Make Me an Offer!

About the finest thing in the cinema is the discovery of the Portland Vase, Addison’s music, the child actor, Frankel’s direction, the British Museum, “it’s a custom of the trade.”

The trade is proverbially unprofitable, and so you have Becker’s Modigliani peddling his papers at a sidewalk café, dying.

The metaphor is antiques, not to say antiquities. The Wedgwood plaques (“rotten French fakes!”) go into The Shooting Party (dir. Alan Bridges) from The Maltese Falcon (dir. John Huston).

“Now look, Nicky. Supposing I gave you a hundred, what happens? I take it home, I—put it in the shop window. Everybody comes every day and they say, ‘what a pretty vase!’ I’m giving the public pleasure. I like to give them pleasure, but—nobody buys it, so what do I do? I—I take it home and put flowers in it. You understand?”

Britmovie, “engaging... amusing... struggles to satisfy a feature-length film and is bereft of an accompanying subplot.” Bosley Crowther of the New York Times also found it Greek, “pleasant moments.” Hal Erickson (Rovi), “ethnic humor”. Halliwell’s Film Guide sums up the critical position, “mildly pleasant Jewish comedy with interesting sidelights on the antique business.”


It’s Great to be Young!

The metaphor is Angel Hill Grammar School and canning the music teacher.

The consequences are very far-reaching and did not occur to Tom Milne, writing for Time Out Film Guide.

You can take as your correlative a film studio removing art as an infringement on the bottom line, as it were.

And you can admire Frankel’s masterpiece as what it is, absolutely perfect and beautifully filmed in Technicolor.


Never Take Candy from a Stranger

Frankel’s masterpiece on civic corruption takes a deadpan image, unfilmed, for its satirical view of a Canadian town dominated by the man who built the sawmill, now retired, and his son, the effective town boss now seeking political office, jobs and perks reside with them, the townspeople live in their shadow more or less unconsciously.

It is two little girls who dance naked for the old man in exchange for candy.

Michael Carreras, Freddie Francis, John Hunter, Elizabeth Lutyens and Hammer Film Productions.

“Though filmed in Britain,” Variety reported, “the Canadian atmosphere is remarkably well conveyed.”

On several points, an important precedent for Lumet’s The Offence.

Originally, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger.

The bronze bust of Felix Aylmer at the high school in Jamestown is an excellent likeness.



On the Fiddle

A much too good comedy for the British Isles, where it was dimly looked upon and dimly seen to start with.

Nobody goes into the RAF for money, but deposited there by a lady judge one works it up through a variety of dodges into a more orderly profession.

The Battle of Britain, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge are the course of history, it’s the Ardennes that finds our heroes up against it, “fighting unsupported rearguard action”, as the citation reads.

The tale is strangely parallel with Carol Reed’s The Way Ahead, Terence Young’s They Were Not Divided, and so on.

The speed and brilliance of the screenplay and direction are fairly incomparable, except that they veer quite close to Ealing and Woodfall by virtue of truth and beauty, not to mention hilarity.

In America known as Operation Snafu.


The Witches

A middle-aged lady writer has a plan to enrich the world with the labors of her genius into the twenty-first century by taking the hide off a village girl in a coven ritual.

The new Head Mistress at the village school has seen African witch doctors firsthand and foils the plan.

Variety noted “the air of a film that has lost its way”.

The girl must be kept pure, that means practicing against a village boy.

“Chintzy”, says Halliwell, and “predictable”, also “risible”.

In America, The Devil’s Own.


The Trygon Factor

“Mother, it’s becoming impossible to work here, nuns, tourists, it’s like Rome on a bank holiday! I’m going back to town.”

Britmovie says, “messily directed... muddled offbeat thriller... will leave viewers frequently confused.”

“A kind of fish with a prickle in the tail” is the meaning of the title, practically a favorite phrase in Halliwell’s Film Guide (“pretty good imitation Edgar Wallace”).

Robbery by bazooka tied to an ad hoc nunnery at a manor house in the country, plagued by debts.

A low-angle, caressing shot of Superintendent Cooper-Smith’s Aston Martin caressed by a hooligan is defended by a constable outside Emberday Hall.

The mad young scion in fancy dress chopping off heads in the garden is a notable allusion (Kierkegaard) and a very funny gag, messy muddled frequently confused imitation critics make it necessary to point these things out from time to time.

