The Sound of Jazz
The Seven Lively Arts
CBS Studio 58 for an hour of live jazz, three cameras say, tight views of the soloists, the various bands at work (Count Basie, Red Allen, Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Rushing, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Giuffre).
The Twilight Zone
Through a piece of fantastically intricate imagination, Serling establishes injustice as a feminine machine only a victim could love and only a hero destroy.
Smight, filming in Death Valley’s Desolation Canyon, emphasizes the superfices that are derived from radio drama in a characteristic manipulation of what magicians call “misdirection,” setting up the prison asteroid nine million miles from Earth with its solitary inhabitant, and saves his nuance for Jean Marsh’s performance as the robot, remarkably lifelike and yet not quite human.
Jack Warden is the frenetically lonely prisoner, and John Dehner is the captain who supplies the robot (his name is Allenby, which curiously anticipates Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia).
The Lateness of the Hour
The Twilight Zone
signifies a state of affairs in which the desire for comfort has led to dependence
on servants. These are revealed to be robots invented by the master, whose
inquiring daughter is another creature, reprogrammed in the end to supplant the
crowd of maids and footmen.
This is the acrid stuff of an Albee play, taped live in front of several cameras and displaying not only Smight’s skill in this thrilling genre, as well as John Hoyt’s positive genius for it and superb performances by Inger Stevens and Irene Tedrow, but also a stunning coup de télévision, a maid thrown down the stairs who lands in front of a camera at the foot and smiles.
It’s the other way of saying that children used to have chores now done by machines (the opposite of, for instance, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”).
And then there is Lumet’s curious story about Midnight Cowboy, so many answer prints were needed to get the color right, Schlesinger told him, whereas with digital movies there’s no problem, says Lumet.
The Night of the Meek
The Twilight Zone
In his second turn at a live taping for The Twilight Zone, Smight has mustered the unit to its full capabilities, as required by a script that calls for evident magic and a sleigh drawn by reindeer.
Serling’s analysis makes clear the influence of Pichel’s The Great Rupert on De Sica’s Miracolo a Milano. The meaning of Christmas is revealed, and Santa Claus is a saintly man who finds an elf waiting for him on that sleigh, after giving himself out to be “an aging, purposeless relic of another time”.
Art Carney leads the cast in quite a stunning display of live television that partly depends on meticulous preparation of its effects, and partly on the medium shot (beloved of Schlesinger in Billy Liar) which brings things into view out of a continuum unseen beyond the camera.
The Twilight Zone
The stripper who calls herself an “exotic dancer” collapses with nervous exhaustion and dreams every night in the hospital of going down to the morgue where a nurse says, “room for one more, honey.” Without entering this room called Two-Two, the patient runs back upstairs, night after night.
The doctor calms her, she is released. About to board a plane at the same gate number, she is met by the same nurse wearing a stewardess’s uniform and saying the same thing. The passenger runs back into the terminal, the plane takes off and phallically explodes without her.
Smight has this to film with his live unit on videotape, which adds to the marvel. Barbara Nichols is the ecdysiast, Jonathan Harris her physician, Fredd Wayne the dapper, snappy agent.
What Really Happened
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The structure presents this as incident and trial with contradictory evidence given as flashbacks from two viewpoints.
A woman is married and widowed at 17, left with child, studies fashion modeling, puts the boy in care of a friend and widow, is married again, this time to her former husband’s employer, takes the friend with her as housekeeper and mother of the boy.
The husband is wealthy but the wife is extravagant. The boy is something of a nuisance to him. The housekeeper is fired, and poisons the husband’s nightly glass of warm milk. The wife is tried for murder.
The mother-in-law testifies against her as frivolous and adulterous, but the general tenor of Smight’s direction supports the defense. Two scenes are played twice, the wife confronted with bills she either scoffs at or modestly acknowledges, and an old romantic interest (who has made a fortune mining South American tin) whom she either encourages in his lecherous advances or whose kindness she relies on for a loan.
The dramatic conclusion leads to a wry and fleeting consideration of justice in its course. The housekeeper, Hitchcock explains, was arrested and tried for murder. “She hoped for a suspended sentence,” but what really happened was, “they suspended her.”
