Trunk Crime

Denham’s Death at Broadcasting House had Hitler whining about the French keeping down the krauts, here his play (with Edward Percy) has a school boy and varsity man take revenge on a longstanding bully, it rises to terrible Hitlerian heights and menaces with “murder of elimination” before the happy, chastening close, and of course there’s a certain amount of Hitchcock right from the start and well before Rope.


Thunder Rock

On Lake Michigan, a lighthouse, the English keeper doesn’t cash his paychecks. This causes a flurry at the head office, humorously portrayed by Boulting’s English cast in the American manner. One goes to China or not to fight the war in 1939, the lighthouse memorializes a disaster the keeper commemorates in his own way. Japan and the League of Nations, Italy under Mussolini, Spain, the rise of Nazi Germany, he has covered it all vainly for the blinkered and traitorous London Daily Argus and published it in a remaindered book called Darkening World, from his “ivory tower” off Wisconsin he recalls his Report from Inside and his “Britain Awake!” campaign, and considers the hundred-years dead...

A beautiful tracking shot from the Churchillian speaker on the platform slowly down along the sparse rows in attendance at Dorchester Hall in London ends with a view from the back, “STOP FASCISM NOW!” the banner reads, the scene recalls Hitchcock (The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent) to be sure.

A newsreel report from the Sudetenland tells the tale, Boulting steps back to regard the oblivious audience in the theater (cp. A Cottage on Dartmoor, dir. Anthony Asquith), Popeye makes them laugh (and so Preston Sturges is invoked from Sullivan’s Travels), “next week CRAZY WEEK”.

“You can help my passengers,” says the captain of the S.S. Land o’ Lakes, lost in a gale with all souls on board in 1849 en route from Buffalo to Milwaukee carrying Old World emigrants into the New, “for them the future is a fearful thing full of dangers and uncertainty, but for you it’s a page in a history book.Boulting knows the Americans, because he has the British to explain them to, why they left, what they wanted.

“Nearer seven thousand miles than six” to California by ship and coach and train, “and the clerk in the office told me that you could put the ‘ole of England in one o’ them there lakes and lose it!The material source as so often is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, from the Divine Comedy of Dante. Boulting’s sleight-of-hand is a pleasant thing to watch and always a profitable study, as also his miniature work and other details. The dark Satanic Mills that grind men up, oppression of women from which a seraglio out West is the last resort, even the suppression of anesthesia as blasphemy, “if God had intended us to escape pain, he would have provided the means” (cp. The Great Moment, dir. Preston Sturges).

“He has.The “Pathétique” sonata of Beethoven sounds eminently logical in Vienna under such circumstances, played upon a fortepiano before exile in America. So you’re all running away,” the lighthouse keeper concludes as if thunderstruck. “God has given up the struggle,” he is told in reply. Darwin, Pasteur, Nightingale, Lincoln, named in refutation, “stick to your guns, man, for God’s sake, stick to your guns!The dead ask the living to “stand and fight, as we never did.”

Screenplay Dell & Miles out of Ardrey, Duncan Sutherland settings, Mutz Greenbaum cinematography, Jack Hildyard camera, edited by the director, Hans May score. It will be seen to have had a palpable influence on Rod Serling, among others.

Film4, “a startlingly original work of cinema.Britmovie, “complex film in terms of its formal and aesthetic qualities.Geoff Andrew (Time Out), “as his conscience—in the form of the boat’s dead captain—forces him to rethink his romantic ideas about the simplicity and optimism of times past, and thus to regain his sense of political commitment, the film effortlessly transcends its theatrical origins, merging dream and reality, past and present, propaganda and psychological insight, to complex and intelligent effect. Beautifully performed, closer in tone and style to Powell and Pressburger than to the British mainstream, it’s weird and unusually gripping.” P.P.K. of the New York Times, “starts out promisingly but very quickly begins straying down tortuous paths, and before the long journey is finished it becomes irretrievably lost.Variety, “a remarkable piece of technical work. Its treatment of the subject is realistic... a more felicitous job of casting would have been difficult.” Leonard Maltin, “most enjoyable.TV Guide, “hardly subtle.Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “one of the most successful British films of the year.Halliwell’s Film Guide, “subtle”, citing in high praise the Sunday Express, Manchester Guardian, and Daily Express.


Desert Victory

A documentary film of the British victory at El Alamein and subsequent advance across North Africa to Tripoli.

The cameramen who were casualties or taken captive are acknowledged at the outset.

The defeat of the Afrika Korps and “the liberation of the second Roman Empire overseas” in 1942.

Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


Burma Victory

The defense of India, the attack on Japanese forces in Burma, the joining of the Burma Road, the conditions under which this was achieved.

A couple of Tommies regale themselves with a magazine report on picturesque Burma in their sodden tent under the monsoon rains.

The nation regales itself when the combined forces of S.E.A.C. drive the Jap out.

Much of the footage also goes into The Stilwell Road (U.S.), the score is by Alan Rawsthorne.


The Guinea Pig

The structure of the film rests on a single fact that renders the title and much of the drama quite ironic, that is the neglected provision of the founder or some very early governors of Saintsbury to admit twenty sons of poor townsmen so that their “native genius as far as may be” should not be lost to the school.

After the war, which has claimed some boys and a House Tutor’s leg, it seems providential that the Government should institute such an experiment and bring about the revelation to an ailing Headmaster, and then the artificial leg gradually mastered is something of a metaphor, among others.

