The Clouded Yellow

A superb British analysis of Hitchcock on straight, unswerving lines, not as the master of suspense but as he also saw himself, the master of melodrama rescuing the girl.

Rebecca and The 39 Steps are the procedures, and mark you it looks ahead to Altman’s Gosford Park. The British Secret Service crack this case, and there is even the taxidermist’s shop later in The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock always returns the favor).

The lepidopterological theme is very pungent, the poor girl is pinned hopelessly at a country estate where the cashiered agent takes a quiet job of cataloguing, his specialty is liberating sensitive persons behind enemy lines.

The point of suspense, which is not lacking but fulsome, is the actual structure of the film based on the murderer’s identity, but equally strong is the agent’s plight behind his own lines, as it were, beset by the police and his own department.

A magnificent film.


Venetian Bird

Americans want to know about a hero of the war who rescued a flyboy, they send a low-grade British private dick working for a French law firm, he’s grown dull at his job, maybe there’s a hundred quid in it, ferreting out facts in dark, dirty places.

He finds a plot to kill one Nerva and foment a coup d’état. A “furniture depository” is pivotal to the assassination.

The central image is a tapestry for the complex weaving that has eluded reviewers. It all happened before, it’s said, during the war. The cinematography is sometimes remarked (Gerald Thomas editor), excellent English views of the city. The signature on the work is Victor Canning’s, from his novel (cp. The Quiller Memorandum, dir. Michael Anderson).

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “perceptibly fictitious.Hal Erickson (Rovi), “routine”. Britmovie says the same and “heavily influenced by The Third Man.Halliwell’s Film Guide also, and “not much excitement or sense of place.”


Doctor in the House

The making of a physician in a long string of anecdotes pertaining to his roommates and romances, classroom experiences, ward routine, surgery assisting, exams and so on. The main formal point is to place it all under the heading of St. Swithin’s.

This probably makes a good effect achievable in no other way. Variety, alive to these proceedings, calls it “topdrawer comedy”, and so it is, just nostrums to Time Out Film Guide, a dry sort of humor played on the collegiate level for sport and entertainment, aptly.


Above Us the Waves

The two submarine attacks on the Tirpitz are portrayed in their essence, condensed and slightly fictionalized but remarkably devoid of any dramatic sustenance beyond the bare facts as presented, which are quite enough (a very useful comparison in this regard can be made to Fairchild’s The Silent Enemy and Graham’s Submarine X-1).

Weiler of the New York Times reported it “opened yesterday at no less than fifteen local theatres,” and then went on to prove that in all of them he could not have followed the action, even.


Doctor At Sea

The long dispelling of an ‘orrible nightmare, the senior partner’s daughter in a homey medical practice.

The old man of the sea is practically the solution, it takes some doing aboard the S.S. Lotus of the Fathom Line, quite literally under Captain Hogg, victimized by the chairman’s daughter, and a cabaret artiste.

Variety criticized a lesser sequel.


The Iron Petticoat

It would almost seem as if Ben Hecht had wearied of Howard Hughes endlessly polishing Sternberg’s masterpiece Jet Pilot and decided to write his own on another tack, that of the American pilot engaged to an English heiress but assigned to a Soviet defector.

The brouhaha over Hope’s involvement ended with the last word his, Hecht’s name is now on the film as principally its author, Hepburn is magnificent (her Soviet air queen sweeps aside the NVD’s Group Nine with no effort, “the full group”, only Group Eleven can seize her).

No-one, least of all Bosley Crowther (New York Times), who filed it strictly speaking as the saying goes, was even slightly aware that a bristling work of genius on the Cold War had been sprung upon the public, no-one except possibly Hope.



A messy bit of industrial espionage creates havoc and all but lets slip the dogs of war in Florence, all for the sake of winning the world championship of motor racing. The amateur spy must be got out of the country, at the risk of involving his extremely remote employer, a very big London wig indeed.

This is what you call a situation. A race to Switzerland...

Screenplay by the author of Val Guest’s Break in the Circle and Cyril Frankel’s Permission to Kill, settings Carmen Dillon, Eastmancolor cinematography Ernest Steward, score Bruce Montgomery.

