The October Man

The language of the film is not spoken among critics or we should not have had Bosley Crowther’s “routine effort” (New York Times) preparing Time Out Film Guide. Basil Wright, no less, interprets Halliwell to mean “this film of psychological suspense tells its complicated story with complete clarity, but it is mainly to be noted for its settings.”

Here is a man (John Mills) with a girl who loses her head, his own is quite traumatized. He lends thirty pounds to a fashion model and is thought to have killed her.

That is not so much a matter of suspense, still less of psychology, than of surrealism or poetry, if one may say so.

At the works they make “synthetic starches”, a different batch every month, our man is an industrial chemist and a Libra, hence the title.


Morning Departure

They who go down to the sea in ships, and stay there, four submariners who have trouble with dames, three really, one likes the come-hither look the barmaid gives at the Red Lion, that and a pint o’ wallop.

Captain and number one and stoker are not quite up to grade in the womenfolks’ eyes, a derelict mine bashes down the Trojan and they three are left, with the engineer.

No question about it, rescue comes and goes in a gale, they play cards to pass the time, and read a great prayer for fighting men at sea.

Ford’s Men Without Women is the key, by way of Asquith’s We Dive at Dawn, if it comes to that.


Highly Dangerous

An underappreciation of the Cold War by certain critics left them wide-eyed and mischievous regarding this, Mark Robson’s Avalanche Express saw the whole network deployed across Europe, the source and root is perhaps Henry King’s Marie Celeste (Nazis in Panama dealt with by an expert on tropical diseases).

The great joke is constantly repeated by reviewers without understanding it, the lady entomologist given truth serum becomes emboldened as if it were two martinis, not three, very strong.

A rare, profound masterpiece on a plumb line sounding the depths of comedy in a horrible dilemma, quite like William A. Seiter’s ineffable Borderline, in a way.


I’ll Never Forget You

Your man of genius dwells in another time far hence, beyond the ken of the average backward denizen of even the most advanced city you can name, as Bosley Crowther amply proved in his New York Times review.

“A thoroughly unmemorable event,” he concluded.

A tragic account of the one aspect, and even that is still tied to time, the present.

Known in Britain as The House in the Square, from the play Berkeley Square filmed by Frank Lloyd.


Don’t Bother To Knock

An early example of Baker’s ability to drop the psychological veils, it’s a dramaturgical principle, Salome’s incense and Blanche DuBois’ Chinese lantern.

New York, McKinley Hotel, Round-Up Room (a Western nightclub), Gershwin from a cowgirl.

She’s brushed off a guy, he isn’t kind, discerning.

He meets another girl at the hotel, she’s babysitting, she lost her mind when her flier crashed at sea.

The parents are downstairs at a banquet, the father’s picking up an award for his editorials.

Bosley Crowther thought Marilyn Monroe needed acting lessons.

Baker turns the world upside down, the bitter frustrated pilot (for so he is) shakes out as really sane in a quotidian world this side of a loony bin.

Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft are the quarreling lovers.



A millionaire out in the scrub desert after his horse bolts and his leg breaks and his wife leaves him there for a manganese miner with big ideas.

A beautiful 3-D view of various precipices and dangers and delights (swimming pool, dinner at the manor while he thirsts).

Money he’s inherited, manhood he earns with knowledge of the desert and its hidden resources.

H.H.T of the New York Times could barely follow it, “yet as fragmentary realism the picture rings true and persuasive.”

Variety says, “a fairly entertaining entry.”

“A tight and involving essay in suspense”, according to Time Out Film Guide.

“An outdoor melodrama” (Halliwell’s Film Guide), etc.


Passage Home

To Liverpool from South America on a freighter through many and various complaints, hazards, vicissitudes and disasters expressing in a fractionated theme the desire and longing for security and comfort and order and peace, whereof these things consist is something else again.

The captain retires, the company spokesman recalls this ship with a painting of it, the voyage is resumed in memory, rotten spuds, female passenger, Atlantic gale, ambitious first mate, larcenous chief engineer, romantic second mate, disordered crew and all.

The Battleship Potemkin and The Caine Mutiny are especially noticeable, the ending is described by Time Out Film Guide as a “cop-out” after such an analysis of the “class system”.


