The Mob

The very last person you would expect runs the New York waterfront racket, shaking down longshoremen exactly as described in Kazan’s On the Waterfront three years later.

The cop who kills a cop-killer has a real badge but isn’t a cop, the dead man is a prime witness.

Life’s necessities on the waterfront, in the wrong hands.

As Tom Milne noted in Time Out Film Guide, the screenplay wittily describes an undercover police operation.

“It’s definitely a surprise when the true culprit is exposed,” Variety observed.


The Purple Plain

It stands between an RAF airfield and a Christian mission, also between the site of a crashed Mosquito and the Allied lines twenty miles away.

The squadron leader’s wife has perished in the Blitz, he bears down on the enemy seeking death, but Annah the Burmese cures him of that.

A Cambridge physics expert has a wife and kids at home, won’t face the march, dies in the desert.

So the bare bones extend throughout an extraordinary job of filming, painstaking over every detail to maximum effect, continually inventive.


Fire Down Below

A dangerous refugee, a smugglers’ partnership, the Caribbean.

The Ruby returns to home port, Santa Nada, with the lady aboard, Hemingway country.

The partnership has split up, the younger proposes, the elder calls the Coast Guard.

The disastrous ending aboard the Ulysses is crowned with a joke, the punchline of the megillah.

Indeed the second half is marvelous, quite enough to balance the Mardi Gras festivities of the first.

With Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon, Halliwell thought it was miscast.


Saddle the Wind

A variant of The Purple Plain set in cattle country after the Civil War. The dangerous throwback is to gunfighting as a form of emulation.

Rod Serling mounts this from a story by Thomas Thompson as fragments irrupting into the orderly life of the community, opening with a vicious gunman bullying the sorry saloonkeeper and his cook, leading up to the showdown at “Cemetery Ridge”, a line in the dirt.


The Wonderful Country

The Missourian has to be shown, he’s lived on both sides of the Rio Grande, different organization, different living here or there, what with the buffalo soldiers and the Texas Rangers, the revolutionary governments backed by pistoleros, and the Apaches.

And with startling effects like the first sight of a gringo town or a Mexican town seen as home, in cinematography so beautiful even Howard Thompson mentioned it in his New York Times review before petering out, the whole kit ‘n caboodle comes down to the lady and the military despot, no contest.


One for the Angels
The Twilight Zone

Serling the pitchman to ad men and executives later made this into “The Fugitive” (Beaumont), then “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby”, here it is stark staring simple and plain. His one last wish is all that stands between a sidewalk salesman and eternity, Death forces the issue by making an appointment with a little girl instead. The pitchman hawks his wares in Death’s face until the hour passes, the girl lives and her savior ascends.

The direction goes hand-in-hand with the writing as a set of images beginning with a close-up of the toy robots that are among the pitchman’s wares, one of them walks the windowsill above the little girl’s sickbed at night. His suitcase with its folding stand reappears in “What You Need”, the robots attack as “The Invaders”, grow full-size and lend power to “Mr. Dingle, the Strong”, operate “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” and replicate “Uncle Simon”.

Ed Wynn, cunning and heroic, saves the day against young professional Murray Hamilton, who sits before a travel poster advertising Imperia (Italy) during a long preliminary confab.

The eloquence of the pitch is meant to accomplish the otherwise unrelated title, in many respects, “And When the Sky Was Opened”. The practitioner is a friend to the children of the neighborhood, the little girl’s toy robot is a gift.



A Stop at Willoughby
The Twilight Zone

The terrible lesson of this is revealed in passing, as it were, along the minute particulars of an intense, compact dream, beginning with a too slender reed that buckles and pitches the ad man finally onto the tracks.

His position is secure, his wife is a constant inspiration, yet he can’t regain his footing. As he falls, the imagination of a small boy comes to him, fishing outside a town somewhere in “a Currier & Ives painting” such as you might find on a calendar issued by a funeral parlor, say, and yet he’s at his desk with an angry phone in each hand and his secretary in the middle. She stands opposite his desk saying the boss wants to see him, he slams the phones down and departs.


The Bobo

As it happens, with all its intricacies, a tale of Krishna as related in a Barcelona barroom.

“After sitting dutifully through it,” Bosley Crowther of the New York Times was no more enlightened than he was when he sat down (the Rockettes were on strike, he tells us).

“A clever, sophisticated and charming farce,” to Variety.

“Sourly unfunny”, says Tom Milne in Time Out Film Guide, “ghastly”.

Halliwell’s Film Guide rebukes Sellers for trying to be “Chaplinesque”.


Journey to the Far Side of the Sun

There are five main images, of which the second forms the basis of the film.

The spy with a camera eye.

The astronaut accused by his wife of sterility due to radiation on his space voyages (she is on the pill).

The mirror Earth.

The destruction of the rocket on the launch pad.

A man in a wheelchair advancing toward his reflection like a parakeet in a cage.

The style moves from 2001: A Space Odyssey through Ken Adam and Vincent Korda to Frau im Mond, with everything in between.

Howard Thompson in the New York Times couldn’t see the sense of it.


The Marseille Contract

A rare setup in a bunker on the Maginot Line tells all. An American drug agent in Paris and a British hit man break through Marseille corruption to the gangster who’s against pollution and gives charity balls and guns down squealers in the street.

Weiler of the New York Times dismissed it as “complicated”.