Tiara Tahiti

More than a great feast, a royal luau on the poet laureate Southey.

Otto Heller filmed it on location for Rank, the novelist and the producer and Mordecai Richler wrote it, Variety noted it’s “a field day” for Mason and Mills, not to mention Dauphin, Marin and Lom for starters, Kinnear et al.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times had no idea at all, none whatsoever, and thought it was all a holiday for cast and crew, which was A.H. Weiler’s opinion of Donovan’s Reef (Ford’s Hurricane is on at the Cine Bambou), posters for this film spread out Crowther’s condemnation in tall letters, “BIG, BRIGHTLY COLORED PICTURE... FRANK... UNDISCIPLINED”, wonderful.

Time Out Film Guide couldn’t find it on a map, either. “It doesn’t really come off.”

Halliwell thought it was some sort of a comedy, not very well done, alas.

There is a fine bit of a turn on The Moon and Sixpence in a stockbroker done out of his career for a Polynesian existence.


Lena, O My Lena
Armchair Theatre

Alun Owen’s Carmen or Summer with Monika but neither of those, a brief fling with a working-class girl in Salford, very brief, the paramour is a working-class Liverpool boy gone to university who chooses General Supplies Ltd. over pea-picking for a day job, his “stuck-up” folksinging fellows do the other, you see.

She’s across the way at Salford Press Tool Co. Ltd., her G.S. lorry driver and she are temporarily on the outs.

Billie Whitelaw, Peter McEnery, Scott Forbes, Colin Blakely the G.S. loading dock foreman (Assheton Gorton, sets).


The Trial of Dr. Fancy
Armchair Theatre

A courtroom drama on the unification of trade and medicine in the cause of little people who do not know their own minds when buying a pair of trousers, amputation is the key, psychiatrically speaking.

A work of genius unmitigated in all respects save one, Barry Jones as Q.C. cannot retain his composure whilst delivering his lines now and again.

Nigel Stock, Peter Sallis, Norman Bird, Dandy Nichols, Ronald Hines, Kynaston Reeves, et al., maintain perfect decorum.

Ken Russell has “The Girl with the Golden Breasts” (Trapped Ashes) not too remotely, “world trade is not a handicap event,” says a witness.

The “Cyclops complex” is at issue.


Life at the Top

The hero of Room at the Top in the meshes.

A Yorkshire TV commère seems a way out to London.

He’s a Tory candidate for council and wins the “cocker spaniel” vote, at home.

The wife shagged, Huckleberry Hound mask on husband’s face when he discovers, fresh from Savoy for the firm (cp. Annakin’s Value for Money).

He’s the big wheel in t’end, is our Joe Lampton.

A magnificent film (cinematography by Oswald Morris) on the arse end up.


Dare I Weep Dare I Mourn

John Le Carré’s story is the Anti-Communist Manifesto, Cummings’ kumrads, “because they are afraid to love”.

Hero and Leander at the Berlin Wall, the tragedy of a West German arseache (James Mason) gone East past the Cerberus of Kafka to fetch his father’s corpse, surprise, his pa’s alive (Hugh Griffith) in the East German underground, there is a lady in the circle (Jill Bennett), our Papageno nearly meets his Papagena but the fear (he was on the Russian front, has a limp) kills it all.


The Human Voice

His mistress lies prostrate, hanging on to the telephone like a diver gasping for breath, her younger lover is to marry the girl on the cover of Country & Life.


Edna the Inebriate Woman
Play for Today

“Homeless and”, per classification.

Charity of borough and nation sustains her on her wanderings.

A small experiment, no Hull House, takes in such as her and is closed on the neighbors’ complaint.


Billy Two Hats

A breed with a white father (“one for special and one for ordinary”) and a Kiowa mother.

The structure looks like a combination of The 39 Steps and Ulzana’s Raid (dir. Robert Aldrich) from the same screenwriter.

This is closely related to Chato’s Land (dir. Michael Winner) on the Indian theme, which comes to a head in the curious nexus of Sheriff Gifford’s assumptions quite fallen by the way.

The Lady and the Outlaw it’s also called, but it’s the Scotsman and the breed out West where there’s nothing but Copeland’s General Trading & Saloon.

Halliwell’s Film Guide has what you might call the critical dilemma, “curiously miscast western shot in Israel, it makes no discernible point and is not very entertaining.”


Fun With Dick and Jane

Fun With Dick and Jane details the start of the New Economy on a precise date, July 20th, 1969, when the space program culminated in the first moon landing, as thenceforth there was nowhere to go but down. The full initiation is dated February 11th, 1977, when Dick becomes head of Taft Aerospace, which now deals in missiles on the international market, making cash payments to secure contracts.

Kotcheff’s brand of farce and surrealism is on its own here, without the visual style he developed in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, but critics were confused in any event. Not perceiving the connotation of each telegraphic scene, they were left with a comedy that seemed more or less objectionable. One little gag was nettlesome to Vincent Canby, for instance, which has a man at the Taft company party in the final sequence hold a voice amplifier to his throat in order to speak. Canby considered it arbitrary and cruel, not remembering Jane at the beginning calling one of the repossessed plants in her front yard a “tracheotomy” by mistake.

This efficient sense of language is in every detail. The credits are printed on facing pages of a Dick and Jane book that tells the story of them growing up to buy their dream house and then a bigger dream house. When Dick is fired, he goes home to find two workmen flogging a new wood floor, who explain, “this is distressing.” The new concrete pool lies unfinished.

The construction of the middle section is as precise as Mr. Arkadin. Dick is offered a job in “collecting and storing data” at a reduced salary, but loses it when the garden contractor returns to take the house plants, spoiling the façade Dick has put up for an executive’s visit.

