Miss London Ltd.

The girl who calls the trains at Waterloo (Southern Railway) and the soldier who runs the Hotel Splendide meet under the auspices of a venerable Anglo-American alliance, or how to get from Bloomsbury to the West End by way of The Businessman’s Encyclopedia in thirty-six volumes and The Works of Sir Walter Scott, with Arthur Bowman (Bowden) as Arthur Askey.


Bees in Paradise

An island in the South Atlantic ruled by women, the sanctity of wedlock is preserved by killing off the bridegroom once the honeymoon is over, lest he stray.

Ferry pilots crash-land a bomber there and are up for grabs. Neither a raffle nor the annual rugby match (Palace v Hives) can decide the matter to everyone’s satisfaction.

I think he’s cute, and his complexion would go so well with my furniture.”

Love takes its course, Guest wrote the lyrics, the pilot and the “pocket airman” find their mates for life.


Penny Princess

The absolutely true story of American and British involvement in the liberation of Europe, like Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers.

It is not an easy story to tell, there is so much of it, Guest turns it into a prototypical British comedy the likes of which are very rare and mostly Ealing or Delbert Mann’s inestimable Lover Come Back.

So recondite is the imagery, and so filtered as it were by subsequent efforts, that it took John Sturges’ The Hallelujah Trail to put the thing on an even keel once again, to say the least.

“A mighty transparent joke” was the idle boast of A.W. in the New York Times, dismissing it out of hand.


The Runaway Bus

The little seeds of positive thinking come a cropper in the fog at Heathrow, a BOAC coach drives passengers away to Blackbushe bound for Shannon, but all is not well en route and winds up in the “ghost village” of a Commando Training Centre with live ammunition and a great pile of gold bullion in the boot, the takings of a well-planned robbery.

The fog is so impenetrable that, in his New York Times review, Bosley Crowther described none other than Frankie Howerd as a “pseudo-comedian”, and no less than Val Guest as a “misguided person”.

It is true, however, as Crowther very nearly suggested, that Margaret Rutherford is excruciatingly funny.

Petula Clark, Toke Townley, Belinda Lee and Reginald Beckwith, among others, went unnoticed.


Break in the Circle

The very thing asked for is Humphrey Bogart in Huston’s Key Largo and Hawks’ The Big Sleep, as the basis for From Russia with Love. Guest engineers this so very brilliantly that his Véry flares went off all through the Harry Palmer series and into The Parallax View (dir. Alan J. Pakula), with a significant afterimage in Ordeal by Innocence (dir. Desmond Davis).

Or call it the midpoint between Fritz Lang’s Cloak and Dagger on the one hand and Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain on the other. Terence Young’s beautiful analysis accepts certain larger aspects of the work as sketches for a general layout mobilized by action sequences. Mike Hodges took another tack in Get Carter by emphasizing the tragic discontinuity of the editing.


The Quatermass Xperiment

Darwin said he never had a day without pain since his voyage.

A solipsistic hallucination gives the strongest possible structural formulation, but there is the fictional narrative as well as a whole host of symbolic understandings based on the antipathy of Chief Inspector Lomax (“a simple Bible man”) and Professor Quatermass, these include the space voyager’s right hand hidden like a leper’s and forgotten like Jerusalem.

Whale’s Frankenstein is the key film here and in Quatermass 2. Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People for the zoo, which leads directly and thematically to Ken Russell’s Altered States.

The Kneale theme is defined a hundred ways on its own terms, the flower craving that turns to cactus, the raid on a chemist’s shop, finally the giant blobby octopus on a scaffold for a BBC live transmission called The Restoration of Westminster Abbey (guide, Sir Lionel Dean).

Quatermass perseveres.




Quatermass 2

Frankenstein again, also Strock’s Gog.

Winnerton Flats, or perhaps rather the recent dwellings adjacent to its former location, forms the basis of Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 and Lumet’s The Offence, in a certain way.

Siegel’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is strongly indicated.

The “multiple organism” utilizes Her Majesty’s Government to construct Professor Quatermass’s rejected moon base here on Earth, for its own purposes.

The clarity of Guest’s film version is its main, irresistible force when compared with Cartier’s brilliant live production for the BBC.


The Abominable Snowman

The mystery it incarnates is naturally showmanship and an adverse feel, the elements of Kneale’s script seem to come from Capra’s Lost Horizon and pay compliments to Arnold’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Humphrey Searle’s score adds gongs for the Himalayan vastness,  Cooper & Schoedsack’s King Kong is another theme present in the soft understatement.

The lamasery has a visiting botanist (Peter Cushing) who joins a scientific expedition seeking the yeti. One of the party is a professional hunter (Robert Brown), the leader is a promoter (Forrest Tucker).

Very adroitly filmed in an English studio and the Pyrenees.


Up the Creek

Rockets put the Royal Navy in mothballs, a great boon to Meadows End.

Cp. The Baby and the Battleship (dir. Jay Lewis) or Girls at Sea (dir. Gilbert Gunn).


