from It All
Æsthetes, one of them a waspish movie director, thought dead a decade since and living a cultivated life of sorts on a tropic isle.
A U.S. Navy lieutenant and a lady Marine auxiliary sergeant crash-land there and may not leave.
Penicillin and World War II are unknown to the islanders, for whom the ideal world of rationality was the eighteenth century.
The Marines land, in response to an inadvertent signal.
Astonishment is par for the course, a jungle set revealing the extensive mansion interior, a certain naturalistic play of speech among the actors (Kevin McCarthy, Catherine McLeod, Worthington Miner, and so forth).
The Empty Chair
The series begins with Al Capone sent off to prison for income tax evasion. Eliot Ness is perfectly aware that this is only the beginning, yet he watches Capone being driven away until he’s out of sight.
Frank Nitti bids boldly for the empty chair by personally rubbing out two colleagues in a Southside barber shop. Jake Guzik, however, has a brain and uses it.
The mob is reformed under Guzik as a mutual protection association to defeat Ness’s Caesarean operation, and as owners of legitimate businesses such as dry cleaning establishments, to beat the Capone rap. Impeccable books are kept for these, while cream keeps coming in.
The widow of a mobster turned informant is presented by Ness with the evidence of her husband’s murder, an ice pick. The hidden financial empire is exposed.
Peyser’s direction is essential, accurate, inspired and fluid. The script and actors are of the same caliber, the story comes as the answered prayer of a witness to the Tommy-gun slayings in the barber shop, who comes forward pleading to help and joins the squad.
Peyser adapts a shot from Johnny Belinda (dir. Jean Negulesco) to have the widow (in profile, left foreground) and Guzik (full-face, a few feet farther back on the right) together in close-up for the contrasting looks on their faces as he tells her how Ness killed her husband by making him a stoolie.
Morraine, Illinois is run by Charlie Byron, “The Major”, who assassinates a reform mayor and his wife on election night, also the sheriff, paying a thousand dollars for each bullet, and has (according to Ness) “half the State officials on his payroll.”
Cam Allison goes undercover and delivers the goods by homing pigeon. A receipt for seed is rummaged out of his clothes by a showgirl the Major puts on to him, once a liquor warehouse has been raided and the new sheriff manages not to be killed. The lady takes a shine, gives away a trap and is silenced.
The entire squad rolls out to salvage their man between a beating and a mineshaft. The Major all but dies face-down in a mud puddle, then turns over on his back.
Three Thousand Suspects
A mobster does his best to eliminate his partner in Leavenworth, but only makes him mad enough to talk to Ness. Frank Nitti is prevailed upon to see the mess cleaned up, the prisoner is shot in the library with a rifle.
Naturally, this produces what Nitti describes as “kickback”. Ness installs an undercover man, brought from Lewisburg Penitentiary on an offer of parole. Nitti now takes matters in earnest, Leavenworth is quieted or the partner is “thrown to the cops.”
A phony escape attempt is to liquidate the informer. Ness and the warden find the corrupt guard just in time. The partner’s body is dumped outside a precinct house in Chicago.
“Legs” ventures onto the society pages, gets his picture in the papers. The mob is displeased, he’s sent home to the Catskills with his wife. A huge shipment of dope via Greece mustn’t be imperiled by him and his mistress, a chanteuse at the Hotsey Totsey Club.
His wife did an Annie Oakley act in a carnival, they keep a shooting gallery in the back yard. He seizes the shipment, holds it for ransom from his partners, “Big” Bill Swinney, Dutch Schultz and “Lucky” Luciano, under the eye of Oscar Benjamin, “financier to the underworld”.
His cut in advance is a million, Legs and his mistress go to Niagara Falls, the Happy Days Hotel. His wife calls the gang.
Swinney breaks the standoff. Whether or not the shipment is recovered, he does Legs in. Ness arrives to clean up the mess and gather the dope.
Kiss of Death Girl
Francie wants out. The men in her life don’t last, her latest is Tommy-gunned in a triple cross. The bouncer at the Continental Club offers her money for a getaway, he doesn’t want anything, he has dreams of opening a small shop somewhere. She dumps him when he takes a quick side-job, lest he be killed. He survives to marry her and open a little place that does dry cleaning, she loses the moniker.
Phil Corbin plays the angles, he owns the Continental Club, hijacks a shipment of “the McCoy” and blames it on Ness, then hits the mobster for ransom and lets Ness collect alky and victim. The plan leads him into his own trap.
