A man on horseback, rocky hill, he tumbles off, shot. In the same continuous up-angle, a second rider appears on the rise.
Lucas McCain bears witness nearly with his life and testifies in court despite adversity.
Nelson’s brilliant direction takes off at once.
(The Hank Williams Story)
His kitchen is a “store”, his house a “warehouse”, as fame and fortune fly in. Fans want the blessing of his touch.
He’s from Alabama, sings and writes and plays the guitar.
He’s got a mansion with ponies and cars, he’s a “factory”.
And so the enigma, from the author of War Hunt (dir. Denis Sanders) and Hammersmith Is Out (dir. Peter Ustinov).
The line of thought is not very far from Welles’ Citizen Kane or Eastwood’s Honkytonk Man.
Harum Scarum opens with the last scene of the hero’s new film in its world premiere, Sands of the Desert, at a private screening in Arabia. A girl is held captive before a chained leopard, to free her he fights a band of assassins and then the leopard.
The State Department has brought the star as a gesture of goodwill. Prince Dragna and Aishah invite him beyond the Mountains of the Moon to their secluded country, “like stepping back in time two thousand years”. Aishah is so charming he agrees, adding later that progress isn’t everything. She drugs him and he is brought to the Lord of the Assassins, Sinan, who requires him to kill a very important person. The hero refuses and makes his escape with the help of Zacha, one of the brotherhood of marketplace thieves, who calls him “noble client”. From a high wall, the hero jumps onto a pavilion roof and falls into a pond. Princess Shalimar is alone, he introduces himself sopping wet, she feigns to be the slave girl Yani.
Her father the king is the target, Sinan and Dragna are in league, Dragna wants power but Sinan plans to dump his partner for an oil deal.
The style of filming has been the main obstacle for critics from the day Canby pronounced against it. One can only suppose the sound of screaming girls obscured the snapping jokes and exquisite songs. “Is your love, darling, just a mirage? From the distance you called me like an oasis... like a man in the desert I’m lost.” Nelson has this all on a sound stage with few exceptions, Harum Scarum looks like Sands of the Desert, an ideal Saturday matinee. It is crowded with girls, sumptuous and slender, who leap like gazelles and bend like bows and lament their servitude. Unfailingly gallant Presley buys the freedom of those he must (he’s not made of money) and brings the passel of them with Zacha to Las Vegas in the end for a show.
“American unbeliever” he gets called, by an assassin. Most in the country have no idea what America is, hence Zacha’s introduction, “he is an American, which has no importance, but he is filthy rich, which most assuredly has great importance.” Presley can’t believe America is unheard-of in these parts, don’t they get foreign aid? No, Zacha tells him, but the idea is a good one, how does one obtain this foreign aid? “All you have to do is insult Americans.”
Wake Me When the War Is Over
A superficial resemblance to Reinhardt’s Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious, more remotely to LeRoy’s Wake Me When It’s Over, is overborne by the theme of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sweet Bird of Youth resolving itself as in Glenville’s The Comedians with a curious satiric edge (and all along, an odd taste of Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes).
An American lieutenant falls out a cargo door with his misspelled propaganda leaflets (“your armies are fighting a loosing battle”) and parachutes into a palace. The baroness hides him until well after the war, the German officer who searched for him offers an escape route, the maid goes off with the lieutenant.
Her uncle speaks English and is a Nazi in hiding who carefully teaches his kindergarteners how to throw a grenade, he puts on his old uniform to interrogate the prisoner, who overpowers him and is then attacked on the street by the citizens of Mainz as an SS officer.
Finally, the lieutenant attempts to blow up a bridge, falls from it, and marries the maid. The German officer who sent him away and has been living under an assumed name since the end of the war, takes up residence in the baroness’s palace and trapdoor.
Eva Gabor is the baroness (this is how Oliver and Lisa Douglas first met), Ken Berry of F Troop the flyer, Werner Klemperer the German officer (a major sent to the Russian front), Danielle de Metz the maid.
The Joker’s Wild,
The strange succession of images in a courtship game turns out to represent Pearl Harbor (burning jeep, sunken boat, trapped old salt).
These are the toys of an heiress choosing between two lovers, a deck of playing cards is marked with crimes and points, high card is a capital offense, the joker is murder.
The girl is blonde, one of the great nudes in the series, one of the men is Hawaiian. The cumulative imagery is sealed by her snapshots, McGarrett nails her with material evidence.
The old salt is a wino who, in the aftermath, flings his bottle of hooch into the surf.
to Raise the Dead
All the way toward state office climbs the whited sepulcher, milking typhus and illegal aliens washed out in a mudslide from his cemetery.
A great satire of “the world’s eighth-largest economy”.