A live television broadcast for Hallmark Hall of Fame with Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer, Hume Cronyn, Jason Robards, Jr., and Eileen Heckart.
Plummer plays the man as Torvald, all the way to the closing line.
Schaefer takes the play in a deep analysis with a very realistic set of a great house in Norway, the camera (there is more than one) pivots to introduce a character at the door in the background, or out on the snowy street, not always but regularly enough to prefigure Don Taylor’s Sophocles epiphanies and Ingmar Bergman’s staging of Miss Julie, the heroine at the center of a spoked wheel.
Live, and in color, for Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Ariel is Nijinsky (Roddy McDowall), Caliban Montgomery Clift (Richard Burton), Maurice Evans the great Prospero, Lee Remick and William Bassett the lovers, Ronald Radd and Tom Poston the clowns, top performances.
Question of the law going one way and then another over the course of the twentieth century, this is somewhat curiously stated in court (S. John Launer, presiding), there it is hoped that “gravity” will find a middle course.
The literal representation, subsequently reflected in Siegel’s Dirty Harry, finds a confession under duress undermining the case against a violent criminal. Schaefer’s film finds its own mirror in the arresting officer’s wife working for a public relations firm, an old flame in shipbuilding resurfaces with an account. These two are shot to death in her bed while the officer, a highly-decorated Washington D.C. detective captain, is away in Baltimore making a speech on behalf of a senator with whose law-and-order subcommittee he is on detached duty. It is then a question of the unseen murderer being by suggestion either the jealous captain or the freed criminal, a capital construction (cf. Godard’s Le Mépris, e.g.), as principal suspect the captain retains to defend him (“because he’s the best there is”) none other than the attorney whose plea before the Supreme Court proved a “landmark”, his name is Woodrow Wilson King, Woody.
Schaefer is an extremely attentive director to his surfaces, including his actors’ faces, and films extensively in and around the nation’s capitol, both are in his survey, the thing in itself and what it reveals at every moment, thus the psychology of the marriage, colleagues on the force, the senator’s office, the Hitchcockian motif of the criminal’s stay in Pittsburgh with his mother, the courtroom and so forth, to descry the springs of action or of thought.
A confab at the Jefferson Memorial between lawyer, captain and senator, “a ridiculous place to have a meeting,” says the latter. The D.C. Morgue holds a fortuitous rendezvous of widow and widower refracted at another angle in Pollack’s Random Hearts, she is accusatory.
The screenplay is by another officer of the Perry Mason court, and culminates in the high poetry of this exchange, “Woody, this is a damn lousy business. On one hand you got the people and the press screaming and yelling to clean up the streets, get tough with the kids, toss the criminals in jail, then on the other hand we’ve got you civil liberties people screaming and yelling.”
“Oh, come on, we don’t scream and yell.”
“Yes, screaming and yelling about people’s rights, immunities and privileges. Then once in a while a cop, sometimes a good cop, gets himself in a jam, then we’ve got ‘em all down on us. What’s the answer, Woody? How can we do a good job and keep everybody happy?”
“If everybody were happy you wouldn’t have a job.” A film of the profoundest discernment with Hitchcock’s cinematographer Lionel Lindon and a title song from Walter Scharf and Mack David, sung by The Lettermen.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), “if you really analyze it, it’s a fascist movie.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “fast-paced crime thriller”. Dan Pavlides (All Movie Guide), “engaging murder mystery.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “not very interesting.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Last of the Belles”
The second part of the title is a story of the Great War very close to Losey’s Accident as filmed, the rest is a circumstantial account of its writing that suggests the resumption of hostilities.
The key is somewhat different, a Northern rube and streetcar conductor tells the upwardly-mobile dame where to get off, figuratively.
An Enemy of the People
One of those plans to save the town turns out to be noxious, the one witness to this suffers ostracism.
The strange constellation of pressures brought to bear is uncannily accurate. Schaefer is remarkably candid on this point with a title giving the year of first performance a century earlier.
The film was pleasingly treated in much the same way as its hero.
The Deadly Game
Three lawyers and a civic functionary exercising their skills in retirement after dinner on a cold night with the odd stranger.
Death of a salesman (“the exclusive European agent”) four hours from Geneva, a certain Trapp, did the boss in to get the job. High in the Swiss Alps, the tribunal of conscience or consciousness (cf. Maximilian Schell’s End of the Game). “I can’t remember when it was so cold, not since that winter of ‘45.” A certain Wilson...
Arraignment of the widow, “too busy running around with a—some crazy poet down in SoHo.” Cf. Arthur Penn’s Dead of Winter.
Direction purely theatrical which is to say dramatic on the realistic set, videotaped straight through as it were without cinematic resources which is to say pictorial or reflective extraordinarily, adding a view from the back of the hall before and after each of the two acts, “as presented on the stage” from a novel by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Die Panne, initially a play for radio, then television.
Right of Way
Vic ‘n Sade do themselves in, but surrealistically it’s an object lesson for their unmarried daughter.
Bette Davis and James Stewart have the roles, terrifically.
John J. O’Connor pooh-poohed the thing in the New York Times because the characters are witty, the direction is able, and he thought he ought to.