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  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    FOLLOW THAT CAMEL (1967)

    a.k.a CARRY ON – FOLLOW THAT CAMEL

    An excellent entry into the Carry On cycle which utilised effectively a guest starring role for Phil Silvers as the Bilko-like Sgt Nocker. Set in a military outpost in Algeria near Sidi Bel Abbes, Jim Dale and his faithful bat man Peter Butterworth enrol in the French Foreign Legion in a misguided attempt to prove he is not a coward. Ripping off Beau Geste and The Four Feathers with liberal sprinklings of British seaside smut, the cast of regulars acquit themselves marvellously, especially considering it was filmed on Camber Sands in a wintery February 1967. You’d barely know it. Lots of fun to be had, never more so than when Bernard Bresslaw first cries “Mustafaleek!” to general bowing and scraping. Or perhaps it’s the hilariously named oasis El Nookie. Or the equally quirky Fort Soixante-Neuf. You know the kind of thing.

    I was only half watching this while doing some cleaning around the house, but it kept grabbing my attention by being so wonderfully cynical, alongside a breeziness and brazenness that isn’t always noticeable in the Carry Ons. Phil Silvers is wonderful, bringing a new urgency and edginess to the usual bawdy proceedings. Sid James would never have played the same role with such a desperate, clinging manner. Sadly, the American audiences Talbot Rothwell's script was aimed at didn't get the jokes. Lacking the usual Carry On title, Follow That Camel fared poorly in the U.K. too until it was reissued under the alternate title [above] by which it is now commonly known.

    Really, really good.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    ELMER GANTRY (1960)

    Burt Lancaster’s fallen priest turned failing travelling salesman becomes fascinated with Jean Simmons’ revivalist evangelical and cons his way gradually into her Midwest Bible Belt tent show as well as her bedroom only for a past misdemeanour to catch up with him and wreck everyone’s lives. A veiled attack on the practices of bible thumping ministers, Richard Brooks’ film takes the bones of Sinclair Lewis’s novel and explodes it onto the screen with Lancaster at his most garrulous, toothsome and loathsome. He also displays charm and a hint of menace. You can see why the housewives and store-keeps fall for his patter, less so the Reverend Sharon Falconer and her flock. Lancaster’s performance is the type of over-mannered, commanding role that wins awards, but whether it is any good within the context of its character and the film itself remains open to debate.

    Elmer Gantry features Lancaster in almost every scene. He’s colossal when preaching to the enraptured crowds, but you’d expect that. Those scenes veer towards the symphonic, accompanied as they are by Andre Previn’s maniacal music score, so much so the sequences border on the hysterical. He’s far better in the quiet moments, for instance when he persuades Arthur Kennedy’s pessimistic atheist journalist he can’t quote the Bible as fact if he doesn’t believe in it, or when he succumbs to the wiles of Shirley Jones’ bitter prostitute. These moments show how engrossing Lancaster could be when toning down his act. When he goes all Crimson Pirate on us, the effect is so overwhelming you can tell you’re watching an actor acting and hence the film and its story becomes unbalanced.

    Good, more restrained, acting from everyone else just about saves it. Like the original novel, the film has ambitious themes for its time. The ambiguity of religious foundations making fortunes by exploiting the poor remains a blurred line today.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    I've never seen this movie but there is a story that Elvis wanted to play a part in it and was vetoed by the good ol'Colonel. Chris, you can probably identify the part having just seen the film and I'd be interested to hear if you think he'd have been any good. Personally I think Elvis did manage to be "just okay" in some of his films and reached the heights of "not bad" in a very few eg "King Creole".

