the city of the dead

A New England witch-burning, with consequences for the town. A professor of history in this latter day explains, “superstition, fear and jealousy drove the Puritans to accuse their friends and relatives of consorting with the Devil.”

A precise analysis of Hitchcock’s Psycho in terms of Massachusetts witches old and new, the connection is made by way of Clair’s I Married a Witch, not to put too fine a point on it. “It must have been a beautiful building.”

“To me it is still beautiful.”

“I’m sorry. What a shame the people have let it fall into such a state.” The coed’s closed trapdoor at The Raven’s Inn with singing below is an implication of Rosemary’s Baby (dir. Roman Polanski) and The Sentinel (dir. Michael Winner). “I know a great deal about Whitewood.”

“Have you ever been there?”

“Now and then.”

The crash of the college boy’s car is precipitated by a vision of the burning that appears in the road before him. The Russell door with its extraordinary inset glass pane recalls Dreyer’s Vampyr, through it blind Rev. Russell enters quite like God in Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.

The mainly British cast led by Christopher Lee give a laudable impression of Americans, the filming is often remarked upon for its sinister gloom (cf. Castle’s Macabre) and it’s quite an elegant treatise all around, edited slightly for Yankee audiences as Horror Hotel. Truffaut remembers the burning of Elizabeth Selwyn in Fahrenheit 451 (perhaps from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal).

TV Guide, “an effective, quite atmospheric witchcraft film”. Britmovie, “extraordinarily atmospheric chiller... stylishly directed”. Robert Firsching (All Movie Guide), “extraordinarily good chiller... required viewing”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “a superior horror comic.”


Foxhole in Cairo
based on a true story of the War

“But our forces successfully disengaged themselves, and withdrew to prepared positions.” Operation Salaam, as it was called, or the tribute of hypocrisy. “Seriously, Sir, d’you think Rommel is gonna kick us out of Egypt?” A German expedition two thousand miles across the Sahara to plant two spies in British G.H.Q. whose code each day is drawn from Du Maurier’s Rebecca, “inside the book are the words that are gonna take Rommel and you to Cairo.” Operation Condor, once there. Half-Egyptian, the principal spy.

The Justine theme at Club Iris, shortly taken up by Cukor from the source. A Mata Hari there, and Hitchcock’s seely Scotsman (Bon Voyage).

Rapid, exacting screenplay by Leonard Mosley and Donald Taylor, cinematography Desmond Dickinson, editor Oswald Hafenrichter.

Howard Thompson of the New York Times, “pat, slick and predictable.” Leonard Maltin, “sensibly told account”. TV Guide, “overlong, confusing and ultimately dull”. Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “instructive if not overly suspenseful”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “deflated by muddy handling.”


The £20,000 Kiss

The Q.C., M.P. and future Whitehall officeholder doesn’t know that the blackmailer has a partner, who is the victim’s husband, and that the victim set the thing up, he pays and kills until trapped with a clever ploy.

An Edgar Wallace Mystery.


Circus of Fear

Mr. Big turned out to be so small, after all, that the initial great losses in the war seem hardly credible, and that is the metaphor, from the lightning-quick Tower Bridge robbery to the Barberini Circus, “largest in the world”.

Time Out Film Guide has “confused”.


The Glass Cage
Mission: Impossible

An automated prison, absolutely unbreakable, behind the Iron Curtain, and a resistance leader kept there in a glass cell atop a pylon. To him Barney and Willy, effecting the appearance that he is a double, whereupon all three are released into the custody of Cinnamon as a prison inspector, for further questioning.

It is to be noted that Barney’s dual-chambered device for altering the surveillance tapes is visually thematic.


Mission: Impossible

This is the one about the Latin American military attaché, played by Rollin, the Near Eastern diplomat and the two Oriental emissaries, who all bid on a two-megaton bomb fabricated by a bankrupt industrialist.

While Barney replaces the plutonium with an inert substance, Jim plays an oil man and Cinnamon his Ph.D., upping the Near Easterner’s bid so as to protect their interests in his country. Their money and his turns to ashes in the industrialist’s wall safe, after the discovery that the bomb is valueless, and the high bidder kills the scoundrel.


