Army Game

A mother-loving psych major (Paul Newman) tries to con his way out of boot camp.

“A Franklin Schaffner Production” for Unit Four on The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, with an unusual villainous role for Newman revealed in voiceovers that express the gun-shy neurotic’s inner view, laughing with contempt.

The captain (Patrick McVey) is a businesslike career man, the Army psychiatrist (Edward Andrews) diagnoses a sick young man belying his athleticism to suit his mother’s protectiveness, a school chum (George Grizzard) defends his fellow recruit, another man in the barracks (Philip Abbott) is a married lawyer offended by the summary treatment of a goldbrick.

The specific isolation of a theme that runs from The Fighting 69th (dir. William Keighley) and long before to Full Metal Jacket (dir. Stanley Kubrick) is the sharp accomplishment of a very fine script. The magnificently detailed production is advantageously televised live by Unit Four’s crack team of cameramen taking superbly proportioned views with complex movement handily tackled by the cast, which includes Sydney Pollack in its ranks.

Patton’s slap comes up early in the first scene, Luke on the chain gang is one of many counterthemes.


Tour of the White House

It’s a remarkable fact that Mies van der Rohe’s design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was rejected. The very fine building erected instead has been alternately neglected and tinkered with since it opened.

So it is with the White House. Thomas Jefferson’s design, submitted anonymously, was rejected. Outrages to the building, long after the British, eventually rendered the whole structure perilous, steel beams were introduced.

Mrs. Kennedy tells this history and more on a walking tour of several public rooms and the Lincoln bedroom, formerly his Cabinet room (President Andrew Johnson moved the Cabinet next door, she explains, for good luck).


The Stripper

“O magnum mysterium!” (Mahler)

Beckett having addressed Art as distinguished from “good housekeeping”, Inge by way of Meade Roberts isolates management and admiration from the picture as well, in the same way scholarship is a desideratum and not a gravy train nor an enterprise undertaken to enthrall, amuse or even enlighten the young.

Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight (dir. Ralph Nelson) is thus explicated, by means of an extraordinary concatenation of works meditating on a theme that threads them like a strand of pearls, sometimes almost inexplicably, it would appear.

It’s plain to see that Schaffner has been as taken with Kubrick’s Lolita the year before as Mike Nichols with The Stripper in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the following year, the magisterial work followed by an open door through which one steps is perfectly arranged, the key film is Schaffner’s, a nexus of all possibilities.

Le Notti Di Cabiria (dir. Federico Fellini) evidently is the basis, itself a variant of Il Bidone. The stage act figures in Bergman’s The Rite, the return of the trouper in All I Desire (dir. Douglas Sirk). Ozu’s Floating Weeds is to be compared, and for the essential nudity of the proposition in the end, The Greatest Show on Earth (dir. Cecil B. De Mille).

The key to the masterpiece is Ellsworth Fredericks’ cinematography and the entire scenic conception, by way of William Cameron Menzies for Our Town (dir. Sam Wood).

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “not a stitch of artistic respectability”. Variety, “unsuccessful”. Film4, “no balance.” TV Guide, “a mess.” Eleanor Mannikka (Rovi), “routine”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “rather tedious.”


The Best Man

The ex-President, an irreligious and dying man, characterizes the Liberal nominee as a Saint on office time, and the Conservative as worse than a bastard, a stupid bastard. He won’t endorse either, but privately works for the Saint, which is a nicety among many in the script.

In the end, neither candidate will serve, the Liberal nut and the Conservative loony are shunted aside by the former’s defensive strategy, a Westerner takes the convention ballot (North and South are very big this political year).

It all stands to reason, and has done for half a century. Lumet’s Power and Furie’s The Circle proceed from it very effectively.

Shelley Berman’s walk-on from Hawks’ His Girl Friday went right by Bosley Crowther, who liked the pic. The bout takes place in the Ambassador Hotel basement amid boxes of Civil Defense survival crackers and large cans of drinking water, as the candidates square off with dirt on each other.

