Pink String and Sealing Wax

Everything depends upon a monumental crane shot (tilting, panning, dollying) of Pearl on her way to suicide, the rest is so subtle that even English critics, who still don’t know what Ealing is all about, have brushed it aside (Time Out Film Guide, in particular, has it grossly muddled).

The public analyst comes to terms with his position, the fact of this takes place off-camera, he wasn’t given his post for nothing.

Various aspects of this masterpiece have been admired justly, but seeing the forest for the trees (as distinct from a neatly-wrapped bellyache remedy indicated by the title) is a long job.

A tale of two murderesses, one sentenced to be hanged, the other evading the noose as described.


It Always Rains on Sunday

And one is home and dry, which is the exact opposite of Pink String and Sealing Wax, lightly bound against the sunshine.

The center is the same, the paterfamilias informed by life or God of his real domain.

That is excessively simple and quite plain for the structure of both films, in this latter instance a highly complicated expression dealt with minutely in every scene and shot, to perfection, and very fast (screenplay by the director and Henry Cornelius and Angus MacPhail).

There is a lot of ground to cover, and Hamer wastes no time.

It goes very effectively into Reed’s A Kid For Two Farthings on the East End for its own sake, where West is folly and temptation and shiksas.

H.H.T. of the New York Times thought “with someone like Alfred Hitchcock at the helm, this drama of an escaped convict’s flight through London’s East End might have been a minor gem of suspense and characterization.”

Halliwell considers it old hat.

Reviews generally admiring never pierce the highly-worked surface to a bloke walking home at night in the rain.

Score by Georges Auric.


Kind Hearts and Coronets

The Wildean precision and beauty is sought and achieved, that is the main point of style and mainly issues from a bounder of incalculable degree, though he is accurately suburban and keyed to a mistress of exquisite sensibility, very young. So there is a plight, as he wishes to attain a dukedom for the wrongs he’s inherited as a cast-out widow’s offspring, the duke’s family are oddments and botherings, yet one murdered cousin leaves behind a “prig” so mannerly he marries her.

The suburban mistress is a stumbling-block, he agrees to elevate her and is released, however his prison memoirs exist to hang him. Alfred Lord Tennyson has a saying about all this, and he is quoted in the film.


The Spider and the Fly

A master cracksman is caught by inspired policework in 1914, on the very day that war is declared.

His modus operandi is a girl on the inside.

Halfway through his prison sentence, he’s called upon to burgle the German Legation in Berne for a list of spies working in France.

Hamer’s perfection of style makes this a self-evident masterpiece, yet it has produced a curious inattention among reviewers.

The upshot is most startling though well-prepared and inevitable.

Script by Westerby, camera by Unsworth (and Ibbetson), editor Holt, music Auric.

Successive analyses include two by Terence Young, Triple Cross and The Jigsaw Man.


The Long Memory

The strange, peculiar perspective of the film has hampered criticism since its release, so that it is nearly always given as the tale of a wrongly-accused man sent to prison and afterward blinded with revenge, seeing the light of true love, therefore hackneyed more or less, or melodramatic.

That is not quite it, the thing is much more vital than that and gets to its attempted sphere rapidly and steadily in accord with the remarkable cinematography everywhere praised.

The man loves a girl whose father is a Thames barge captain and a boozer and a crook with a vicious partner, a man on the run buys passage to Rotterdam but the partner demands more money, there is a fight, the client is felled, our hero struggles with the partner, a smashed lamp sets the barge afire and it sinks. One body is found, all aboard swear it was the partner, killed by the hero (the girl agrees in order to save her father a prison sentence).

Thus you have our man in the dock, surrounded by liars. He serves a twelve-year sentence.

The captain is dead, the girl has married a Scotland Yard detective, when the man is released. The partner has another name and another crooked business on Shad Thames.

Our hero does meet a war refugee and reluctantly fall in love, but he finds (like Hathaway’s Nevada Smith, finally) that he has been wronged by persons unworthy of his attention, even after twelve years in prison.