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    @Barbel You may be confusing Elmer Gantry with The Rainmaker, in which Lancaster also plays a conman, this time romancing Katherine Hepburn's spinster. The film was a 1956 Hal Wallis production and Elvis was slated to play one of Hepburn's younger brothers. I'm not sure why the role was turned down or passed over. I believe there were test screenings taken of Elvis in the role. Maybe it is an urban myth, as Elvis was contracted to Wallis and the script and tests may just gave been used to test his screen persona.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    @chrisno1, thanks! Yes indeed, you're right. I've never seen either and have obviously conflated the two

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    I mentioned a few posts back that Elvis was asked to co-star with John Wayne in True Grit and he would have been no worse than the fairly wooden Glen Campbell. Elvis' problem was the material he had to work with. King Creole & Flaming Star both nod to his limited but viable acting ability while GI Blues and Fun In Acapulco are probably the best of his lighthearted family comic efforts. Some if his later roles are more interesting but the standard of script and backroom staff was woeful by then [The Trouble With Girls, Speedway, etc]. I would have liked to see him in non-singing roles, something like the race driver played by James Caan in Red Line 5000, for instance, or a spy caper like Our Man in Marrakesh. I do think the Colonel killed his golden goose - I mean turning down A Star Is Born because Elvis would be billed after Barbra Streisand is completely short sighted and fails to understand the King's broad appeal.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    BEAT THE DEVIL (1953)

    A barmy caper comedy about a bunch of uranium prospectors holed up in Ravello, Italy, awaiting a steamer to East Africa where they intend to make a fortune. Humphrey Bogart is Billy Dannreuther, an American confidence trickster fallen on hard times whose cynicism seeps out of every pore, and who is in partnership with Robert Morley’s rotund, sweating, irritable yet entirely scheming Peterson. Billy is hampered by a beautiful wife, Maria, played effectively by Gina Lollobrigida, a woman equally adept at fraudulent personal transactions. While Billy attempts to evade the all-too-invasive observations of a quartet of villains, he readily submits to the flights of fancy and obvious intentions of Mrs Gwendolen Chelm, an English woman whose husband intends to purchase the same uranium fields as Peterson. Meanwhile, Billy and Maria learn that the British East Africa consul, Paul Vanmeer, has been murdered and suspicion falls on Peterson’s associate, Major Ross.

    John Huston’s film about loveable rogues was dismissed at the time of release and only came up for reassessment thanks to the critic Roger Ebert including it in his book of Great Movies. The film is easy to misconstrue as, while incidents do occur, almost nothing happens of any genuine significance to the plot until the final reel. The film instead concentrates on the interactions between people, the loyalties they form and the company they keep.

    Jennifer Jones plays Mrs Chelm with a distracted, over-mannered air which constantly hints at her own ability to deceive and entrap. It is she, along with husband Harry [Edward Underdown] who prove to be the most devious of all the con artists, thieves and laggards on display. Peterson, Billy and their motley crews are small fry compared to the lies spun by Gwendolen and Harry.

    “You mean Mrs Chelm is an unqualified liar?” asks Morley’s astounded Peterson, blubbering into his chin. Bogart sniffs: “Let’s just say she uses her imagination.” And he knows it too: during her earliest attempt at seduction he says: “I believe everything you say” to which Mrs Chelm replies: “Do you? Well, you shouldn’t you know.” Billy’s suspicions do not appear to be aroused, but among the bougainvillea he initially forgets Mrs Chelm holds her husband in high esteem: “There are two good reasons for falling in love. One is that the object of one’s affection is unlike anyone else… The other is that he is just like everyone else only superior.” She is referring of course to Harry, not to Billy.

    Bogart plays the object of Jones’ supposed attentions with a weary and wary eye, as if he’s seen all this before, yet occasionally he melts and forgets that his prime intention is the pursuit of happiness through financial gain: “Doctor’s orders are that I must have a lot of money otherwise I will become dull, listless and have trouble with my complexion…” [writer Truman Capote’s poke at the movie’s star] “… it’s my expectations that hold me together.”  

