Case of the Deadly Double
A satire of the business world with its high-toned moral ardor masking a bare kind of rapacity, this is figured in the former Mrs. Reed, ex-wife of the company president, he wants custody of their son, she lives a double life as a split personality. Helen Reed doesn’t smoke or drink and is allergic to fur, Joyce Martel enjoys all three at her Brentwood pied-à-terre and the Burgundy Club on the Sunset Strip, where the proprietor is her lover.
The narrative gag is that one of Reed’s executives wants the company to buy another and writes a check for it.
The opulent style and mirrorings include a Gauguin for Joyce and something closer to home for Helen.
Case of the Shattered Dream
A great reckoning, an avid creditor and his “boy” and a blackjack. “You wouldn’t use that,” says the Hollywoodian with a foreign accent, “you could kill a man.”
Says the boy, slapping his other hand with it, “it’d be interesting to find out.”
The Pundit Dream, a hefty uncut diamond. The poor client’s perfume, “Eternity, a hundred and fifty dollars a half-ounce.” Mason sniffs the air, Drake concurs at the crime scene, “gunpowder.”
A “diamond or paste or fused-glass fake”, says Hamilton Burger, covering all the bases. Mason to a witness on the stand, “you’re so tangled in lies I don’t believe you know the truth from fiction.”
The genuine article.
Have Gun—Will Travel
A “crafty man” puts Paladin in the noose of a rancher’s lynching party.
Quietness is the theme, Paladin’s classical studies give him pause for reflection, to promote thought in a passel of rabbit-beaters.
Another is the sheriff “too lazy or weak for ranching” who can’t be trusted with the important work.
An eloquent teleplay by Gene Roddenberry, elegantly filmed on location by daylight under a very large dead tree.
McLaglen’s complete analysis of Kazan’s The Sea of Grass.
An unreservedly brilliant film that some will recognize as among the very finest work by all concerned.
The extraordinary opening upends Shane. McLintock is a rancher who routs the Sooners come homesteading. His very remarkable reason is that the mesa is too high an elevation to sustain farming. No castles in the sky for McLintock.
His wife has fled the bitter days of pioneering for the comforts of Back East. His lovely daughter (educated there) comes to visit him. He’s asked to speak for some Comanche chiefs just out of territorial prison. He hires a Sooner widow and her son. His wife comes to visit him.
Amidst all this traffic, a clear direction emerges. The local Indian agent is a prissy misfit, the Sooner promoter is a troublesome swindler, the governor himself (come to preside over the chiefs) is a “cull”, a wastling of the herd. The daughter loves an Ivy League idiot, the wife is a bitter termagant, McLintock has his hands full in every way. Fortunately, he’s a very capable man.
His new hired hand is an educated man with no brief for emptyheaded fashionable Easterners (who are precisely the type of people who describe this important masterpiece among others as a “dinosaur”, when their strength is in their numbers and they think they can get away with it). He takes the daughter in hand, and even gives her a good spanking, after she asks her Daddy to kill him.
This is central work of Wayne’s, every bit of it. Maureen O’Hara is the astonishment of it, as brilliant as anything and unflinching as the villainess of the piece, whose flashing ego gives way to deviltry and merriment at times, every inch dug in and to the hilt.
Chill Wills looks like a nineteenth-century man, it’s a remarkable impersonation, this is a superbly-modeled piece of comic bravura, very delicately set out. Jack Kruschen is the gemütlichkeit of the latter Western day, Strother Martin is the Indian agent, Yvonne De Carlo is the Sooner cook who serves breakfast in bed with a piece of her mind to the sometime lady of the house, Patrick Wayne is her civilized son who knows, as McLintock observes, “you have to be a man before you can be a gentleman,” Jerry Van Dyke struts his stuff excellently well as the dude with the latest dances, Edgar Buchanan is the crafty town drunk whose mule McLintock almost mistakes for a politician.