The janitor for Dick’s office steers him through the unemployment line, then spoils it when they’re spotted picking up forty bucks as supers in Carmen, snickering at the fat lady a-wobble on a table. Dick receives a good deal of counsel on food stamps at a Mexican bar, until everyone vanishes at the sight of two plainclothes Immigration officers, who arrest solitary Dick when he orders una cerveza. Jane becomes a department store model, copying the other girls to attain a flight of Watteau grace and then stumbling in a fall that sends a dessert cart into the clientele.

Jane’s father won’t help them, wealthy as he is. Self-reliance is his religion, Emerson’s picture’s on his wall, he sold his Taft stock the day Armstrong and what’s-his-name set foot on the moon. The Total Loan Co. offers Dick and Jane a thousand dollars for one year at 18%, there’s nothing overlooked in the present circumstances, so that reviewers now see nothing extraordinary and at the time saw nothing at all.

The loan company is robbed during their transaction, Dick shortly resolves on a life of crime, Jane joins him once she’s called a babysitter. They steal a car, try a supermarket, a drug store, a deli and a liquor store, before an adult motel is their first score. A record store, a restaurant, a phone company office, they’re in the chips again, throw a poolside party with mariachi band.

A minister of the prosperity gospel pursues them in his loudspeaker truck when they steal his takings. “Thou shalt not steal, give me back my goddamn money.” They make a narrow escape (the music is Bach’s Magnificat) and almost retire. Then they see Dick’s old boss at Taft being asked about payoffs by a congressional committee on television. Dick laughs remembering prospective clients walking out with $200,000 each time. Their last caper is the slush fund in the boss’s safe.

One thing has been noticed, however, and that is the playing. This is the stylistic point achieved by Kotcheff, not a black comedy or an agreeable one, but in the great and difficult tradition of humor too concerned with being funny to worry whether or not it’s understood, leaving that to the critics.


Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? was 25 years ahead of its time, and there’s another reason for its less than adequate critical reception. Kotcheff employs a stylistic oddity that none of the critics may have perceived, if one knows them. The film is centered on a gourmet food critic, played by Robert Morley. His posh surgeon tells him to cut back, and so begins his nightmare. Kotcheff films almost every shot with an imaginary sense of girth between the camera and the action, which tends to put the farce at an unaccustomed distance.

This is Morley’s picture, then. He’s offered a slice of duck on the end of a chef’s fork, and clutches it with his bare left hand like an Angle (his fur collar does not suggest Henry VIII, that resemblance is Hitchcock’s). A most grateful part for him, and seen through his eyes the world is an oyster.

After a quarter-century, here is the plot. It is precisely the sort of thing handled as a matter of course by Perry Mason, though it strongly resembles one of Lt. Columbo’s most delectable cases. Max (that is the critic’s name) has a female assistant, and she did it, for love of him. There you are.

George Segal plays a cowboy-hatted American with a line of omelette parlors called H. Dumpty. His ex-wife (Jacqueline Bisset) is a dessert chef. After a night with the royal cook (Jean-Pierre Cassel) she wakes to find a bottle of Dom Perignon on the pillow beside her, and the chef roasting in his own oven. “QUEEN’S COOK COOKED”, says The Daily Telegraph.

The Venetian chef drowns in his own lobster tank, and so on to Paris. At an outdoor restaurant, Kotcheff assembles his chefs (among them Jean Rochefort, Philippe Noiret, and Jacques Marin) for some very dry comedy.

The ultramodernizations in the performances are not to be missed. All the critics’ mouth is in their taste.


North Dallas Forty

Americans have been very strenuously told for some years the difference between male and female, with all the subtlety of a Hollywood or Washington announcer on a PA system (that “Wizard of Oz” touch). Football, we are told, is a “guy thing”. The bedrugged idleness of this masculine sport played up the yingyang with a dull sense of reality overlain by corporate teamwork and slambang graphics is pretty much the substance of the film.

For “chicks”, there’s the romance and beauty of ice skating.


First Blood

Kotcheff balances his beam on the rich tapestry of “Jerkwater, U.S.A.” as against the gibbering of its hero at the close, an enormous inflation punctured very suddenly. Jerry Goldsmith’s noble score equilibrates the quandary.


Uncommon Valor

Uncommon Valor is built on a single image, which occurs after the prologue set in Vietnam, where soldiers are left behind on a battlefield by helicopters under fire.

The telegrams are sent out, and the grieving parents of one missing soldier are lying in bed. The father has a memory of the boy very young coming to the bedroom door at night, and extends his hand right to the camera in answer. That’s the image, and all the rest of the film is more or less thrown away in order to achieve the fulfillment of it an hour-and-a-half later when the mechanics of plot, direction, thespianism and special effects finally bring rescue to a sorrowful-looking batch of prisoners.

Such an extravagant use of the cinema is certainly uncommon, and as the executive producer signed it A Ted Kotcheff Film, it must be counted valorous as well.


Switching Channels

A postmodernization of His Girl Friday, with a characteristic feel for those icy blundering designscapes and people in them, so a subtle amalgamation of Meet John Doe is introduced to the tale of politics and the free press.

Television today is an experiment out of The Magic Christian, and simply boils down to what’s your price to read a bucket of slop, whether you’re a talented comedian, a prizewinning journalist, or a respected actor. The Front Page is all about leaving the arena behind for financial security.


The Shooter

The question is, who is killing the Cuban ambassador? It’s a sacrifice play by Cuban higher-ups enlisting American support (the offensive method is from Fleischer’s The Don Is Dead). Nevertheless, a famous assassin is suspected, she runs a Continental dyke bar.

Filmed in Prague, the city of mystifications.