The reason Schoenberg turned down the M.A. candidate who wished to question him for her thesis.

The creature is well-represented, and her viewpoint.

Russell’s Song of Summer is presumably the basis, and if so he repays by ending The Devils exactly like Gibson’s film.

Time Out Film Guide saw only Holt’s Taste of Fear and was sorely disappointed.


Goodbye Gemini

The contemporary Electra and Orestes have a teddy bear named Agamemnon which they consult on very important decisions, they are twins and chaste though the boy would not have it so, they come to grief against the transvestites and politicians and other scum of London.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times had a busy day, dismissing Fleischer’s Tora Tora Tora as “unsuccessfully” imitating The Longest Day, and this film as “commonplace melodrama”.

Halliwell’s Film Guide goes to town, “abysmally over-the-top melodrama... its immaculate appearance [cinematography by Unsworth] only makes matters worse.”


Dracula A.D. 1972

A hundred years pass since his dust was laid in unconsecrated earth not far from Van Helsing’s burial place within the precincts of a Chelsea churchyard, a hundred years to the day, and by his masterly will he rises again through the ministrations of an ad hoc coven, teenagers out for larks in the desanctified church up for demolition, inspired by a lad in the group named Johnny Alucard, who desires immortality.

The Count’s purpose is to destroy Van Helsing’s descendants, a grandson now a professor with special knowledge of the occult that Scotland Yard reluctantly considers after ghastly murders have taken place in the vicinity, and especially a great-great-granddaughter among the kids, a somewhat idle and careless bunch.

Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times saw a resemblance to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and certainly Gibson’s Chelsea is not unlike the Greenwich Village of Eyes Wide Shut. The black mass rather anticipates Russell’s Altered States.

Greenspun of the New York Times also exerted himself “like the most eager budding auteur critic” by missing the point entirely, as Halliwell’s Film Guide did.

Beautifully filmed by Gibson (the cinematographer is Dick Bush).

“Crass Hammer trash” (Time Out Film Guide).


The Satanic Rites of Dracula

The D.D. Denham Group of Companies builds its headquarters on the site of the centuries-old church where Dracula was last buried, he is now Denham who finances a research institute where a Nobel laureate concocts an irradiated bubonic plague to eradicate the decadence of society, four pillars of which are drafted into service with the promise of this useful deterrent, a general, a member of Parliament in charge of the security service, a leading property holder, and the scientist. Part of the terms involves participation in a black mass at which the victim dies and is undead, which is where the film begins after views of Trafalgar Square looking otherwhere.

The ultimate innocence of the cabal or coven is touching, and so in a way is the Hitlerian motif assigned by Van Helsing to Count Dracula, who stands to perish in a worldwide scourge.

Gibson mainly transcribes the colored lights and darks of the illuminated screenplay in a great show of cinematic decorum, which only aggravates the horrors. No critic seems ever to have noticed this supreme effort of the Hammer school, though one or two have come close.




The Playboy of the Western World

Synge used to listen, before there were tape recorders and critics who said writers used tape recorders, through the cracks to hear the way people talk, an authentic chunk of the old peat bog. Gibson is alive to this in a very dramatic way. As they come into this local and make their greetings, each character walks in an enchanted land where the pixie words they speak court blessings or avert disaster or anyway translate the native tongue.

Everyone is brought to book in this splendid text as the hooligans of wrath and aspiration (that is, Ireland) beset the very best of them (that is, the actors). There can be no more diminishment than a great videotape machine and a small screen for one who, like John Hurt, had not long before made Sinful Davey with John Huston, and yet he suffers nothing by it, nor does Sinead Cusack. Indeed, Gibson goes to the seaside at the act change to race horses on the shingle.

This is one of a group of BBC productions under Cedric Messina that are not to be missed and are as near ideal as he could make them. The life of the play’s the thing, and as this is a very lively play, every ounce of energy invested reaps benefits.

The casting is superb. Hurt, Cusack and McCann, for example, are actors who specialize in very searching delineations, and when you have Synge’s prose to speak, it’s well to have a sense of the interior landscape as he canters you down the lane under the moon.


Checkered Flag or Crash

Joe Don Baker as Walkaway Madden is hauling a female photojournalist (Susan Sarandon) through the Philippines in a road race. He stops to make repairs, she hops out to take pictures and drops her film, he can’t wait and tears out, leaving her bag behind with a smile. On a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, she angrily files a report in her tape recorder, in the course of which she makes reference to Vietnam and Watergate. Then she walks on, alone, until the race organizer (Larry Hagman) descends in his helicopter to rescue her.

The satirical import of Checkered Flag or Crash might be turned either way. It’s almost entirely a film of race drivers hurtling headlong past oxen on small farms, over rickety bridges and along high roads overlooking steep precipices. So many of these daredevils fall by the wayside in various mishaps that the reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops panned Checkered Flag or Crash as “mindless” and exhibiting “disregard for human life.” The actual tone is closest to Chuck Bail’s The Gumball Rally, but filmed more naturalistically with a lot of jarring hand-held camera effects and slow-motion sequences achieved by printing much footage simply slowed down, with consequent further degradation of the image. Rarely, if ever, does this kind of “slo-mo” attain anything beyond the insipid, but the combination of techniques employed by Gibson and the versatile Alan Hume succeeds as a stylistic flourish. Gibson also favors a small crane for dolly shots that shape a quick scene with a curve and a pan.

Something of the masculine drive in Robert Siodmak’s great Custer of the West is perhaps invoked throughout, to considerable effect and with the same sense of participation in a two-edged satire.