The 25th Hour
The construction is quite literary, the title is an author’s trouvaille, after the day is wasted.
1939-49 in and out of Romania with a villager swept along by various edicts and points of view inflicted upon him, so that he is by turns an Undesirable, a Jew, a Hungarian, a proto-Aryan, and a defendant at the Nuremberg trials, all quite innocently, and in the meantime the Russians have raped his wife and fathered a son on her.
Verneuil follows DeMille’s second version of The Ten Commandments for the stunning parody of the defense canal dug by forced labor, and of course the bricks and straw.
Crowther’s insensate New York Times pan (“tasteless and pointless”) means only that he could not follow it.
Guns for San Sebastian
The song of Moses.
The villagers have fled to the hills, the church is in ruins, the Yaqui are to blame, an outlaw band warns the villagers against Christianity.
The situation is saved by the making of a saint, such is the faith of the people and the power of grace.
Verneuil’s conscious masterpiece is a vast consideration of the Western from every conceivable angle, with a notable view of the Church.
Vincent Canby (New York Times) blanked out, “nothing more than a sequence of events.” Variety objected to the English version by James R. Webb (De Concini collaborated on the screenplay). Tom Milne (Time Out Film Guide) has “strictly routine stuff” with reference to Kurosawa or Sturges, of whom this is a great analysis.
Halliwell’s Film Guide has “violent but quite undistinguished.”
Charming intro, they leave the poolside, sail on the Cristoforo Colombo and what have you, arrive in Greece for the emerald robbery (score by Ennio Morricone).
An apparatus in a briefcase opens the safe.
A Greek inspector stumbles on the affair, wants the lot.
An American centerfold breezes in.
Rémy Julienne blows the daylight candles of a procession out.
Belmondo takes an Athens bus ride and then some.
The ending is from Griffith (Corner in Wheat, cp. Dreyer’s Vampyr).
From David Goodis, after Wendkos (The Burglar).
Roger Greenspun of the New York Times nixed this, “I was especially taken with Miss Cannon’s part,” he said.
“Just another glossy heist” (Time Out Film Guide, echoing Greenspun almost word for word).
The key basis of the entire construction viewed at once is Hitchcock’s Topaz on a similar theme, and there is Philippe Noiret to show Verneuil’s means of expression, casting Henry Fonda as the CIA chief has overtones of Lumet’s Fail-Safe that are resolved at the end, and always the actors are used to establish the reality of the film point by point, they are the director’s main recourse in this uncovering of a spy plot, so it is incomprehensible that Verneuil should be remonstrated with in Time Out Film Guide thusly, “he has a capable starry cast on hand, why he never uses it is a mystery.”
Huston’s The Kremlin Letter is also called upon for a useful scene.
The title character represents himself as a patriot, intelligence discerns a malcontent, factual evidence discloses an enemy operative, the damage is extensive.
Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend probably takes cognizance of this.