Ness calls the mobster, asks for Corbin, “answering his call”. Put wise, the victim sends the hijacker into a stakeout. Ness sweeps up.
The victim is Lou “the Rooster” Scalese, a cockfighting enthusiast who understands the angle, “two go in, one comes out”, as a general rule.
The Jamaica Ginger Story
Ginger Jake is contaminated hooch, a lethal blend. Jake LaCarver hijacks a shipment, Rafe Torrez has him hit, New York wants him out.
The two hit men are from Detroit (the Purple Gang) and New York. The characterizations by Brian Keith and James Coburn are of a cool customer and a hothead sharpie, the one falls in love at the rooming house, the other eliminates her when Ness noses in, and relays the contract from home.
The murder is conducted at Whalen’s Ham & Eggs, Detroit is at a table, the quarry takes a counter seat. Two shotgun blasts calmly delivered fulfill the initial contract, New York deals with the torpedoes outside.
The girl’s smoldering body is found outside of town, Kansas City, where the alky is smuggled from overseas by way of New Orleans.
Case of the Difficult Detour
project can’t go forward, all the
concessionaires are simply out of their investment, without any recourse at
all. It’s a regular thing worked any number of times
”He just stood there, not a hair out of place, a no-good four-flusher, looking like he just stepped out of a fashion plate.” So the con man gets described by his victim, who’s out on his own for the first time in construction.
All in all, a most delicate satire, the artist is taken in, but in the end marries the contractor who is granted an access road by the artist’s father.
Case of the Misguided Missile
manufacturer’s new design fails repeatedly in Air Force tests at
Vandenberg, until a captain sent out from the Inspector General’s office
to get at the cause is found to have been murdered on the firing range.
The structure is very complex and abstract. The captain envies a fellow officer’s rise in rank, owing to an ancient grudge, and berates an engineer for drunkenness... who has an alliance with a press officer in a rival firm.
Peyser’s direction lays it all out in scrub desert and blockhouses amid gantries in daylight.
A case of infiltration. Two GIs drive a German officer to Battalion HQ but don’t know where it is, all are Germans. The jeep hits a mine, the officer is wounded.
There is a waiting game at the aid station. The non-com wants to “hubba-hubba”, the lieutenant goes for coffee.
Sgt. Saunders gets wise, Lt. Hanley discountenances his theory but checks it out. The Germans are wearing real dog tags.
It comes down to a long, dogged attempt to accomplish some aspect of the mission even after the officer is dead of his wounds and the “lieutenant” is killed by his comrade as unreliable. Saunders is taken captive and hears the truth about Americans, they’re “suckers” who’ll believe anything.
And beyond that, after a German patrol is wiped out by a grenade from wounded Saunders but just manages to return fire on the “non-com”, killing him, Saunders is left alone next to nowhere, he hails passing GIs and identifies himself, they pick him up and take him to an aid station as he ponders them, “sucker Americans”.
A Kraut pincer movement sends the Allies retreating, “we’re cut off.”
Soldiers for whom “basic’s kinda rusty” take up rifles, head for the U.S. line.
Thus the war, precisely as stated at the time (cf. Carol Reed’s The Way Ahead).
Cinematography by Emmett Bergholz, Leonard Rosenman’s incidental music.
In the end, one is in Occupied France, there’s a train expropriated by the Germans, “pointed toward our lines.” As the song went at the end of the war, “Countin' every mile / Of railroad track / That takes me back.”
Peyser’s virtuosity is apparent throughout, quietly for the most part, then the furioso conclusion in advance of Frankenheimer’s The Train, “they musta brought ‘er over for the First World War.”
The last of it is combat footage, the signal is sent, the Air Corps returns fire.
Infant of Prague
Novitiates and a nun and the late mother superior in a battle zone, they have left a small statue in the rubble of a church, no time.
In a culvert as the German army passes on the roadway above them, each prays without any pause. “Wonderful, wonderful ladies,” Littlejohn exclaims.
The nun goes back for it, Hanley and Kirby reluctantly follow. The church is German headquarters. The belltower next day serves as an artillery spotting post against Panzers and infantry, until bombers can fly in. The spotters have to beware of rounds falling short.
They also have to remember code names, bombers for example are “chorus girls”. The ad hoc mission of escort is successful in the destruction of an enemy unit thought to be a good distance from this surprising position. “L’enfant Jésus,” says the nun holding the statue in her hands.