You can only believe a politician when he’s talking about his opponent, and not even then. Their names are (Liberal Secretary of State) Russell the rustler and (Conservative Senator) Cantwell, who cants well.



The War Lord

Jus primæ noctis.

“As the Lord God loves Israel.”

His enemies appeal to Egypt, which is called Frisia.

In the end, he consigns his lady there, and himself absconds for the time.

Schaffner’s direction has the virtue of superabundance. Crowther’s review is abundantly silly.


The Double Man

The sins of youth, such as they are, considered in age and revealed as a trap.

One is, therefore, another man and visibly scarred, or else one does away with the imposition.

A Cold War parable, for which Pichel’s Happy Land is an important precedent, and Furie’s The Ipcress File a curious ringer.

The skier’s fall is filmed much like the spaceship crash in Planet of the Apes.

“Third-rate”, said Renata Adler in the New York Times.


Planet of the Apes

Simian religionists are “better than man”. Rod Serling covers the material in various ways for The Twilight Zone (“The Long Morrow”, “I Shot an Arrow into the Air”, “Eye of the Beholder” or “The Private World of Darkness”, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”, “Probe 7—Over and Out”, “People Are Alike All Over”, “The Silence”, etc.). Dr. Caligari’s madhouse gives a Toby Dammit perspective to this nightmare of nightmares concurrent with 2001: A Space Odyssey set 2000 or 2010 years in the future. The seacoast archæological dig recalls the Chinese fishing village in One-Eyed Jacks, the gorilla raid Lang’s Moonfleet.

Schaffner’s control of composite sequences like the capture in the cornfield (from Fernandez’s La Rebelión de los colgados) is equaled by a single shot like Taylor dragged into the tribunal chamber, all based on a very active sense of cinematographic style.



The curious symbolism employed throughout to create a picture of its subject equal to the accomplished portrait seen in preparation gives the film its two-edged sword. Gen. Patton in the world as it seems to others, and the reverse shot.

Champ contre champ, albeit simultaneously, or unnoticeably fluid. There you have the general, “how it strikes a contemporary”, and the forceful satire of American soldiers as street Arabs, not to mention the British and the Russians. This renders the picture its dimensionality, and makes it cinema. Patton’s mind and his existence are given, which is a startling achievement.

Griffith is the model and inspiration for the desert battle and the portrait. Schaffner’s sincere conduct of complex sequences like the air raid on Patton’s desert HQ is perfect in its treatment of special effects.


Nicholas and Alexandra

The life of the Tsarevich, a bleeder on whom every event impinges. The decisive factor is Rasputin, on whom there is every reason to believe the fate of the nation at last hinges.

These are the two major points overlooked by every critic, Canby going so far as to wish such roadshow productions away.

The third element is Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Hitlerine gangsters, cf. Medak’s A day in the death of Joe Egg, where Suzman has the same material on a different basis.




His first escape is marred by his alliance with the renowned forger of National Defense Bonds, series 1921. He ought to be on the Morpho boat to the U.S. Mint but he’s a week early, Kafka’s manhunters haul him away for two years in solitary.

His second escape is an elaborate fantasy that begins with a prison doctor who has done away with all his family (Quai des Orfèvres) and has a friend outside named Pascal with a rotten boat he sells to dupes, a tattooed hunter quells the manhunters and conducts the escapees (Papillon, the forger, and a homosexual in the prison infirmary) to Pigeon Island where the lepers dwell in thievery and smuggling. Papillon wins their trust by smoking a shared cigar, a boat is obtained and the trio reach Honduras. At this point the grand surrealism of the work is all. As they land, like the survivors of the Nyanga disaster (Beat the Devil), a prisoner under guard is being escorted along the beach, they are hailed and shot at, Papillon enters the jungle and meets the prisoner, tribesmen engaged for this purpose kill the one with a mantrap (The Green Berets) and pierce the other with darts from a blowgun, he falls off a cliff into the water below and awakens in a tribal village on the seacoast where half-naked pearlfishers trade for outside articles with surly men who drive hard bargains and hang by the heels. Papillon imparts a butterfly tattoo like his own to the admiring chief, and wakes to find himself alone in the village, only a few black and white pearls remain for him in a pouch. These serve for security at an overnight stay in a nun’s cell, the mother superior betrays him and he serves another five years in solitary.

