unman, wittering and zigo

The wettest boy in the form proposes that they kill their punishing, “sarcastic” master, and they do it.

This was a boy they ought to have helped instead of tormented, his mode of ingratiation would not have appealed to them.

It takes all the film to make these points, Variety and Roger Greenspun of the New York Times had not the patience, and gleaned not the slightest meaning from it. Halliwell subscribes to their view.

An astounding anagram of Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, which premiered five months later.


The Long Good Friday

A simple remedy (borrowed from Borges) for the larger similar malady of a gang war seen as a politicization (“I think of a restaurant as many things besides a place to eat, but never as a stage,” says Orson Welles. “To me, a restaurant is a place where I am at ease with my friends”).


Beyond The Limit

The Honorary Consul, “such pitiably small beer”, rescued by the police from a tiny band of Paraguayan revolutionaries holed up across the border in Argentina, where “Jews and Communists” have to be dealt with.

State of Siege (dir. Costa-Gavras) is efficiently parodied, the ending gives the key as The Comedians (dir. Peter Glenville).

Amusing caricatures are built up and simply cease to exist, one way and another. This was “a steady dose of tedium” to Variety, but “all the familiar icons” to Tom Milne in the Monthly Film Bulletin, “exhausted passion, moral betrayal, and relics of religious faith” (Sight and Sound), “everybody drunk or depressed” (Halliwell’s Film Guide, which gives the two previous citations).


The Fourth Protocol

A side-by-side comparison of Soviet and UK spy tactics, with an emphasis on USSR liquidation of liabilities vs. British workmanship.

A complicated little thriller constructed around the idea of sabotage for the sake of propaganda, with side elements constituting practically another film about the roots of treachery, or the rewards of life in the secret service. So you have Kim Philby enjoying his retirement, an MI6 man with a political conscience, and various spymasters who have little or none.

Filmed with a clean technique and careful realism, a sequence of shots has broken glass on the floor noticed by Petrovsky, who looks up at the skylight and around him for the explanation, which is two seconds in coming (a device from The Birds and Mrs. Miniver).


The Last of the Finest

The Last of the Finest is about LAPD Narcotics officers squeezed out of the department, who on their own discover an extraordinary shipment of arms at the Port of Los Angeles, a large missile, a tank, scads of small rockets, etc. They escape under fire in a container truck that strikes a low bridge, disgorging its contents, $22 million in packets of cash.

Mackenzie builds on Chinatown in his portrait of the city, and the softball diamond used for the climax and coda is an homage to George C. Scott’s inestimable Rage. The final shot, of a television monitor broadcasting a political press conference, illustrates the point being made, that the vocabulary of politicians can have a different meaning in real life.

Brian Dennehy and his fellow officers have a strong, comical suggestion of Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five. Henry Darrow as a City Hall type has a noble political purpose and a visceral dislike of murder, but even though this quasi-military operation south of the border is tied to Federal officials as well, it’s run by a businessman with his eye on the 22 million, concealed in a septic tank.



David Greene’s The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is the forensic basis, Mackenzie reconciles it with Mel Stuart’s Ruby and Oswald on the Jew Jacob Rubinstein in the Mafia woodpile, a loyal soldier at the bottom of the heap who squelches a takeover out of Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent and spoils his chances, silence is the key thereafter.

Joe Valachi is the guy, the government never brings Ruby to Washington, he dies muttering in his cell.

No critic saw Greene’s film on television, to read them.

Mackenzie has David Hugh Jones’ gift (cp. 84 Charing Cross Road) for American period locations.



A fake thriller about a fake film called Quicksand shot in Nice to launder Russian drug money.

There is an admirable feint with a Lee Harvey Oswald frame job, and a voguing CFO for Groupe Lumière, the titular producers.

The reference is to Pichel’s great film about money troubles in Santa Monica.