The first film in an illustrious career looks small and portentous in its snooker around the bar, for instance, located between The Woman in Green and Karaoke.
Lake Windermere, High Wray, Hughes’ novel (as House Across the Lake in UK).
The American position, ferryman, convive, instrument of destruction.
A classic theme, unfaithful wife takes new lover, does husband in, satisfies herself with his money and old lover, the new worm turns her in.
At a very good clip in just over an hour it mystified Leonard Maltin, “tame murder yarn”.
The exquisite construction aims for the dream state on Lake Windermere when, swerving to avoid the ferry, the victim’s motor launch Carol topples him onto the deck bleeding and unconscious, in a fog the wife names her poison.
Jimmy Sangster is the assistant director, Ivor Slaney’s score takes its cue from “Dialogue du vent et de la mer”.
The American cousin, an absolute villain.
His partner in crime demands a share, a churchgoing Englishman is befooled into doing the deed.
The Englishman confesses to his priest, both must be done away with.
Welles’ The Stranger remotely, Hitchcock (I Confess) at a far remove. The Scarface theme of Howard Hawks is pivotal. A magnificently detailed vision, down to the evocation of FDR cast aside.
T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (dir. George Hoellering) and Anouilh’s Becket (dir. Peter Glenville) are suggested.
Britmovie, “nothing new to say”. Sandra Brennan (All Movie Guide) has evidently the wrong film, “biography of a renowned man who recently died...” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “so-so... slow pacing.”
The Atomic Man
J.W. Dunne is mentioned by way of explaining the title character’s dilemma, he lives seven-and-one-half seconds into the future (the UK title is Timeslip).
He is a nuclear scientist known as the “isotope man” for his work, he’s developing synthetic tungsten.
The United Tungsten Corporation of Buenos Aires kills him for seven-and-one-half seconds, replaces him so fast with a double that the plastic-surgery scars haven’t healed, and sets up a reactor explosion at his London research laboratory.
These are the essential matters, full of interest.
The film is a triumph of style not only in the writing of this masterful plot, but in the filming as well, and the major coup to start with is the casting of Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue as the American reporters who get the story, Peter Arne as the scientist and his double, Joseph Tomelty as the Irish cop from Scotland Yard, and so forth.
The Long Haul
The job Stateside comes with a certain price, in England there’s a crooked game going, for this is an ex-serviceman’s lorry-driving Tirez sur le pianiste (dir. François Truffaut) and no mistake.
The roots of the structure can be discerned with ease in They Drive by Night (dir. Raoul Walsh). The ratfest running the swindle at J. Easy & Co. Haulage Contractors is very like the gang in Kazan’s On the Waterfront.
The job and the moll are jettisoned for wife and child in Blighty.
Leonard Maltin, “minor fare.”
The Cat, AKA Bert ‘Arris, and the Teddy boys who pinch fags in ‘Ackney.
Just before West Side Story (dir. Robert Wise), and then These Are the Damned (dir. Joseph Losey), really a portent of the Southern California beach movies and Get Smart.
Newley of the Cagney school.
Script by the director and John Antrobus from the author of Wide Boy, cinematography Ted Moore, camera Nicolas Roeg, music Ted Heath and Kenneth V. Jones.
“Ahhhhhhh, are you thinkin’ of doin’ this job on your own, Pussy?”
“Caw, wha’d I tell ya, a genius, a proper genius!”
“Shhh! Please, please, I’m performing.”
“The Law? Have you gone potty? Wif all dis loot we can retire and live like loads!”
“Oh, er, say goodbye to the ring for me, will you?”
James Booth, Bernie Winters, Al Mulock, David Lodge and Anne Aubrey, the ring. Lionel Jeffries and Leo McKern, coppers.
A Thames cruise with stolen jewels, all the principals, Ted Heath and His Music, a sunny day in London town, and various jazz enthusiasts, concludes the thing at Dreamland.
Leonard Maltin, “energetic caper”. Eleanor Mannikka (All Movie Guide), “has an identity problem.”
The Trials of Oscar Wilde
The two works seen as opening nights are Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Hughes’ remarkable use of widescreen amplifies the thought.
Russell adopts the material in some senses for The Music Lovers (as well as a few notes for Mahler), before Salome’s Last Dance.
The analysis reveals Wilde as a “cat’s-paw” between Bosie and the Marquis.
It looked to Bosley Crowther, New York Times, like a “whitewash” job.
Time Out Film Guide follows Variety in slighting James Mason’s performance as Sir Edward Carson.