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The lady in the title is a meddlesome busybody who makes it her business to run everybody’s lives for them, the least she does is make them feel inferior, at her best she kills “what allows them to survive”, she’s the Ibsenite do-gooder by way of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, really a sadist and a sociopath, whose response to criticism is to say that she is not loved.
Her husband finally does her in with an overdose of sleep medication, reluctantly and after a warning she’s too blind to heed. The burden of this creature is sustained by Joan Fontaine in upswept hair and smiling contempt, a fountain of malice who “does things for people”. Her very patient dutiful husband (Gary Merrill) bids her hold her tongue in vain, and retails to her face the list of crimes and follies she’s engaged upon, the cruelties and agonies she’s inflicted. “You are deadly,” he concludes. Friendless, his business failing, everyone afraid of her, he offers one last chance, sell the house, go to Europe together. She wouldn’t dream of it.
The preparation, researched out of Principles of Medical Jurisprudence, causes her a dream of darkness visible before curtains.
The Lonely Hours
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The women and children of this episode enact the judgment of Solomon for the benefit of the audience. There are no men at all, Mr. Henderson is away at a military base developing rockets, Lt. Novotny of the police waits downstairs while a policewoman does the basic sorting.
This is the tale of a lodger, Mrs. Williams, who takes a room at the Hendersons’ and cheerfully baby-sits their infant son, whom she takes for her own after the hospital deliberately, as she believes, swapped him for the premature baby who died at birth, her husband having left her some time before. The Hendersons also have three young girls, who first think Mrs. Williams is an “atomic spy”, and refine their theory into her spying on their father’s work.
Smight’s direction must certainly have been helped by the presence on the set of Nancy Kelly, Gena Rowlands, Joyce Van Patten, Juanita Moore, and so on, the children are about ideal. He has only one fancy shot, a slight up-angle on Rowlands as Mrs. Henderson traipsing off to the kitchen for more coffee while Kelly as Mrs. Williams slips a mickey into her cup. He cranes up for a normal perspective on the return, concluding the shot.
The Dark Pool
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The situation is prefaced by an exterior sunnily set beside the pool. Baby’s in his crib, watched over by mother’s own Scottish nanny, with Pedro the houseboy also in attendance. Mother comes home, a Yankee just learning to ride, orders a quick drink, dark looks all around, oh well, make it a light one. She goes inside to talk to her husband on the telephone, in a few seconds the baby climbs out of his crib for the first time and drowns.
The nanny takes the blame because of the mother’s reputation for drinking, and is banished from the house by the husband after the coroner’s inquest (which attaches no blame to her). And now comes the main action, a woman pretending to be the baby’s real mother (he was adopted) has come into knowledge of the accident through Pedro, and wants the house, the husband, everything.
The hell of this is finally dispelled when the truth is made known all around.
Hitchcock as host spends the episode dealing with a giant firecracker, almost like an unexploded bomb.
I’d Rather Be Rich
The story goes back into the realm of Lubitsch with the original scenarist, Hanns Kräly. Polished and repolished, it attains the perfection seen in the title number right at the start, behind the credits.
The romance of a highly-successful singer and a corporate heiress, interrupted by a poor chemist with a “viscous ceramic” for the space program, proves that chemistry, not æsthetics, drives love.
Howard Thompson of the New York Times did not perceive a jot of it, not a tittle. Halliwell follows him in honoring Chevalier only.
The Third Day
A succession of nightmare episodes pellucidly filmed with an exacerbating deadpan. Herbert Marshall as the paterfamilias moves one finger only, the company makes fine pottery and is named Parsons, the district attorney collects medieval weapons, the jazz singer is a slut, her husband is Arte Johnson, Mona Washbourne works for the CIA “overthrowing...” (her joke), and so on, a Socratic amnesia case, one’s ass in a tub of butter slowly bared like Alec Guinness in Hamer’s The Scapegoat, tranquilly recollected emotion, from the author of The Desperate Hours (dir. William Wyler).
“Twaddle”, said Bosley Crowther (New York Times). “Interminable chat”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide.