The defiantly defensive stance toward Indians and against bureaucrats would seem to anticipate Cheyenne Autumn but already appeared in William Wellman’s Buffalo Bill twenty years earlier.
It all ends in a Fourth of July rodeo on Main Street, crowned by O’Hara in her undergarments pursued by Wayne from hell to high water for a good spanking. “And so to bed,” as another good book says.
An absolute, hard position on the Civil War, expressed in Bandolero! still more intensely, and reflected closely in The Blue & the Gray on another basis.
The national position, rather than sectional or political ones, is stated by the paterfamilias. From there, if a boy puts on a Confederate cap, or a girl marries a Confederate officer, or a Union soldier tells a slave he’s free, these are immaterial considerations. The war is a disaster, it ends.
It did not occur to reviewers that any of this bore thinking upon, which just defeats the purpose.
The profound ruminations might be those of the cow between North and South, chased by a Rebel officer into Federal lines.
The realm of thought here has been compared to Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion, with which it has a lot in common, and this resembles a Wylerian theme.
It is Lincoln’s position. One does not keep slaves or let a child be made a prisoner of war.
The Rare Breed
A Hereford bull to Texas by way of St. Louis and Dodge City. The implications are serious enough to begin with, though nobody notices except Raoul Walsh in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, if you like, but in the winter of 1884-85 it becomes the story of Jacob and Laban, somehow, and cannot be discounted.
Except by critics, of course. “Innocuously banal,” says Time Out Film Guide, speaking more or less for the lot, conveniently.
Amid other Biblical nuances, a picture of the West to balance and match McLintock!, an extension of the theme.
The Ballad of Josie
The defense of the realm is a gentlemanly calling, the lady in a tight spot is on her own and triumphs after a fashion, achieving a square deal and rightful acknowledgment of her sex, which transpires in sheep farming among cattle ranchers for a time, the time of Wyoming statehood.
This is a not very easy proposition, though it’s an evaluation of McLintock! perfecting the theme.
A very brilliant comedy with lots of material presented very fast, hard to grasp, therefore Vincent Canby had a hissy-fit in the New York Times, dismissing McLaglen and Ralph Nelson (Counterpoint) in one fell swoop.
“Lumberingly scripted and even more laboriously directed” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).
Halliwell’s Film Guide also has no idea of it, properly speaking.
The Way West
The Oregon Liberty Company from Independence, Mo. to the Willamette Valley.
The complicated structure is mostly pitched between the leader and the farmer and the guide, who serves as a kind of middleman.
The leader is thrown off with the rest of the baggage in various stages along the way, which most befuddled critics acknowledged as beautifully photographed.
The Rare Breed is recognizable in the Scotsman of the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Hall, and is generally the key to all the thematic meanderings, between McLintock! and The Ballad of Josie.
Crowther of the New York Times as an “old Western fan” found it arduous.
The Devil’s Brigade
A tale of the Anglo-American alliance, with the Free French thrown in.
The unit is an actual WWII combined force of Canadians and Americans.
The precedents are Go for Broke! and the models for The Dirty Dozen (Judge Priest, Only the Valiant) but not Aldrich’s film, as Ebert points out.
The Yanks are sad sacks, stockade scum, losers. The Canadians have just come from Dunkirk. It’s a question of coming up to the fight, and down to it.
The curious central character is a minor figure with several reflections, an American pianist beaten by his CO for a rendezvous with a flame.
Among the Yanks, a Leavenworth rapist dies in Italy (“she took all my money and called the cops”), also a circus tumbler prone to escapes, but the British lose proud Sgt. Peacock and their Irish colonel, a certain flair and something provincial.
It makes for the sense of tragedy in the successful final assault.
Two brothers after the Civil War, a raider for Quantrill and a bluejacket, run afoul of the law in Texas and head South. Pursued by a sheriff’s posse, they join him to fight off bandits. Both men die, the sheriff returns with their lady hostage.
