The Bells Go Down
A central theme at Ealing is formulated at great length, it runs through the entire film and is clearly stated only at the end, whence it is picked up in Crichton’s Hue and Cry, probably just the Cockney in his proper nest under the ‘en, “safe as ‘ouses.”
“Well, they aren’t s’ safe these days.”
A poem on the Blitz like one of Eliot’s.
George Perry’s hatchet job (Forever Ealing) gives the palm to Jennings and repeats Halliwell’s slur against Wyler, an absurdity. Variety thought the Jennings “more legitimate in that it was portrayed by actual members of the service,” a damnable heresy from that organ. The BFI in like wise, compared to Jennings “the realism goes only so far.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “a good record of the historical background of the Blitz.”
The structure is notably streamlined as Cyril Frankel’s On the Fiddle.
Dead of Night
A masterpiece of masterpieces executed by Dearden, Hamer, Crichton and Cavalcanti on a simple theme, “reconstruction job, old farmhouse in Kent.”
Subsequent analysis down to the last detail and nuance a hundred thousand times over extends in all directions as far as Roeg’s Puffball.
The Captive Heart
An elaborate response to La Grande illusion, with the benefit of hindsight. There’s a lot of fine work in the directing, with an independent use of the camera in a subtle counterpoint, or orchestrating large-scale movements, as in the prisoners’ stiff-legged shamble to the loudspeakers during a propaganda assault, followed by Dearden’s establishing sequence, a long track to Cpl. Horsfall, pause and response, countermovement, dolly, final frame.
There are a couple of extraordinary things in it, a very quick citation of Hitchcock’s blackface slow crane, and at the very end a foreglimpse of Resnais’ Nuit et brouillard.
It must have seemed so obvious that The Best Years of Our Lives was absolutely unique, though it comes from and extends a long line of formal development, and yet The Captive Heart finds the very same solution (though from a slightly different angle, and played much closer to the vest), and was released the very same year.
The essential difference, insofar as one may be said to exist, is that the peculiar formal problem suggested by Wyler’s film is compounded into a flat surface allowed to irrupt into the character of “Mitchell”, not to put too fine a point on it. Surrealism is a sort of economy in terse times, and who had time to explain things in 1946?
The war is so long (1914-45) that Mrs. Horsfall’s hair goes white, but Mrs. Evans gives her all not to let her husband down this time, he has a daughter.
The pianist-composer is given cause to doubt conditions at home, they are the same. The blind Scotsman is made to understand this as well.
The Czech captain who grew up at the embassy in London and became a professor of English at Prague University went to Dachau and escaped and is now Capt. Mitchell as a ruse to evade the Gestapo, there is a wife in England forsaken by him, and children, though he is another man.
“Does not attain the stature” of Renoir’s film, A.W. wrote in the New York Times, but “intelligent, trenchant fare”. Variety found “newsreel fidelity”, Tom Milne of Time Out Film Guide a “decent, plodding attempt”.
Saraband for Dead Lovers
The film is certainly ten and easily twenty years ahead of its time, as this is precisely the same raft of despair seen in Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Hanover’s army is sent in vain against the Turk to win the English Parliament to the succession of King George I.
The tale is told by the wife he married for money and later forsook.
The Swedish Count who observes the battle is killed because of a liaison with her.
Dearden’s Ealing drama shows, in the Carnival sequence, an affinity with Powell & Pressburger. The Technicolor was praised and dispraised like the rest of it, Variety and the New York Times being particularly unimpressed.
Robson as Platen observes Granger as Königsmark at her feet, young and handsome, his face in the sweat of death. She pities him, he utters the name of the other one, she kicks him viciously, he dies.
The Blue Lamp
Ealing’s finest solve the Cinema Murder case.
To be fair, Clarke had help from Mackendrick and others.
Such views of London only Ealing could provide.
Pure Ealing, Dearden’s masterpiece, out-Hitchcocking Hitchcock at the dog track.
Cage of Gold
Two assaults upon England from the Continent, the first marries and mates, the second dies the death.
The title is a nightclub in Paris, La Cage d’or, headquarters of a smuggling ring, diamonds, currency, gold, and scene of a Casablanca parody, the barman’s name is Sam, etc.
