How the New Order came to America, in a bristling parody of Rip Van Winkle (cf. Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
A superbly directed and quite original film, with Claude Rains as the citizen and Martin Kosleck his adversary. Bosley Crowther’s positively imbecilic review in the New York Times is an idle curiosity.
The Arnelo Affair
The young lawyer’s wife is an interior decorator around the house, it’s her hobby.
The client has tax problems and runs a few nightclubs, he wants a Van Gogh colorist (cf. Minnelli’s The Cobweb). Critique of a certain mode, “takes somebody like me to appreciate somebody like you.” Before White Heat (dir. Raoul Walsh), a certain motif. A lesson from the war. “Do you have any hobbies?”
“Well, yes. Why?”
“You make things, model workshop?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“More straw-grabbing.” A sop in the kitchen, and then the betrayal. “I can’t make up for what you didn’t have, and I’m not to blame for it, either.”
Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide) goes so far as to say of Oboler, “each of his movie projects had a few meritorious moments,” but you couldn’t tell that to Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “this childish little specimen of his writing and direction.” Variety went up the middle, so to speak, “not a whodunit, nor can it be catalogued as a psychological suspense picture.” Time Out, “two or three dimensions short of a decent thriller.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “yawnworthy”.
The dramatic setting of the story was most distressing to critics, who couldn’t see a simple love story beset by the temptations of security and grandeur. The apparatus is Adam and Eve and the Second Coming, not at all abstruse but exemplified by understanding, cp. The Bubble.
Critical incomprehension has multiplied down the years, but “he who endures to the end shall be saved,” as some later writers can attest. The cinematography is especially beautiful, the acting superb, James Weldon Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright share in the script and the setting, respectively.
The credits are projected in front of African motifs and small portrait sculptures, to the sound of drumming and chanting. The story is set in 1898 and dramatizes a famous rampage by man-eating lions.
A British railway line in Kenya is having trouble laying track because its imported Hindu workers are afraid of lions. A company executive berates them to no avail. Bob Hayward (Robert Stack), who has married the boss’s daughter, steams in drunk and railing good-humoredly against his father-in-law sitting on his laurels “in Belgravia”. Hayward arrives with a woman not his wife. “What did you think?” he asks Dr. McLean (Nigel Bruce), an affable Scotsman, “she’s a cook, I smelled something and saw her cooking in a big pot.” He further complains about his countrymen coming to Africa to shoot “their brother monkeys.” The company executive remonstrates with laughing Bob, who mocks, “now I’m in a conspiracy against him.”
“Civilization,” Hayward sneers, “that’s a noble word, but not enough to keep me rotting here.” All this lion talk merely whets Dr. McLean’s appetite. “I’ve seen more game in the streets of Glasgow,” he says with a Biblical flair. The cook is found dead, savagely torn. Hayward asks Dr. McLean if it was “those Masai devils,” but only a lion could have mauled her so.
The Commissioner arrives, and won’t take a drink before sundown. Dr. McLean cajoles him. “There’s a total eclipse of the sun in the northern regions. It’ll be good to see you at the North Pole,” a small camp table where the whiskey is.
Things are worsening, so the men build a lion trap. An Englishman supervises, “boli boli, YOU STUPID IDIOTS!” They just miss the lion, and a Hindu drops his knife in the attempt. He looks for it in the grass. “Where are you, stupid knife?” A lion consumes him.
Hayward has become quite sober. The company executive has died, Hayward is now in charge, and the lion attacks are unnerving him. “I don’t need any help,” he says, “I’ll get that scurvy lion myself.” The Commissioner has gone missing. Hayward trails him past hippos and crocodiles and finds his body on an outcrop of rocks, with a lion standing over it.
He turns to the Masai, who are expert lion hunters. They circle a lion in no time, spears at the ready, but the lion breaks free and there’s another behind them. Several tribesmen are killed.
Now the lions begin to gorge. Twenty more men die, and the railway company sends out a party of gentlemen hunters, who are entertained with an all-male Hindu dance. “There really is no hunting like India,” says one. “For my part, Africa is like Kew Gardens.” With them is Hayward’s bride, Alice (Barbara Britton). Alone at last, the two “kiss” the 3-D camera. Tall tales are told of hunting around the world, till Dr. McLean tops them all with an account of fishing in a famous loch. The Haywards retire, the huntsmen and the good doctor drink whiskey in the train’s saloon car. The lions are not repelled by the car but climb in and eat the men.
