From Beyond the Grave
“The Jews generally give value. They make you pay, but they deliver the goods. In my experience the men who want something for nothing are invariably Christians.” (GBS)
Round dealing with sharp practice, which is thieving and sin and has its wages (the recurring image is a monstrance).
The film pays its debt to Dead of Night (and Blithe Spirit) twice over as a gloss, and is magnificently directed with an intimate and unexpected view of London right through to a writer’s Roman digs.
A horrible and ghastly film, inexplicably blinked at in America at the time.
This is one of those things, like Whiting’s play, The Devils, in which the English theatrical conception strikes one full force with its immediacy and directness, here because of the director’s subservience to his actors. It is all performed en règle to the nth degree of perfection, the stories have excellent points well worth the technique expended on them, and it’s a grand entertainment.
At the Earth’s Core
The scenic demands are met by establishing the film initially on Menzies’ Things to Come and Pal’s The Time Machine.
The humans discovered living underground are kept by slavemasters who resemble wingless flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz, and as captives are fed to prehistoric bird-reptiles who rule the roost in the Japanese manner à la Godzilla (hypnosis and telepathy are these rulers’ strong suits).
There is gladiatorial sport out of Lang’s Die Nibelungen, and a “fiery beastie” as well.
The experiment is designed merely to pass through the Welsh hills, “this cannot be the Rhondda Valley,” says the professor (a cousin of Cavor’s, from Juran’s First Men in the Moon).
Stop-motion is not used, yet there is an O’Brien fight between two boar-maned dinosaurs.
Likewise among the humans, The Sly One and The Ugly One contend for beautiful Dia. When the experimental craft surfaces behind the White House gates, it sends two policemen scurrying back and forth.
The pitiful reviews in Variety, the New York Times, and the Chicago Sun-Times, do not redound to the prestige of their authors and need not be cited.
The performances by Doug McClure and Peter Cushing are thoroughly admirable and remarkable just the same.
The inner sanctum of the bird-rulers is a forge with an ovate crucible where they are hatched, it resembles the opening scene at a foundry where the “Iron Mole” is being assembled.
The House Where Evil Dwells
The idea is a suggestion by Kawabata somewhere, if one is not mistaken, and the film anyway ensures that its sources in the Nō drama and Shinto mysticism are fully revealed, if only to have nothing up its embroidered sleeves. There are a number of ways to film this schematization of an illicit love affair (the husband’s perplexity, the wife’s disaffection, the lover’s predicament, the child’s incoherent perceptions)—Betrayal is a rigorous one—and this is another which is capable of describing terribly subtle things by assigning the dramatic machinery to its trio of ghosts.
When the wife begins strangely responding to her husband, this is visible as a momentary possession, the husband photographs a charming woman who isn’t there...
The opening scene of betrayal and discovery is filmed at its end very effectively in slow motion. After the credits, Doug McClure is waiting at the airport, and his expression as he watches a Japanese TV show on a monitor tells a whole story. The expository ride from the airport through Tokyo is another pleasure.
The critical response is entirely unaccountable.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Connor’s direction moves rapidly but without haste through an endless variety of setups. Mary is a young Jewish woman whose piety is evident in her response to the angel, her spirited dislike of the Romans is another side of her character. She tells young Jesus the story of the Good Samaritan. At Cana she is a Jewish mother, on his deathbed Joseph says, “Everything he is, you made him.”
In a scene that recalls Cool Hand Luke, young “stuck-up” Jesus is bloodied by a bully, he stands his ground and shames the fellow. He asks Mary, “Why do I see these things and no-one else does?”
The swiftness is ingrained, the family returns from Egypt, Anne is shown the child, “This is Jesus,” as easily as Shakespeare’s, “This is Illyria, lady.”
After the Annunciation, Mary answers Joseph’s rancor, “This is God’s child!” His reaction is perfectly understandable, “Are you insane?”
Every detail is put together for the last ounce of sense and human reason, for Mary’s sake, passing into such a sight as Jesus reading Isaiah in the synagogue as she watches. He consults her before entering the wilderness. She leads the disciples in prayer after his death, “There will be no vengeance, the reasons for my son’s crucifixion surpass everything.”
To put it another way, Connor works furiously between takes, each calm and perfect shot is assembled for the maximum of freshness, the Scripture is made new by the viewpoint (it’s almost like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in a way). The result is one of the finest treatments of its subject.
The Apocalypse Watch
In order to neutralize the opposition, the liberal opposition, neo-Nazis seeking to establish a New World Order in Britain are shown to be capable of brainwashing an agent into believing he is in possession of a set of facts that clinches the case but is only disinformation in reality. This is fatal to the agent after a short time, but in the interim he is brimming with news.
Such false memories are a bit of a rush job like this tale of poisoned wells filmed in unisex Dr. Whoozis style.