The great star briefly glimpsed a few times is Liverpool. One of its sons turns out to have a genius for detective work.

Smug, affectionate reviews tend to ignore the fact that murder is solved and prevented, a drug ring broken up, and repressive factions in Rhodesia and South Africa denied weapons and support by the gumshoe’s lark with an advert in the paper.

Big brother the man of business goes down the tubes, a load of bollocks descending from on high goes straight to prison, and the heavily-burdened gumshoe is light as a feather, listening to “the latest, the loudest, the worst.”


Three Men in a Boat

Not the widescreen magnificent version by Annakin, and so not his analysis, either, but Frears and Stoppard settle for the facts, ma’am, as it were.

Hal Erickson of Rovi has the two films confused.


The Hit

Part of the joke is that the title might more properly be The Snatch.

That sort of vagueness (mainly critiqued by the critics) is par for the course with a deadpan view of the mob like Goldstone’s The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, only more so.

The efficiency is there, and the boredom and the idiocy, cutting a swath across Spain to the French border with a grass in tow.

A moonlit forest conversation between a philosophical Terence Stamp and a battered John Hurt (resembling Robert Ryan quite artfully) puts the whole thing in Ustinov’s light, Billy Budd, the ablest of seamen.


Prick up your ears

Joe Orton as treated by his biographer John Lahr (a character), the screenwriter Alan Bennett (a wag), and Frears (metteur en scène).

Evidently a variant of Lumet’s Deathtrap.


The Grifters

The flight from Bobo Justus with leveraged capital, the sterile madness of the New Economy (The Sting, a Tokyo-New York stock wire delayed seven seconds), the currency market as recapitalization.



The material is too valuable (from Capra and Hawks, as rightly observed) to be discounted.

The script builds up a grand edifice of joke material by devices so astonishing they seem careless. As in Meet John Doe after the first scene, journalism is considered nugatory at best, a trifler’s whim, a weapon of clusterfuction. This serves, by way of His Girl Friday, to atomize it so as to reveal its essence, the nose of True Crime.

The structure collapses purposefully around the sham sentimentalism of the faux brave, then further capitulates on the score of personal heroism as anything but a fluke of occasion, and all of it is a disastrous mickey rendered as salutary and inevitable as it can by these poisoned times, when “heroism” and “excellence” have become bywords for just about anything you can name.

Dustin Hoffman takes the role up as you would gather the reins of a runaway stagecoach, and this is virtuosic. Everyone is too good to deserve George Fenton’s generically upbeat (if that’s what it is) score, unless what it is amounts to veneer as the cream of the jest, in which case “pull the other one,” as Anna Massey says in Frenzy, “it’s got bells on it.”


Mary Reilly

Jekyll is Pound, Hyde is Liszt, Mary is Siddal. Beckett is arranged for these voices, “no’s knife in yes’s wound”, “you called for night,” etc.

Critics defended the artist against himself, like John Simon à la Hérodiade. No need to respect the comedy, one should say.

Percy Adlon’s Céleste served Proust similarly. The exquisiteness of scarlet lips in a half-veil on the predatory floor of the duotone operating theatre precisely names the ratcheting of Glenn Close’s performance. Malkovich is brutish where required, Roberts lovely.

A digital effect (cf. Total Recall) brings out the man in the beast, briefly. Siddal is limned in Mary’s bedmate for comparison.


Fail Safe

HDTV, CBS, live. Layout by Frears, switching by Marty Pasetta, pictures by John Alonzo, black-and-white, set at the time of Lumet’s film.

The teleplay by Walter Bernstein excises one-quarter of his screenplay for a fairly strict account of the action and an insert listing the nuclear powers on the date of the broadcast, the list immediately follows a freeze-frame and fade to white on the bomber pilot’s young daughter in New York at the moment of detonation.

“Undoubtedly too esoteric for the MTV generation,” was the observation of Laura Fries for Variety.


Mrs Henderson Presents

It has everything to do with Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and provoked exactly the same response from critics who found it “bland” and “boring”.

Then there is Manohla Dargis (New York Times), who writes of “a mug of cocoa and a warm blanket” and a “professionally assembled calculation”, and so on.

There is also Friedkin’s The Night They Raided Minsky’s.


The Queen

Diana is like a publicity campaign gone awry, the car company uses Berg’s violin concerto in its adverts, their star is evidently mad, and so is her brother.

The Clinton Gang has installed Blair as Prime Minister, a Napoleonic ritual. The Queen, who is England, is made to slip a bit in the public estimation, but rises from the occasion.

A work of fiction, but for the reality footage. The tide of Tony passes across the land and recedes. Much more was to come, of course, the Americanization of England had to be accomplished outside the European Union, and it’s hard not to see in the fox-hunting ban Bill Clinton’s nervousness at watching Huston’s The List of Adrian Messenger, he did such a good FDR and JFK.

Digital, filmed in an aquarium.