The Bunker
Mission: Impossible

Moxey has found a whip pan that conceals a cut to be very effective in constructing the doubles that appear, but he also employs a false mirror, i.e., the second actor, and above all he has simply taken into account the artistic problem of the quick-change artist, which he renders as a panoply of recognitions first solved in casting.

There is an assassin prone to disguises who is seen in snapshots of various actors with a likeness that makes for a possibility of identity. Later, in a major coup, Cinnamon plays another woman, and the second actress with her back to the camera turns around in her prison cell with no makeup on, wild-eyed and yet expressionless, to let the imagination focus on the possibilities of her face (it is Lee Meriwether).

In this feature-length episode, January Suborbital Denomination is the voiceprinted phrase allowing only three men to enter the underground laboratory where a captive scientist works under duress, an installation whose surface portal is the Bronson Caves. The project is a missile, the scientist’s imprisoned wife is the “lever of love”, and there is an assassin in service to a second hostile government.


Flip Side
Mission: Impossible

A clever business arrangement has a Los Angeles record producer selling pills shipped from Mexico by a distributor who gets them from a manufacturer in St. Louis eager to make a name for himself as a Third World benefactor, and to all intents and purposes ignorant of the retail trade in his foreign shipments.

The Impossible Missions Force eliminate the middleman and the retailer as well. Dana as a lounge singer picks up the married industrialist and dies of an overdose in his hotel room. This gets back to the producer, who needs a snap order shipped air freight direct from St. Louis, his Mexico truck apparently hijacked and a deal in the works with the mob, represented by Phelps.

The police catch all parties red-handed.


The Innocent
Mission: Impossible

An Arabian chemical firm, Interoco, is helped by the Russians to make Dehominant-A, a slow-acting toxin, into much faster Dehominant-B. Barney gets a dose of the first while trying to reach the computer that controls production and stores the formula.

Another expert must be found at once, the Pentagon knows a “near genius” familiar with the KAZAN IV computer language, but he’s not gung ho. Paris and Doug as Feds arrest his girlfriend for heroin possession.

“I’ve been had!”, he screams during the operation at Interoco, seeing the two Feds on the team, and presses the alarm. Everybody’s weapons are bad, he agrees. A lab chimpanzee is found by security guards.

Phelps is prepared to go into the computer on jargon from Barney, the sight of this desperation moves the expert. Production is stopped, the formula is erased, and the scientist in charge (called from Stockholm by Phelps earlier) is whisked away.


Time and Memories
Hawaii Five-O

Jerry Ludwig’s three-ring circus, brilliantly directed by Moxey.

In the center ring, a girl loved and lost by McGarrett in Naval Intelligence. She has a brother on the Arizona she never met.

She married the head of a law firm, he’s murdered. The evidence points to her.

There is a partner in the firm, about to lose a boardroom vote. The victim’s stepdaughter wished to marry a junior member, her father refused.

McGarrett is up in the air, visibly wracked, plays his cards and arrests the wife.

This proves decisive in a way, the wife accuses the stepdaughter. McGarrett finds another answer, however. The junior member used an office “tie-line” to place a call from the mainland when he was in Honolulu.

The parting this time is bittersweet, McGarrett wins a wave from the top of the steps to the airliner just before departure.


The Bride
Mission: Impossible

The convent-bred wife of a crime kingpin surprises him by dying of a heroin overdose. From this he is gradually led to conclude that, if he cannot send mob money to Switzerland by diplomatic pouch as before, owing to special searches for terrorist activity, still he can make this large shipment of cash by way of her coffin.

It falls and breaks on the tarmac, exposing a dummy. Barney counts the cash a little later, once Casey as the wife puts in an appearance for the mobster’s associates, with two tickets to Miami in her possession.

Phelps works for an airline, gets the dope and squires the money, Barney is the new man at the embassy since his predecessor got the shaft for skimming.


Where Have All the People Gone

Solar flares, earthquakes, virus.

Depopulation, wild dogs, “a handful of dust.”

Filmed along the lines of Milland’s Panic in Year Zero, to which it bears a close kinship (the relation to Rod Serling’s “Where Is Everybody?”, dir. Robert Stevens, is much more remote).

The structure is very long and very arduous in the setup, replete with horrors in the telling, until it snaps as hysteria, “nothing”, and that is the cue for the punchline from Candide.