The One That Got Away

Fishermen’s talk, all true. The exploits of Oberleutnant Franz von Werra as a prisoner of war held by the British in 1940-41 are filmed with great objectivity. English sportsmanship plays a part in this, but after all it’s a rousing good story.

The method is to excise all bullshit, and there is only a fleeting resemblance to other films, by Hitchcock for example. That leaves the matter-of-fact camera to let what it sees tell the tale, and what it does not to be inferred as psychology.

A somewhat raw, mercurial temperament and a measure of genius are accorded Von Werra. His fellow pilots are a quick-thinking bunch.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times almost saw “a British film” among the finest.


A Night to Remember

The grisly, gruesome spectacle is not in Baker’s best line, nor is it in anyone’s. The details are manifested for just such a reason as indicated by the title, in the largest sense.


The Singer Not the Song

Abou Ben Adhem” and Angels with Dirty Faces are the sufficient points of departure for an ultimate moral problem resolved, if not the one imagined by the British Film Institute.

The title refers to the spirit and the letter, musicologically it means a performance that trumps the composition.

Otto Heller’s cinematography is unusually comprehensive for anyone, and just as beautiful.

The stages of salvation are indicated by an Irish priest in a remote Mexican town of considerable size dominated by an outlaw. Resisting evil, inculcating grace, but hardest of all the spiritual understanding of God “nearer than your jugular vein”.


Flame in the Streets

“Well, do you see anything wrong with this place? Well, do you?”

“It hasn’t got a bathroom, Maybe she thinks a bathroom’s important. Maybe having a bathroom’s just as important to her as—as the union is to you.”

Modigliani makes a fine commentary on all this, upstairs in the daughter’s bedroom.

All “on an intense Guy Fawkes night” (Britmovie), cf. Tony Richardson’s a taste of honey.

Russell takes up the theme in Mahler.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “a conventional, pedestrian dramatic plot”. Variety, “hasn’t much dramatic bounce.” Carl Daniels (British Film Institute), “Baker's harshness, however, is not entirely without subtlety.” Time Out, “it’s a bit like a social thesis.” Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “dated but effective drama”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “predictable”, citing John Gillett on “the writer’s study”.


The Town of No Return
The Avengers

A bright cheery Englishman emerges from the sea and disappears in Little Bazeley, former HQ of 33 Squadron, where the few remaining inhabitants are impostors and have an underground army, supplied by submarine.

The marvelous direction is credited to Baker but ascribed in part to Peter Graham Scott.


Quatermass and the Pit

Quite a vivid memory of Nazi Germany and the Blitz.

Here is the entire New York Times review, “‘Five Million Years to Earth’ is about the discovery of an ancient Martian space craft in a London subway excavation. Unfortunately, all of its pseudo-scientific talk seemed to short-circuit the audience’s interest—in it and in themselves. I crept out quietly while the others were sleeping.”

The setting and the closing scene were changed by Kneale for the cinema. London Transport re-development at Hobbs End Station for an extension of the Central Line is now the locus. The ending, with its extraordinarily beautiful final shot recalling Millet’s Angelus, is a fair exposition of Hitler’s moustache on the Venus de Milo in Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver.


The Anniversary

You have to explain slipshod construction, this is how it’s done.

The widow (Bette Davis) is steadily running the construction company and her sons into the ground for the eminently good reason that profits are up 250% while it lasts.

It’s her fortieth wedding anniversary, there’s dinner and drinks and fireworks and a bonfire.

A song of the degrees, she binds her boys to her (they have to be bosses since they’re incompetent in the building trades) with apron-strings of steel, the youngest to a bride with money, the next by legal action, the eldest is an invert stuck in women’s clothing.

Poor Renata Adler, always baffled by circumstances, saw it was a Seven Arts-Hammer production and told her New York Times readers there was no blood, how come? Variety tried, like the founder of the feast.