    Billy knows what the English couple are chasing: the same goal as he and Maria. He has gauged them quickly, but falls underneath Mrs Chelm’s spell. She is by far the most preternatural of the cast, believing in witchcraft and spinning desirous webs with her words, lips and arms. When we first meet the English couple, we know there is something sophisticated and knowing about her. “We should beware of those men,” she tells her husband, “they are desperate characters.” “How can you tell?” Harry asks. “Not one of them looked at my legs.” This tiny remark, at once humorous but also intensely perceptive, allows us to enter into her fantastical world. Indeed for much of the drama we see the action unfold through her eyes. For instance, when she plays chess with Harry, she is watching the piazza and, like the audience, is drawn to the associations of Bogart, Morley, Peter Lorre, Ivor Barnard and Marco Tulli. Later, confronted by an imperative Peterson, she turns the tables on the villain claiming Harry is only interested in the philosophical problem of sin: “Isn’t that what we are all most concerned with?” Robert Morley’s expression becomes more bemused and affronted by the second.  

    What Mrs Chelm doesn’t see is what the second hand’s of these partnerships are doing. Lollobrigida’s Maria tempts Edward Underdown’s supposedly stiff British upper class twit with her low cut dresses, afternoon teas and suggestive descriptions of romance. But he isn’t half the fool Maria thinks, for when she first attempts seduction, he is faking stomach cramps, allowing his wife to accompany Billy alone to an abandoned grand villa. Later, he manipulates a situation specifically so he can be left alone onboard the steamship Nyonga. Harry is a dab hand at escapism and an even better one at acting, for almost his whole demeanour is fake. “The only thing between him and a watery grave is his wits. And I don’t put much faith in them,” utters Bogart’s Billy, entirely taken in by the performance.

    If Mr and Mrs Chelm are spinning their form of collective deception, the Dannreuther’s are equally guilty. Bogart’s twisting everyone around his finger, or believes he is. “Nowadays one simply can’t afford to distrust people just because they are not one’s sort,” suggests Harry Chelm. But perhaps they ought to be distrusted because they wear the wrong clothes – Maria sports evening gowns even on the hottest afternoons – and because they have never unpacked their suitcases. Maria conceitedly claims to be English, although clearly she isn’t. Billy is more laconic: “I was an orphan until I was twenty and then a rich woman adopted me.” Climbing the societal ladder has worked well for Billy, opened doors in India, Italy and now Africa, but none of it is his success, he is the receiver of inherited and now wasted wealth.          

    So where is this wordy adventure heading, pitting as it does one quartet of lovers against another quartet of villains? Well, to be brutal, it doesn’t head anywhere. The steam ship sinks and the motely band are deposited on the North Saharan coast, only to be detained by the local administrator Colonel Ahmed. Peterson has run guns here before and fears for his life. Billy feigns cowardice to ingratiate himself with the Colonel and extract a ransom fee from Peterson, which the two men split. In return, the castaways are deported back to Italy and Ravello where entirely different fates await them all. Do they find the uranium? Do they find romance and fulfilment? Riches and reward? In part, yes, but the movie has lost its literary edge by then and ceases to be as interesting. The death of Paul Vanmeer suddenly becomes very important.

    It is perhaps in the casting of the four mismatched villains that the film retains its edge. In 1953 caper films didn’t quite exist as we know them now. The occasional sophisticated technicolour Hitchcock, perhaps. The Hays Code didn’t allow villains to be cheerful and loveable and for good guys to act despicably with a wink in their eye. Here, we have a large pompous Englishman [Billy and the Colonel refer to Peterson as ‘Fat Guts’] who hides a ruthless streak beneath a veneer of respectability; a tall slim impulsive Italian acts like a locust, gobbling up everyone’s lives for his gain; there is a snivelling, lurking, hood-eyed German who goes under the name O’Hara and an upright, straight as a dice killer who impersonates a British military officer, but is in fact a closet extremist, sensing the world order has broken: “Hitler, Mussolini, those were men. Now it’s the age of the barbarians.”