Meant nothing to critics, despite McLaglen’s cautious style that puts practically everything right before the spectator and only increases the mystery.
The structure is immediately announced as a variant of McLintock!, which then is the joke basis of Herzog’s Lektionen in Finsternis.
The oil-well fire at the opening is provoked by a hard hat smashing a light bulb, and this is the first of many associations throughout the film (the citation is James Joyce’s Ulysses). The critics’ conundrum has in no wise influenced filmmakers, who on the contrary immediately recognized and acknowledged Hellfighters as a masterwork. Blake Edwards, with a typical knack for simultaneity, had just established the trailer joke in The Party. Jim Hutton gets an emergency call in his mistress’s lap, and gives her a goodbye kiss while carefully looking at his watch unobserved, a gag varied significantly by Pakula for Klute. John Huston picked up the poker game in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (and much else besides). The bar fight was instantly remembered by Brando and Pontecorvo in Burn!. Hutton pinned underwater is echoed in Peter Yates’ Murphy’s War and Paul Newman’s Sometimes a Great Notion.
There is a general thematic resemblance to Fregonese’s Blowing Wild (and another to Edward Ludwig’s The Fighting Seabees or Richard Wallace’s Tycoon). McLaglen’s deeply-laid structure may be compared usefully with Anthony Mann’s Thunder Bay.
The entire premise is founded on Chance Buckman and his firm The Buckman Company, whose motto is “Around the Clock—Around the World.” They are “Oil Well Fire and Blowout Specialists”.
McLaglen brings the drama to the surface toward the end in a scene between Buckman (John Wayne) and his estranged wife (Vera Miles). She is in a cool blue pantsuit, he is in an orange jumpsuit with a blue undershirt just visible. They stand at opposite sides of the screen, then embrace.
A certain kinship to Richard Quine’s Hotel may be observed. A terracotta statue of Poseidon in the company offices (which are decorated with photographs of oil-well fires and successes) is seen by night after an accident in which Buckman is squeezed between two bulldozers, and by day with a great view of the city.
“Actionful, if not stirringly meaningful” (A.H. Weiler, New York Times).
“A slow-moving, talkative, badly-plotted bore” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).
Confederates going South, Yankees selling horses to Maximilian, both confounded by the Juaristas.
This appears later in The Shadow Riders under another guise (from Bandolero!), in the meantime it’s the shock to the Confederacy and the wild horses tamed out West.
The Monroe Doctrine.
The Lincoln County cattle war dramatically portrayed along the lines of a Republic or Monogram Western in color and Panavision. Both points are consciously made, leaving the wide field for thematic inclinations from McLintock! to The War Wagon and The Sons of Katie Elder and elsewhere. The sum of this gives extraordinary luster to the settings of such lines as L.G. Murphy’s, “he respects the law, and I own it,” in plain, discreet filming.
The classic tale of a businessman who horns in on the territory, monopolizes the town business, raises prices and finally besieges a rancher so as to control the Pecos River and dominate the region, “bigger than most states and some countries”. He dies on one horn of a dilemma, Chisum is the other, a great portrait of the honest man grown temperate with age, who hires Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett both, the one a suitable match for his niece, the other a reminder of himself at an earlier time.
The epic, fragmented proportions of this history bucked many a critic.
One More Train to Rob
A cunning masterpiece on the instant conversion of a train robber after several dubious escapades, very funny and brilliant.
A strong thematic relationship to McLaglen’s later work is practically a sine qua non, also a derivation from the earlier work.
It comes upon the hero all at once, like lightnin’ or the Gospel to Alvin York, causing him some discomfiture, in the end.
A highly complicated position thus resolves into a breeze, by a marvelous string of crimes and schemes and treacheries and mayhem.
Roger Greenspun of the New York Times found himself unable to register it at all, finding it dull and unfunny, which it most assuredly is not.
The books aren’t kept properly, the bank doesn’t pay out.
The title describes the situation, going nowhere with a life’s work.
