The Bofors Gun
Goodbye to all that, as arranged for Dylan Thomas, whose face peers out of Nicol Williamson’s performance at the very start of Gunner O’Rourke’s confrontation with Lance-Bombardier Evans on duty in Germany, ten years after the war.
The half of this was seen by Vincent Canby (New York Times), the rest not at all, he had cavils therefore.
Look you now, O’Rourke is an Irishman and all, and Catholic to boot, it’s neither here nor there, a universal figure in any circumstances such as these.
The panoply around him, and himself at the center, “nothing, a turd” at a turnstile.
“No question of the quality”, Variety attested (Catholic News Service, “harrowing tension and barracks language”). Tom Milne of Time Out Film Guide found it “a shade too melodramatic to be entirely convincing.” Halliwell says, “eventually rather silly”.
O’Rourke’s song is an introduction of Gilbert’s Reach for the Sky by way of reflection on the theme.
Adding machines are the product, sales are down, the Sales Director is blamed, his assistant counters effectively, the action parallels the murder of the assistant’s father.
A Londoner’s view of Liverpool, an Irishman’s view of England, not very pretty sights, even photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth.
Teddy boys done his da, one must pay for it.
Computers now are all the rage for adding, can’t blame Sales, ‘twas Economic Planning back in 1959, wrong decision, the Americans knew.
Epstein’s The Adding Machine, by a remarkable coincidence, was released that same year.
The main structural point can be understood as a variant of Melville’s Le Silence de la Mer in which the differences tell the whole story (secondary material comes from Wyler’s Ben-Hur for the angry picketers attacked by Pitt’s men). Even analyzing this structure properly leaves the drama unanswerable, founded as it is on false and unconsidered positions. Nothing changes after the strike at a Cornish clayworks in 1913, violence against blacklegs has brought a response from admirably well-trained police out of Wales, management think the workers are extravagant, Mr. and Mrs. Stocker have a policeman billeted on them.
Gold’s direction is estimable and always to the point, nothing interferes with the startling openness of Tom Clarke’s teleplay. A naïve clergyman, an inexperienced organizer, resentments, provincialism, and the sleek nuances of the script carry the thing everywhere and nowhere.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
It comes as a bribe to the honorable Dogsborough, offered by the Cauliflower Trust for a phony building contract. Ui gets wind of it, now he owns Dogsborough and has what he needs, “protection from the cops, so I can protect Chicago.”
That’s all Hitler amounts to for Brecht, a mobster who runs a protection racket. “Today Cicero, tomorrow the world!”
An impeccable BBC television production, played by Nicol Williamson with a touch of Leo Gorcey in his voice (Ui is a Brooklynite), at the head of the highly-skilled cast.
The play rendered in English verse by George Tabori.
The National Health
“Hitler liked animals.”
“He was opposed to blood sports.”
“Who’s he when he’s at home?” On television it’s another story American-style, Tchaikovsky score. “This is not paradise, Neil, this is Greater London...” Homage to Sir Stafford Cripps (homage to Dame Myra Hess, Florence Nightingale, Sherpa Tenzing).
“Churchill weren’t a doctor.”
“I never said he was.”
“Well, what’s he got to do with it then?”
“You look at the way he smoked!”
“Yeah, but he never told you not to smoke.”
A letter from 1943 postage underpaid by sender, “of course—he’s going to fight it!” On another front, “I parted company with organised religion some years ago, when I saw it was being used to justify the activities of cretins.”
Tom Buckley of the New York Times, “under Jack Gold’s thoughtful direction, every part, even the bits, is firmly delineated.” Time Out, “too diffuse and fussy to satisfy.” TV Guide, “can’t quite pull it off.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “a scattershot satire”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “acerbic”.
A remote abbey on the seacoast of Ireland is the locus of an abbot’s visitation in this obscure variant of Feist’s Guilty of Treason or Glenville’s The Prisoner or Frankenheimer’s The Fixer, and the beauty of it is the recipient, a lifelong monk (Trevor Howard) who stands exposed as a worldling in the toils.
Gold’s comprehensive filming (which in exteriors recalls Flaherty’s Man of Aran) takes the camera from the Inquisitor (Martin Sheen), “surrounded by the Muck Island establishment” at the front of the refectory, down along the monks’ table right as a platter of salmon is presented and finally offered to the last monk, “who shall be first”.
The imagery and thematic workings correspond to Bergman’s trilogy most pointedly in the Inquisitor’s helicopter, but also the diminished parishioners and the film’s other title, The Conflict (in both instances, “a fable”).
“Stole my heart away,” as Morecambe & Wise would say, “makes me dream all day?”
The top American scientist on the Neptune project is run off the Brunswick road and brought back from East Germany the Tin Man, fully rebuilt, completely made over.
Naturally, there is a question as to his identity, an FBI agent sees to that.
“Aiming clearly at no particular audience,” Halliwell’s Film Guide reports, “it failed to get a release.”
The critics (Vincent Canby, Roger Ebert, Time Out Film Guide), “so savage and Tartarly,” made the very point they accused Gold of lacking.
A lonely and deranged man, his Robinson Crusoe.
Friday (“may his tribe increase,” with Variety) hath not skill to mend him, alas and alack.
The Naked Civil Servant
A joke laid at the time of filming, with gags from Quentin Crisp’s autobiography (Thumbnails, the dancing mistress, Barndoor, the mad Pole, etc.) to prolong the anticipation, until life and art coincide and everyone is as fey as he is.
