The Penthouse

The meter man’s handwriting on the wall.

A rich analysis of Pinter along the way.

Variety, “like a precision watch”. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), “it isn’t deep and meaningful”. TV Guide, “not for children, nor anyone with sensitivity.” Britmovie, “pretentious”. Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “director Peter Collinson's attempt to make a statement about hypocrisy and disillusionment fails because of its contrived and melodramatic treatment and becomes little more than a tiresome exercise in sadism.Halliwell’s Film Guide, “thoroughly objectionable and unpleasant”, citing the Monthly Film Bulletin, “pornography”.


Up the Junction

The key of the whole apparatus is a very thorough analysis, so that all elements of the picture are sent, paradoxes and all, to a proper disposition of the theme. This is the secret of Collinson’s cinematography.

That theme is derived from Richardson’s Tom Jones, country gentlemen and town ladies.

Battersea girls like the place, it’s their cup of tea, the life of London that Charles Lamb wept joyfully for. It’s poxy and ugly from the man’s point of view, but he hardly enters into it.

This is an especially difficult formulation, as the many vexed critics will attest. One of the best films to come from England, and reportedly one of the most successful there.


The Long Day’s Dying

At great length, using the O’Neill method (screenplay Charles Wood), this unspoken exchange between a German parachutist and a British red beret.

“Thinks he’s human. Can’t win.”

Going to win.”

Thus reducing the essentials on a cold day in Germany to their constituent elements, as far as possible.

The technique is most severe, the qui vive, training in evidence, constantly.

Renata Adler of the New York Times had not the faintest idea of a clue, as was her wont. “The screenplay,” she wrote, “is unendurable.”

Variety, believe it or not, agreed with her, “a bore.”

Tom Milne (Time Out) as well, “a clumsy adaptation”.

The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “the realistic brutality... will strike some as excessive.”

Halliwell’s Film Guide makes it unanimous, as these things go.

Mark Deming (Rovi) had some difficulty observing the plot.

The final image is from Robert Capa to clinch the deal.



The Italian Job

The English mob takes a dip in the Common Market for Chinese gold. A traffic jam provides the modus operandi, speedy cars carry the gold away, Le Salaire de la peur almost finishes it off.

The best objective analysis of this “over-and-under” robbery is by Woody Allen in Cassandra’s Dream, no doubt. Rémy Julienne adds the transcendental note, Cornelius’s Genevieve, Edwards’ The Great Race, Bail’s The Gumball Rally and Needham’s Cannonball Run etc. all come to naught after so many expert shots take Mini Coopers (red, white and blue for the Union Jack) along pedestrian arcades, church steps and out the civic cloaca of a Turin drainpipe to a coach or bus, the carrosse d’or, not to mention the rooftop scene atop the Palazzo delle Mostre.

The first thing is to blot out the traffic cameras and scupper the stoplights. Turin fills like a bowl, the computer-driven city is clutched by a lech (Benny Hill). “A plan of genius” says Beckerman its inventor (Rossano Brazzi), stopped in a mountain tunnel in his Lamborghini and funereally dropped into the valley below by a protective Mafioso (Raf Vallone).

The job falls to a yardbird just out of the nick (Michael Caine), he seeks out the backing of a corporation-style mobster still inside (Noël Coward) and running things in stir like a lord.

So much for the trimmings. Collinson wastes a camera on a POV shot from the empty Mini that first drops down from the Alps. The last ambiguous image is from Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.


You Can’t Win ‘em All

Collinson’s variant of Aldrich’s Vera Cruz went right by the critics with its obvious intensity of analysis, so different and so identical from and with Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch.

It’s set in the Aegean Sea and in the Ottoman Empire under the civil war, and what it most resembles in its innermost core is Seaton’s The Hook, a broad symbolic understanding of the war, any war, that expresses what the ultimate significance of it is.

So the wars come, and again, each is distinguished by its luster of generations, but the real war is, as always, “a raid on the inarticulate”.



The old husband’s a homicidal paranoiac put away in the loony bin, the new one anticipates a job in Brussels.

The babysitter’s boyfriend comes over for a bash, and it didn’t mean much at the time, to judge by the reviews.


Straight on Till Morning

A proper London response to A Taste of Honey, also The L-Shaped Room.

The great city is not worn as a decoration by Indian princesses, nor suffers a prettified tinker, and Cinderella’s stepsisters are anathema. No, the plain Jane who wants only to have a baby receives favor.

This is couched in an expressive symbolism and brought to bear in Hammer terms for its shocking truth. It could not be more abrupt, nor find better actors (Rita Tushingham, Shane Briant), nor a director more pellucid in color.


Innocent Bystanders

“They always get hurt.” UK, HK, U.S.A., Turkey, a Jew from the gulags with a scientific miracle, ducks and decoys, the New York brother, his ward (Geraldine Chaplin, suggesting Veronica Lake).

“No, nobody can hurt us, except the Russians, and my people, and your people.”

As a centerpiece, the Turk who served with the Aussies during the war, Omar.

“You innocent Americans, you frighten the life out of me.”

Decoys and ducks. “Ah, full of quiet charm.”

Miss Benson acts out her misadventure for a Turkish cop, “understand?”


The Joly Svagman ties up at Cyprus.

“I want your hide, in strips.”

These are terms stated in, among other places, Robert Rossen’s The Hustler.

“KGB executives,” a term in the trade, two of them at the Cafe Phanos, across the way from the Phanos Hotel, where the Britishers stay (the Aussified Turk calls the bad ‘uns “Jews”, though you wouldn’t know it from the look of the tall blond, he says).