Boleslawski’s dreaming policeman (eyes open, alarm clock, eyes closed), athletic. Daylight, a sink full of ice cubes. Leftover coffee, bitter, the wife. Pistol in shoulder holster, swatting flies. The perfect gumshoe.
Samson and the temple of the Philistines (“well, the happiness market’s crashed, baby”). “You know, L.A. is the big league for religious nuts.”
“That’s ‘cause there’s nothin’ to do at night.” One of the detective’s several personæ, a jocular lowbrow.
The deep aquamarine of the Sampson swimming pool is very characteristic, like the deep haunches of Sampson fille, who nevertheless doesn’t swim but dances on the diving board, and the deep ensconcing in the traditions of the detective film before Polanski’s Chinatown (as Harper drives up to the Sampson manse for the first time, Felix the chauffeur is puttering in a basin like Mulwray’s gardener), “no wonder your old man took to the sauce, I would too if I hadda sleep in here.”
“You’re not very hip, but I believe you. Except you’ve got cop’s eyes.” Smight’s night work in the Palisades is especially dreamlike, and that’s where you get the pilot’s James Cagney. “You sure the handwriting is his?”
“That moronic scrawl is unforgettable,” Bette Davis for Mrs. Sampson.
“Your husband keeps lousy company, Mrs. Sampson, as bad as there is in L.A., and that’s as bad as there is.”
“Miranda? Hello Miranda! Miranda’s coming. How are you?”
“Suicidal. I’ve just had the nicest chat with Stepmommy.” Edward Everett Horton for the lawyer, “poor nice Albert.”
“I am nice.”
“The bottom is loaded with nice people, Albert, only cream and bastards rise.”
“Well, what’s your big deficiency?”
“I have none, I’m a bloody saint.”
“You probably still think a woman’s place is in the heaume.”
“Not in my heaume.” Sissy Goforth’s villa in Boom (dir. Joseph Losey) two years later, from Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, a topnotch analysis. “Can I just look around?”
“He’ll be risking the wrath of the sun god.”
“So I’m lionhearted.”
“I only laugh when it’s funny, my own stupidity maybe.” There is a touching strobe effect as Harper drives up with the girl to the Sampson gate under a tilt-and-pan, on a much smaller scale than the one at the end of Losey’s The Sleeping Tiger. “Ah, it’s a kidnapping, I got the note... Austin Schwartz-Marmaduke of the Schwartz-Marmaduke Foundation for Ballroom Education... I’m in a bar at Castle Beach but I’m hiding from an idiot cop in the men’s room, now that is funny.” The complicated fight sequence in the temple also perhaps has flickers of this, under the sign of Figueroa. “Is there no end to your sacrilege?” All of which is mentioned exclusively for the benefit of those who attribute to the director technical competence beyond the demands of art, in the very strictest sense. “Disgustin’ly lucrative, but, as you suggest, hardly enrichin’ to the soul.”
The “fish-eyed faggot” dies on the docks, the bloody saint goes home to his wife (Losey remembers the serpentine, two serpentine columns). “At least you’re honest.” Mrs. Harper is certainly by way of Fellini.
“I’m gonna crack this thing, Albert, I swear to ya, it’s gonna be laid out.” The pilot’s death, at the hands of Albert. The “gorgeously unendurable” end of the Philistine, at the hands of Harper. Death of Sampson. Flight of the happiness-seeker.
The view from Harper’s wrecked car is repeated a year later in Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde.
Samson as a type of Christ yields the final image of Jesus and Pontius Pilate, prepared from the opening scene of Harper in his office domicile..
There remains to be established the crystallization of a response to Hawks’ The Big Sleep, a monumental structure. In the meantime there is Penelope Houston (“it isn’t a bad try, but it never really slips into overdrive”) and Pauline Kael (“nothing needs justification less than entertainment; but when something planned only to entertain fails, it has no justification. A private-eye movie without sophistication and style is ignominious”), cited in Halliwell’s Film Guide (”formula Californian detection”).
