Port of New York

Port of New York is essentially Gangbusters meets The French Connection (Yul Brynner’s resemblance to Marcel Bozzuffi in this role is noteworthy), a foretaste of The Enforcer and Panic in the Streets in some superficial aspects. Its distinctive style is a richly cosmopolitan view of New York, and above all a rare understanding of it as a maritime city with small as well as large craft wharves. This location footage by George E. Diskant is the major point of interest on the technical side, showing an ability with complex city views and a feeling for them related to D.O.A., Hollow Triumph, etc.


Death of a Salesman

The complete nightmare of failure and desertion, an absolute nervous breakdown including the fear of it, a perfectly sensibly controlled film in the surrealistic manner that is one of Miller’s approaches to the material at hand, a mental state personified onscreen, nothing but that, as realistic as you please.


The Wild One

A definitive masterpiece on the war, made explicit in Corman’s The Wild Angels and interpreted most sagely by Russ Meyer in Motor Psycho for contemporary audiences.

The basis is assuredly Germany between the wars, when rival gangs roamed the streets harassing the citizenry for votes and fighting each other come election time, Nazis and Communists.

The drama is notably carried through to a postwar reconciliation expressed in two smiles, after so much Sturm und Drang in a “weak Western democracy” that fights back and wins.


The Case of the Demure Defendant
Perry Mason

Befitting a demure defendant, a straightforward strappado or rather poisoning by cyanide of a fairy-tale miser with grasping heirs and one not grasping but abused and disinherited anyway, save the timely intervention of an ancient Galahad.

It’s a question of buckshot v. penwiper, laid out for the judge’s inspection.


The Case of the Fugitive Nurse
Perry Mason

The case of a doctor in love with his nurse, and who cannot obtain a divorce from his wife, slips by surrealistic substitution into a tale of murder.

The doctor’s double is a shiftless drunk whose wife is a penny-pinching businesswoman. The theme is reflected in a witness with photographic memory, and another (the nurse) with only normal retentive capacity.

This masterpiece by Al C. Ward and Gene Wang is treated with very great care by Benedek, who produces from Woodrow Chambliss as the first witness an odd hint of brogue. There is an irresistible joke in the dissolve from Kirby’s Drive-In Restaurant, where the proprietress dictates that hamburgers should be served with three half-pickles, not whole ones, to the door painted “Office of the District Attorney”, with his name just below.


The Case of the Barefaced Witness
Perry Mason

Pinon City has an ordinance requiring men to wear beards. There’s a Federal dam in the works, a crooked real estate deal for Intersolidated Steel, and the absconded embezzler from “The Case of the Fanciful Frail”.

The miraculous intricacy of Robert C. Dennis’s script establishes a myriad of details with a calm narrative and the most placid of touches. It’s all anyone can do to follow all this, and Benedek simply lets the surrealistic palimpsest move across the screen fixing one image after another, gradually revealing the heart of the matter in a small town out West.


Just for the Record

An image of France under the Occupation, provoked by a phonograph record Sgt. Saunders receives from home. The A side is a short message from his mother in Cleveland, the B side from his sister, with “the latest hit song”. He starts to play it at “a farm in Normandy”, three German soldiers burst in.

The Resistance liberates him from a transport truck, he’s taken to Paris. En route, the driver is arrested, his lady passenger (with German gasoline coupons) unwillingly completes the transfer. She is obliged by the Resistance to house Saunders for two days.

Her apartment is very fine, upstairs with a view of the street. Saunders has the former maid’s room, no lights at night. She is the mistress of a German officer, “very important”, who catches him just as she’s giving directions for a bus ride to the canal where a barge is waiting. The two men wrestle over a Luger, the major is killed, Annette is obliged to go with Saunders.

A bridge is blocked by three German soldiers, drunk. A wounded Canadian, part of the contingent for repatriation, tries to pass while two soldiers leave their fallen comrade for a bar. The Canadian is thrown over and drowns, Annette saves Saunders’ life with the third German’s own bayonet.

The barge carries garbage. Miles away by morning, Annette and the soldiers are met by British officers in mufti, who split them up for the march to Allied positions.

Benedek’s direction is entirely remarkable for its matter-of-factness, and is a great foretaste of Polanski’s The Pianist in several shocking effects. The three German soldiers enter the quiet farmhouse at the beginning like the bomb blast at the radio station, Annette observes the driver’s arrest and the shooting of his comrade like the street battles of the partisans, viewed quietly from across the street.

At the tobacconist’s in Paris, Annette is shown the Allied soldiers in their wretched state by simply opening a curtain on the back room and closing it again, like the Ghost of Christmas Present unfurling his robe to let Ebenezer Scrooge see Ignorance and Want. Always without any fanfare or emphasis, beyond the event.


The Chateau

Count de Contran has Fragonard’s Les hazards heureux de l'escarpolette amidst his collection. Maj. Richter makes the place a German observation post, “almost a CP”. Doc is captured there with Braddock and two other wounded men.

The Count has plans to survive the Germans, the Allies, the Fascists and the Communists. His guest seizes the paintings and other works of art “for safekeeping”, and makes a play for the daughter. She kills him, helps the Americans escape, and happily sees the four-hundred-year-old chateau destroyed by Allied bombers with herself in it.