Halliwell’s Film Guide, a prototypical fools’ parade, gives such an abstruse and refined film as this rare praise.
It’s naturally set in the Depression, from a novel by the man who wrote The Night of the Hunter (Halliwell points this out) among other things, even filmed in his haunts.
A raid on the treasure hoard of a Mexican outlaw.
For this, a Gatling gun is needed, the middleman wants a woman in exchange, the one offered is the cavalry commander’s English wife, the adventurer’s Scottish fiancée pays a visit.
Poetry and whiskey are the prime ingredients, nothing is given away in a précis.
There is a certain rationale in the elements, the trader’s loneliness, the wife’s rose-garden bed, the ardor of the bride-to-be.
“It’s not really very good,” said Canby of the New York Times.
“Something slow, something dumb,” said Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The Death of the Western”, Time Out Film Guide calls it.
A consummate masterwork on this order ought to have been perceived at once, McLaglen strikes critics blind, deef and dumb.
The raid is set up by a joke on the title of Aldrich’s model for it, Vera Cruz.
United States Marshal
This enchanting and difficult film (speaking from the audience vantage, and also one imagines from McLaglen’s) appears to have perplexed the critics, even though it immediately followed after Big Jake and The Cowboys to complete a train of thought. The enchantment comes from the chancy set of problems raised for the director, and the difficulty is the stylistic approach he cultivated to address them, namely a sort of “multiple point perspective” that’s free and flexible enough to be very useful in the making of a film. The inspiration is evidently Prince Hal and the Gadshill robbery.
To deal only with the main points, there are the boys (Gary Grimes and Clay O’Brien) in their carefully calculated innocence represented with some precision and also generating a field of perception that brushes up against the grownups (John Wayne and Neville Brand) and the outlaws (George Kennedy et al.), and all these perspectives are in constant motion, flexibly, so that a real drama is interplayed amongst them all.
The most obvious example is the very end. The grownups have been following the boys, who have the outlaws’ loot. The boys are menaced, then rescued (by a side shot like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) while Kennedy plays dead, then draws on Wayne, who shoots him dead for real twice in the chest. This is bloody, and without any undue emphasis puts all the various perspectives in their true position, just that fast.
In another complicated scene, the boys are digging up the loot from a graveyard at night. O’Brien stares motionless with fear, they dig, an owl flies past them, not a real one but a prop bird on a wire as in the old days, then the grownups ride toward them from far away in slow motion. The boys are scared witless, think they see the outlaws, fire shotgun and shell at the fearsome riders, and Brand falls off his horse while Wayne’s starts bucking till he hits the ground, too. The boys are gone, the grownups lick their wounds, and why McLaglen filmed it this way is pretty much what makes Cahill U.S. Marshal enchantingly difficult, with its echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird and Emil and the Detectives and its sophisticated overtones.
The Three Million Dollar
The S.S. Molly Pitcher almost sails for the Middle East sans its precious cargo, a bejeweled wedding coach. The epithalamion in praise of love and marriage is carried to the point of inventing a sailor with a wife in every port, both of them Boston. “There’s an old Polish proverb that says, ‘even though a man anoint himself with fragrant oils, he can still wind up with a broken face.’”
Television is like fresco painting by the giornata, maybe a bit like ballet composition (the coach’s artisan also carves merry-go-round horses). Second-unit filming is by George Peppard (icing on Stanley Ralph Ross’s three-tiered cake is provided by Robert Van Scoyk, Story Consultant, in a most complex composition). Banacek as created by Peppard has the leeway to bow to Harper and Bullitt without breaking.
Rocket to Oblivion
A presage of the compact disc. A rocket scientist devises a reduced engine, which he demonstrates by holding before his person a model of the Saturn V, and then a much smaller model, illustrating an increase in power. Private interests compete with the government for it, and it vanishes.
It’s placed on a turntable in a circular scrim of dark plastic to hide its workings. A hireling makes a hologram, adheres it to the interior of the scrim, aims a laser beam at it, then switches it off.