That is not infrequently how critics see themselves, which is how a Frankel acquires his reputation.

It’s not an Agatha Christie, Howard Thompson of the New York Times softly moaned, “rather laxly swatted along by the director, Cyril Frankel.”

Roman bank holiday, indeed. “Very scenic but off-target,” not offbeat, said Thompson of the Times, no doubt dreaming of Robin Hood.

A very nice parody of Powell & Pressburger’s Black Narcissus starts the ball rolling. The nuns are lay sisters, Thompson was struck by their underwear, “remember Hitchcock’s ‘nun’ in The Lady Vanishes?” Sheldon Reynolds’ Assignment to Kill in the same review was “impossible”, Frankel “passable”, which is perhaps how Permission to Kill came to be, who knows?

The Sisters of Vigilance. The Sister-General explains, “you’ll find none of the trappings of formal religion here, Superintendent, austerity is our rule.”

English income tax is to blame, “I also hear they may nationalise husbands.”

A coffin for Uncle Mortimer, home from the fleshpots of the Riviera, broke.

A certain Thompson of Scotland Yard is drowned early on in the baptismal font.

“Oh, let’s get out of this place, it’s even more depressing than arriving at London Airport.”

The jewels are smuggled out in the sisters’ own pottery, branded with a trigon.

Delbert Mann’s Fitzwilly takes another view.

“Society of Vigilance, founded in Switzerland by the late Dr. Oskar Steinwald, universal peace and brotherhood to be achieved through simplicity, love and private endeavour.”

The sound of demolition masks “not only our last, but our biggest enterprise.”

The “founder of the movement” has been superseded by a very rich man in imports and exports.

The daughter of the house is a commercial photographer. “No, I’m not bothered that I associate your product with semi-nudity, but I might start associating semi-nudity with your horrible product and I wouldn’t like that at all, there’s only one thing I like to associate with semi-nudity.”



The special gun used in the robbery is later appropriated by Michael Cimino in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Gold bullion is the caper. Superintendent Cooper-Smith’s search warrant is a bit previous, matter of routine.

A very subtle parody of future industrial operations in Menzies’ Things to Come obtains at this juncture.

Black Morris van, “Corps of Security”.

Crichton’s The Lavender Hill Mob filters through the thing.

This was far too brilliant for any critic to comprehend, it seems that none of them did.

The Dracula legend is square set in the midst of it all.

Rotherhithe, Limehouse Pier.

Thompson’s demise figures in Polanski’s Chinatown. “If you want to follow your hunch, very well, but I’m not having the rest of the Special Branch going tearing round a convent after the nuns, you’re on your own.”

The pottery in the priory. “Once again, the melting point of gold is one thousand sixty-three degrees Centigrade, no more, no less.”

The Society has seen better days, “damned women...”

“You are the one who lost faith, George, not I.”

The French girl at the White Hart slips in for a recce, “catch them hotfoot”, meets the mad young scion and produces for the second time a resonance with Antonioni’s Blowup, which premiered simultaneously.

Gold balls the sisters make and pop them into vases fixed with wax, and they throttle the head of the Society, a backslider. The unstoppable Nailer is a redoubtable figure seen elsewhere to advantage (e.g., Gilbert’s The Spy Who Loved Me) but nowhere better filmed, with a deep flair recalling Andrew L. Stone’s The Secret of My Success the year before.

The superintendent drops a vase, a nun drops him with a mallet, Frankel drops the daughter’s mask, a travestied killer of women, I was the son he wanted!” She is summed up by the superintendent, “you psychotic little bastard.” Her death is from Hamilton’s Goldfinger at 1063° C.

The mad young scion is shot in the back by Mummy, who tries to strangle the superintendent with her bare hands when he blows the whistle on everything, which is where we came in, on the critical silence.


Permission to Kill

“Western Intelligence Liaison” taps an assassin and a briber and three “levers of love” to stop the leader of the National Freedom Party from returning to his homeland, presently ruled by a Fascist government (“the alternative is Communism,” he is neither).

None of it works, what with one thing and another, so the beggar has to be killed directly, also the assassin, who is blamed.

A film that seems to have made very little critical impression (Time Out Film Guide refers to “the script’s lack of any awareness”), despite its clear analysis of political vexations and trumperies inflicted on the public by way of strategic associations.

Halliwell, who was contemptuous, cites the Monthly Film Bulletin, “pretentious political mishmash”.