Bang the Drum Slowly

Henry V is cited at the outset in Olivier’s arrangement of a player-king’s cough and Shakespeare’s scene-setting Chorus, the unimaginative audience is invited to convey its mind along the course of this saving drama from set to set in the television studio with a few cameras and a dozen or more players by the author himself, a star pitcher for the New York Mammoths. The title might be Bresson’s Le vent souffle oł il veut from the opening scene, a Flaubertian image of spitting from a high place (noted by Salmi as a piece of acting). When the spirit is withdrawn, an existence is doomed (cp. Quartermaine’s Terms, dir. Bill Hays), Schulman’s teleplay expands the ritual of destruction in the full panoply of metaphor. There is the replacement catcher, a motorcycle nut who becomes a cowboy at the drop of a Stetson, his six-shooter puts out the lights.

Sympathy breeds solidarity, the Mammoths go on to the Series. But mostly, their left-handed pitcher stops being a whining shitsack about taxes and instead learns there is no Machiavellian scheme to deprive him of his existence, he forgets all that in sight of the disaster.

The doomed catcher, who’s not very bright, gets wised up about what makes a ballplayer, his pinch-hitting improves by observation.

Petrie makes it look easy.


The Bramble Bush

The Stranger and the Drowned Man and the Fisher King, figures from Eliot (Welles provides the first image to open the film, a church banner the other two, in the town square of Harper-Dereham).

Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck

And on the king my father’s death before him.

The dying scribbler is taken up the following year by Antonioni in La Notte, Housman’s “Here Dead We Lie” ornaments the role.

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Critics understood it as a treatise on euthanasia and flubbed at that (cf. Losey’s Boom!), it ends with the Church.

Screenplay Milton Sperling and Philip Yordan, cinematography Lucien Ballard, score Leonard Rosenman.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “falls apart.” Variety,gets lost”. TV Guide, “overloaded New England soap-opera”. Leonard Maltin, “superficial gloss”. Tom Milne (Time Out), “glossy”. Mark Deming (All Movie Guide), “high-gloss soap opera”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “sordid... dispiriting”.


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

A zek in Siberia.

“Traitors must expect death.”

“Or a good job with an official car.”

Dramatically conceived, “a good day,” in half the time of Wrede’s film, very shortly after publication.


Moon of the Wolf

Location filming on the bayou is the perfect correlative of the action in its mysteries, this is an iconic werewolf amid labyrinthine swamps and verdure, the town structure and the social order.

The main point is a Scarface motif mirrored in his victims.

Equal to the cinematography is Bernardo Segall’s score, between the two is a great cast (David Janssen, Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman, Royal Dano, John Beradino, Geoffrey Lewis, John Chandler, etc.).


Fort Apache the Bronx

The structure is provided by John Ford’s film, which is curiously not mentioned in the reviews.

The crime element is “where ignorant armies clash by night.” The whore on angel dust who kills two rookie cops is stabbed to death by the drug dealer who gives the cop’s girlfriend a fatal overdose and is shot dead by him in an exchange of gunfire after taking hostages during a drug bust, the exact nexus of events is known only to the camera.

The middle ground is a New York rapprochement with the crazies and a sort of deadline with the crooks, “keep it off the street.”

The new precinct captain has an eye toward the serious people of the Bronx and its future, he stirs up a hornet’s nest to dispute the territory with criminals.

A few notes indicate the real complexity, critics repined there was nothing to it but “cop shows” or some other excuse.

The death of a kid at the hands of a cop tears it, the witness is a cop bound by the code of silence, resignation looms, but a ganef provides the thrill of the chase.


Inherit the Wind

Brady’s “golden chalice of hope” v. Drummond’s Golden Dancer.

A very close remake in color, for television, of Stanley Kramer’s film.