Moon Zero Two

Beyond the age of space exploration there is passenger service to the moon and Mars, salvaging satellites is a pioneer’s living. A magnate hires him to land a six-thousand-ton sapphire asteroid on the moon’s “farside” illegally (per the United Nations Space Charter), and this for a curious reason. Sapphire is a ceramic useful for rocket engines in farther explorations, Mercury, Uranus and the moons of Jupiter are yet to be mined.

A girl fresh up from Earth has a brother mining on the farside, he’s murdered by the magnate for his claim, simply to land the asteroid there.

The plot (written out by Michael Carreras) is worthy in itself, as an anticipation of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and several respected reviewers have not followed it.

The New Gefoozleum, a highly-influential film (as noted here and there), with a very funny cartoon prologue.

An especial beauty is found in the bleakness of the moon, airless, sans vegetation.

Mel Brooks’ Life Stinks has the idea of a descending source of wealth that obliterates its foundation.


The Vampire Lovers

The family of bloodsuckers, led through time by a corpse on horseback, has but one vampiress unstaked, she preys on young girls in the Duchy of Styria.

A magnificent film exposing the rage of a certain coterie bred of innocence and inattention.


Scars of Dracula

An elegant, arcane mystery. His castle may be burned, but not he in his secret lair.

The parallel is to a young rogue who trifles with the burgomaster’s daughter and winds up on a castle meathook.

His sweetheart and his serious-minded brother pursue him. The villagers are cowed after their failure with torches and faggots, village girls are perishing, the young pair take counsel of a priest.

The flashing images and articulate construction twice quote from Hitchcock (Psycho and The Birds).

The ending is a variant of Quatermass and the Pit.


Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

Ars longa, therefore a means of prolonging life must be found, it is from the female.

And so Jekyll is the Ripper, at first supplied by Burke & Hare, then on his two and only.

The magnificent Hammer sangfroid carries this all to a shocking revelation, clear-eyed and terrible, with a fine stylish capering evocation of Whitechapel.

A companion piece to The Vampire Lovers.



Which incurable mental patient is the director of the asylum, the married man’s mistress, the poor tailor, the hospital outpatient or the physician-tinker? All of them, and more.

A frightening consideration of psychiatry in surrealistic terms.

Ebert thought it had something to do with the producer’s liking for coleslaw and went on about it at length, jestingly, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

It seems likely that no critic has gotten the point, Tom Milne for instance in Time Out Film Guide.

There is an amusing citation of Psycho, from the same author.


The Vault of Horror

A neatly-composed set of tales concerning greed and comeuppance, detached from their comic-book origins in an oneiric state but for the last, in which an artist turns the tables on “those who have wronged me”.


—And Now The Screaming Starts!

An Englishman’s home is his castle, to run riot in yours and exercise the jus primæ noctis even in 1795 is a rank violation, to chop the man’s hand off if he resists is the last straw, Exodus 20:5 sees that thy right hand shall forget her cunning down the generations, and that is the thrust of the argument, which begins with wedding-night jitters.

This is arcane to be sure, and so is Magna Carta.

Beautifully filmed for Amicus, with reference to Rosemary’s Baby.

Much of the effect is obtained by prismatically revolving the theme so that its symbols are fully seen in the lights of superstition and psychology of various sorts before it is stated completely.

A virtuosic performance by Stephanie Beacham, with Ian Ogilvy, Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee, Guy Rolfe and Herbert Lom in very grand and very precise support.

The anonymous New York Times reviewer thought it was arrant nonsense.


The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Van Helsing travels to China and finds the legend is true.

Fanged corpses in masks of gold prey upon a village “in the heart of China”. Dracula himself leads them in the body of a Chinese vampire, the beating of a gong summons an army of the undead.

A march to the hinterland, repelling a Tong boss, and then the defense of the village.

The castle is a pagoda, the roadside shrines honor the gods, it’s a mirror of Transylvania.


The Monster Club

Chetwynd-Hayes on the subculture, with its hagiology. “Give it a name and knock it back.”

“The Whistler”, the rich target.

“The Viscount”, a scion of the underground elect.

“The Director”, scouting locations (Stuart Whitman as Baker’s alter ego, an American in a lemon-lime Porsche), done in by the village dead.

Humanity’s the dead in this monster vision, various bands call the tune.

Baker’s supreme masterwork on this subject.