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times thought Bogart was missing, that’s all, “eventually it seems a bit too obvious, imitative, old-fashioned and, worst of all, stale.” Variety, “imbalanced concept, resulting in overlength and telegraphing”. Film4, “hardly groundbreaking stuff.” Time Out, “very minor”. TV Guide, “doesn't begin to approach the big leagues of hard-boiled detective films.” Michael Costello (All Movie Guide), “consistent with the mediocrity which characterized the director's career.”
The Fourth Man, private eyeless in Gaza.
Screenplay William Goldman from the author, Technicolor and Panavision cinematography Conrad Hall, score Johnny Mandel, one of the Gershwin-Kastner masterworks.
The Edgar Allan Poe Award.
One might rig every gambling table in Europe by marking cards at the factory in Geneva (Crowther thought this “a fictional supposition of the most implausible sort, of course”).
Scotland Yard is onto the caper, the clever fellow is hoist with his own petard and sat at a London poker table against the new Napoleon, a wartime swindler.
Never seen by any critics with their eyes open, subsequently dismissed even by its makers, as one is given to understand, and altogether a brilliant film with extremely sharp acting by Warren Beatty and Clive Revill perfectly caught in Smight’s astute direction, matched by Susannah York and Eric Porter as the copper’s daughter and the Emperor, respectively.
The Secret War of Harry Frigg
Five brigadiers, two American, two British and one French, are captured by the Italian Army in a Tunisian Turkish bath and interned at a sumptuous villa in Northern Italy, where they live according to their tastes and cannot agree on an escape plan.
There, exactly, is the point of satire.
Weeks and weeks go by, the U.S. Army sends in a buck private stockade escapologist, promoted to major general, to order them out and lead the way.
And so, the issue is joined.
“Down-at-the-mouth and desperately boring” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times).
“Slow, uninventive and overlong” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).
No Way to Treat a Lady
Between Cukor’s A Double Life and Fleischer’s The Boston Strangler, Smight’s tale of a Gotham director in the playhouse named after his late mother. He likes to dress up and act a part and kill middle-aged women, thus you have a picture of the seven lively arts as they are sometimes made to appear.
The plainclothesman on and off the case lives at home in the shadow of a successful brother and badgered by a Jewish mother.
His new shiksa girlfriend swang and swung and now is a Lincoln Center docent, also a witness.
“It has absolutely no reality,” Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times.
Variety would have liked to see “stronger, more appropriate direction”.
“A bumpy ride” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).
The Illustrated Man
A film that profoundly baffled the critics, “and I mean baffled”, as the title character would say.
Groucho Marx is a good key, you can learn a lot from Felicia, it’s the story of a man’s married life from the rose in the hand to the house that disappears with the wife.
And all the time, a tale told by one hobo to another, partly imagined.
A superb film, needless to say, except the reviews drew a total blank.
The Traveling Executioner
America in World War I, expressly centered on Kazan’s East of Eden as a comfortable approach, Henry King’s Wilson and Wellman’s Lafayette Escadrille convey the dilemma of distance, the rueful necessity of repeating the experience is structurally defined.
At the base and bottommost rung of backwash yahooism, a distant strain of poetry, “Homer and Hamlet”, in which The Lady’s Not for Burning translates “her ass is just too good to cook.”
Variety, “macabre, tastefully seamy”. Time Out, “grotesque theatrical farce”. TV Guide, “black comedy... macabre script”. Michael Betzold (Rovi), “unusual black comedy.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “oddball fable without apparent moral.”
In the midst of it all, Pound at Pisa, or something else again.
Pascal’s grace and refractoriness and where one is (Eliot’s “the order of nature, the order of mind, the order of charity”), quite humorously applied to an American’s existence in some Eastern town.
His marriage sets the seal on his childhood, she’s just a sodden imbecile, he sells “phony stone siding”.
He gets himself a girl and leaves home, the wife has her baby, it dies, he leaves home and mistress for good.
Last sight of him running along a road from the town, sounds of nature.
This is expressed with as much frictional detail as possible, tempered by the wit of the occasion and the perfectly caustic narrative view.