Now he is old and no longer a prisoner but an obligatory colonist. The forger tends pigs in a caricature of The Birdman of Alcatraz, Papillon rides a bag of coconuts alone across the sea to freedom.

His conviction for killing a pimp is described by him as a frame, though he doesn’t deny threatening the prosecutor with murder, but in one dream he pleads guilty to wasting his life, in another he sees himself and the forger (two decent men on Devil’s Island) feted by France, and then two more prisoners with a vague resemblance who are dead and whom he is about to join on half-rations in solitary confinement (a slow-motion topsy-turvy view).

The film opens exactly like Patton with an address to the camera, representing soldiers there but prisoners here. A Frenchwoman looks down from a balcony as they are marched along a narrow street between silent onlookers for the voyage.

The widescreen picture is often articulated by a “V” shape formed as the camera turns a corner echoed throughout.


Islands in the Stream

The crime was, one could not have any Jews aboard.

Schaffner often uses a wrong lens, he does not in this instance film correctly but assiduously, in many small brief shots.

A particular range of materials, sculptor in the Bahamas, three sons at Rutledge, ex-wife to marry a “military asshole” on June 6th (the year is 1940).

“One starts wishing one could control it,” said Vincent Canby of the New York Times, other critics much the same.

The crime was, not that one could not have Jews aboard (Schaffner’s Nazis don’t care about that), rather one had something someone else wanted, as in the witch trials, there was no crime, only a pretext.

The Nazis are on the move, opposing them is necessary and entails a certain cost (the English drunk is by way of O’Neill in John Ford’s The Long Voyage Home).


The Boys from Brazil

“Not a son, not even a carbon copy, but another original! A Hitler tailor-made for the nineteen-eighties, nineties, two thousand!”

The lab is Dr. Moreau’s, not quite an island but near the water in a South American jungle, well ahead of Frankenheimer.

The construction is admirably mystifying and leads to the absurd conclusion exactly predicted, with the cliff-hanger note that the boys so created might, refractory as they are, begin to enjoy the work.

Critics could not quite see the significance but the digital remake should take care of that.




She is the woman in the advertisements come to life, woman as tourist, both irritating, and on top of that she’s an Egyptologist from Boston, more or less.

Egypt is a strip of land eight miles wide on either side of the Nile, its natural resource is death, such remarks come from the Director-General of the Department of Antiquities.

A beautifully-photographed masterwork, authentic to the last degree.

The creature, with her vapid expressions of delight and disdain, is conveyed authentically and beautifully by Lesley-Anne Down. The D.-G. is Frank Langella.

Stanley Donen’s Arabesque is implied more than once.

There is a way of sealing the great tombs known only to one man thirty centuries ago, Menephta.

The man-hater is a staple, stock character in many a film since.

This of course has to do with King Tut and the curse and Carnarvon.

Anyway, her great discovery passes into oblivion.

“It’s unhinged,” said Vincent Canby (New York Times), and “total, absolute, utter confusion.”

Variety spoke plainly, “this film is an embarrassment.”

Time Out Film Guide says, “avoid.”


Yes, Giorgio

Don Juan Tenorio.



Lionheart is a very complicated little tour de force, the essence of which is revealed early on when the Black Prince is observed alone in the chapel at night by the young hero, like Hamlet watching Claudius at his prayers. The Prince looks around, then suddenly hurls a dagger into the breast of a carved wooden Christ on the cross over the altar. This, then, is the story of Saul and David.

It’s also a famous episode of Star Trek markedly, and likewise Virgin Spring, Fanny and Alexander, Lord of the Flies, Our Mother’s House and The Seventh Seal, all unobtrusively manifest within an unruffled style superficially reflecting Excalibur to some degree (with material taken more or less directly from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, North by Northwest and Brenon’s Peter Pan).