Britmovie, “fails to get out of first gear.Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “pulse-pounding race-car melodrama”. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “it is kid stuff—a lot of pistol-flinging and knocking-out of drivers with drugs and sinister snarling by the villain at innocent people and fighting for the wheel of a racing car on hairpin curves.Halliwell’s Film Guide, “acceptable hokum.”


Doctor at Large

By mischance, Dr. Sparrow is passed over for a nitwit as surgeon at St. Swithin’s and embarks on an odyssey as general practitioner around the isle.

This is most illuminating and not, as Edinburgh U. Film Society has it, “banal”.

The practice of medicine has its odd corners and queer circumstances, no doubt about it.

Weiler of the New York Times took a sniffish attitude, why not, he had nothing to say anyway.

Variety noted “punch comedy lines” but complained of them as “too irregular”.

The devotion of the acolyte is tested, Dr. Benskin’s inheritance.


Campbell’s Kingdom

In the wilderness of Alberta, high on the mountains, there might be oil.

The mine owner’s building a dam that will flood it, for power.

The sickly heir arrives from England, the dam hoist is the main way up.

Everyone was relying on the oil, the partnership collapsed, false readings say there is none.

Variety was justly appreciative, and reports that location filming was done in Cortina.

A.H. Weiler of the New York Times went on a rampage of comical idiocy, suggesting that the “movie troupe... is an unconstructive, if hardy, lot... they provide only momentary, fleeting excitement in an adventure that is not particularly extraordinary... they have not come up with a bonanza of a story,” when anyone can see he’s wrong on the face of the thing.


A Tale of Two Cities

London must be reasonable, if Paris will not. The injustice of the revolution is that of the aristocracy personified by the Marquis de St. Evremonde, a drunkenness of power (the justice of the revolution is self-evident, a fact unnoticed by the BFI and therefore complained of). Carton’s resemblance to Darnay is indeed exact (another fact that slipped past the BFI), both drunk with virtue or wine.

The British style (a final sad omission from the BFI’s attentiveness) complements the masterpiece achieved by Conway and allows the portrait of Carton by Bogarde as essentially antipathetic, indeed a failure, and rather conditioned by a tendency toward Cyrano de Bergerac as dramatically conveyed. The psychological underpinnings are a Thomas specialty, the pride of France is abased and that is probably Carton’s error.

A.H. Weiler, the ass in tenure at the New York Times, actually wrote that it’s “bloodless and sober”, meaning it’s English probably, to which Bogarde’s reply years later was that it ought to have been made in color. Weiler cannot reckon Clarke’s analysis from Dickens, whose “orotund Victorian dialogue” is repellent to the good Gothamite.

The best and worst, says Dickens, and shows it. Clarke and Thomas have made a film of it to precisely that end, for all the good it did Halliwell’s Film Guide, “modest but still costly”.

“Serviceable rather than imaginative,” said the Monthly Film Bulletin, which is nothing neither way.


The Wind Cannot Read

A Japanese poem, a course in Japanese at the Red Fort, Delhi.

Burma, 1942. India, 1943. Idle officers learn the lingo for prisoners, the lovely second teacher has an ailment of the brain, Indian music and even the wailing of a muezzin at the Taj Mahal, through which she walks barefoot with her RAF lover, distresses her (Lean remembers the effect in the caves of A Passage to India).

He’s captured but escapes, not hearing her voice on the All India Radio Service giving the news in Japanese.

She expires in Delhi General Hospital, the wind scatters flower petals heedless of the gardener’s warning.


The 39 Steps

The pure Ralph Thomas madness, perfected from The Clouded Yellow.

Many critics believe Hitchcock is a trick, Thomas rolls up his sleeves for a through-composed variant on a continuous psychological plane, to show them wrong.

Variety admired this justly as a great film.

It begins with a pistol in a pram at Regent’s Park...


