King Solomon’s Mines
Stevenson’s unique abilities are in evidence, and this is apparently the basis of Thompson’s version, but the credit must be shared with Geoffrey Barkas directing on location in Africa, glorious action with plenty of tribesmen, interiors at Shepherd’s Bush.
The cult of the old woman and the one-eyed usurper is put down, the riches of Ophir are found, a volcano seals the place and so forth, much appreciated by Variety after its fashion.
Time Out Film Guide couldn’t really be bothered (“soggy” songs and whatnot), the correct point about the nature of it all went somewhat by the boards, critically speaking.
This must be considered as having been in some respect co-directed by Orson Welles, and to a considerable degree, like Norman Foster’s Journey Into Fear, though Stevenson’s work is also clearly evident and is later recalled by him for Mary Poppins.
There are direct echoes of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and material later used in Macbeth and Othello. The rapid intercutting used by Welles to depict battles in Chimes at Midnight is applied here to render Rochester’s first appearance into a sort of Napoleonic portrait half-glimpsed on rearing horseback.
A nexus of moviemaking, the primary inspiration for Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête, in which it is not surprising to see a foreshadowing of The Haunting or hear a bit of Vaughan Williams quoted by Bernard Herrmann, the final shots are a postwar vision. Aldous Huxley’s script (tailored by Stevenson & Houseman) exposes the text from time to time, as if to check the realism of the scenes against Charlotte Brontë’s fantasy.
An embarrassingly good film, in view of its critics, or, if you prefer, a masterpiece strangely overlooked amidst the handful of variants (by Hitchcock or Lang) and the general rush to get Welles out of Hollywood.
The pure art is displayed in some extremely cogent montage sequences, and citations of Edward Hopper. The gaiety and precision of the acting, the extraordinary fertility of the chic New York sets, the intricately constructed script, some fine camera work (a slowly-mounted close-up done by dollying-in at a slight angle with a simultaneous tilt down—also an effect of wooziness achieved by momentarily altering the sound track), and a terrific fight scene, are the benchmarks of this deep analysis of the Spirit of ‘76.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Don’t Come Back Alive
A man sends his wife away for seven years to claim the insurance. She returns disaffected, announcing her plans to forgo the scheme, divorce him and remarry. He kills her and buries the body in the rose garden, where the industrious insurance investigator digs it up again.
The parable of the talents, astonishingly close in this telling to Wilder’s Double Indemnity, hewing so close that the conspirators meet in a library, rather than a supermarket.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Long Shot
The progress of an Englishman through the guts of America. He lands at New York on his way to claim an inheritance from an uncle in San Francisco, and is murdered by a fellow countryman known as English Jim, who dumps the body in the East River and heads west accompanied by a Londoner hired for the purpose of obtaining the latest information about that city. Outside Reno, the Londoner kills him and continues on to San Francisco, where he is arrested for the New York murder.
And thus an English gentleman becomes a New York con man and a racetrack hound fleeing a debt of $4200 to Dutch Shulman (sc. Schoolman, a genre painter).
It’s an unusual part for John Williams, English Jim, who finds America impossibly big and an insupportable bore. Peter Lawford is quite brilliant as Charlie Raymond, or as he introduces himself to his employer on the telephone, Charles ffolliott Raymond. The narrative is entirely given from his point of view, and the thirty-minute cross-country drive was put together in Hollywood.
The original Englishman, Walker Hendricks, is not seen, but his charming aunt lives in Salt Lake City and has had English tea shipped over every month for thirty years. “Delicious tea,” says Charlie.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Guilty Witness
The teleplay, something of a précis and mirror of Rear Window, offers two coups to Stevenson, who capitalizes on them with ascending effect. A fine buildup leads to the discovery of the large carton behind the wife’s sofa, which contains either children’s toys or her husband’s body.