No tricks here, as the story is of the “Purloined Letter” kind. Maj. Gen. Hollister, USMC (Ret.) runs a business in collusion with Materiel Command overcharging the Government. The Inspector General is onto the crime, so Hollister kills his Procurement Officer to erase any connection, then he seduces a vague (“creative and artistic”) eyewitness.
It’s all very subdued and very quietly played, until there’s a terrific trumpet blast from Clete Roberts on TV, retailing the General’s career, “in the Korean War, commanding a regiment of armored cavalry, Gen. Hollister captured the imagination of the American people.”
The somewhat curious set representing Gen. Hollister’s home at the marina serves as a foil to a strange evocation of Hitchcock’s Rope (after the murder, two cadets carrying out a crate full of memorabilia).
A young patrolman modestly describes himself as a “slicksleeve.” Smight’s self-restraint is repaid with Lt. Columbo walking out of frame past the camera followed by Gen. Hollister pausing in it with a reflective look.
“Got a match?”, asks the Lieutenant. The General walks over to a foreground table, and the camera tilts down to the golden table lighter he picks up, only to make the faintest of all possible allusions to Cukor’s Keeper of the Flame.
Gen. Hollister hides his victim’s body in a plastic bag (cf. Young’s Wait Until Dark) behind a revolving panel. His strategy is to overwhelm all opposition with his personal presence or with the creation of a new dynamic (to borrow a buzzword). Taking the eyewitness out to dinner accomplishes the first. Lt. Columbo, who’s “no Columbus” but full of questions, gets a “test run” out at sea aboard a roaring power yacht.
Somebody’s Out to Get Jennie
The main structural point is in Jennie’s description of painting. A horizontal line divides sky and earth. Sky is thought of as “a blue nothingness,” which usually is filled by steeples and such, or formerly by cherubs and angels. For Jennie (Julie Sommars), however, it’s “full of unseen forces.”
The opening shot reflects this. Sky and earth, a helicopter descending. It lands beside a lake, Robert Devlin (Cameron Mitchell) steps out, there is an explosion and the company bookkeeper still inside is killed.
Gen. Touhy (Barry Sullivan) has decided to liquidate his partnership with Devlin. The bookkeeper, a CO and “bleeding heart” only Devlin would have hired, is accused of embezzlement, the blast might have killed both. Devlin goes on the lam in Mexico, but his secretary Jennie knows of the plot, she’s a sensitive creature and gets the Gaslight treatment from Gen. Touhy’s tool Ira Mastin (Gabriel Dell), an insurance investigator with a showbiz past.
In the end, McCloud is walking down a sidewalk viewed from above. A flower drops into view. He picks it up in a reverse angle showing the sky as background. The flower has a note wrapped around it, from Jennie in her hospital room (with Devlin).
A major work from Smight, closely and visibly related to Harper. He has the finest technique ever exhibited in the omnibus, which means, for example, that rapid tracking pans are executed smoothly and precisely, dolly-ins and dolly-outs construct the scene at a rare angle, and the pool is reflected in the patio sunshade moving in the breeze on a conversation over money and drinks of a sunny day.
A Little Plot at Tranquil Valley
This incomparable vaudeville begins at the zoo’s Beaver Lagoon, where McCloud has been sent by dispatch to counsel a keeper on a New Mexico beaver that won’t eat.
Meanwhile, a tour guide at Tranquil Valley explains the vision of eternal peace for all fifty states starting at two hundred dollars plus tax and limousine charges. The place is run by Marvin Sloan, a fierce man of enterprise who boasts of his firm’s success and of “the biggest independent smuggling outfit east of the Missouri River.” His wife is greatly occupied with getting her brother Ralphie out of TV repair and into the business.
Ralphie is an imbecile (a “ziphead,” Sloan calls him), and makes a mess of Sloan’s master plan. Morgan and Richard, who are “graveyard technicians” at Tranquil Valley, are to go with Ralphie to Olton Pharmaceuticals in the uniforms of Security Transfer, Inc., present an invoice and drive out with half a million dollars worth of penicillin, which Sloan will dilute and sell for two million dollars south of the border. Ralphie shoots a guard, is shot himself and captured.