Benedek’s concentration focuses on each separate element without loss. The Major shoots an escaping prisoner, who manages only yards from his confinement, this corporal dies in the salon with a terrible realization, and the daughter witnesses it.

The Major is an aficionado of sorts. His family is in Stuttgart, that’s where the paintings are sent. He bristles at the notion of impropriety. The Count dies, leaving a receipt unsigned.

The ending is related to Hathaway’s 13 Rue Madeleine. Benedek maintains each of the several performances in its own key to great dramatic effect.


The Spoiler
The Untouchables

Two underlings, brothers, steal a fortune from a mobster. One is killed, the other flees to South America, where he becomes involved in the narcotics trade from Europe. Something goes wrong, he returns to the U.S. for the money he hid, to save his life.

There he takes to the road with his young nephew to elude the police. The boy despises him and won’t even use the family name. The brother had been an honest workman before joining the mob, the money is hidden at his former place of employment, now out of business.

The mobster meets them there, the callous uncle dies protecting the “stupid kid”, and manages to give Ness the names of Brazil’s crime kingpins “above Dominguez”.

He’s called a spoiler by his former mistress, a stripper, whom he kills to keep her from spilling his whereabouts to the mobster. “Johnny the spoiler, breaks his toys and throws them away, but let anybody try to play with them!”


The Man with the Power
The Outer Limits

A genius (Donald Pleasence) in the Asteroid Mining Project has literal brainstorms at his command to harness the ore, but when it comes to subconscious thunderbolts at his vexatious and dull opponents, he prefers a “finest shower”.


The Evil Of Adelaide Winters
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Borges thought Hitler won (it’s a famous paradox) by bringing the war in his terms. Slesar’s teleplay answers this the only way, by reconciling defeat and evident victory.

The spiritualist runs a carny game that offers a show. If the suckers are taken, it’s a tribute to the racketeer’s skill.

Adelaide Winters doesn’t take them in, she hunts them up and does them down, rich parents of soldiers missing in action. It’s June 6th, 1944 in the opening scene, an auspicious day for her trade. She despises weak persons who don’t acknowledge the need she can supply, it’s “supply and demand” to her.

The unmistakable details are brought out into the open by demonstration. These things are not often spoken of in public.

The end comes when a widower bereft of his only son takes her into the next world with him to join the blissful soul with the aid of a pistol.

Adelaide was taught the simpler game by her mentor and suitor, later her assistant. The simple formalities of 1914-18 were replaced by a veritable cult of death, a Valhalla and necropolis. Only acceptance of its terms could do away with it.

Idle old ladies can be swindled, the assistant doesn’t like Adelaide’s new game and leaves her just before the end, when she hopes to save her life by showing “it was a lie, this is the only world.”

An episode of Columbo, “Now You See Him”, also examines the Hitler phenomenon in terms of a mentalist’s act. There, it’s a matter of deception, of throwing the voice to give a false position. Slesar shows the emotional bulldogging to the level of grief, with tenacious effort and cruelly precise intention. Shatner’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier takes a similar view.

Benedek follows the script like a musical score, the actors are like instrumentalists.


Thanatos Palace Hotel
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The nature of the problem is stated in the man’s wish not to jump from that ledge after all, “I meant it to be a solitary act, but I picked a public place.”

A beautiful woman catches his eye at the dude ranch of the title, where caring and expensive Mr. Bortcher fulfills your wish. She has a certain doubt and no more money, therefore earns her room and board assisting the clientele.

The man falls in love with her, they plan an escape. She gathers a small group of likeminded guests for a mountain barbecue. A hotel cowboy or “Thanatos rider” will approach the party and be killed, they’ll move on repeating the ploy, each time closer to the rim and life.

At the first stop, however, the others reveal they have no sympathy with his views. “Thanatos Palace Hotel is the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me,” says a young woman. An older one rebukes him, “How dare you defile something so pure!” Before he can obtain an explanation, he’s lassoed and strung up. “Death makes even an ugly soul beautiful,” is the scold’s remark.

Mr. Bortcher tells his beautiful assistant he promised the man to wait “until he wasn’t afraid to die.” The heroic escape was his cue.

Benedek’s professional direction includes a quote from Suspicion in a tracking shot of a tray with medication carried to the man’s door.


Namu, the Killer Whale

Benedek opens with engravings of the whale-hunt under the credits, and then quickly moves to a reminiscence of Moby Dick, as well as Androcles and the Lion. He shows the local children walking through the woods to see the killer whale, and briefly cuts to a wide shot of the cove divided in three by trees like a painted triptych. This is a rare break of the stoicism he apprehends as the concomitant of the tenderness displayed here.

The little boys on their walk are observed by a little girl, who afterward sees a monstrous figure floating at the water’s edge and is startled, until Robert Lansing in his wet suit stands up recognizably.

The screenplay is by a writer of Flipper and Around the World Under the Sea, and the general approach blends into the Mayberry set with ease. It’s a curious venture, like watching the first man to ride an elephant, and the whale is an utterly candid performer.

The parallels are to John Huston’s The Roots of Heaven and Nicholas Ray’s Wind Across the Everglades.

It all takes place very simply on the Washington coast, a handsome creature and the humans who befriend it. The ending resumes the Moby Dick reference with a classical allusion Melville would appreciate.