This takes place at a trade fair, the purpose of the laser is dry cleaning. Andrew Prine is the scientist, Don Gordon a Fed, Linda Evans the ringleader, Dick Van Patten her stooge. Philip Carey as her partner is a retired football player who requires, he says, a girl on each arm to stay upright.
Details abound. The scientist bugs the principals, Banacek refers to a recording of his evening with Evans as a selection of “old favorites”. On a catwalk in the ceiling above the exhibit (with Evans and Carlie), Banacek is attacked with an axe. The scientist is an untoward man at an oyster bar, etc.
It is suggested, in an imaginative cutaway, that the engine was removed in a dumpster. An arrangement of mirrors at a future vanity table draws a compliment from Banacek to the demonstrator, “I was admiring your equipment,” he tells her.
The item is not found, but Carey negotiates a deal for its return. Carlie is exultant, but Banacek receives his fee for causing its recovery, nonetheless.
McLaglen’s precise contribution is at the very least a pristine gift for composition achieved “on the fly” (this is a standard device of cinematographers in television—I Dream of Jeannie, for instance—forced to shoot fast and not miss, the camera makes closely approximate moves and then minutely adjusts the picture). “There’s an old Polish proverb that says, ‘If the butterfly had teeth like the tiger, it would never make it out of the hangar.’”
The script by the redoubtable Robert Van Scoyk is a daunting apparatus. “There’s an old Polish proverb that says, ‘It is harder for the spider to catch a fly, than it is for the fly to catch a horse.’”
Stowaway to the Moon
An eleven-year-old Woody Allen lookalike with a Mickey Mouse watch.
“Holy Toledo,” says one of the three Camelot astronauts, discovering him in the garbage compartment.
Take that, Spielberg.
“Yesterday they referred to him as a stowaway, and now he’s the fourth astronaut.”
The crisis is very similar to Bartlett’s Zero Hour!.
The Apollo spacecraft porthole has all the poetry of Juran’s First Men in the Moon and so forth, a tall order.
Altman’s Countdown for the last-minute addition to the payload.
Lloyd Bridges, Flight Director.
Camelot Odyssey, says the spacesuit insignia.
Extensively filmed aboard a KC-135 for weightlessness, as would appear.
“May be regarded by some as an excellent argument for birth control” (Hal Erickson, Rovi).
The two cases are closely related and interlinked. A trade union lawyer working for the mob shoots a Mexican burglar in his house and makes it look like self-defense, a gangster refuses to handle stolen Mexican heroin through the harbor facilities in his purview despite a boss’s order.
Det. Mitchell is plied with a high-class hooker and bribes to match, he keeps the girl and leaves the rest.
The unique sense of humor met with rather stunning silence from the New York Times and Time Out Film Guide, both of which were under the impression they had seen it all before.
The Last Hard Men
A Western masterpiece on a par with McLintock!, which shares the theme, how the greenhorn gets the girl out West.
The consummate technique and style reach a pitch that easily encompasses Peckinpah and even Anthony Mann’s El Cid.
“Appalling”, says Time Out Film Guide, reflecting the reviews.
The Wild Geese
Their call name answers “Ironman”, like goosing a statue, as one of them observes.
A deeply analytical remake of Conway’s Viva Villa! set in Africa and the present.
The banditry of the original is represented in McLaglen’s paid heroes, or their failures.
The exiled president they seek is Madero, and so forth (as in Kazan’s Viva Zapata!).
After the assassination, after the president’s death, there is retribution.
A great work of art, summarily dismissed by Variety and the New York Times (one of Janet Maslin’s poorest performances).
Das eiserne Kreuz, 2. Teil
A continuation of Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron that takes Kransky and Steiner to the Western Front against the Normandy breakout. Steiner treats with the Allies on behalf of the conspirators against Hitler.