The tour guide leads a party through the grounds and buildings, describing some of the famous clientele, a silent film actress, for one, and a protest leader “who was the first to advocate non-violence while confronting the police.”
Sloan has his picture taken for publicity, and deals with his wife’s wrath. An attorney, Walter McKay, pays a call on Ralphie in the prison ward, thinking he’s a whiplash case, and departs hurriedly after suggesting Ralphie make it easier on everyone by taking his own life.
McCloud is kidnapped at a rendezvous at the Statue of Liberty, but the Commissioner won’t swap prisoners. Richard blurs his vision with eyedrops, and Morgan (who likes to quote the Bard) counsels patience, but McCloud escapes from his waterfront hole and brings back the police by remembering sounds along the way.
Richard’s had 72 head colds in the past year, and is developing a limp. Morgan senses it’s worriment over mortality, counsels patience.
Embalming Rooms 8 through 15 are busy diluting the penicillin, reports Dr. Dudley, a Tranquil Valley embalmer with a nursing credential at the hospital, who is dispatched to dispatch Ralphie. Chief Clifford keeps the body under wraps, provoking a second attempt.
McCloud investigates Tranquil Valley, passing by a funeral for the incredible Judge Harper. One of the bereaved asks the Marshal if the Judge owed him money as well, then offers to sell him Everglades property, “the whole thing’s going to be built around an amusement park, we call it Reptile Land.”
McCloud drives off in a hearse full of penicillin followed by Morgan and Richard in a Tranquil Valley van.
Sloan blames his troubles on “some bad-apple employees who have banded together for some criminal purpose, but to accuse me, a mortician!” Chief Clifford puts him in irons. McCloud marvels to the Chief, “down in Taos, the only time they’ll escort you through a cemetery is when you’re in the box!”
The tour guide’s voice is heard at closing time announcing a 9 a.m. re-opening “under new management.”
The main lines come from Reed’s The Third Man by way of Richardson’s The Loved One. There is ample material from various sources. Much of the vaudeville seems to reflect William Friedkin’s The Night They Raided Minsky’s. The concealment gag comes from Yates’ Bullitt, and there is a direct citation of Maté’s D.O.A. (McCloud jabbed in the belly by Richard retorts like Frank Bigelow upon Chester). Philip Dunne’s Blindfold supplies the mode whereby McCloud retraces his steps to his captors. There is even a joke on Jack Smight in the judge’s eulogy (Judge Harper, that is, “think not of the lies and libelous accusations flung at him by the pseudo-intellectuals of the Northern press...”).
The aim of the satire is revealed by the initials of the funeral home (just as the key of Hitchcock’s Spellbound is partly found in the name of the asylum).
A most brilliant episode, filmed on location in New York.
Let’s Hear It for a
“T. Banacek, Restorations”. His father was replaced by an insurance company computer and given a gold watch.
Things disappear, American masculinity (“Let’s Hear It for a Living Legend”), Impressionist paintings (“The Greatest Collection of Them All”), he finds them. A wedding coach, a Book of Hours, a jeweled crucifix, a thoroughbred horse, things of great value impossible to miss, heavily insured and requiring his services.
A medical computer so vast it has its own building simply vanishes, for example, gone like the passenger jet on a Nevada airstrip, and the prototype “safe” automobile on a railroad flatcar in transit, defying all logic.
“I make a good living at it,” he says, referring to this terrible wave of crime lapping at the door of his headquarters in Boston, where insurance companies pay him a sizeable fee each time.
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, “the man with the action-packed expense account”, is his progenitor, also Harry Houdini, the magician who could make elephants disappear before a crowd of witnesses.
A surly football player disappears from the field in the midst of a scrimmage. Banacek reviews the videotape, interviews witnesses and associates, uncovers the plot.
His own father’s experience lends him empathy for the ballplayer, whose father was killed overseas in 1944. Independent analysis is Banacek’s stock in trade, “which is why I’m not working for you or anyone else,” he tells the team’s publicity-minded owner (Robert Webber) with $2,000,000 in ransom to pay.
