Trunk to Cairo

The material is reasonably close to Neame’s The Odessa File but goes farther into realms of satire that shift the tone of the film entirely in the second half.

What the German scientist is building in Egypt is a moon rocket capable of being fitted with an atomic warhead.

Israeli intelligence sends in an American agent to investigate murders of Germans that are blamed on Israel.

The terrible genius of the agent on the spot, overmatched and unsure, gives way to the dilemma of the father-daughter relationship once the Hyksos project has been temporarily halted, she is sent by submarine to Rome, he the scientist tries to get her back at Ostia Antica.

The title is how the agent is supposed to be shipped out of the Egyptian Embassy.

Many characteristics of Golan’s films are already present, the happy color compositions, the seaside obstacles, the wit that soars above critics like Howard Thompson of the New York Times, who dismissed the film in three words, “dismal little clinker”, neither more nor less.


Enter the Ninja

The droll and nimble style depends on technique to match. That is so characteristic of Golan’s advanced position, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been noticed before. But he’s a deep wit with a penchant for parody and throwaways, precisely as if he had grown in concert with the critical awareness around him, such as it is, and therefore expresses himself carelessly, like an actor playing to that one person in the hall who might be listening, and for the rest entertaining himself to make a worthwhile spectacle.

He begins with two ninjas squaring off, one in white and one in black, the former then scurrying away down the hillside with the latter and his minions in pursuit.

We next find our man (Franco Nero) in the Philippines helping out a pal. His arrival provokes an armed response from the young lady of the house (Susan George), but he takes away her rifle and clutches her to his bosom from behind with a right arm and hand well-placed, leaving her angry and out of countenance.

The baronial villain lives downtown in a skyscraper. Golan introduces one of his pastimes by tracking left onto a view of his indoor swimming pool in which girls stand and rehearse a kind of slow dance, with himself the ballet master. The secondary purpose of the shot is to animate the light globes overhead by a continuous change of perspective, pool, girls, and balls form the composition.

Golan returns to the pool in a rectilinear side angle for a villainous confab reflected in the water, table lamps and conferees alternating in an even rhythm across the screen, repeated and varied below.

The ninja is a superhero of sorts, that’s the basis of the terminology Golan employs. The man in white leaps down upon his foe and in slow-motion strikes an aggressive pose, preparing the villain’s “what can I say?” gesture as, pole-axed with a flung disc, he keels over in slow-motion. And now the force behind the throne, or under it, enters the arena. The ninja in black with samurai sword in hand squares off against the ninja in white one last time.

The latter departs the house for the airport, and as he does so the girl, who has become attached to him, walks out left from the door to the drive and turns in the general direction of the camera, which swiftly zooms out to a diminished perspective of her amidst the verdure of the place, a rapidly-sketched version of the “farewell” shot in Russell’s Dante’s Inferno.

The lavishness of its casting gives Enter the Ninja an autonomous counterbalance to the fine cinematography. The striking attitudes of the actors are taken from comic books and translated by art into grateful inspirations at every turn. It’s a shorthand of filmmaking which gives a sense of spaciousness to the pictorial arrangements laid out in a rhythm of amusements.


The Delta Force

You get not one but two great films in The Delta Force. The first is a detailed, brutally realistic, authentic and terrible rendering of a hijacking by Palestinian terrorists. They are cruel, bloodthirsty, remorseless and extremely agitated. They smell the blood of an Israeli or an American, and start grinding bones to make their bread.

In the second, Chuck Norris (seconded by Lee Marvin) rides to the rescue. His motorcycle is equipped with missiles, his fists are fatal and his feet fly furiously. He and his men tear the terrorist stronghold to shreds. Then he personally takes to task the terrorist leader (Robert Forster in a masterful performance).