“Not only disappointing but downright annoying” (H.H.T., New York Times). “Middling Ealing thriller” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide, Halliwell has “mild mystery melodrama”).
Merchant seamen, one American, one Jamaican, aboard a Dutch freighter, the Yank’s a dab hand he thinks skirting customs.
There are shades of Oliver Twist in this, as perhaps in any “routine semi-documentary police thriller” (Halliwell’s Film Guide), the striking allusions to Hitchcock’s Blackmail and Murder! entirely escaped critical notice in “a film which, though not distinguished, is entertaining” (Bosley Crowther, New York Times) though it “goes off at various tangents” (Variety) in “what passed for a realist view” (Time Out Film Guide).
Vernon the Gentleman Acrobat plans the big caper, his act’s not esteemed on the music halls, there’s diamonds in a safe to be had, a crime ring to bolster him, the Yank to get the stuff aboard, and himself to start off leaping from roof to roof, he tells his brother George.
The Jamaican carries the odd item or two down the gangplank as a favor, accepts no payment but the price of a drink, perhaps. Customs is strict, the watchman is killed, the city’s not much of a place for a hand who isn’t dab, nice girls have their friends, the other kind want your dough.
Richard Mallett in Punch (cited by Halliwell) speaks of “imagination, humour and visual attractiveness” that of course includes the great Ealing views of London sometimes noted.
An Englishman and an Irishman debate the question over chess, meanwhile the Irish Republican Army plant bombs in London tube stations during the Blitz, one of its members has begun to see the ridiculousness of the situation and forestalls a suicide mission to liberate the arrested bombers in Belfast.
The New York Times reviewer saw “lack of motivations”.
The BFI, “fudges the issues... conventional pieties...”
Time Out Film Guide, “stiff, overplotted... generalised, wet humanism...”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “stilted and unconvincing...”
George Perry, Forever Ealing, “far too glib and unconvincingly examined... stagey and plodding... naivety... failure...”
The position of the title character, that Ireland is a nation and not a gang of thugs, does not appear to have impressed reviewers for all their fudged pieties, etc.
A certain resemblance to Michael Anderson’s Shake Hands with the Devil will be noted.
A fight card from a trainer’s standpoint, six bouts with an intermission for “beer on troubled waters”, two old pugs down and out, two victims of circumstance in the boxing racket, two breezy winners.
The standards of glory at Adams Stadium somewhere in England.
A remarkably little-known film.
The Ship That Died of Shame
MGB 1087 of the Coastal Forces, decommissioned after the war and picked up by members of her crew for cross-channel smuggling operations that tie in with the mob and sink her.
Crowther of the New York Times was frankly incredulous, but gave it the benefit of the doubt.
Later critics, following his example, have not followed his argument, such as it is, and have emitted fatuities instead.
Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver for the bombing raid, Huston’s Key Largo for the central drama, Fleischer’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea for the end of the bedraggled motor gun boat.
Who Done It?
Birth of a private detective in the former offices of a theatrical agency, following on the spectacular Wembley Pool disaster of Tropical Nights on Ice, a skating musical comedy.
Malentendu, hired as a double for Stumpf, German scientist working in America but secretly a Uralian sympathizer, his device is a means of controlling the weather, amply demonstrated at the Royal Scientific Society.
Dr. Broznik is to transmit the microfilmed working plans to Uralia from a trade show of the latest radio gear, using his invention that carries still or moving pictures beyond the range of television signals.
Scotland Yard and a girl with extraordinary physical strength, a client of the agency, are in it.
Hill and Lee for Balcon at Ealing, screenplay by Clarke, cinematography by Heller.
There is a frightful complexity in the gags, they are all redolent with associations and aliquots, Dearden’s style brushes off all difficulties and proceeds directly at a speed in measure with this manner of expression.
Frears’ Gumshoe is an echo.
The Smallest Show on Earth
The meek inherit, after the disaster represented in The Blue Lamp, the cinema murder.
The local media giant is not above spiking the projectionist, that’s just the way of it.
That, however, calls out an act of resistance. The local media giant’s house burns right down to the ground.
The art of cinema is primarily understood by Dearden and his writers as pertaining to the senses and the emotions, but the films shown at the Bijou Kinema have no trouble following the plot.