Smight is in great form throughout, nowhere more so than on a school playground where Banacek interviews the player’s disaffected wife (Stefanie Powers), a teacher, he maneuvers the camera discursively around a screen-filling chain-link fence and pans right just at the close to watch a little girl sliding down a slide, before cutting to the football field at night. He films Webber and Peppard delivering dialogue while jogging in one continuous take, and later on at an unpromising angle John Brodie’s adhesive way of catching a football, ending in a stadium vomitorium alla Fellini.
Who has a lovely lie to tell that locks her husband up for a crime passionel she committed for gain.
Folie à deux is on her side, but madness is not a communicable disease, the victim’s husband is amenable to reason.
Ed Nelson as the accused is practically Jack Benny up a tree, John Saxon as the rival plays an earnest trouper touring the provinces, Stella Stevens en règle the hardened prima donna, with John McIntire, Ford Rainey, Alan Fudge and Ross Elliott on the side of law and order, by Merwin Gerard out of John D. MacDonald.
The True Story
The Doctor’s dead brother is the impetus for the experiments under the sway of a confrere invoking Prometheus, the fiancée’s visit brings a note from Losey’s The Servant.
Pieces of quarrymen for the creature, after a fall.
“You know, I find I enjoy being a criminal.”
“The Bible of the New Age... the second Adam!”
The brain of the cracked confrere. The sun’s rays. The apparatus certainly recalls The Traveling Executioner. “Beautiful” the result.
The Harper theme in the collected butterfly given life but smashed by “Mrs. Blair’s Bible” for flying at the fiancée galvanized, “evil”.
In the memorable phrase, “the process is reversing itself!” Cf. Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain throughout. “You who know nothing of greed and hatred, you shall teach us how to live.”
“My name is Legion, for we are many.”
“Strange, he seems vigorous enough, and yet I sense—” The creature’s coldness is also a feature of Losey’s These Are the Damned.
With James Mason from The Trials of Oscar Wilde (dir. Ken Hughes) and Ralph Richardson from Doctor Zhivago (dir. David Lean) among the stellar players.
“Your Adam is hardly an inspiration, if I may say so, this time we shall start with Eve.” Chemical sorceries, a pre-Raphaelite creature, Mason as Laughton in Island of Lost Souls (dir. Erle C. Kenton). Shaw’s Pygmalion gradually, and there follows very shortly Embryo (dir. Ralph Nelson), “an angel”, a recording angel in her mimicries.
John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me on the “dainty conscience”, positively Salome’s Last Dance (dir. Ken Russell). “We’ll make it back to England, Bligh did it, and so can I!”
The Arctic finale beats everything (Arthur Ibbetson cinematography, Gil Mellé score).
Tom Milne (Time Out), “a misogynistic reading is clearly intended.” Alan Jones (Radio Times), “the most striking aspect of the production is the sympathy with which the monster is portrayed by Michael Sarrazin, minus the once obligatory nuts and bolts, and his relationship with his creator (Leonard Whiting) has a tragic resonance.” Guy Adams of the British Fantasy Society, “a hint of homo-eroticism”.
Kubrick’s Spartacus proposed the feminine hysterics of the dictator Crassus as a mental derangement with disastrous consequences (this is reflected in the finale of Losey’s Modesty Blaise, perhaps).
Star Trek accomplished a thorough analysis by having a female rival change bodies with Captain Kirk (“Turnabout Intruder”, dir. Herb Wallerstein).
And yet, the most radically surreal transformation of this theme appears in Smight’s Airport 1975, which simply imagines a stewardess at the controls of a 747, from Andrew L. Stone’s Julie.
The approach to this is a great study of femininity in the abstract, as it were—thus the great gallery of women (Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, Nancy Olson, Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Linda Blair, etc.) without men.
The introduction of a man (“m’introduire dans ton histoire,” as Mallarmé wrote, “to introduce myself in your tale”) is transfigured along the lines suggested by Altman’s Countdown, a film about the first moon landing—specifically, the line of approach is the dictum that the first man on the moon be not a military man, but a civilian.
This is one of the most beautiful dramatic constructions on film, by dint of the intensity and singleness of purpose brought to bear upon it (the model is, perhaps, La Voix Humaine). Smight treats the crash very slightingly, and almost immediately cuts away to Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as the pilot blinded like Œdipus.
