Time Gentlemen Please!

A W.C. Fields comedy set in Little Hayhoe, Little Britain, on the theme of black sheep besting whited sepulchers.

The point-one unemployed is an Irish grandda who doesn’t care for the work, whatever it is, the PM is to visit.

The ancient almshouse has a proviso in the parish register, meadows and grazing lands yield their revenue to the inmates, he’s them and very rich as it develops.

The town sweeps out its council grafters to greet the PM with a well-known tune.

“Quite a nice little picture,” says Karel Reisz (cited by Halliwell, whose own opinion is “artificial, thinly scripted and overlit”).

“A Group 3 Production / Executive Producer: John Grierson”.


Cosh Boy

British blackjack, evidently the basis of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

The wit resides in the evocation of the war, both wars, per Fuller’s Verboten! and Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, the “big Canadian slob” who marries the title character’s mother and gives him a good thrashing (deplored by the BFI) is thus explained.


Albert, R.N.

Naval POW camp near Hamburg (cp. Dearden’s The Captive Heart most importantly).

The main point of diversion is the sharp analysis of Renoir’s La Grande illusion and no mistake, the naval commandant is replaced by a Hauptsturmführer, there’s an end, goodbye to all that, back to Blighty once he’s dead.

Long, suspenseful argument with the title character to the fore, an artist’s dummy well-remembered by Siegel in Escape from Alcatraz.

“Stolidly unimaginative” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).

Halliwell gives out that it is “an archetypal POW comedy drama.”


The Good Die Young

A raid on the Post Office for old banknotes sent back to Threadneedle Street for “repulping”.

The type of men who engage upon such a venture are the subject of analysis, and their wives.

Halliwell saw nothing at all in this.

The title means war casualties, in the cynical view of the criminal mastermind, a man who kills for the pleasure of it.

The American Air Force sergeant is married to a philandering bit player, Joe from New York has trouble with his English mother-in-law, Mike the ex-pugilist has left the ring with nothing.

Variety didn’t quite get the point, Time Out Film Guide was blasé.

The sudden and terrible violence multiplies in the getaway though a churchyard where the money is hidden among the dead who die in the Lord.


The Sea Shall Not Have Them

The Air-Sea Rescue service of the RAF in 1944, a close variation of Crichton’s For Those in Peril for purposes of study and elaboration on a slightly different theme, or perhaps to show all that is contained in it.

A picture of the war and something else again.

Halliwell dimly remembered the Crichton and wrote dimly of this.

Let us imagine a film shot down by a critic, if such a thing exists, the airmen with vital information drift toward oblivion on the enemy shore, a high-speed launch with a distracted or green or lackadaisical crew makes its way tediously in lousy weather, a frosty gale, all the considerations involved are plotted most carefully by the scenarists, and this is only one aspect, one way of looking at it, a consummate masterpiece.


Cast a Dark Shadow

An incredibly foolish Cockney (Dirk Bogarde) kills an old broad (Mona Washbourne) for her money, but her American sister (Kay Walsh, actually English and living in Kingston, Jamaica) holds it in trust. He marries a salt-of-the-earth Cockney barmaid (Margaret Lockwood) who married the landlord and now is a widow, she’s strictly “pound for pound” with him but loves him.

The sister arrives, incognito. The murderer, smartening up, sees through her ruse and plots to do away with her. Everybody gets wise in the end, even the old broad’s nosey-Parker attorney (Robert Flemyng), which is the point of suspense cited by critics from Crowther to Catchpenny as the missing desideratum in a furioso film akin to Losey (The Sleeping Tiger, The Servant) as well as Hitchcock (Stage Fright).


Reach for the Sky

The metaphor is from A. Lincoln sizing up a deserter’s family.

Bader finds aviation, military and civil, no place for a man of his stamp. His own joke is not a leg to stand on, but he does and triumphs, carrying all with him.

Crowther wrote a scathing review that is the height of folly, this being in every way a British masterpiece of cinema.


The Admirable Crichton

How Mozart left the Archbishop’s service, “his own skiffsman!”

A magnificent film on location with John and Ernest strictly from Wilde, and a certain Lady Brocklehurst, also a canon or curate and a butler, etc.

A play with William Gillette on Broadway, adapted by the director.


Carve Her Name with Pride

Violette Szabo, early life and two missions into occupied France.

Fighting spirit and resoluteness are her keynotes, she’s half-French, the rest bulldog.

A girl married to a French Foreign Legion officer dead at El Alamein. The service looks her up, she’s talented, formerly at Woolworth’s.

Liaison to the Resistance is her job, under supervision.

The view of a war fought to stave off the Nazis from England and France is that of a knowing participant, will formed, mind aware of the gift bestowed.


Ferry to Hong Kong

From Macao and back again, the engineer’s paradise.

The authorities place a “black sheep” aboard, a man neither here nor there.

Damn useful fellow in a typhoon, or faced with a Chinese pirate.

Damn amusing portrait of a limey, a composite thing, by Orson Welles.