In fact, the latter is down in the basement, stuffed into a pram by the jealous wife. The second coup follows upon her confession and sudden accusation of the downstairs neighbor (after naming another woman entirely), as Stevenson fades out on the look of embarrassment and shame that has come over the downstairs neighbor’s husband.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Derelicts
A roaring anecdote delivered by Stevenson with a graduated treatment of the actors, so that Philip Reed crawls along as the hapless inventor who murders his financial backer to cancel an I.O.U., Cyril Delevanti as the eccentric millionaire cheerily hopes to reap a profit, Johnny Silver and especially Robert Newton rise as the blackmailing title characters, and Peggy Knudsen soars above it all as the inventor’s extravagant mistress.
The derelicts horn in and hock everything in sight, furs, silver, the works, to play the ponies. The mistress exits, stripped of her prey, but at last the inventor finds and destroys the I.O.U. The derelicts are ejected, the mistress returns, but the police want to know about all those pawn slips taken out in the inventor’s name. Smiling at last, he claims them as his own, but one is for the millionaire’s gold cigarette case, missing since his murder.
The invention is a kind of dispenser, outselling its competition three to one.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: And So Died Riabouchinska
Ray Bradbury’s Pygmalion is a ventriloquist with a Russian dummy he loves so deeply he kills for her.
Claude Rains has the role.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: There Was An Old Woman
Who never married, and has a house full of imaginary relatives whose funeral feasts are laid on with imaginary food, a thieving young couple try to rob her but perish blindly.
Directed with exactitude in its well-formed appreciation of the performances by Estelle Winwood, Charles Bronson, Norma Crane, and Dabbs Greer as the milkman who’s paid in thousand-dollar bills for which he’s expected to have change, and the excellent cat.
This prime allegory is extensively built out of Brown’s The Yearling.
The theme is a lot like the fellow from the Old Country remembering soldiers who were marched up and down the land every day, right over the crops, and you had to feed them.
Old Yeller, the protector of women and children, has the value of a horned toad (Hawks’ Red River) and “a woman-cooked dinner”.
The anecdote of a man stricken with rabies is the basis of Hessler’s A Cry in the Wilderness.
The allegory has escaped most reviewers, if not all. The epilogue is what to do after, which is the theme of Fellini’s Giulietta degli spiriti, and there is Milestone’s The Red Pony.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
An analytical version, very eloquent in its sequence of images.
Hitchcock and the defense of Atlanta, correctly prepared.
The Absent-Minded Professor
The hijinks of the effects designers are the mirror of the special genius exhibited in the eponym, this is the high water mark of Disney’s Americana—the moment of its greatest sublimity is Alan Hewitt’s long, too long, look into the camera.
A junior officer at a London bank learns to say the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.
This is the origin of Monty Python’s killing joke.
There’s nothing in it you won’t find in Eliot’s Four Quartets, on the other hand the various dancing styles exhibited by Dick Van Dyke include Gene Kelly, Jerry Lewis, Fred Astaire (the ceiling), James Cagney and who knows what.
The Love Bug
A piece of Disney madness on the Orphic nature of inspiration (related to The Reluctant Astronaut) with an Apocalyptic motif and one of the great gag cars. The villainous part for David Tomlinson affords him a brilliant opportunity to round out his Disney career, and Dean Jones and Michele Lee expertly handle their roles, with Buddy Hackett hilarious speaking Chinese (coached by Benson Fong, perhaps), and Joe Flynn likewise in accompaniment (groundwork for The Simpsons).
The somewhat tricky material is at least partly derived from a famous cartoon, twice coincides with It’s a Wonderful Life, once prefigures Family Plot, and establishes a gag later used in Smokey and the Bandit. Stevenson’s evocation of San Francisco by night is a worthy counterpoint to his London in Mary Poppins.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
England for England, the old central dilemma raised to force an issue completely disregarded in latter days, well never mind, a legendary set of levers and pipes (all quite musical) in defense of the “sceptred isle.”