When that fails, Kransky digs in for his medal, the issue is decided out of Clément’s Is Paris Burning?.
ffolkes (or in the UK, North Sea Hijack) is an extension or development of Hellfighters, for obvious reasons and some that may have been overlooked. A television reporter’s ineptitude in the earlier film causes the mishap that temporarily incapacitates Chance Buckman, here the terrorists get on board the oil rig supply ship by posing as journalists (the two Japanese “correspondents” among the contingent are named Yamamoto and Tanaka, Mussolini was a journalist). Given the fact that criticism is and was in so parlous a state, this is no more than the press deserves.
There is a somewhat different formal analysis provided by McLaglen. He is knowledgeably aware just how solid is the structure of Leslie H. Martinson’s Batman on the foundation of Lorenzo Semple’s script. This not only serves as the formal basis of ffolkes, or an important component of it, McLaglen announces it at the outset.
A spit of land or island with a small castle. Frogmen fall in and stand to attention as Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger Moore) gives the order for the day’s training exercise, and the camera sees them assemble before it with ‘FFOLKES FFUSILIERS’ printed on the backs of their wet suits.
To be more precise, McLaglen’s structural analysis opposes the Martinson/Semple structure to a relatively straightforward caper, the mining for ransom of a supply ship, a drilling rig and a production platform named Esther, Ruth and Jennifer (Skolimowski’s The Lightship pays homage). It’s diamond cut diamond as the two pare each other down to an essentially useful position, from the director’s point of view.
Anthony Perkins and Michael Parks are the criminal mastermind and second-in-command. There is a nuance of Dog Day Afternoon and Diamonds Are Forever. Parks nevertheless wears Skelton Knaggs’ thick glasses from Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome and is visibly a Batman villain or the anagram of one. Perkins, equally constrained, simply lashes out at critical moments like a sea creature.
Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is the British able seaman and man o’ war come to life. He is imperious and disregarding of women. Horatio Hornblower is a sketch of this. After a precisely-timed training exercise, ffolkes swigs whiskey straight from the bottle, but his self-sufficiency absorbs him in needlework en route to an operation. He keeps cats.
The star turn in this cast of the deadliest actors is given to James Mason as the comic foil, an admiral with the mind of a subaltern. This is the classic role essayed by Sir Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson to Sir John Gielgud’s Sherlock Holmes on the radio, and by Robert Coote to Peter Lorre in Mr. Moto’s Last Warning. It is an ideal performance, and illustrates the economy of McLaglen’s technical assessment when the admiral and ffolkes are separated and the former is put to his mettle with the gang.
An exceptionally detailed analysis will be very gratifying, as the structure is detailed in the very minutest degree. Things will be popping out of it at every moment. The opening exercise has ffolkes speeding along the water and flinging hand grenades behind him to inure his ffusiliers underwater, and it looks like the speedboat sequence in From Russia with Love (Thunderball is later evoked, out of Fairchild’s The Silent Enemy). ffolkes’ reward from Her Majesty’s Government is a beautiful joke out of Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain.
The reviews are laughable.
The Sea Wolves
A secret operation to destroy a Nazi transmitter broadcasting Allied ship positions to U-boats effectively scouring the Indian Ocean.
The site is neutral Goa. Counterespionage fails, SOE and volunteers of the Calcutta Light Horse not in uniform since the Boer War put limpet mines and plastique to three German freighters in harbor, one of them bears the hidden funkraum.
All true, and that’s the beauty of it. The special construction of the plot expresses the nature of the case, a violation of neutrality by the Nazis answered with a rather lavish ruse and a restrained application of force. The casting deliberately reflects The Guns of Navarone to introduce that film’s tacit theme, the filthiness of war.
Canby, whose New York Times review has served as a hallmark of criticism, was aware McLaglen’s film is in two parts only because he had to wait a long time for the main action, which seemed insufficient under the circumstances.
McLaglen’s intricate, precise filming moves rapidly at all times in the perfection of his style, this has been characterized as slow and incompetent by Canby, among others.