The Small World of Sammy Lee
Compere at the Peepshow, “smilingly yours,” a loser at cards and the track.
Hughes takes Suschitzky for a Resnais ride through the opening credits, later it’s Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie or Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack, or even Reisz’ The Gambler, here the seamy side comes up for inspection, as at the tapestry works. The artist is intimately familiar with it but rarely shows it, Hughes takes the opposite tack with glimpses of the obverse (“The Garden of Allah”, French lady at her bath, virgin sacrifice) like John Byner’s backturned impressionist or Baudelaire’s Paris spleen. Two hoods enter the club (the younger one hears a lecture en route, “in my day all the villains had black hats”), eyeglasses glint among the spectators as the girl onstage does her striptease, the view from Sammy’s dressing room window is a boy in an alley whittling of an afternoon on a box between a crate and a stroller.
There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, and a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph, and Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, and “what is probably the most second-rate nasty small-minded dirty little show in the West End,” mind you, “exactly what you deserve,” managed by “a high-class ponce” who gives Sammy né Leeman the sack.
Philip French (Guardian), “so another opportunity of taking an honest look at the London underworld is lost; fings are still unfortunately what they used to be in the British cinema.” Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, with Newley playing the lead “inevitably monotonous”. Variety, “incisive and tart... deft assurance”. Andrew Sarris (Village Voice), “self-righteous to the point of hypocrisy.” TV Guide, “interesting, sometimes funny look at the underbelly of Soho.” Britmovie, “hackneyed melancholic plot”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “overlong ‘realist’ comedy-melodrama... vivid but cursed with a tedious hero.”
Of Human Bondage
A very brutal analysis of Madame Bovary, from Somerset Maugham.
A.H. Weiler’s regard for the novel led him to some remarks in the New York Times that do not pertain to the film.
Variety said it “may seem a hard-to-take slab of period meller,” reported that Hughes took over from Henry Hathaway (who is credited with “additional scenes”), and found the screenwriter’s cameo as a medical student “inexplicable”.
Halliwell describes this as “disastrous” and says that Laurence Harvey and Kim Novak are “miscast”.
A highly refined English joke on the Cold War, comprising a tribute to a formidable ally and a cunning analysis of the foe.
Such things as Mackendrick’s The Ladykillers and Gilliat’s Left Right and Centre (and Huston’s The List of Adrian Messenger) form the essential structure, which is later visible in Schepisi’s The Russia House as well (other lines of thought include Dearden’s The Assassination Bureau and Huston’s Prizzi’s Honor), cf. Hughes’ Heat Wave.
An exquisite masterpiece, a bedrock proposition of Hughes’ art with a very advanced technique.
Howard Thompson of the New York Times, “a good comedy.” TV Guide, “leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.” In this connection, Hal Erickson (Rovi) speaks of “historian Leslie Halliwell”, whose Film Guide has “loud, restless black comedy”.
The UK title is Drop Dead Darling, the proximate influence Quine’s How to Murder Your Wife.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has the same structure as The Wizard of Oz from the same studio, with one important difference. Whereas the fantastic element of the earlier film is a single dream, in the later one it’s a story told extemporaneously during a picnic (like Alice Through the Looking Glass) by Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) to his two children, who interpret it imaginatively. This imparts a freer, looser structure to the fantasy, which is why the transition is less marked.
Not Toto but Chitty is the object of concern. Under the credits, you see it, long before the children have named it, being driven to victory in three Grand Prix races and swerving to avoid a child in a fourth, which results in a terrible crash that lands it on the junk heap, where the children like to pretend it’s their own. A scrap dealer proposes to melt it down, and the anguished children run home to their father. In so doing, they cause Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howe) to swerve off the road and into a pond with her lemon-yellow roadster. This repeated image at the beginning is a very odd echo of Lawrence of Arabia.
The realistic dimension of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was remade as The Jerk (dir. Carl Reiner). The Child Catcher sequence might have been inspired by an incident in the famous account of Kristallnacht from an English reporter who was there (and helped an elderly Jewish lady to safety). “The object of the mob’s hate was a hospital for sick Jewish children, many of them cripples or consumptives. In minutes the windows had been smashed and the doors forced. When we arrived the swine were driving the wee mites out over the broken glass, bare-footed and wearing nothing but their nightshirts. The nurses, doctors and attendants were being kicked and beaten by the mob leaders, most of whom were women.” Earlier, Potts had responded to Truly’s charge of negligence by saying sarcastically, “I suppose I could chain them up,” meaning his children.