The airline pilot is Bo Svenson, Hanna Schygulla is a stewardess, the passengers include Joey Bishop, Lainie Kazan, Susan Strasberg, George Kennedy et al., with Shai K. Ophir as an Orthodox priest who keeps a radio transmitter in the confessional. The Delta Force is a keystone example of Golan’s abilities as a director, which appear to be generally overlooked (though not in this instance by Roger Ebert—Vincent Canby’s review, on the other hand, is spectacularly idiotic).


Deadly Heroes

Enclosed within a bonehead ęsthetic and a meager budget, Golan breaks out and makes free with his captivity in a wide shot of a harbor at night, or sunup on the ocean, or just the sea, and Jan-Michael Vincent offers pleasant opportunities for the evocation of Alan Ladd in some imperishable films.

Even in the nuts and bolts of this Frankenstein lab, there’s plenty of rich material if one knows where to look, such as the breakwater of abstract concrete forms, the camouflage makeup on the SEALs resembling Nijinsky as the Faun, the lovely girls (one good and one bad), the formidable weapons of these masters of anti-terror derring-do, machine guns with silencers, and legs that won’t quit (one man is tied by his wrists to the wall ą la Christ, and he throttles a guard with his bare legs).

Dali is asked if he would suffer were he forbidden to wear his mustache. “Not at all,” he replies, “for Dali loves the Inquisition, more than anything in the world, even if it’s directed against Dali, and especially if it’s directed against Dali! What bothers me most down here is liberty! At a very young age I discovered myself completely anxiety-ridden whenever I had a choice to make: I never knew whether I ought to write a poem, paint a picture, or what sort of picture to paint; I didn’t know whether I ought to go to the movies or somewhere else. It was both extraordinary and awful. Suddenly, General Primo de Rivera threw me into prison because of my political activities—in reality because of my father’s views. In my cell, I learned to enjoy life in an exceptional way. There was no question about choosing the movies over anything else. I was forced to hunch up over my own fate. I recall that they brought me small sardines in cans; my enjoyment was sublime: a little more oil, a little more bread, and always the same sardines that I would have spat out if I hadn’t been in prison. The Inquisition always forces those people with a very strong moral makeup to get the most out of their sensations and their ideas. The Inquisition is beyond all question a boon. There was a time when it refused to allow painters to depict the genitals. As a result, painters, faced with this ban, depicted all sorts of decorations all over the canvas to conceal genitals, which invaded everything else. A Jesuitical person like myself blossoms only under Inquisitional measures: he is forced to prevent himself from giving into easy activities, and he forces himself into the most beneficial labyrinth in existence. If you ordered Dali not to have a mustache in the usual place, he’d contrive to have mustaches coming out all over, through the asshole, the ears, and it would be the magnificent apotheosis of the hypocritical mustache.”



The Versace Murder

Golan is a good quarter-hour ahead of the fashion world in this enclave on the Floridian coast, with its Italianate fantasias of barber-pole quays and pink walls amid the insurmountable sea-green.

The murder begins with a volatile boy half-crazed by ambition and addled by self-administered doses of whatever he picks up in the ragtag marketplace of such notions. He suddenly flails out with a claw hammer one day while suffering vexation, and the spree is on.

Franco Nero wears a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard, black vest, white T-shirt, black trousers, he’s a fashion designer named Versace with a few touches of makeup and costume. It would have impressed Versace, one may believe. The murderer dreams he’s a transvestite model being displayed at one of the designer’s unveilings. Golan films the dream almost like a solarization.

In the intense rays of just before sundown, all attention is focused on the murderer. Later, he’s glimpsed in grand travesty on the runway in a Mardi Gras fashion show.

Gruesome murders follow the first, quick and careless. He skates around his idol, and kills him in slow motion. One of Versace’s associates weeps at the news from the hospital press conference. Children look up at him concernedly through the waiting room window, and he smiles at them in a touching rendition of something from A Taste of Honey.

Beset by officers at the houseboat he’s taken refuge in, the murderer lies down on the bed, places a scarf over his face and blows his brains out. “It’s a Versace,” an FBI man remarks.