The Legacy

Such geezers exist in Los Angeles (Marquand has them in the Hills), their design business takes them to London on a mysterious commission, the dreadful song behind the opening credits is their anthem, their motorcycle nearly collides with a Rolls-Royce on a country road and so they are ensconced in a manor house, mysteriously.

Europe renascent under Germany gathers at the manse, with a deal in view, over Mountolive’s dead body.

The girl is an innocent ready for Roeg’s Puffball, but her boyfriend Tex is just the man for country matters (back home he waters the houseplants).

The well-filmed escape on horseback transports the pair by Michael J. Lewis disco tune to the village, where silently but for the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves they consider their lonely plight.

Ya know,” Charles Gray is unfazedly told by Sam Elliott, “you’re gettin’ t’ be a real pain in the ass!”

All roads lead to the manor house. “No deal, we’re goin’.”

Ladi Margaret Walshingham (so spelled) is a ringer in her Elizabethan portrait for the girl (the Queen had her burned at the stake).

The gathered heirs are perishing, murdered, the “six seal-bearers” who serve the Devil. Tex finds the portrait “laughable”.

But the impeccable logic of the screenplay will have its way.

The New York Times sent John Corry, he found it “thin and dopey... the director, Richard Marquand, may have something to say about the banality of evil, but it comes off as rather attractive instead.”

Time Out Film Guide hasn’t a bloody clue.

Halliwell’s Film Guide has “will please the easily pleased.”


Eye of the Needle

The 39 Steps is treated with reference to Powell’s The Spy in Black. Hannay is now a Nazi spy who comes into possession of information decisive to the invasion of Normandy, and is at pains to transmit it to a waiting U-Boat. The film goes no farther than Scotland, where he kills the farmer and sleeps with his wife, who kills him after a sequence partaking of Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs.

The most remarkable thing is seeing Hitchcock stood upon his head, but this gives rise to almost intolerable tension that makes for a very satisfactory tessitura from first to last. There is a smack of desperation in it, even, which is entirely to the point, given the circumstances. Donald Sutherland’s performance is altogether a work of art, and those of the rest of the cast have also been rightly praised.

The spy cuts a swath right through Britain, from bombed-out cities to crowded trains at night. Marquand’s pictures of all this are formidable medium shots related to Schlesinger’s, and he builds to an overwhelmingly somber conclusion.

But there is no getting away from the strangeness of it all, like nothing save Buñuel’s Una Mujer sin Amor, which imagines George Bailey leaving Bedford Falls.

The spy’s discovery of an airfield full of warplanes that are mockups made of wood and cloth (he tears open an engine compartment and snaps a picture of the void) is not only the central point of Sutherland’s portrayal, rendering a WWII operative with continual authenticity and audacity, it reflects by an understatement the whole venture at a glance, a critique of deconstruction, perhaps.


Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi

In one pleasing detail, it is revealed that Jabba the Hutt eats toads. So, unfortunately, does George Lucas—above all in tandem with Lawrence Kasdan.

This all started when a certain Minow declared war against TV as “a cultural wasteland,” and gave us something more accessible—Sesame Street, where kids learn how to count and not steal pic-à-nic baskets.

Now that ownership of Chaplin’s studio on La Brea has passed from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass to Jim Henson Productions, you can see an irony in all this, if you care to. The old Hollywood joke about “thanking the little people”?

As for this writer, he is like one of Pizza the Hutt’s underlings, “you’re delicious!” Who can beat Spaceballs for a No Return sendup?

Commander Cody Meets the Muppets! The Imperial Army in parade formation is a lift from Billion Dollar Brain, which is a faithful homage to Alexander Nevsky. Eisenstein, Russell, Lucas—there’s the rise and fall of cinema for you.

If snot could talk, it would crave a death scene like Yoda’s. Or, as Lenny Bruce used to say, “blah-blah-blah, Yoda-Yoda-Yoda!” TV Guide’s “Greatest Show In The History Of Television” also paid tribute to “the snot-green Incorruptible.”

The Lucas/Marquand version of the Ben-Hur chariot race, on rocket cycles zipping through the woods, is a tempest in a Caesar salad bowl. Teddy bears with spears (one of them—it’s a running joke—clasps Han Solo’s leg)!

Return of the Jedi is so bad that even Pauline Kael thought so. Any good director would have taken the unmerited success of Jaws or Star Wars and put it into making great films. Instead, we get the Liberace phenomenon, except that Liberace had more talent in his bejeweled little finger than all the New Hollywood boys put together, so to speak.

The most ultimately incompetent film one has ever seen. It’s not copacetic, it’s just so pathetic.

Not the grandeur of Sir Alec Guinness, the charm of Carrie Fisher, the sonorousness of James Earl Jones, the skill of Kenneth Colley, and the gallantry of Billy Dee Williams can keep it from being something put together on the lot for the children, by the children.

At least Lucas financed a Kurosawa, from whom he unfortunately acquired nothing but a vaguely Japanese nuance in his Imperial Army costumes—and, of course, “The Force”. Twenty-five years of “dark side” superstitiousness is all his own.

“Join the farce and get a pinchin’,” says the Bible salesman in Salesman. A spate of imitation toward the end puts Luke Skywalker in mortal danger from one of Roger Corman’s wizards. Darth Vader unmasked is Otto Preminger as Mr. Freeze, or else W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty.

He gets a Viking funeral, followed by fireworks and confetti. All the dead reappear as ghosts at the celebrations.

Spectator, the two robots are meant to represent the two Beckettian bumpkins of The Hidden Fortress.

Watching this, one might think of poor old Joseph Campbell, Martha Graham’s friend and inspiration, making the most of Star Wars for the Great Society’s Press Secretary, Bill Moyers.

How can you explain the rabid popularity of all this? Mostly marketing, of course, but to be fair, you have to see it to believe it. P.T. Barnum would have died of snot-green envy at a rube’s market on a global scale like this one.

Is one wrong? Has all the hoopla set one’s jaw against it for no reason? Shall one settle down one day to watch the completed masterwork via laserplayer, puffing on a pipe in slippers and jacket, with Chewie curled up contentedly at one’s feet in the old manse, a Leia round one’s neck, and Obi Wankin’ Obi in one’s ear?

Picture this writer there, you who goggle like Sight & Sound’s reviewer at ILM’s digital Dynavision, happy as a clam in Campbell’s soup (“a Jedi Clam-pet Car-toon”). Or rather dim sum, as the perennial theme is Japan’s invasion of China, and what it all adds up to. Is Yoda Mao or Deng (“Yoda man!“No, Yoda man!”)?

If you put wheels on a crapper and drive it “all the way to the bank”, are you John Ford’s father?