential as you please.
In fact, it’s all these things at once, which is the idea Anderson has of making this movie. Sets from the Thirties lit by Universal TV the camera moves amongst with amazing rapidity and finesse almost unnoticeably, until a wide-angle seats the ensemble in the saloon of the Seven Seas (a variant of this occurs at the cookout later) effortlessly, these are the triumphs of moviemaking that make it an unexpected art, in a way, since what is achieved with a smile is a very clear picture fluctuating in all its capacities with the visionary heroism of its original, creating its own ambience by careful stocktaking, the whole situation regarded as precisely as you would expect from the director of Pope Joan.
Again, the technique is a dolly-out followed by a zoom-in without a break, on a jungle dilemma as it might have looked in 1936. The clinches culminate in fisticuffs after four brands of martial art captioned as such for the audience, which to this day has little enough idea what it has missed in the sequel, Doc Savage: The Arch Enemy of Evil, though here is matter for the multitudes in the fullness of time.
The regimental outpost on the North West Frontier is instantly seen as disordered in its morale, this is a decided advantage of the film as leaving no mistake in the minds of the audience, yet critics never noticed. “The material has no real point or logic,” said Pauline Kael (The New Yorker).
The complicated fabric of this disorder is gradually sorted out in the midnight sessions of a subalterns’ court.
The mechanism of the drama, by the director of Stevie out of a play by the author of Figures in a Landscape, cries out to be understood in its very minutest degrees, Tom Milne (Time Out Film Guide) thought it was “alarmingly creaky”.
The casting is very suggestive, principally that of Trevor Howard from Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, where the real story is found.
The problem in Fleischer’s Soylent Green is to represent an age so devoid of talent it must recycle its elders for food. The problem is still more severe for Anderson, his inhabitants of “the city” are almost inconceivably dull and foolish, “thoroughly fooled” as Nabokov says, they know nothing and imagine less. Anderson devotes the better part of his film to an elaborate representation of this, and when he emerges it is into the ruins of the United States Senate Chamber where an old man presides over a convocation of cats.
The imbecility of the film is its greatest virtue, New Las Vegas by way of Things to Come, “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” (The Twilight Zone, also “Elegy” for Box), Star Trek’s delinquents and infallible logic (by way of Alphaville), Jack Shea’s The Monitors famously and finally, Keats’ ruined London, Borges on Siddhartha, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Moses and Planet of the Apes, surrogation and interrogation, a female computer, and Dr. Johnson’s “ladies, I am tame”.
Signora Pavarotti once chimed in, challenged to construct a phrase with this title, “Orca Madonna!”
An absolutely perfect, ideal sendup of Spielberg and whatnot, very accurately described by the Sunday Times as “a load of cod”, masterfully filmed, authoritative in every degree, exactly what the critics have always taken it for without ever once exactly seeing the purpose of it all, which is where Vincenzoni and Donati and Anderson came in.
Since critics have never bothered very much, really, with The Wreck of the Mary Deare, and since there is a little more to tell, Anderson provides his own very useful analysis, a thing of beauty.
The key, of course, is the coffin full of stones replacing the jet engine crates identically weighted.
It is superbly filmed, a benchmark really, but far beyond the range of all the critics, as would appear. “Little to hold the interest,” says Halliwell. Time Out Film Guide waned in static.
The material circumstances, the visual terrain, are from Chase A Crooked Shadow.
It opens with the deadliest pubic telephone since The Quiller Memorandum, and ends with a tacit punchline on reversing the charges.
Inter-World of Toronto has developed the means to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity through a phone receiver, the giant phone company has a massive capitalization, immense technical facilities, and a crazed PR man who’s lost his home and his fiber optics invention.
There’s said to be a shorter version called Murder by Phone.
The protagonist is an ecological academic, his old professor is an environmental consultant for Inter-World, the company has an artist working on a lobby mural that lacks, in the hero’s opinion, the gift of Mondrian and Klee, “details without losing substance.”
The Martian Chronicles
Anderson directs this American epic for the poetry in it, and Ray Bradbury fills the bill. Assheton Gorton's tour de force of design is prophetic. A masterpiece in every way, a television film of more than cinematic proportions, a great tribute to its author.
Sword of Gideon
The film begins where Graham’s 21 Hours at Munich ends, and continues into 1973 with a Mossad operation against terrorist leaders in Europe.
These are the megillah guerillas of Hamilton’s Funeral in Berlin. The main structure is built on The Dam Busters, with Rod Steiger as the recruiter and Steven Bauer as the Israeli James Bond.
This is a satirical position and concluded in irony, the soldier’s fight against an unsoldierly enemy.
The kingdom of the future a thousand years hence mines the past for healthy specimens on doomed airliners (digital watches found after a crash run backwards), it’s a job for the NTSB.
Putting it all together is a paradox that wipes out the millennium folks, very amusingly portrayed.
Trips to the past, our present, overlap and coincide like Robbe-Grillet forays.
All of this is nevertheless obscure, with its Tin Man robot and various other accouterments, to the legion of film critics.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Anderson’s version of the story is a protracted metaphor of the Confederate States, brought by very fine degrees along the length of the Nautilus, which is a great hymn to charm and sophistication and captivity in the great ocean.