The Shadow Riders
This is very surprisingly fresh and new. McLaglen’s treatment is entirely original. It seems to have three main aspects, a certain amount of professional business-doing (naturally) based on years of experience in television, the composition of pictures, which always results in freshness and newness, and the directorial equivalent of method acting, in a way.
The credit sequence opens with sepia “period” stills of the cast on the farm (or the ranch), which gradually combine with Mathew Brady’s Civil War daguerreotypes. This is a high standard of perfection. The film opens on the victor (Tom Selleck) in bed drinking whiskey and having his feet rubbed by a gal. The loser (Sam Elliott) is being marched to a firing squad, and is first seen in a most striking image, his face shadowed by his hat, thickly and heavily bearded, gaunt.
Last-minute rescues are a running theme. This overture establishes the high ground of Reconstruction as a practical wisdom in the face of man’s tendency to kick his fellow man when he is down, flog a dead horse, and what have you.
Now you have the brothers returning home (their parents are Jane Greer and Harry Carey, Jr.) to find a marauding pack of ex-rebels have made off with some of the townsfolk. They’re at the seaside, ready to embark for Mexico.
Geoffrey Lewis as the rebel major is first seen wiping his gleaming sword for the camera, wearing his authentic as all get-out uniform, and looking an awful lot like Phil Sheridan. That’s the method in this, McLaglen dresses everybody up like nobody’s business, makes sure a Bowie knife or a sword passes muster, puts his camera where he can see it, and lets it roll.
The beach scenes take off from One-Eyed Jacks with a touch of Fellini, as the slave trader (Gene Evans) sets up his tent and serves roast fowl in a silver tray to Katharine Ross.
Ben Johnson (looking like Merle Haggard, and wearing a dusty violet vest) gets busted out of jail to help fetch the folks back. When they get to Mexico, he glad-hands the hombres right into the cantina, tosses a stick of dynamite in and bolts the door, almost forgetting to run for it because he’s so pleased with himself.
Selleck and Elliott in mufti are right out of Remington or who you please.
McLaglen puts a camera at the back of the trader’s private railroad car but doesn’t fix it there, so you get a stationary shot that perfectly registers the motion of the train. It’s like being there, and probably alludes to Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.
A two-masted sloop anchored just off the beach will do for set-dressing, plus a couple of longboats rowed back and forth. McLaglen puts the camera in one of these for the reverse angle of the beach, and there you are.
Tight close-ups, flexible zooms, flawless tracking shots and a great variety of set-ups make a brilliantly easygoing combination.
The Blue & the Gray
A perfectly ass-walloping masterpiece on the Civil War, which has as its single and only theme the birth of an artist to a family of Virginia farmers.
The splintered and refracted theme informs every moment, the film is all of six hours long.
He takes a job with the Gettysburg Chronicle, then Harper’s Weekly, and so the theme is stated before the war has begun (his family disapprove).
Many allusions, Biblical and cinematic, are never allowed into the foreground of an unusually tight structure, above all for a film so weighty.
The artist-correspondent sketches a five-minute portrait of Lincoln on his way to the White House that shows Grant and Sherman ready to spring from his lineaments (this is Gregory Peck in superb makeup, later on he takes up a rifle for target practice and swiftly evokes To Kill a Mockingbird).
Sterling Hayden takes the honors as John Brown.
A radical and straightforward analysis of the war is a result, the amateur defeat at Bull Run marches on to the siege of Vicksburg and the victories culminating in the Wilderness.
Everywhere the theme, in a Rebel soldier’s blindness, the Balloon Corps for observation, a pair of portraits for keepsakes.
The major influence is repeatedly John Ford, especially in the very good jokes.
Tribal warfare erupts across the route of the Sahara World Rally (the competitors are listed as “Rolls-Bentley, Saab, Hispano-Suiza, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes”) around 1927.