The cat still has her kittens there, in Sloughborough, Warks.
The cinema murder is again mentioned, among the detective sergeant’s accomplishments.
The title is the city (Liverpool) where children play, and the Scotland Road School in the finale (which Variety found “overlong”, the rest “an absorbing film”).
“The cinema was our academy and our cathedral.” (John Osborne)
Halliwell’s Film Guide says it’s “enervatingly dull until the siege climax.”
The murder of a young music student in London, a case not solved, as the superintendent says, only picked up by its various pieces.
The girl is half black, which provides for a variegated glimpse of social life down amongst the lowest, even, and nearly to the point of murder. She was passing for white, and that gives another perspective entirely, the motive for her murder as well.
A Dearden specialty, efficient police work.
BAFTA, Best British Film.
B.S.C., Best Cinematography Award.
Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Foreign Film.
The complex intricacy of the structure proved too much for the British Film Institute, which finds the various arguments sophomoric attitudinizing by the filmmakers, a simple mistake.
A.H. Weiler rose above himself in the New York Times to some extent, Variety shared his blunder, however, in assuming without further reflection that the film “ducks the issue.”
Time Out Film Guide like the BFI could not follow the affair anywhere nearly so skillfully as it is laid out (Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader is aware of the film as “neglected”). Halliwell’s Film Guide rates it rather highly.
The League of Gentlemen
Cashiered army officers, all crooks and losers, are recruited to rob the City & County Bank Limited.
The mastermind is a “redundant” half-colonel who rises from the sewer in evening dress for the opening sequence like Harry Lime with a happy ending.
They rob an Army Supply Centre for arms and make it look like an IRA job.
“Noxious, blinding gas” and an explosion to knock out communications as well as alarms and a wireless jammer let the robbers filch old currency being delivered in a trice, Eastcheap has a fog so thick that gas masks are required and worn.
They are like critics, the gentlemen asked early on to critique the American crime novel they’ve been sent, a blueprint.
And there is the soldier at his mess, asked by a faux brigadier to critique the food.
Critics loved it, which is the gracious part, though Halliwell thought they ought to have gotten away with it.
Man in the Moon
The man of perfect health has not felt the utz of married love, he is impervious to cold or heat, G forces mean nothing to him, £100,000 is offered to the first man on the moon, he’s a “pathfinder”, less public fuss than sending a monkey or a dog.
More to the point, this is the ideal bachelor and the bee-you-tea-full stripper, he’s tricked into the moon launch and comes down back of the never never with three kids in tow, just where he started, still working for the government.
As they say down under, “no worries, mate!”
The Secret Partner
The very grand machinations of plot reveal the blackmail victim as paying to sustain himself in his crime, to get away with it (embezzlement in this case), to further his own interests outside the law, he is therefore the title character on whom a truth serum of sorts has the result of enriching none other than himself.
Scotland Yard is ineffective in such a case, which ends by putting the matter before the law, and that is how Victim really begins, a sequel in another vein.
“Complex puzzle thriller,” Halliwell calls it, “neatly made”.
The middle part of a trilogy with The Secret Partner and The Mind Benders on a monumental theme.
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It will be observed that all three films are precisely the same, each time from a slightly different angle and with a slightly different emphasis.
All Night Long
An American story, Othello with doctored tape, an affair of jazz musicians in a London millionaire’s quayside flat (designed by the producer, Michael Relph). The Entertainer (dir. Tony Richardson) is a vivid reference point for a drummer’s desperation in the show business, the Moor’s wife is a hot property, can’t start a band without her.
Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader), “neglected”.
Film4, “vanished curio”.
Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “can either be taken seriously or as what used to be called ‘high camp.’”
Time Out, “tepid tragedy.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “cheeky”.
As noted by some writers, the action tales place on a single night in rain and storm, ending at dawn on the Thames, the structure rather resembles Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (dir. Mike Nichols).
Life For Ruth
The source is evidently Der ewige Jude (dir. Fritz Hippler), translated to the common shores of everyday rational outrage.
In the event, a curious preparation for Sophie’s Choice (dir. Alan J. Pakula) is seen.
Finally, The Man in the Glass Booth (dir. Arthur Hiller) figures.
