An ITV Playhouse television film on the vague father who leaves his wife and young daughter, the husband who leaves his domineering wife, and the garage mechanic who rapes and murders the girl in marshland between the fictional villages of Upperton and Haverton one winter.
Severely filmed as an absent drama and difficult police investigation amid snowy landscapes with an occasional off-camera detective interviewing witnesses à la Ophuls.
Rachel Kempson as the suspect’s wife, a lady of inherited wealth, four years before the great barracking of John Osborne’s A Sense of Detachment.
Again for ITV, a feature-length film in a notable style, still more noteworthy are the contents, an excruciatingly refined presentation on The Power of the Press (dir. Frank Capra) and Confirm or Deny (dir. Archie Mayo), to name two noted precedents.
It may be seen that in a manner of proceeding one arrives at Pink Cadillac (dir. Buddy Van Horn) by way of The Survivors (dir. Michael Ritchie).
The material at the outset anticipates Pulp, and with reason.
Welles’ newsreel footage in Citizen Kane is part of the joke, also an adept influence of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (tunnel and chorus, for instance) later in Get Carter as well, here and there.
It is a very rare emotion you feel just before the end of this film. Cinema is an art of evanescence, true, but an evanescence fixed like Rimbaud’s vertigos. The inspired cinema artist is a man with a camera, with or without certain technical resources, eked out by Assheton Gorton’s set dressing on the level of a Kienholz (cinematography by Wolfgang Suschitzky).
A film of high art for admirers of Tom Wesselmann and E.E. Cummings and Roy Lichtenstein and The Longest Day (dirs. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki), to which homage is paid with a rooftop shot.
Touchez pas au grisbi (dir. Jacques Becker) on the war.
The Milgram experiments at Yale, fictionalized as a test of likely candidates for employment in a mysterious organization.
In this instance, it would seem that Admiral Rickover wants jumpers.
The technique and the material are very closely related to Rumour.
Criticism being what it is, you pretty well have to come to an understanding of the principles involved and express it yourself, if things are to be understood at all. Pulp is an analysis of Huston mainly centering on The Maltese Falcon importantly in a time of nostalgia. Huston had not yet made The Man Who Would Be King, but there is the key development of Beat the Devil as an overture, with Giulio Donnini appearing as the Typing Pool Manager.
Hodges even introduces lookalikes floating in or out. The idea (which is also J. Lee Thompson's in St. Ives) is to break the crust of admiration to get at the work itself. Obviously, a great red herring is star allure, so Pulp is occupied with retired actor Preston Gilbert. A Berkeley English professor and transvestite is also a professional hit man out to do in Gilbert and the pulp writer hired to ghost the actor's autobiography.
The Big Sleep is a novel about England, The Maltese Falcon is about something else. The point is that they're about something, they express or describe something beyond the satisfactions of whodunit for why, and that is the basis for criticism established.
William Golding certainly would have appreciated the hit man. The difficulty is the many shifting levels of reality and fiction, but it’s kept pretty clear by Hodges what’s what. What is found for the purposes of this exercise is a generic political disaster, the fallen state pictured as a girl buried on a beach.
It all takes place somewhere in the Mediterranean, Malta, says an end credit. The writer understands the machinations aiming toward his destruction, “because I write this kind of crap myself.”
The director of The Terminal Man, that pure critique of liberty in the throes, not only directs this but wrote this kind of crap as well.
The Terminal Man
From Rumour, the culmination of Hodges’ studies after Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
An uncommonly intelligent film because that is its theme, the human mind and existence. The exacting style and technique serve to register every tic of emotion or spark of intellect, every picture is telling, and in this story of mental limitations boosted by computer power is the whole idea of social collapse remedied by authoritarian government, which is analyzed very deeply in its theoreticians and advocates, who are after all only human and hardly know themselves at all.
“Unsalvageable,” was Nora Sayre’s opinion of this film in the New York Times, a film that is required to express its theme on the bourne of human consciousness and does so.
A steady rate of images, no dialogue where not needed, all analysis provided.
This is the film actor’s art turned to perfect account by the film director’s art, nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.
The theme and the expression are one and the same, as consciously stated in the film.
Hitchcock’s Psycho and Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly are remembered, Herzog’s Woyzeck and Kubrick’s The Shining foreseen.
Above all its many other considerations at Babel Hospital in Los Angeles, a reductio ad absurdum of style in its sustained application of a black and white motif throughout.
With extraordinary swiftness Hodges calculates the risk, a brief initial sequence borrowed from It’s a Wonderful Life (dir. Frank Capra) places Emperor Ming the Merciless exactly, while the credits display Alex Raymond’s superb artistry.
Echoes of First Men in the Moon (dir. Nathan Juran) and The Reluctant Astronaut (dir. Edward Montagne) carry him within fifteen minutes to The Imperial Vortex and Danilo Donati’s Laurentian disegno. Then there is the upside-down hourglass, and the thing spins on... a spectacular re-creation of The Wizard of Oz’s air force spells victory... amusing details recall Alphaville (dir. Jean-Luc Godard), Rank and Universal’s sound stages.
Dr. Zarkov’s space vehicle is, after stage separation, a shuttlecock.