“Unrealistic”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, sounding like the bishop in the film. It was all quite foreign to Bosley Crowther in the New York Times, speaking not only for his readers but “American audiences in general”. Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Guide) says it’s “barely convincing”.



Seven Days to Noon

A boffin gets the wind up about nuclear proliferation and decides he’ll let one go in London unless the UK stops making the blasted things.

Some such notion governs the plot, a Guy Fawkes enmity toward “the seat of government”. Probably the film is better understood as creating a single, perhaps unrivaled effect in its telling of World War II as a suspense story (Dunkirk and the Blitz are mentioned).

The famous evacuation of London is followed by four divisions converging on Westminster, where they find the boffin and disarm the bomb.

His ultimatum amounts to a demand for immediate surrender.

The film cites Hitchcock’s or Elvey’s The Lodger (boffin’s bed & breakfast) with a Landlady Murderer to boot, and then there is Goldie, who had a smash in The Quaker Girl but isn’t recalled for the revival.

The boffin’s burden is against Babylon, “the great city shall be cast down”, and rides a red horse with the second seal, and so forth.

Directed with John Boulting.


High Treason

Munitions for the Far East blown up on the dock. Communist cadres and their English suckers working for “peace and the people”, it means war.

This is a ruthless operation, failure of nerve means death.

An Irish cop from Scotland Yard works with M.I.5, there’s an M.P. mixed up in the plot, which is tied to Cominform saber-rattling.

McCarey’s My Son John appeared the following year.

“Unconvincing”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “entertaining.” Inspired score by John Addison. Workings of the enemy, all the way to Preminger’s The Human Factor.

Question of an electric tea kettle forever on the blink. The M.P. figures in Huston’s The Mackintosh Man, disguised there as a Conservative.

Bloomin’ great pic, half of Halliwell’s mind being better than none at all, led by Liam Redmond.

The given date for Plan X23 is a curious anticipation of Seven Days in May (dir. John Frankenheimer). As in The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie), behind enemy lines in London. At Battersea Power Station, The Man Who Knew Too Much (dir. Alfred Hitchcock).

“Commander Brennan, are you seriously expecting me to believe that you came here at two in the morning to discuss the comparative merits of the utility household utensils of Ancient Greece with those of today?”

“No,” furthermore, “whenever people have known the light, they don’t tolerate the darkness for very long,” and, “twisting the lion’s tail,” etc.


Sailor of the King

Having the girl in 1916 and letting her slip, making damn well bloody sure in 1940 that she doesn’t get away.

The use of imagery is related to Mayo’s Crash Dive and Asquith’s We Dive at Dawn, it left Bosley Crowther of the New York Times rather seasick, “it is our notion that the moral is not made clear.”

The two endings serve a very distinct artistic purpose that Crowther was not prepared to receive, though he did note how well Boulting filmed the thing.

Originally and in the UK Singlehanded.


Run for the Sun

Nichols and Boulting write an exceptionally detailed screenplay that is answered by the latter’s location filming, but Richard Connell gets the lion’s share of critics’ interest most peculiarly.

“Tame remake of The Most Dangerous Game with Count Zaroff replaced by Lord Haw-Haw” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).

“Pic is based on Richard Connell’s story The Most Dangerous Game, but there is virtually no resemblance to that old thriller in the final results” (Variety).

“Never really gets to grips with the grotesquerie of the original story” (Time Out Film Guide).

Et cet’ra, et cet’ra, as Mustafa Guz would say.

The war correspondent dropped with the airborne just before D-Day who lost his wife to another man on safari and no longer writes novels but loafs and fishes in Mexico is hunted down by a lady “news mag staffer” (Variety) on the sly, her magnetic notebook steers the compass wrong, they crash in the jungle and must escape a pair of villains holed up there, a British traitor and his brother-in-law, a Nazi war criminal.

The writer dragging the mag staffer through the jungle is a fine sight, Lang’s Man Hunt is pressed into service most effectively.


Carlton-Browne of the F.O.

The most intricate analysis of the screenplay makes the title character of nominal interest, the hero is the King of Gaillardia, how he defeats a plot against the throne, marries Princess Ilyena, unifies the country and restrains Soviet influence.

It is true that C.-B. is not much help, neither is the Foreign Minister, but it’s the analysis of Gaillardia that is of utmost interest, unfailingly accurate and therefore perfectly funny.

The best critics, or the more prominent ones, have tended to regard this as a general rather than a specific satire, sending up the British. The Foreign Office is just another bureaucracy, ancient fun, when it comes to grips with the island nation and the place is understood as it really is, that’s the real humor of the piece.

Directed with Jeffrey Dell.


Twisted Nerve

The suggestion is that the psychopath is as helpless as the mongoloid idiot.

A right little bastard kills his stepfather the banker with a pair of scissors in the family garage, having slipped away from the boarding house where he hides under an assumed name and pretends to be a mental defective, a man with a childish mind.

Another boarder hawks films for a living, which effectively characterizes the sort of satire this is.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times was shocked.

Sheer artistry accounts for the near-evocation of Psycho (“Roy Boulting lacks the subtleties of a Hitchcock”, Variety reported). There is an odd similarity to Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park. The score is by Bernard Herrmann (the “Georgie” theme, heard throughout in various arrangements, is the first four notes of “Jeepers Creepers”).

Halliwell’s Film Guide (and the Illustrated London News) tried laboriously to downplay it.