Goddamn foolish review by Howard Thompson, a great steaming nit, “dismal” (New York Times).

“Clueless... moronic... at sea... scuppered... rocky” (Time Out Film Guide).

Halliwell’s Film Guide makes the turd.


Sink the Bismarck!

The First Sea Lord (Laurence Naismith) has a remark on “charm and personality” that is exactly in accord with T.S. Eliot and sets out the theme played by Captain John Shepard (Kenneth More), a fictional character in command of the Admiralty War Room. Half the theme, because what happens is the canticle of Abraham and Isaac.

The Nazi spokesman is Admiral Lutjens (Karel Stepanek), out to reclaim his former glory and that of Deutschland in the name of the Nazi Party and the Führer.

Critics have been at a loss on both sides of the Atlantic. The subtleties meant nothing to Americans for some reason, and what is more, the British too are calling it “stiff-upper-lip” stuff.


H.M.S. Defiant

The Abraham and Isaac motif in Sink the Bismarck! is developed here as the ship’s captain and his midshipman son tortured by the first officer but observed by the ship’s surgeon.

An able captain, slowly assuming command. A bold officer, not up to his responsibilities. These two characterizations are much if not all the length of the film.

Lumet has the great analysis, showing as well the derivation from Ford, in The Hill, for this is the Spithead mutiny of 1797.

Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin and Howard’s Fire Over England go into it, and there is a coincidental resemblance to Ustinov’s Billy Budd.

If it had masts and sails, it was “boyish” to Crowther of the New York Times.

“Not very remarkable or memorable” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).


The 7th Dawn

A highly astute understanding of Southeast Asia after the war, in which the participants divide into a British government dissolving toward independence, a Malaysian guerilla trained in Moscow, an American planter equidistant from both sides, and his Eurasian mistress who teaches school and is emotionally riveted by the situation.

This fell on deaf ears, to say the least. Bosley Crowther reached an altogether new height of idiocy in the New York Times, and he had company.

The symbolic representation came true a decade later, the logic remained.



A play older than Ralph Roister Doister, Chaucer’s Miller and Reeve, the Wife of Bath, even King David in the mystery plays.

Arcane, so much so that critics increasingly have a hard time addressing the main point, it’s a charm they say against moral distinctions.

The eternal Father has his worship, all earthly relationships are as nothing to it. Failing this and the commandment of Abou Ben Adhem, Alfie twice gets into a personal bind (Gilda, Ruby).

The rest of the machinations are various devices for evading the issue on the part of his paramours, who in this respect are like so many critics.

“Uphold me with thy free spirit.” Autonomy is one of the great demands of modern art, late Kandinsky has the idea.

The score by Sonny Rollins deserves mention.

The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy pick up immediately on a joke or two.

Baudelaire’s “Les bons chiens”.


You Only Live Twice

The revolt of woman takes place in a Japanese volcano crater because in Japan “women come second.” A typical feminine ploy sets the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. on the edge of World War III, with SPECTRE to lord it over the ruins (its symbol is the octopus). Space capsules belonging to each country are engulfed by the SPECTRE apparatus while orbiting, their crews held captive (the slow image is from Powell & Pressburger’s The Battle of the River Plate), each side blames the other.

Thus the piranha pool.

Bond naturally becomes a Japanese male to enter the crater, joined by ninjas of the Japanese Secret Service.

Commander Bond dies in Hong Kong, machine-gunned in a Murphy bed by assassins in league with a Chinese girl sent by MI6 for this purpose, it takes the pressure off from his various adversaries. Later, under a Japanese name, he marries a pearlfisher for this assignment.

Roald Dahl’s screenplay is decisively geared to action in this magnificent analysis of Dr. No, and Gilbert comprehends it as a dazzling suite of images, beginning (after the outer space introduction) with the death and resurrection of James Bond, and his subsequent appearance as a Japanese fisherman, ninja-trained.

It is discovered that he “took a First in Oriental Languages at Cambridge,” where he presumably studied with Jack Hawkins, who taught that subject there in The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The film is an absolute triumph for Ken Adam, and establishes him in the ranks of Van Nest Polglase and Vincent Korda, definitively. Gilbert’s direction rises to the diapason of the helicopter shot of the dockside fight, but perhaps his best shots are the POVs from the monorail of Adam’s tremendous crater set (which, like several other shots and sequences, closely anticipate 2001: A Space Odyssey).

One polished, witty gag is adroitly lifted out of The Lady from Shanghai, and the film concludes by paying homage to Keaton’s The Navigator with similar adeptness.

For the first time, SPECTRE is unnamed, perhaps because it is seen to be using a corporate front in an ultimate bid for world conquest (its astronauts wear the logo of the Osato Chemical & Engineering Co., Ltd., the symbol is a circular variant of the spiked-square Tong tattoo in Thunderball). SPECTRE’s No. 1 shows his saber-scarred face and introduces himself to 007.