The magnificence of the aerial sequences is matched by the refinement of the characterizations as reflections of the central gag. The primary weight falls on Karen Black, and she carries it with a perfection that alone justifies the film and makes it marvelous. The withdrawn abstraction of Charlton Heston’s performance is allusive, and it is hard to think of a better representation anywhere of the actress and the director (or even the writer), for example, not even in Fellini or Truffaut (or Bergman).
In view of the critical response, it’s worth noting that two of the worst offenders, Variety and The New Yorker, have long since ceased to be taken seriously for precisely the sort of ineptitude they displayed here.
And then, nerds hate it for some reason or other, the way Andrew Sarris hates Andrew L. Stone.
A superfine analysis of the battle, reckoning into account its own reckoning of analysis per se.
Critics found it only confusing, and that’s the most remarkable thing about it, because it’s so straightforward. It’s the film that goes with Ford’s two documentaries.
The single strong dramatic theme (cf. Fleischer’s Tora Tora Tora) is applied to shape the wartime experience, “six months after Pearl Harbor”, of the combat footage.
The effect of a Soviet attack on the United States is to create giant scorpions, killer cockroaches, depraved rural folk (a note from Boorman’s Deliverance), a vast flood.
A handful of the living travel cross-country between radiation clouds, hence the title (cf. Preminger’s The Human Factor), following the only radio signal in operation (a note from Kramer’s On the Beach).
A very cogent film, despised by critics.
This is about a basketball coach who gets hired by a university for three $20 bills per winning game, with the promise of a real contract if he beats the champs. One might imagine seeing it at a poetry club with a quire of poets, between sets, all sneering at this improbable arrangement and then remembering the fifty bucks they’ve picked up here or there for the verse they wrote. The sneering stops, they start to weep. A gag from Silverstein’s Cat Ballou is pointed out to them, Smight’s quiet technique, Gabe Kaplan’s steady deadpan, and the real poetic understanding behind the film, but every single one of those poets is sobbing in his beer.
Remembrance of Love
The coup de télévision can be stated from Litvak’s Act of Love and Dmytryk’s The Juggler, not only is the wench not dead, she’s happily married, thank you very much, at least gratefully.
A long weekend in Jerusalem at the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
The kvetching Columbia Journalism daughter meets a security man, back in New York one has just become a grandfather.
The state of things in Israel, bombs and bomb scares, the seaside, Yad Vashem.
The Lodz ghetto.
John J. O’Connor of the New York Times, “questionable entertainment drenched in facile sentimentality.” Joanna Berry (Radio Times), “should come with free tissues.”
Number One with a Bullet
Smight’s technique is at or near its most impressive. The uptilted dolly shot turns a corner at the tennis courts, tracking out with an advancing player. At the church carnival, a chase on foot with a Steadicam at the run (or on a dolly). Unfailing acumen.
Trumpet player, jazz combo behind opening credits. Trumpeter steps off stage, into scene (Billy Dee Williams).
Carnival, lady reading The Sensuous Woman, revealed to be undercover cop (Robert Carradine). Two costumed figures toss balls and miss the milk bottles, effecting a shipment, chased separately. The man in hacienda costume is apprehended in a church confessional by Williams, the woman is cornered in the church casino, where she takes a priest hostage (he is calling bingo numbers) and reveals herself to be a man also. Carradine bids him carry out his threat to “kill this idiot,” effectively calling his bluff.
Someone at LAPD HQ is a fink. A chartered plane transporting a prisoner is attacked mid-flight with a machine gun in a helicopter (Smight apparently sets his aircraft interior on an eminence and shoots the helicopter in blue sky through the windows). A barn with Polled Herefords is the scene on the ground. The farmer shoots their man for an intruder.
They trail a source of information to a club on the Strip (he plays drums for the house band on mud wrestling night). “Drug condos” they’re called, and one’s going up in Westwood where they drape the source by his heels from a girder with a dizzying view.
Briefcases full of cash or dope change hands, until the detectives (nearly done in by the fink) nab the whole load.