The Haywards arise. She offers to cook his breakfast. “You won’t have time,” he says, embracing her. She replies, “if all life could be as wonderful.” They discover the massacre.
Hayward is now mad on the idea of digging a trench filled with thorns around the camp. The Masai give them two days to depart. “They say those aren’t lions but devils,” Hayward explains. “We brought them in with the railway.” He drives the Masai away angrily, but one turns and hurls a spear at the camera.
A baby wanders from the camp. The Haywards follow it past animals of all kinds. Hayward’s mind is slipping, he imagines “the jungle full of lions dancing on our bones.” A lion before and one behind suddenly appear. One knocks Alice down but is killed with a shot from Hayward’s hunting rifle, which misfires as the other lion waits below the rise. Hayward considers their predicament. “There’ll be no moon tonight.” He tries the rifle over and over again. “Come for me in the light,” he screams, “you devil you!” The lion strides toward him. He clicks the trigger again and again, it goes off, the lion is not dead. He attempts to fire until the last possible moment, then beats the wounded beast to death with the butt end.
Oboler saw the resemblance of Malibu to the Serengeti (and Britain or Ireland or Switzerland or the Midi from time to time). His African compositions set off his coruscating script. At sunup, Dr. McLean is sitting at his camp table smoking a pipe, light filters through the trees behind the tent in the background, he rises and the camera tracks him right to a gigantic tree in silhouette, and a little farther till the sheer side of a green hill is seen.
The Natural Vision 3-D is perfectly applied, reveals the added dimension as an element of compositional analysis, and gives an intense pleasure in the spatial perception of movies.
“A Twonky is something you do not know what it is,” a robot from the future in this case (Bureau of Entertainment) that runs your life for you, helping and hindering, having taken the form of a television set your wife ordered to keep you company while she’s away. There is a beautiful feint on the every-man-his-own-wife theme, even to Kafka’s Odradek.
“But it’s only a television set!”
Oboler’s masterpiece on themes of Serling and Beaumont and Hamner in The Twilight Zone (“you didn’t go to the place assigned to you,” an echo amongst several of Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers also), cinematography by a veteran of the series. Space-Vision 3-D lends itself to the pure poetry of the third dimension added, a constant. The dilemma of a premature childbirth, forced down in a storm with a pilot named Herrick to a truly strange place so absurdly false and mechanical “it almost looks like the backside of a movie lot,” as the husband and father observes.
The inhabitants are nevertheless human, only shocked into subjugation with electric current and cheap frights and fed on starry pabulum, the whole place surrounded by the title article, unbreakable, a place of holocausts and infant sacrifice, a collection of “specimens” in a place of everlasting safety even from the weather, “it keeps out meanness, and hate—yeah, even the Bomb” (the approach to the sparkling, reflective, transparent “wall” is by way of Hamilton’s Goldfinger, cf. Asher’s Fireball 500).
There is a charming feint on a new father’s sense of isolation, and another briefly ventured of “the seventh day” and its attendant offerings. The brilliant thrust of two beers presented to the spectator over the heads of the audience is followed at once by the wife’s loving arms, “hi, Papa!”. The “mechanical” saloon figures in Michael Crichton’s Westworld, transportation is provided by the Acme Taxi Co. “Don’t we have to ask someone?”
“Not here, you just take. No-one cares.” The second version of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is very strongly indicated, with a minor theme of North by Northwest (he repays the compliment in Family Plot). The loveliest feint is on Poe in Baltimore and New York (the subduing and nutrifying “station” suggests Mallarmé’s “calme bloc ici-bas chu d’un désastre obscur”), if Whitman and his “morning walk” are understood in “Where Is Everybody?” (dir. Robert Stevens). “Stopover in a Quiet Town” (dir. Ron Winston) is the central Centerville framework, many are the elements thereof such as “Elegy” (dir. Douglas Heyes), “Valley of the Shadow” (dir. Perry Lafferty), “People Are Alike All Over” (dir. Mitchell Leisen), “To Serve Man” (dir. Richard L. Bare) and so forth.
Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema), “never showed the visual flair of Orson Welles.” TV Guide, “exciting for its technique, but the story is ridiculous.”