Reviewers always underestimate the stretch, and make the plot seem almost mechanical. The partner won’t be left alone but tries assiduously to kill the man who knows him, who went to prison for killing him.

And so on, a man dogged by police, a bitter shambles, alone and careless but for a victimized escapee from the Nazis who clings to him against the rough underworld of the riverside, that sort of thing.

Some writers assert a relationship to the war or Hitler’s tenure.


The Detective

Father Brown, an amateur. The adversary tweaks him for it, after filching the cross of St. Augustine from him (cf. Douglas’ Mara Maru).

Father Brown gives him bait, a gold-and-silver chess set “attributed to Cellini” (cf. Yorkin’s The Thief Who Came to Dinner). The adversary returns it as a present.

Father Brown traces the thief by picking his pocket and establishing his family crest in France, a duke whose pride is maintained by stealing precious works, an El Greco, for example, restored to the Louvre in the penultimate scene, following which the duke who never left the nursery walks into Father Brown’s church and hears a sermon on the Prodigal Son, having seen two boys admire the painting he had hidden away for himself, “c’est joli... c’est beau.”

Hamer’s work is very painstaking and easy at the same time, his location filming, a great deal of work scarcely noted by reviewers who have missed the point one way and another, but not Blake Edwards, who founds his Cato on Father Brown’s wrestling and “hoisting” instructor.

Bosley Crowther condemned the film as “sanctimonious” in his New York Times review, a good way of not understanding it, “in the shadow of the great Mr. Chesterton”, others find impiety and infidelity to the author, another good way.

Variety pronounced it “warm-hearted”, faint praise.


To Paris with Love

The facts of life, in Paris.

The Boy finds the Woman but meets the Bride.

The Girl finds the Man but meets the Postman.

The Man finds the Girl but meets the Woman.

The Woman finds the Boy but meets the Man.

The Bride finds a childhood acquaintance but meets the Bridegroom, and vice versa.

C’est tout, except for the marvels of miraculous technique exhibited by Hamer in and among his actors, revealing in faces conscious or unconscious resemblances pertaining to the plot or the lecture, which is given in the Spring, naturellement.

Crowther liked the Technicolor, the rest was Greek to him. Halliwell saw “taradiddle”.


The Scapegoat

A melancholiacal teacher of French takes his annual holiday on the Continent away from Simon Gray University and meets his exact double, who trades identities with him after dropping a mickey into his drink. Our man awakens to find himself a French aristocrat with an Italian mistress and a Philip Barry family, he takes it in stride once his protestations are ignored. There are things to be done, the family glass-foundry is failing after a hundred and fifty years, he is about to make amends when the wife is murdered for her fortune, apparently by himself.

And so the drearily unimaginative and very lonely instructor must confront the very person he sees himself to be, the masterful opposition is plainly mirrored in two Alec Guinnesses performed very well by the camera. The stunning panoply of attributions and deployments went right by all the critics and the public, it would seem, and the very magnificent subtlety of all the arguments. It remains to point out that Howard Thompson of the New York Times had read the book.


School for Scoundrels
or How to Win Without Actually Cheating

A shnook’s great undoing is all on his own account, really. Nevertheless, he can be taught such worldly wisdom as amounts to a sound drubbing for scoundrels who pluck him clean, and that is as far as such instruction goes.

So the pleasure is in the folly, its redressing at the academy, the return to the fray, and the upsetment of the scoundrel born. All of this is theorized on an educational plane, even the used car dealership, Winsome Welshmen.

The two tennis matches (service and return) are really expertly well-handled, Terry-Thomas and Ian Carmichael act out all the increments of sporting dash and vanquishment ideally.

But there is a realm beyond the academic exercise, where ploys and gambits do not go and are themselves a scoundrel-school, this the film readily acknowledges, if not Alastair Sim as the great academician of Lifemanship.