    Peter Lorre delivers one of his best ever performances as O’Hara, permanently smoking, skulking the town with weaselly deftness, flatfooted, calm, snakelike, hissing. There’s an early scene where he concludes that “Time is a crook.” Time is the one thing none of the reprobates have. “Why do you always make jokes about my name?” Lorre asks Bogart, letting the audience know his character is a Nazi escapee, permanently on the run, “In Chile, many Germans have come to be called O’Hara.” His moments with Morley or the beanpole thin Marco Tulli are like a little and large show, such is the difference in stature.

    It is surprising to see director John Huston always attempting to place the quartet in the same shot, as if to emphasise their differences, their complete incompatibility. By doing so, he actually creates a sense of the mismatch being entirely natural and yet remarkably sinister, played out as it is predominantly in bright sunlight. This reflects too on the other quartet, our nominal heroes, but here it is similarities not of desperation, but as Bogart’s Billy states of imagination.

    Beat the Devil is a light-hearted yarn packed full of great dialogue and excellently shot by Oswald Morris. Truman Capote rarely wrote funnier. The performances are super. The film was quickly considered a cult classic – it became a cult hit virtually on release, but has remained one of Bogart’s less often seen films – because it refuses to conform to a stereotypical interpretation of character. While an audience would normally expect the bad guys to be in disguise, here they are totally in the open, motivations and murderous intent available to view from the off. It is the heroes who are in permanent disguise and that perhaps tells us something about real people, their aims and ambitions and emotions. Audiences didn’t understand it. They wanted a fulfilling and honest romance, an exciting climax, a journey into fear, themes which might reflect the misleading publicity poster. They didn’t get that at all: they got Capote’s silky script and John Huston’s cosy direction and a cast acting their socks off. The uranium ore is as inconsequential as the Amalfi landscapes.

    A fascinating failure.        


             

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,966MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    THE EQUALIZER 3 (2023)

    Spoilers

    Where better to transpose Denzel Washington's avenging righter of wrongs, Robert McCall, than to a coastal town in Southern Italy terrorised by the Camorra? Despite his middle age, McCall's killing skills set is as sharp as ever - and the bad guys certainly deserve all that's coming to them. The suffering inflicted by the Camorra on their innocent victims is emphasised to raise dramatic stakes - the villains really 'walk the walk' - making McCall's ultra-violent style of payback seem wholly justified.

    That said, McCall moves through the movie at a mostly sedate pace, recovering from a near-fatal wound received at the beginning of the film. Yes, he always steps up to the plate when necessary, swiftly and decisively, but sometimes, now, with a teary-eyed wistfulness. His reasons for purging the town of mafiosa? He wants to free its citizens - his new friends - from extortion, kidnap and violence. He also wants to settle down in that otherwise idyllic place and retire there peacefully. Is he a good man? He isn't sure. According to benevolent local doctor Enzo, it's precisely that uncertainty that makes him good.

    Like John Wick, McCall has incredible killer reflexes. His virtually superhuman talents as a trained assassin are an established part of his character, an absurd conceit that audiences not only accept but lap up. But as fans of both The Equalizer and John Wick appreciate, there are big differences in the action aesthetics - not least that the violent episodes here are quickly executed and brief. In fact, long stretches of this movie are about the charm of McCall taking it easy, opting out - whether by savouring cafe culture or visiting a nocturnal food market by the beach with an attractive waitress he's befriended. Director Antoine Fuqua takes time to enjoy the Southern Italian locations with an unashamedly touristic lens, albeit in a way which could leave him open to a charge of caricaturing/ sentimentalising 'the other'. (I remember that a whole episode of 'The Sopranos', 'Commendatori', was essentially a joke about this kind of idealising of Sicilian folk, the crassness of viewing the old country through the prism of 'The Godfather'.)