The Wildest Raid of All
The Rat Patrol
By an extraordinary ploy, the patrol gain entry to a German supply base and destroy it ahead of Rommel’s advance. They do this by presenting a German general at the gate, unconscious from sunstroke (hit by Sgt. Troy). Hitch slips away during the standoff, reverses his shirt and puts on a German cap. His canteen is a time bomb.
The general is captured by a still more extraordinary gambit. Troy and Hitchcock are first seen driving slowly in a German column, prisoners. In Hauptmann Dietrich’s presence, Troy steps down to be welcomed by the general. They speak briefly, Troy grabs him and the jeep takes off, dragging them both on a tether. Tully and Moffitt drive in, blazing away, and the capture is made.
The Chain of Death Raid
The Rat Patrol
Dietrich and Troy are manacled together on a ten-foot chain by Arab slave traders who supervene when Troy is captured during an assault on a German column. The two escape and make their way through the desert with no water, still chained, and only a sucking stone between them. The column is reached, the chain sundered, unconscious Dietrich is haled aboard by his comrades while Troy is picked up by Hitchcock driving a truck with a jeep inside.
Troy slips a bomb with a “wet” fuse into the waters of the oasis that is their objective. This is destroyed, Tully and Moffitt cover the escape, the jeeps roar away. Later they survey the damage, seen by Hauptmann Dietrich doing the same.
The Do or Die Raid
The Rat Patrol
The dangers of reflexivity are symbolized by a German guard gazing at a water barrel and pulled into it by Sergeant Troy. This in turn mirrors the mission, which is to lure a Panzer Group into an ambush at an oasis by substituting a phony map that shows the 1st Armored Division elsewhere.
A commando operation from the sea is required. Nazi HQ is in an Arab village, lightly ornamented and whitewashed. Bows and arrows dispatch two sentries, a picklock accompanies them but suffers from a heart condition. “Let me die,” he says at the objective, “I can’t.” Sgt. Troy rallies him. “Get up, you gutless expert. You’re not gonna die till you open those locks,” and he does, but collapses on the way back to the rafts on the rocky shingle amid obstacles, mines and barbed wire, urging Troy to leave him, and he does, but returns and carries him to the beach. “What do you think,” says Troy when asked by the picklock if it was cleanup or rescue.
The Fatal Chase Raid
The Rat Patrol
Among the prisoners of war liberated from a truck convoy by the patrol are two enlisted men and a sergeant whom they accuse of “running”. The rest pile back on the trucks and drive to Allied lines, these three remain in a scuffle.
The sergeant has information acquired from a prison guard, German movements out of Bengazi, he won’t say where to without protection from the two “monkeys”.
One jeep is out of action, some of them have to walk by turns, no water. HQ wants to know, he won’t tell until he’s safe. His men are afraid Sgt. Troy will kill him before they do.
A German oasis is watched and raided, all drink deep except the sergeant, mortally wounded. He rebukes Troy for his lapse, won’t tell. He’ll be joined by a great many Allied soldiers unless he does, he realizes this and tells, just before dying. “Got it?”, asks Sgt. Troy. “Yeah,” says Sgt. Moffitt. “Send it,” Troy says, adding, “tell them where it came from, he might have a family.”
The Moment of Truce Raid
The Rat Patrol
The inspiration is perhaps Cy Endfield’s Zulu. A fanatic “has declared a holy war against all unbelievers”, the Germans hire an Arab to enlist him in their cause. Dietrich with his Arab and two soldiers is attacked in the desert by a force so large it encompasses the patrol. Ruins lie on the desert, affording a defense, the Germans and Americans fend off the first wave there, and declare a truce.
Dietrich’s Arab is found to have been educated in Chicago, these countrymen are to him “animals, wild, primitive animals”, and Dietrich sees the necessity of killing them, it’s “too small a battlefield to open a second front.” Moffitt has the Arab’s idea, after a fashion, to educate them, though he knows their leader is implacable. The Arab goes out to meet the leader under a white flag, and is shot down by the opposing force on a high dune.
Hitch volunteers to carry him back. “That’s just what they want us to do,” says Sgt. Troy. “Right, captain? Western compassion against Eastern detachment.” Dietrich replies, “He’s already dead.”
They build a “firewall” of explosives that stops the charge next morning. Heavy casualties force the Arabs to retreat, the truce is ended, all depart one by one. Peyser finds a crane in the desert for a high-angle shot of the schematic ruins, with bodies strewn beyond it and the two jeeps parked to one side. They are driven off past bodies on the ground below the dune.