Conspiracy of Hearts

The little children behind barbed wire in Allied military footage rolling up their sleeves at the end of the war to show the camera their numbers might have been the inspiration, or the anecdote of Kristallnacht that figures as the basis of Ken Hughes’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the Child Catcher), the point is to assign a convent of nuns and a pig farmer and a few others to rescuing them and feeding them and making them well and getting them a rabbi on Yom Kippur, their parents are dead and all their relations, one little girl rather badly shocked gives her name as “Jewdog” and says that God wants to kill her, the film is set in Italy and opens with an introduction in the form of a newsreel carrying events to the fall of Mussolini in 1943 and the subsequent takeover of Italian concentration camps by the Germans, the idea is to see these children smiling and safely en route to Palestine.

This appears to be the explanation of the “weepie” castigated in Time Out Film Guide as without merit, Bosley Crowther (New York Times) dismissed it on the same grounds rather more genteelly.

Halliwell’s Film Guide expresses this view quite succinctly, the film is a catalogue of horrors described as a “highly commercial combination of exploitable sentimental elements: Germans, Jews, nuns, children, war, suspense.”


Doctor in Love

Consequences richly humorous of the physician’s requirement, a suitable mate.

A previous engagement is a prime impediment, Sir Lancelot Spratt the prime op.

The Rokeby Venus, The Rape of Europa.

Lost, utterly lost on A.H. Weiler of the New York Times, “a little rest would appear to be the best prescription”.


No Love for Johnnie

The MP from Yorkshire with a Commie wife, a model mistress and a next-door neighbor who blows hot and cold.

The PM sets him straight, the Red line (he’s Labour) takes him to task upcountry in the “piddling little town” he’s from.

He finds his niche in the Government as Assistant Postmaster, happily ignoring a speech in Commons pertaining to telephone service in the hinterlands.

Bosley Crowther (New York Times) found this very hard to follow and wrote in his review how very different he would make it, given half a chance.

Halliwell’s Film Guide takes a quiet tack to the same effect, and would not have used the wide screen.


Doctor in Distress

Sir Lancelot Spratt with a slipped disc falls in love quite madly, the lovely physiotherapist has another patient to set on his feet, Spratt is of course ideal.

The situation is mirrored in Dr. Sparrow’s Delia, a model off to Rome for a handmaiden’s role in The Sorrows of Salome, a Swedish masseuse sublets her flat.

This complicated plot was many times too much for reviewers then (New York Times), and still is now (Film4).


Hot Enough for June

To his complete surprise, a writer picking up his cheque at the employment exchange is offered a job, which he must accept, and so begins his nightmare in the workers’ state as Agent 8¾ (the American title), following on the death of 007.

Czech glass and Red counterintelligence are the primary features, and of course it takes place in Prague, where he thinks he’s an executive trainee picking up commercial data, he really does think that, the slight irreality is kept as nearly as possible within bounds as a point of tact, but really not since Col. Nicholson was put in the box have prerogatives so strenuously been urged.

And such views of a Warsaw Pact spa and resort, real picture postcards.


The High Bright Sun

From the climactic but not final scene in the Major’s Nicosia flat it can be inferred that the form is, in reverse, The 39 Steps (cp. Hot Enough for June), with jokes about Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage and Losey’s The Servant (and the Major’s CO is rather like Dr. Watson). These are niceties that passed unnoticed by Variety (which considered the film politically obtuse) and Halliwell’s Film Guide (“boring”) and Time Out Film Guide (“misguided”).

All were aware that the time and place are, as a title instructs, “Cyprus 1957”.

The best joke is the man in the brown suit, the actual structure is explained thereby.

The Major’s wife has left him and the whole bloody regiment, personified in “the pissy lieutenant” who guards his rear.

The new torch is a Cypriot-American named Juno digging for ancient civilizations amidst the unpleasantness.


Deadlier Than the Male

You can’t tell the players without a program, and that’s what this work of perfect genius is, a guide to the machinations.

Captain Drummond of Lloyd’s has a remarkable job of work before him, attractive women arrange mergers with testy rivals and oil concessions from recalcitrant Arab monarchs, for a substantial fee. The business rivals and self-willed monarchs die, the deals are made one by one, and where is the principal?

“A high-camp travesty” (Bosley Crowther, New York Times).

“Sadism, sex and attempted sophistication mark this Bulldog Drummond pic” (Variety).

“Too little style, too much violence and sex, and an almost total lack of self-mockery” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).