Further Up The Creek

A perfectly astounding masterpiece, the necessary sequel on the sale of HMS Aristotle and eleven other frigates to Algerocco.

The new Royal Navy is nuclear, of course, and has no use for them, bosun and crew take paying passengers, quell a revolution, carry out a half-baked commando operation for oil and discover the identity of El Diablo, the rebel leader.

Such is foreign ownership, retrenchment and the like.

Frankie Howerd, David Tomlinson again, the crew, and Shirley Eaton, Thora Hird, Amy Dalby and so on at thirty quid the voyage plus incidentals.


Yesterday’s Enemy

The crux of the matter lies in the MacGuffin, a captured Japanese military map that shows a double flanking movement against the British through two areas of impassable jungle, an unimaginable proposition on either hand.

But since the anonymous New York Times reviewer evidently missed the first half of the film and had no idea what it was about (“nothing new... sermon on bravery... philosophical”), it must be pointed out that in order to obtain intelligence of this map, a British captain commits a war crime. The remainder of the unit is wiped out, an entire brigade on the Burma retreat, and Guest’s film is the only thing gained.

“This is not a big or even important picture,” the tardy Times reviewer concluded.


Expresso Bongo

A teenager in the show business, or the flyer and the spy.

A Kid for Two Farthings (dir. Carol Reed), and from the same author.

The nudes at the Intime Theatre, pronounced “in time”, have not quite the custom they deserve for their historical revue (Mary, Queen of Scots and Julius Caesar), the kids like sucking Cokes and coffee in a jive dive, there’s a fortune to be made on one volunteer.

Lattuada & Fellini’s Luci del Varietŕ, Yates’ Summer Holiday, and Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night have a piece of the action, a regular star-is-born-in-Soho type of thing, done to a turn.

Not thought much of by Crowther and Halliwell for some reason, though Time Out Film Guide says it’s “probably Britain’s most abrasive and entertaining film musical.”


Hell Is a City

Starling returns to Manchester after a fatal prison breakout, Martineau sent him away, the detective’s assignments turn to murder and mayhem, the lid is off the reasonable city, it becomes alluring to a policeman with a lonely wife, even.

Title from Shelley, “much like London...”

Variety admired it, Howard Thompson of the New York Times considered it routine and British.


The Day the Earth Caught Fire

The theme is the Axis, on two fronts.

One of the great films, also as a study of tempo rivaled by such things as Stevens’ Swing Time. The first twenty-five minutes are a great newspaper film, then in five more comes the shift to London in heat mist and Whelan’s The Divorce of Lady X, cyclone and drought, always continuous.

The divorce motif is labeled “IMPACT!”, courtesy of Arthur Lubin.



The critical position in a nutshell, Brighton, Saltdean, the question is put, “what about me, don’t I exist?” It is burked, cruelly disfigured, “severed”, locked away one step ahead of the scholar-gipsy and abandoned, no trace of handwriting remains.

Jack Warner plays Detective Inspector Fellows under the sign of Sydney Greenstreet (cf. Siegel’s The Verdict) for a certain prodigiousness there amounting almost to monstrosity, which is simply the man’s genius, this is the school for critics. All of the facts must be assembled and the right track found, a great intensive labor at some length, with false turns and dead ends, leading to an answer plucked as it were out of the air.

The ratiocination of critical understanding made manifest as a seaside murder mystery, the scene at the grocer’s is a masterpiece in its own right.

Halliwell’s Film Guide, “excellent unassuming entertainment.”

Easter Monday falls on Shakespeare’s birthday, the point in question.


Assignment K

Wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine, an intelligence network. This leads to a surprising syllogism.

The game is pin the microfilm on the dolly, the stiff one of Wellman’s Thunder Birds is part of the picture.

The theme is closely related to Michael Anderson’s The Quiller Memorandum, Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File and The Naked Runner, and Seth Holt’s Danger Route.

A very nervous theorem speculatively regarded and meticulously examined to a calm serene finish not unlike the conclusion reached by Thornton Wilder on writers and readers in The Bridge of San Luis Rey (dir. Rowland V. Lee).

A total blank with Vincent Canby of the New York Times, “earnest and totally confusing little spy melodrama”. TV Guide, “uninspired espionage picture... overlong and boring... padded... seemingly endless”. Britmovie, “uninspired and over-long’. Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “weak spy melodrama is cluttered with plot complications whose only purpose is to afford changes of glamorous locales and chic costumes.” Dan Pavlides (All Movie Guide), “lugubrious... low-key... no key to unlock anyone’s imagination... nothing inspiring”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “dreary... instantly forgettable.. only watchable at odd moments”.


When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

In prehistoric times, a virgin escapes the solar sacrifice to join a tribe of fisherfolk.

Her lover escapes the lunar sacrifice.

The primitive critical response was summed up by Roger Greenspun in the New York Times. “This requires comment, consideration, praise, perhaps a poem. But not, I think, movie criticism as we commonly practice it.”


Au Pair Girls

Girls just in from the country, any country, without a thought in their heads but to watch colour television or meet Ricky Strange or help the scion past his childhood games, perfectly done.