The Dare-Devil Rescue
The Rat Patrol
Sgt. Moffitt’s father, the Cambridge archæologist, flies in to prove the existence of an ancient Roman road that might be used as a supply route. His plane is shot down within sight of the patrol but hours away. His body is not found.
Moffitt traces him to an Arab town, “sold to the Germans for gold.” A subjective camera shows his tray of food brought to the prison cell, where Moffitt is briefly held in a chokehold before being recognized.
The two escape in a rubbish truck but are found, the rest of the patrol strike swiftly to save them.
Professor Moffitt stands on the colorful stones of the narrow roadway uncovered from the sand after a thousand years.
The Last Harbor Raid
The Rat Patrol
The Allies bomb a port supplying Rommel, the Germans use prisoners of war to rebuild it each time. The patrol is sent to extricate the prisoners by sea.
An extremely fine shot of the harbor at night with the captured fishing boat they were transported in has the quayside extending into the distance left, the mountainous far shore in the background, boat and gear in the foreground seen at a down angle.
The opening footage of a bombing raid is intercut with a mass escape at the POW camp, “fruitless and costly”.
In this Arab town, the patrol is rescued by El Gamil, he of le chien qui fume, who claps his hands to have tables and chairs set up at once by his children, the last a bawler, “we have not named this one yet.” Moffitt and Hitchcock go to the Offizierskasino in a fortress overlooking the harbor, Rommel’s last, to make contact with a potential ally. The Arab provides German uniforms and a car.
The fishing captain’s daughter is a singer at the club, and might be persuaded with the news of her father’s death while resisting a German patrol boat’s inspection.
Sgt. Moffitt in his Major’s desert uniform arrives at the club with Hitch, whose face is bandaged because he doesn’t speak the language. Marianne is singing “Auprès de ma blonde” with a microphone and meager piano accompaniment outdoors to a café audience of mainly officers in gray. She is invited to their table afterwards and told the news, then driven home, quite upset.
At her apartment, Moffitt reveals the mission. She is unsure if they are Gestapo or not, but doesn’t care now. This daughter of the fishing fleet sings for the Germans to glean information, her father kept the secret.
El Gamil arranges a meeting with the senior Allied POW officer, Maj. Indrus, outside the camp, the major is reluctant to try another escape. “I have five thousand men, Sergeant. I don’t sleep too well as it is, nights.” Troy explains the situation, four men, no fleet, no weapons, no air cover, but they’re working on it.
Their captured ordnance is locked in a warehouse, El Gamil leads them to it (“German tooling is not what it used to be, eh, ha-ha, ah, Allah is with us”), stays behind to lock up. He is caught in the act, shot against a wall, “a twentieth-century genie from Aladdin’s lamp.”
Charges are to be laid, prisoners armed, the escape made to the fortified beach under German guns, with the fishing fleet in the harbor. Itch and the chanteuse, as J.-P. Melville would say, the chanteuse and the fishermen, “demain, à l’aube, c’est l’heure,” thus she translates Sgt. Troy’s English. Question of ancient ties, “sur le Pont d’Avignon” she sings, evoking Kubrick’s Paths of Glory after the lusty German chorus at the fortress, “les demoiselles font comme ça.”
Peyser, who has a positive genius for conclusions, makes a Dalian spectacle of this successful Dunkirk, “D-Day in reverse” as Terence Young would say (They Were Not Divided), but la belle France lies mortally wounded.
Capital score by Dominic Frontiere, cinematography Brick Marquard on location in Spain, Peyser amidst the intricate rapidity of the elliptical style “in color”, from his story with Richard Landau, who wrote the script (cf. Chauvel’s Forty Thousand Horsemen).
Quincy returns from vacation early to check into the mysterious death of a City Councilman. His temporary replacement is a lady pathologist who brushes off his inquiries as sexist, and proves to be quite thorough and competent, so much so that Det. Monahan says to her, “if you were a lot older and a lot uglier, I’d swear I was talking to Quincy.” She all but solves the case with a little detective work of her own. Quincy joins her for the finish, and they go off to Catalina together afterwards.
The complex case is a tumble down the stairs meant to mask a previous heart attack found in turn to be anaphylactic shock deliberately caused by an allergic reaction to penicillin. The councilman’s jealous wife introduced the drug in a bottle of mouthwash belonging to his mistress and secretary, who fearfully called a wealthy backer of his to have the body disposed of, as described.