The John Barry/Leslie Bricusse song opens on a little theme from Brigadoon.


The Adventurers

A joke about banana republics can be made and probably was, revolutionary politics make up the major portion of the study.

The revelation of love in a tortuous history is the remainder.

The considerable resources of filming carry the fictionalizing effort of the screenplay to a satisfactory level of abstraction, notably Prince Nikovitch’s fashion show is merely an impression, like the attack on the train, this is very artful.

El Rojo installs himself as dictator, killing Jaime Xenos and compromising his son Dax Xenos with the opposition leader El Condor, which brings about the death of Dax in the regime of El Lobo. The time it takes to establish this joke is required to avoid the appearance of a spoof.

The critical view is probably summed up by Variety, “a classic monument to bad taste.”


Operation: Daybreak

Reichsprotektor Heydrich, his end, a Czech operation out of England.

The prose facts, not the Brecht-Lang poem.

Lidice, church battle, record of the participants.

He was next in line to the Führer, all of occupied Europe under his command.

A pure study of the Nazi Übermensch, Anton Diffring as Heydrich.

The Czechs doing what they may.

A great, erudite masterpiece on a grand scale dealing with a small feat, a nearly-botched mission.

“An over-routine journey” (Time Out Film Guide).

Halliwell deserves to be cited in extenso, “curiously-timed evocation of wartime resistance adventures, too realistic for the squeamish and certainly not very entertaining despite a fair level of professionalism.”


The Spy Who Loved Me

The ruined city, the new city beneath the sea, Karnak, Stromberg’s black crab thalassopolis.

British, Russian and American submarines are subsumed by the gangster mother ship Liparus for an end to New York and Moscow by missile attack, to bring about a “new era”.

A film of sheer bloody genius.

The theme stated here and expanded in films like The Trouble with Spys and The Russia House is primarily straightforward and presents no obstacles. The emerging superstructure of a blind fate is set up against the counterfoil of a different kind of irrationality, and you get the great set pieces of skiing with a parachute or driving your Lotus underwater.

Stromberg’s Atlantis rises like Moby Dick (or rather the Pequod) in a certain multivalency or articulation, a regrettable mirror image of an unseen detail of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s ending that was to have the Star Child observe Armageddon. The curious descents off a mountainside to Egyptian tombs and finally undersea prepare Moonraker, and the tag pegs the thing as Melville (with a subtext of Verne).

The great son et lumière at the pyramid is surely an homage to Hammer Films.

In the ancient tradition of movie critics, Janet Maslin echoed Bosley Crowther’s argument with You Only Live Twice, “it seems half an hour too long.”



A marvelous extension of the Dr. No theme, in which Bond sprouts wings at an Amazonian pinch exactly as Nabokov prescribes in his lecture on Kafka.

The space shuttle on the back of the 747. The space station, “Noah’s Ark”, to repopulate the murdered world (by orchid) in the image of Drax (cp. Maté’s When Worlds Collide).

Spielberg & Lucas done to a turn.

The Marines have EVA’d.

In Rio, Bond asks where Drax has gone, and immediately finds himself answered by the aerial tramway of Night Train to Munich, followed by one of Jerry Lewis’s gags (The Disorderly Orderly) and a punchline answering From Russia with Love.

Ken Adam’s designs have a new grandeur and complexity. One of his classic designs is briefly seen before it folds down into a launch pad for one of Drax’s Moonrakers.

The shooting party from La Règle du Jeu is evoked, and ends with a curious anticipation of The Shooting Party.

Altogether, the grandest and most mysterious of the Bond films, as well as the most exacting to film, at that point. Gilbert’s earlier interest in 2001: A Space Odyssey is greatly developed with Ken Adam’s close assistance.

“What’s it about? That’s a silly question,” Canby wrote in the New York Times.


Educating Rita

A variant of Butley (Doctor of Letters quondam poet, ex-wife, disloyal mistress, Trish the Mahlerian nostalgic standing in for Edna Shaft, and the dippy hippie now a female hairdresser/waitress), with a direct citation from A Kind of Loving (the wedding photograph) and a Samson-and-Delilah finish (Dr. Bryant off to Australia, after a haircut).

The theme is “literary criticism” and Pound on a thirst for learning, the common theme among critics was that the characters (who do not exist and do not read but are read) have not read their texts (Howard’s End, Peer Gynt, Macbeth, Blake).

All this is what Simon Gray’s don calls “subtext”, it occurs in the loveliest Dublin cinematography imaginable.



“Sussex, England, 1905”. Simpering tune played on the piano by Mum, who mugs for the camera. Twin children outside, boy and girl, she teases him, he chases her, she cracks her skull on a rock and falls in, drowned. Twenty-three years later he’s a Professor of Psychology debunking mystics and séances, he receives a call from a terrified old lady.

Theme and variations, leading through every permutation of a guilt complex in one unreal terrain after another, until the ghost is laid after a fashion and the simpering tune is modulated behind the end credits into something like an English folk melody.