Hodges’ Star Wars parody, from the author of Batman (dir. Leslie H. Martinson), with reference to Barbarella (dir. Roger Vadim), partly aped by Mel Brooks in Spaceballs.
Robin Hood or Shakespeare is to the fore (John Osborne), Semple’s greatest work, Hodges’ too.
Ming the Merciless brings the Moon to bear upon Earth, a supreme masterpiece of the cinema.
A music video, Fosse at the baths.
At the psychological moment, big black mamas replace the exercise train.
Queen lilt the title.
Squaring the Circle
Stoppard’s monument to Solidarity in 1980-81, “a film by Mike Hodges and Tom Stoppard”.
Field Marshal Rommel thought he’d be acquitted in a Nazi court. The symbol of a life preserver on the back of a beach sign accompanies the successive meetings of the Polish head of state, whoever he may be, and Brezhnev on the Black Sea.
A film for television of great virtuosity, exemplary in that respect, cf. Jack Gold’s Red Monarch, by Charles Wood, usefully. A notable history of Poland is included amongst the numbers, delivered on a café table with bread rolls you don’t see on a café table in Poland, as explained, recalling Michael Anderson’s The Quiller Memorandum by Harold Pinter out of Adam Hall, to say nothing of Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.
Morons from Outer Space
The Englishman faced by irreconcilable absurdities stiffens into a dull resistance, The Day the Earth Stood Still provokes in him Stranger from Venus or Devil Girl from Mars, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cause the scarcely more digestible Teletubbies, etc. The Spielberg/Lucas phenomenon gave you this. It is insufferably dull when it’s on, but afterward you understand the Englishman’s method of inoculating himself with a bit of the disease, and as you emerge from this into the light of the present day, you realize the joke is that Morons from Outer Space must indeed rule things here, and you thank him.
Mel Brooks borrowed a gag or two for Spaceballs.
A Prayer for the Dying
The viaticum from a cruel clash of ignorant armies by night is figured as a gangster rivalry with a hit man observed by a priest silenced in the confessional, it heads toward a fair blind lady organist and away from a whore’s bed.
This is the film all critics agreed was execrable, some reported as skewered by the studio, a few as beyond hope to begin with, somehow.
The one that goes nowhere, the bridge to the afterlife in the Richard III sense, “the developers finally got to Oakville,” the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven is only a makeover, “a lobotomy”, the New Gefoozleum.
Naturally, the central character is a spiritualist, a medium (denounced as a “witch” in a fine scene taken from The Birds). Her father manages the act as entertainment, a reporter for the Oakville Bee investigates it.
There’s a hit man and a corrupt mayor and the latter’s crony on the force. Kudzu is the superabundant metaphor, “one day it’s gon’ reach New York.”
In short, the bright new future that demolishes the present and the past, a Valhalla for the dead it creates, a creeper infestation.
Altman takes it all in hand for A Prairie Home Companion, an act of kindness as Hodges’ film was mainly undistributed.
The implications of it have scarcely been noticed even by favorable reviewers.
There is a certain kinship to John Newland’s exemplary series One Step Beyond.
To ghost-write for celebrities is the only way to win and the metaphor, comprehensively speaking, it is derived or perhaps better reflected from Dostoevsky and specifically from Siodmak’s The Great Sinner, a film of capital importance.
House odds, against which is I, Croupier, the anonymous novel written by the protagonist.
It did not win the Edgar Allan Poe Award.
Hodges updates Cukor’s Rich and Famous on publishing, closely following on Yates’ Curtain Call.
It’s your loss, the croupier exults.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
The theme is related to Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Furie’s The Circle as well in another way, the political evaluation (if it can be called that) as satire takes a more direct and forceful turn in a sort of freeze-frame not on action but on plot structure, a single element is isolated as the central event, everything else pivots on this.
A car dealer sodomizes a young man he can’t stand, the humiliation kills the boy, his older brother (a sometime mobster) returns from Shakespearean exile in the Welsh forests to kill the bugger.
And this is a very neat ascent from the underbelly of postmodern London to England more or less visible through the interstices all along.
It ends with golf balls driven into the sea. A Fuseli nightmare nonetheless obtains in the shadow of a gunman. Carol Reed’s The Third Man is evoked in Mylar balloons held by revelers outside the Cigala restaurant at night, a nix-left-turn sign adds the Continental touch.
Lamb in Christ’s Hospital is rememorated. “J. B. had a heavy hand. I have known him double his knotty fist at a poor trembling child (the maternal milk hardly dry upon its lips) with a ‘Sirrah, do you presume to set your wits at me?’—Nothing was more common than to see him make a headlong entry into the schoolroom, from his inner recess, or library, and, with turbulent eye, singling out a lad, roar out, ‘Od's my life, Sirrah,’ (his favourite adjuration), ‘I have a great mind to whip you,’—then, with as sudden a retracting impulse, fling back into his lair—and, after a cooling lapse of some minutes (during which all but the culprit had totally forgotten the context), drive headlong out again, piecing out his imperfect sense, as if it had been some Devil’s Litany, with the expletory yell—‘and I WILL too.’”