A.H. Weiler (New York Times), “it makes a statement that is dramatic, powerful and provocative” (as Walk in the Shadow). Variety, “all posed with intelligence and conviction.” Tana Hobart (All Movie Guide), “provocative drama”, also Britmovie. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “small beer as film-making, and not exactly entertainment.”
A trip to see Granddad the lighthouse keeper, bullies on the shingle, heavy sea, partial rescue.
Otto Heller cinematography, William Alwyn score, Alex Vetchinsky décor, Michael Craig, Janet Munro, Patrick McGoohan, Frank Finlay, Megs Jenkins, Paul Rogers, and Michael Bryant’s Churchill as defence counsel, “from the headlines” (Halliwell) and the authoress of The Clouded Yellow (dir. Ralph Thomas).
The Mind Benders
Suicide of a physiology boffin lately sacked by the Yanks as a security risk, his briefcase full of fivers.
Studies of isolation, using a sensory deprivation tank.
Replication of the experiment, to prove or disprove the point.
Ascertainment of brainwashing, rapid and complete but reversible.
A continuation of Dearden’s work on blackmail (The Secret Partner, Victim).
From the author of Brotherly Love and Tunes of Glory, score by Georges Auric.
Evidently the core and basis of Furie’s The Ipcress File and Wendkos’ “Cocoon” (Hawaii Five-O) and Russell’s Altered States.
On a farther plane, also Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend.
A Place to Go
Council flats, as it turns out, Dad dead, Mum uprooted, jolly old Bethnal Green a slum for clearance.
The busking outside The Mind Benders and the great joke from The Smallest Show on Earth (Seminole and No Name on the Bullet at the Essoldo vs. The Bridge on the River Kwai at the Odeon) state the approximate scale to be considered (also The Blue Lamp at the dogs).
“Not in any way memorable,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide, commending Hamer’s It Always Rains on Sunday in that respect, though Dearden’s baroque refraction of the theme is certainly not to be forgotten.
Cf. Reisz’ Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving (and Billy Liar as well), etc.
Probably the overarching view is that provided by Menzies’ Things to Come, nevertheless, of all things.
Woman of Straw
The exact meaning and significance of the title, indeed of the film, was never meant to occur, professionally speaking, in the round way of business to the cadre of literary men or hardworking journalists whose job it was to find it out, one is obliged to think, going only by their reviews.
An Italian nurse comes into a great fortune and a fine estate in England, called Foxhurst, through no contrivance of her own but that of an Englishman full of vengeful thoughts and greedy for his uncle’s millions, the Italian is persuaded to marry the old boy and cut the lad in for a share.
This works out so well, it might have been a comedy of getting the corpse ashore to carry out the will, it happy, heiress happy, lover happy, but the latter wants the pile for himself, and then the critics were lost, for she is not made of straw and, though not brilliant by any means, is not mad and so has the advantage over both men.
The beauty of this, again, is the happiness she confers where allowed.
“Hapless”, said Eugene Archer of the New York Times.
“Under-average mishmash,” said Variety.
“Dearden treats it rather timidly,” says Time Out Film Guide.
“Rather half-hearted but good-looking”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide.
Meanwhile the bastard with a bankroll turns up dead before the conversion is complete, the grasping nephew goes to it unrepentant, the kind lady installs herself at Foxhurst, maintaining the old traditions as far as possible, and the critics’ work is not yet begun.
The technique is fulsomely musical, in accordance with the old goat’s penchant for the classics.
World War II all over again, the British and the Americans in the desert of Ramaut, World War III if you like, to guard the young prince from his pro-Soviet regent and so win back the oil concession.
This is certainly to be compared with J. Lee Thompson’s North West Frontier on a number of points, but again at face value only, because with Cliff Robertson there is a “rogue operation” as in Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor, the prince is a royal bastard, and the title is a dead giveaway. Richard Brooks’ Wrong Is Right takes the same tack, starting with the scene on the tarmac that begins Dearden’s film. The remarkable Spanish church with its ransacked tabernacle and skeleton bishop is a remembrance of L’Âge d’Or (dir. Luis Buñuel), adding the man with the .45 offering “South America, dear boy, everybody’s disappearing there nowadays, it’s practically the thing to do” and a line from The Heiress (dir. William Wyler), “I’ve been taught by masters.” Says the Yank when described as a patriot, “aw, shut up, will ya,” and pointing out the man with the .45 supine and unconscious, “there’s your patriot for ya.”
