The High Command

The military man and the civilian contractor, or the major-general and the businessman.

“You’re not the bloody Duke, anyway” (The Pumpkin Eater, dir. Jack Clayton).

Garrisoning operations in Ireland at the very end of 1921, then in Africa at the time of filming.

The contractor’s or businessman’s wife is the bone of contention.

Lionel Atwill leads the cast, with Lucie Mannheim, James Mason, Allan Jeayes et al.

“Dated melodrama,” says Halliwell, “rather interestingly performed and directed.”

Typically with Dickinson, a stunning film.



The Hun is back, after an unsuccessful attempt some years before, that is the meaning of the allegory.

An inexpressibly brilliant film, largely built on Hitchcock’s Number Seventeen, and inexplicably described as “small beer” by Britmovie.

Every ounce of it serves the purpose, Cukor saturated it with unknown menace, Mayer (if the story is true) was for once, in Blake Edwards’ phrase, “a nervous Jew”.


The Queen of Spades

An impoverished engineer-captain among the faro-playing aristocrats in the Guards lays siege, under the sign of Napoleon, to an aged Countess who is rumored to have given her soul to the devil for the gift of winning at cards.

The double structure is like a faro game, the captain’s long wooing of the Countess’s lady companion, and the game itself, which only can be won if the lady relents.

Pealing bells and rejoicing end the film exactly like the 1812 Overture. The famous chiaroscuro is closely akin to Anthony Mann’s in Reign of Terror.

Variety saw Evans, not Walbrook or Howard at all.


Secret People

An émigré in England is tricked into carrying a bomb for opposition agents from her native country, to kill the visiting dictator.

The cold brutality begins with the murder of her father by the government that has come to power at home, a waitress dies at a London soiree when the bomb goes off and misses its target, the émigré herself must finally be eliminated as a witness when she turns to Scotland Yard.

A refined sense of Hitchcock’s Sabotage has been noted, The Man Who Knew Too Much fits into the soiree arrangements (the émigré’s sister is a young ballet dancer, she’s put on the bill to effect an entrée), Chaplin’s Limelight has an effective parallel to the comic entertainment.

Lumet’s Running on Empty picks up the side theme of art and political machinations. Dickinson is more concerned with the single aspect of thuggery and mindlessness in the agents, who operate as a gang.

The girls’ father was a man of peace, an admirer of Gandhi, the new lot have rejected his ideals. An ineffectual man, whose “sword”, a fountain pen, is sent after his death to his eldest daughter. A prophetic man as well, who even in 1930 treasures Auden’s line, “We must love one another or die,” a decade before “September 1, 1939”.