The High Commissioner

The prologue establishes a principle of blackmail, the den of vice provides a target.

The complicated formula expressed in the film (obliviously to all critics) supplies the rationale A plus or minus B equals C, where A and B cancel each other out (thus the title character’s late wife is equated with his present wife, who hoists the East Asian vice racket with its own petard, an impediment to freedom).

Nobody Runs Forever is the proper English title, the Hitchcockisms from a notable scholar were vaguely noted in reviews that began with Canby of the New York Times dismissing it as manqué and end in Time Out Film Guide, “a lamentable waste of talent.”


Some Girls Do

It’s the subsonic versus the supersonic to spoil an aircraft contract for a rival.

“That’s little Pandora’s box!”

Infrasonic sound suppresses water friction on a speedboat (it’s effectively combined with tear gas in a pursuit), it kills or forces the controls of a prototype SST.

Girls with artificial brains are the villain’s army. They require training and adjustment, one of them learning to ride gets the proper cry all wrong, “jerks, jerks, titty-hoo!”

The villain loves disguises, he’s a blond chin-whiskered glider-maker and an Arab named Barouche.

Infrasound, a German scientist’s invention.

Damned marvelous film, very amusing. Drummond takes a bullshot by the pool (Black & White and water, later), there are Russians somewhere about, the villain up against it says, “try and make me!”

“A limp lampoon” (A.H. Weiler, New York Times).

“A travesty” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).


Quest for Love

Wot, no camera? My God, they get smaller all the time, don’t they.

“Crystal circuit, Japanese.”

“Make everyone look like this,” finger at eye-corner, “ha-ha-ha-ha!Trouble in the works, from the author of Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned, “a nasty tumble there,” no longer a scientist but a writer, one’s Cambridge pal no longer “science correspondent for the BBC” but “the film critic for the Times,” the history of the twentieth century largely obliterated, Everest the Unconquered a book “published 1971,” and it was Oxford.

JOHN KENNEDY NEW LEAGUE OF NATIONS CHIEF says the long defunct News Chronicle.

One’s books, Sergeant Dower Must Die, The Immortals, Piccadilly Venus, Dragonsfield, Don’t Let Summer Come, The God Game, Jericho, a prosperous man with a disaffected wife and fashionable diggings round the corner from the Albert Hall, all of which rather suggests LeRoy’s Random Harvest, practically the title of Wyndham’s story “Random Quest”... one drinks, it’s April in London, one has a new play opening called French Velvet, a comedy with one’s mistress in the lead, “the latest in a long line of tatty little actresses”... the party after is a fine reflection of Losey’s Eva, “you had any—film offers yet,” drunken stare...

And so forth. Under the circumstances Tom Bell exhibits an entirely apt resemblance to Peter Cushing. A theory of “divided time”, a leading British scientist out of Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain whose driver pops in briefly out of Rich and Strange (the scar gone missing “where Tom pushed you into a spike at school” alludes to Spellbound)... the division is said to have taken place in 1938, a year of “some central crisis in the world’s affairs.A garden of forking paths, a train at “a set of points in the track”, left and right, “each complete, each unaware of the other,” precisely Shirer’s description of France entre les deux guerres, the latter of which is understood not to have happened at all, nor the one in Vietnam.

The wife one adores, Ottilie. A charming damned film, perfectly at home en règle, “taking its place to support the others... neither diffident nor ostentatious, an easy commerce of the old and the new... exact without vulgarity... precise but not pedantic... and the fire and the rose are one.Simon Gray just might have taken a note or two for Otherwise Engaged. Leslie Arliss is in turn a main inspiration (Love Story), cp. The Wind Cannot Read.

Ottilie lost in this world must be found... the repeated experiment suggests Resnais’ Je t’aime je t’aime. The cinematography by Ernest Steward is a summit of the art.

Tom Hutchinson (Radio Times), “beguiling British science-fiction”. Tom Milne (Time Out), “a puerile sci-fi romance”. Britmovie, “undeniably convoluted and implausible”. TV Guide, “doesn’t completely work”. Hallweill’s Film Guide, “quite well staged and played.”