An extraordinary vortex of films expresses this, from Aldrich’s Vera Cruz to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey by virtue of the primitive location, including Melford’s The Sheik and Thompson’s John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!.
The feminine beauty of the vast dunes is well-rendered.
The unforgettable opening scene is a Bedouin hunt for gypsies (“pedestrian” was Variety’s word for the direction).
“This isn’t as bad as one might expect,” says Time Out Film Guide, which almost always is and usually much worse than one could ever hope to imagine (how good a time out can one have with it as one’s guide?).
Daddy’s girl drives a Gordon Packard and wears a mustache to get into the race.
“Don’t tease me, Cambridge, please.”
John Mills is Cambridge, valet to the sheik.
Resourceful, the girl, and a crack shot, also a most fetching Arab bride.
Millions were spent and lost, by report.
Score by Ennio Morricone.
A profound, subtle, insightful film, more than the sum of its parts and witty.
“The blue-eyed demon who blew my beautiful car to pieces.” Be it observed, “my beautiful car” is from Huston’s Beat the Devil (the item itself from Kennedy’s The War Wagon).
The big cats that figure in a couple of dramatic scenes are among the very finest actors ever procured for such services, game as hell from the word “action”.
How subtle can be gauged from Shields after the battle, leaving her sheik at his command to finish the race, the shot of her at the wheel of her car is from the end of Malle’s Atlantic City.
Annakin figures throughout (Monte Carlo or Bust!), among other things (Hurwitz’ Safari 3000, for example).
The prize is a trophy and a sixty-million-dollar contract, but happiness is a thing of the dunes.
The Dirty Dozen
A work of genius was required and obtained. The main workhorse is McLaglen’s virtuoso style taking in stride Aldrich and a few other things (Lang’s Man Hunt, Frankenheimer’s The Train, Donner’s Rogue Male).
The basis of it all is a broad joke on Hitler’s personal value to the Allied war effort in 1944, without him someone competent might be running things for the Nazis.
Typically, McLaglen has another kettle of fish to fry without any fluster, the “gold” theme from The Magnificent Seven gets tossed in and batted several ways, even Fuller’s favorite composer puts in an appearance.
For such richness, the entire train assault furiously set up is abandoned, still the dozen’s last members fly home in the Führer’s Fokker to a pub in the south of England (for McLaglen, the keys are One More Train to Rob, The Wild Geese, and Steiner).
On Wings of Eagles
“It’s not often a Florida pig farmer gets to watch a revolution.”
The craziness of Tehran in 1978.
Essentially a comic position centered on Burt Lancaster’s performance as a relatively straightfaced Groucho Marx, cigar and all, proceeding from the analysis.
The Shah falls, beyond the fundamentalists are the Communist Kurds, then the Azerbaijanis, over the border is Turkey (Lancaster’s colonel learned the lingo in Korea).
J. Lee Thompson’s The Passage and John Huston’s Beat the Devil figure in the masterwork that results, teleplay Sam H. Rolfe out of Ken Follett, cinematography Robert Steadman, score Laurence Rosenthal.
John J. O’Connor of the New York Times, “a kind of Rambo in a three-piece business suit... takes an interesting feat and reduces it to good guys/bad guys mush—easy to swallow, perhaps, but impossible to digest... there is, of course, little or no effort made to be anything more than superficial... directed ploddingly by Andrew V. McLaglen...”
Return from the River Kwai
A still further modulation of McLaglen’s technique brings him to the unique expression of this account, set in 1945, of Allied war prisoners under brutal conditions, shipped to Japan via Cambodia and Vietnam, seizing the freighter, rescued by a U.S. submarine.
The vibrations of drama are kept to the ordeal, but the demented commandant is named Tanaka, and the great lines of the work are finally shaped aboard the Brazil Maru.
The film reportedly had no American theatrical distribution, for reasons that are quite obscure.
The thematic return to Lean’s film also occurs aboard ship as the prisoners are herded below decks into a suffocating furnace they refer to as a “sweat box”.