Kipling’s great poem on a general’s philandering, “A Code of Morals”, gets played in situ and also up the chain of command.
Seven days in the life of a young aviator on the battle line in France, his last.
A study of this propwash, cannon fodder, accompanying with sympathies the tiresome rout. A rigorous familiarity is part of the fun, for the world-weariness it engenders.
There you have the picture of World War One, a war of attrition that somehow ended. And so France was delivered from the Hun.
The Medusa Touch
Polanski’s Repulsion is the main key to a structure founded on Sharp’s Hennessy, with additional sci-fi elements related to Arnold’s Tarantula, for example (the “scientific” films).
Much of the art is in palming the key before Minster Cathedral cracks ominously, the gambit is a policier very insular and routine, flattened by a foreigner (Lino Ventura) on an exchange program. Red herrings inflate and disappear at once, courtesy of the Inspector’s English detective sergeant (Michael Byrne).
Richard Burton is the brained writer whose thoughts propelled an empty car into his parents, kindled his schoolhouse with an open furnace door, slew an intolerant judge, sent a jumbo jet into a skyscraper and quashed the first moonbase landing. All but braindead in the hospital, his mind works overtime.
His eyes discountenanced you, says the barrister (Alan Badel) he briefly juniored, they imparted a sense of guilt. Harry Andrews is the assistant commissioner overseeing the case, which has political implications because of inside information known to the writer, whose head is cracked with a figure of Napoleon in the very first scene as he watches the moon trip on television. Lee Remick is his psychiatrist, Marie-Christine Barrault the wife he abhors, Jeremy Brett her lover.
Audiences stayed away, critics could not follow this mental portrait of a shitsack.
A secret agent for the British, working-class because he’s the only one in the service who works.
The enemy gambit (cf. Verneuil’s Le Serpent) is played twice, the second time it is allowed to succeed, thoroughly surprising the head of the department, as well as the CIA director.
There follows almost at once Neame’s Hopscotch, on a very similar theme.
A Walk in the Forest
In the far advanced literary world of England, where writers make money even not writing American television shows about English cops in America who are not enough like Kojak or Columbo or McCloud to get picked up, and don’t complain, and chat affably at literary cocktail parties, it is possible for an agile mind to imagine the plight of a fellow in the far backward literary world of Soviet Russia, where the expressed wish to live in Israel is treasonous and lands him behind bars under a death sentence commuted to life in prison, and such a prison.
The English writer has problems of dramaturgy to face, in their imaginary conversations the Russian is quite helpful.
Little Lord Fauntleroy
The future Earl of Dorincourt, a scamp from Hester Street.
There is a very droll mix-up with a certain lady of the stage and her “spawn”, the American bootblack and grocer and “rinky-dink” showman bear witness (the grocer is also droll, as keen in his dislike of English lords as the present Earl, a gouty negligent cussed old party, in his disdain for Americans of any stamp).
The direction is particularly noticeable in its English locations, not sparing the Americans their dollop of authenticity.
“The Soviet screw,” Stalin calls it, a psychopath (Beria).
The worldwide revolution, class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat are explained by Uncle Joe.
Yevtushenko has the last word.
The teleplay by Charles Wood unfortunately went far over the critics’ heads, but that is allowed in these notes to be a professional obligation, practically speaking.
Plural in the original French novel.
Set in France, varieties of murder, to be rich, to attain a desired woman, or because one does not care for men, and the more difficult motive to analyze, expand and draw into the light, the pleasure of vengeance.
There is a main thematic line seemingly drawn from Wilder’s Double Indemnity, another from Quine’s How to Murder Your Wife, and so on, to support the principal characterization of a murderess by most indirect means having escaped the murder plot aimed at her lover.
Good and Bad at Games
Wankers at school, the sporting crowd, afterward City wankers.
They suffer a fellow who’s good, and humiliate one who’s not.
The worm turns, the good sportsman bowls him out, and that decides the issue.
Simon Gray’s Old Flames (dir. Christopher Morahan) has a charming similarity on one or two points, Boyd and Gold have Anderson’s If.... on their side.
Cinematography by Wolfgang Suschitzky.
Escape from Sobibor
The events of October 14th, 1943 at the death camp in Poland.
The direction is notable for its adagio-allegro and the peculiar richness of the set details, more than the camera can encompass.
Ball-Trap on the Côte Sauvage
Into that strange new world described at the end of The Naked Civil Servant, an English family out of Lean’s This Happy Breed for a spot of camping in a camping on the coast of Brittany, the “Brit camp” section, tents are provided, ponies, menhirs, the lot.
The War That Never Ends
The Spartans and the Athenians, presented on the eve of the Gulf War, “diagnosing the present by re-enacting a major conflict from the past.”
The Return of the Native
Evidently a spoof of the Harlequin Romances in vogue around this time, with two-shots treated whenever possible as novelette covers, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (dir. Karel Reisz) thrown in for good measure.
This naturally gives a very sharp edge to the analysis, Madame Bovary of Wessex.
Goodnight Mister Tom
A synthetic construction primarily akin to Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, with elements from Crichton’s Hunted and anyone’s Heidi (and John Ford’s memorial to the fallen, in a way), to establish a forthright picture of the Blitz and in some way account for the British pluck that came up with Crichton’s Hue and Cry, for example.