The Germans have quite the wrong idea about France in 1918, thanks to a French lady agent working out of Stockholm for Section 8 in Berlin.
The cover for the head of Section 8 is that he is a deserting Baron, a traitor.
It all works out quite handily (the French girl, pretending to be Swiss, runs a fashionable dress shop with the latest Paris styles).
“I’ll be waiting,” she says. “I can’t hear you,” he says.
A perfect technique and style, a precise, articulate, witty script conveyed absolutely, one of the great works of the British cinema.
It utterly confused Time Out Film Guide (“a certain blandness prevails”).
Halliwell calls it “unconvincing”, but quotes Variety to the purpose, “an exceptional quantity of carefully thought out direction... the financial success will depend on whether the general public will understand and keep pace with the plot.”
Storm in a Teacup
A comedy in German on the rise of a little Fascist dictator, translated into the Anglo-Scottish by James Bridie.
This is by no means the “light comedy” or “romantic comedy” dreamt up by snoozing critics, even Frank S. Nugent’s wide appreciation in the New York Times fails to reckon it. “Is this Berlin or Moscow” asks the Englishman in Baikie, and tells the angered Provost “I’m Nordic, if that’s what’s worrying you.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide has “early Ealing-type comedy.”
Co-directed with Ian Dalrymple.
The Soviet superagent in England has a pipeline to the General Staff, also a hat and a mackintosh and phony glasses for secret rendezvous, he’s well-to-do with an aunt in Wales and a youth spent in the Irish Communist Party, he marries a silly young American over in London for the first time, she blows his cover, he’s ordered to kill her.
His presumptuous dullness is the main point, also his credulity (Hitchcock has him from another angle in Torn Curtain).
No-one could be fooled by him for long, least of all the General Staff, and the way he ditches the girl early for a trip to auntie is a treat, setting up a discussion of traitors from Welles (The Stranger).
The ending is that of A Patriot for Me.
Leonard Maltin, “stale melodrama.”
Simon Magus joins the Sicarii as Propaganda Minister. “It means Assassins,” a Roman name, he points out, “call yourselves Liberators, Defenders of Justice.”
He is to work the miracles that will outflank Jesus and raise “fighting men”. He is a practical magician, a stage illusionist, sleight-of-hand. The Holy Grail must be destroyed.
The Greek Basil receives a commission to design a setting for “the cup of our Lord”, ornamented with the likenesses of Jesus and the apostles, modeled from life or descriptions. He cannot see the light emanating from the Holy Cup, there is “no ęsthetic beauty” in it, he cannot conceive the face of Christ. “Jesus, guide my hand,” he says, working the clay. The vision is communicated to him at once.
Simon goes mad, demands a rematch before Nero, he will outdo the Christians by flying from a tower. An apparatus is rigged, he neglects it and falls.
The disappointed populace riot in the streets, the chalice is looted and broken up, the cup is lost. It will be found again, Saint Peter tells the artist, when it is most needed.
The art direction is modeled from representations of Roman dwellings on wall frescoes, most notably in the black style, giving the strong effect of night around the projection of a lady’s bath, with enforced perspectives and a general abstraction not very far from Fellini.
The outward brilliance of Palance is matched by the subtle recognition in Newman.
The actors modulate the singing, rhetorical style variously in a bariolage. Kubrick notes Joseph of Arimathea in bed, a marriage canopy at the foot of it, in 2001: A Space Odyssey.