Circo El Moderno, front for the operation. A couple of fine Hitchcockian touches include a gag sequence from The Birds (and shortly there is Donen’s Arabesque).
With a perfectly English cast led by Jack Hawkins (setting up a gag out of Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia), Michel Piccoli amongst the big cats and a celebrated clown, a Velazquez dwarf, and the divine Marisa Mell fresh from French Dressing (dir. Ken Russell). Screenplay from Victor Canning by Michael Relph and William Goldman, cinematography Otto Heller, score Philip Green.
Eugene Archer of the New York Times, “unambitious confection holds the attention well enough as long as it is there, and disintegrates after a second thought.” Variety, “clever, tongue-in-cheek spoof”. Time Out, “a nicely understated satire”. Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “the premise here is that no one can be trusted.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “simply too complicated.”
Dearden has Saraband for Dead Lovers, Heston El Cid (Anthony Mann) and The Naked Jungle (Byron Haskin).
The work is composed in Cinerama, and must be viewed that way.
The anecdote also figures in Michael Curtiz’ Francis of Assisi.
The Mahdi is an impersonation for Olivier, a very cunning devil indeed.
The slave trade has worn out under Gordon, who has no army. The British Empire is run by “greedy businessmen, scheming generals and conniving politicians,” says Gladstone.
So it shouldn’t be a total loss, Gordon stays in Khartoum.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times professed to understand none of it.
Only When I Larf
“If the stupid prosper, then our society must lose its dynamism and finally falter...” This follows on the Khartoum joke that gives the title. Nonexistent profits from the “tax-free Bahamas“, imaginary weapons sold in Africa. “You’re a good rider, Mr. Awawa, do you hunt?”
“In my country a man hunts, or is hunted.”
“If you ask me, the Army is the biggest confidence trick of all time.”
“A revolution? What, a few Cockney photographers and North Country pop groups making a lot of cash and giving the papers something to scream about, and you call that a revolution?”
“Property tycoon... New Frontiersman” and all that, Scottish manipulator, Lebanese inside man. Thus the scope of operations, cf. Malle’s Atlantic City.
Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “I almost fell asleep—twice.” Variety, “sound, unfussy direction and witty, observed thesping.” Tom Milne (Time Out), “plodding adaptation”. Film4, “funny.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide) evidently did fall asleep, missing two-thirds of the plot, “a big-time scam.” TV Guide does still worse, “things backfire”. Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “slow moments with a love triangle and assorted jabs at contemporary social values.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “unmemorable”.
The Assassination Bureau Limited
“The assassination of Europe.”
Comedy of the bureau, gone soft for money, comedy of the young chairman, commissioned to assassinate himself, all this with reference to Major Barbara (from Jack London and the author of Bullitt, “additional dialogue by Wolf Mankowitz”), comedy of the bordel, the beer hall and the palazzo (board member, wife and gondolier).
Zeppelin bomb for the Ruthenian castle where heads of state are to meet, the vice-chairman’s plan with General Von Pinck (also a board member).
A highly complex work written and produced and designed by Michael Relph.
“A bit too precious for my taste,” said Vincent Canby (New York Times), “not to mention its being too eclectic.”
“Escapist fare throughout” (Variety).
“None too witty black comedy” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide, Halliwell says as much).
“You’re not an assassin, you’re a critic!”
The Man Who Haunted Himself
“The Case of Mr. Pelham”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Thorley Walters’ astonishing evocation of Nigel Bruce suggests the famous altered ending of Suspicion as the starting point.
Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is cited in the Scotch quack’s reading of doubles among schizophrenic patients.
Pelham’s final return home in a rainstorm has a tantalizing glimpse of Perry’s The Swimmer.
A merger also considered a takeover, with a tinge of selling out to the Russians, is the main pivot of action.
The Scarface model.
Mediterranean crime lord returns from the dead to preserve his sister from the inquiries of two well-heeled gentlemen under the thumb of a retired judge, the start of the series.
Location filming on the Côte d’Azur.