Grub Street, Fleet Street, where you learn wot a fing’s worf, h’artistically speaking. “Confused and violent”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “rather a waste”, etc.

“Not exactly Jeeves are you, Omar.”

The Jews attack, fair dinkum, two of the escaping Siberian “minyan”.

Group 3 is the American outfit, Department K the Limeys.

The ending is adapted from Milestone’s The Front Page, which is why the pilot is Capt. Johnson.

Roger Greenspun of the New York Times had a Paramount synopsis and still didn’t know “exactly what is going on, or why,” he avenged himself on Collinson’s “ponderously flashy technique.”

Variety went up the middle, “usually-interesting”.


The Man Called Noon

The Jonas Mandrin who becomes Ruble Noon has his “persuasive logic” despite A.H. Weiler’s opinion to the contrary (New York Times), and Collinson’s direction certainly isn’t lacking in “artistic excitement”, either.

So what exactly is amiss, what did the Times cry out for? “Fuller explanations”.

Louis L’Amour is one of those artists, like Edward Dmytryk or Michelangelo Antonioni, you either get or you don’t, one reckons.

The complex structure turns around on itself in a way very similar to Dmytryk’s Mirage with its kindred theme of amnesia.

“Hardly surprising that you come out exhausted” (Time Out Film Guide).


Open Season

Don Giovanni and The Most Dangerous Game are two models of the composition. College hotshots rape a girl and go unpunished, join the Army, return home to raise families in the suburbs, and once a year go hunting in the woods.

The sport involves kidnapping a couple of people to cook and clean in the hunting lodge for a week or so. They are then set loose as the prey.

The constructional elements are so arranged as to give constantly shifting bases of perspective, and this is the major art of the film.

The men are Peter Fonda, John Phillip Law and Richard Lynch, “three undeniable eccentrics” as Halliwell says of James Whale’s cast in The Old Dark House.

Collinson’s reviewers are continuously dull. His unexpected viewpoints always find an expected response, and this film was panned along with his other masterpieces.


Ten Little Indians

The most severely grand of the several film versions and, because Collinson is the director, entirely overlooked by critics (Vincent Canby in the New York Times dismissed it out of hand, his reasoning was the same as Variety’s, something about the “co-pro”).

The scene is Persepolis, two hundred miles from anywhere, a luxury hotel amid the ruins (dome, minarets, columns).

In this, a sense of guilt is gradually made overbearing, even conclusive.

Towers backs Collinson up for a color version of Pollock, suitably revised.

The director goes to town, if anybody had noticed they would have seen an important example of his art.

Between John Osborne and Michael Winner, the most hated man in England.


The Spiral Staircase

A director of perfections like Collinson is the very man for the job, since his forte is color.

The cinematic theme par excellence, extended wildly around the dark house in a storm, begins with the murder of a blind girl. All the rest depends on getting one mute to speak.

And, of course, the nuances and meaning escaped the critics.


the sell out

Several years before Neame’s Hopscotch, spymasters tie up loose ends among the former agents of either side, a notion sprung from Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite and curiously reflected in Mackenzie’s The Fourth Protocol.

Enchantingly filmed in Jerusalem (“all this confusion” in Time Out Film Guide, “boring” to boot) and environs, if that’s the word for it.

How like a gang war it is, how like a redheaded overdressed Sicilian hood Vladek Sheybal for the KGB, on The Untouchables.

“Unsmiling spy melodrama with a complex plot,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “a bagful of clichés and some unnecessarily unpleasant violence.”

Peckinpah avails himself of the ending in Convoy, Collinson the caves in Preminger’s Rosebud.


Target of an Assassin

A very simple diagram of politics in Africa. The Brotherhood wants President Lumba dead, he’s visiting South Africa for some hospital treatment, a male nurse kidnaps him for a very small fortune.

Not the Brotherhood, a Gambian coup in the offing. So it goes, in a little-known film, scarcely admired, probably influenced by Schaffner’s The Double Man.


Tomorrow Never Comes

The structure of this is closely derived, at whatever remove, from Elmer Clifton’s Down to the Sea in Ships.

The style and manner of presentation are similarly close to Allen Reisner’s “The Hostage” for Hawaii Five-O.

Thus, not long after John Sturges paid homage to Quinn Martin in McQ, another tribute to American television (the setting is exotic Canada), and with Raymond Burr as the police chief.

None other than John Osborne appears as the mogul who owns half the town and sent a young man (Stephen McHattie) to work elsewhere and leave his girl (Susan George) behind.

Oliver Reed and Paul Koslo handle the situation when the young man returns, John Ireland is their immediate superior in the police department, Donald Pleasence a doctor.

A curious combination of effects adds to the volatility, the witness is silenced contrary to Collinson’s models.


The House on Garibaldi Street

The capture of Adolf Eichmann.

The key to the most unusual structure is only given in the very last scene, when it is lightly revealed to be Casablanca for the dramatic turmoil of facing Nazi doubletalk (cf. Pabst’s Der Lezte Akt) at close hand. One could have Ilsa there and then, one forgoes it for the sake of humanity at large, as Ben-Gurion explains early on.

Time Out Film Guide was puzzled by the casting of Topol, “it boggles the mind.”


The Earthling

A suitably complex variant of Roeg’s Walkabout, probably inspired by Mackendrick’s Sammy going South.

Typically with Collinson, the great art is the deployment of the theme in far-reaching analyses.

This caught the critics off guard, Canby pronounced it (in his New York Times review) “pretentious” and “empty”.