He’s an inventor, evidently transatlantic, of the sort whose name does not appear on the things he invents when they finally come to market. Grandpa (Lionel Jeffries) served a brigadier in the wars. “The Fuzzy-Wuzzies were so blinded by the shine on his boots they couldn’t see to fight,” says Grandpa.
When Baron Bomburst’s zeppelin lands at his castle (actually Neuschwanstein) in Vulgaria, a movable stairway is rolled up to it bearing the name VULG-AIR. Ken Adam’s designs multiply his genius across the decades. Gert Frobe as the Baron is even more magnificent than he is in Goldfinger. He rejects his birthday present from the Toymaker (Benny Hill), “dolls? Dolls? I have hundreds of dolls!” The raid on the castle resembles The Dirty Dozen. The family return home from their picnic and the children know that Truly’s father (James Robertson Justice) is there, “that’s Lord Scrumptious’s car!” Grandpa and Lord Scrumptious are playing H.G. Wells’ favorite game, Little Wars. The script is by Roald Dahl and the director, with touches by Richard Maibaum. Anna Quayle is nowhere more sublime, not even in Arrivederci, Baby!.
Vulgaria is the land where Curly, Moe and Larry go on a suicidal assignment to take press photographs in Dutiful But Dumb (dir. Del Lord). As rightly expanded to a full-length color feature (in Super Panavision 70), with a sublime cast and songs by the Shermans (amongst which “Toot Sweets”, “Truly Scrumptious” and the showstopper rounded off by Lionel Jeffries, “POSH”, come instantly to mind), it sacrifices the particular English whimsy of the Fleming original for a piece of madness closer to George Pal’s tom thumb or The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, in a way. Caractacus Potts! “The Roses of Success”! “You’re My Little Chu-Chi Face”!
What do you see,
you people gazing at me?
The model for this production is Renoir’s La Marsellaise, and given the differences it is adhered to intellectually throughout for much the same reason.
Criticism has not taken the political slant on Hughes’ film that Renoir has always suffered, it is simply dismissed.
It drives to the foundations of democracy in Britain and finds them once again in Cromwell’s epitaph.
The Internecine Project
The liquidation of an industrial spy’s London network just ahead of his appointment as top White House economic advisor.
The functions of the network are espionage, bribery, blackmail, and the pilfering of War Office research projects in exchange for, say, Arab oil contracts.
The spy, who works for a corporation of corporations, holds down a professorship at Harvard.
The project is a night of long knives (a Friday, to be exact), the four operatives live in the heart of London and do not know each other, the man in the Foreign Office kills the masseur at the Executive Directors Club, who kills the Continental whore, who kills the research scientist, who kills the man in the Foreign Office.
A lady journalist is in love with the spy.
A lorry driver on the Normandy Ferries to Rouen, Trieste, Istanbul...
Everywhere birds, and a well-done-up bachelor pad to squire them to when not out and about, all amusing studies.
The most difficult of all birds, not V.N.’s model but a creatrix of London magazine spreads, falls to earth in Maidstone, Kent.
One of the most beautiful of all films, perfectly filmed, a poem of London views and perceptions (Ousama Rawi cinematography), not as posh as Gilbert, but “from the ashes of disaster...”
Time Out, “like an advert with no product to sell.” TV Guide, “everything about this film is cheap—the story, direction, camerawork, and especially the acting.” Tom Hutchinson (Radio Times), “harmless and charmless.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “quite unworthy of the writer-director.”
Mae West’s genius at work. “Dear autobiography,” she says into a tape recorder as “Marlo... the answer to Apollo.”
It can bring down mountains at a top-secret conference in the London hotel where she’s honeymooning with a Sir, her sixth.
The State Department renews her torch for “sexy Alexei” to win a da, another ex the gangster returns from the dead to silence the tape and “make up for lost time” (“don’t hold your breath,” she tells him), another ex is the film director Karolny, “son of Lubitsch”, screen-testing young Cartwright in a love scene.
Canby of the New York Times was so flabbergasted that he said the authoress not only had no talent but never had at any time, setting the benchmark for critics.
An absolutely funny, brilliant film.
The mysteries of maidenhead and inversion and infidelity and other anthropological matters in Boston.
WHORES: What will he do when they lie in bed?
ROARING BOYS: Draw his sword and chop off her head.
The Rake’s Progress
“It doesn’t look bad. It just is bad” (Vincent Canby, New York Times).
The penultimate scene, from Carol Reed’s The Third Man, is rather curious.