    Dakota Fanning's vocal frying CIA operative comes into the story on account of a 'bigger picture' drugs connection between the Camorra and Syrian terrorists. Tipped off by McCall, she arrives in Italy to imbibe the coffee shop vibes herself and throw around some largely ineffectual CIA weight. When she describes McCall as a person of interest, he wryly replies that no, he's just an interesting person.

    A problem with the movie is that McCall never really seems in jeopardy once he's decided to take down villains. He's just too darn good at what he does. Sure, the wound that nearly kills him at the start of the movie is meant to remind us - and him - that he's mortal after all, that ultimately no one's invulnerable; but once he's back on his feet, and in retribution mode, the outcome is a done deal. (I suppose films like 'No Time To Die' and 'John Wick: Chapter 4' create precedents for established heroes to expire - literally - at the end of series. Because of that, Fuqua is able over the course of his movie to tease audience expectations of McCall's fate - a happy retirement or a noble death? - and he takes advantage of not necessarily having to follow suit with those other big-hitters in that regard.)

    Denzel Washington is always watchable as The Equalizer. While #1 is still the best movie of the series, #3 adds the context of beautiful, genre-friendly locations. Yet the film is finally rather sadistic: its trajectory is about seeing some nasty villains get theirs. An awkwardly contrived coda notwithstanding, Fuqua seems unsure about where, in the end, to go beyond that low level of gratification.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    Thanks for that review. I wasn't a fan of #1, but you have made me wonder if I ought to revisit.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,966MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    :-) :-) I'll probably buy the inevitable three film bluray set, whenever it's out, to revisit the first two.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    CARRY ON CLEO (2008)

    Carry On Cleo was Talbot Rothwell’s fourth stab at British cinema’s comedy institution – their tenth overall – and he really hits his stride after the misstep of Carry On Jack and the minor key successes of Cabby and Spying. Cleo is one of the gems of the series and not only because of the vast multitude of double-entendres, sight gags and smutty innuendo, but because the sheer look of the thing is so much better than almost anything the crew ever put together. Utilising sets and costumes abandoned by 20th Century Fox when they upped sticks from London and hopped over to Rome to film Cleopatra, this entry has a gorgeous feel to it rarely replicated […Up the Kyber, perhaps] in their historical satires.

    As always Kenneth Williams proves indomitable in the central role of Julius Caesar, hawking up his exaggerated accents with abandon. His now infamous line “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me” is regularly voted the funniest line in movie history – U.S. critics might prefer When Harry Met Sally’s “I’ll have what she’s having”, but we’ll not argue over trophies – but this film is packed with them from every angle and sometimes almost every sentence.

    Charles Hawtrey’s flamboyant effeminate seer is a delight [“I had a vision of Agrippa and all his men with their dirty great swords out. Quite something it was.”]. Amanda Barrie’s clueless Cleopatra [“I have a poisonous asp”] proves a more than delectable match for Sid James’ leering Mark Anthony [Anthony: “All you have to do is get Ceasar alone” – Cleo: “Is that what he’s come for: money?”]. Their schemes become progressively more daft as the film moves on, ending up in an attempted assassination of Ceasar during an amorous assignation in the Queen of Egypt’s bedchamber, which ends up more public than private [“Blimey, is she selling tickets?”]. Kenneth Connor gives one of his best turns as the permanently confused and confounded Briton Hengist Pod [Horsa: “Just say we’re eunuchs.” Hengist: “Yeah, after all, what have we got to lose?”]. Jon Pertwee’s cameo soothsayer [“Sooth! Sooth! – Oh, the fires always die down at the best bit”] is a hoot. Jim Dale’s heroic Horsa lends a touch of loose steel to the silliness ensuring at least a modicum of seriousness.

    Seriousness. Really? What am I writing...?

    Look, it’s almost pointless to carry on.

    Superb fun.

    Cleo is a great slice of British comedy, laid on thick with the silky butter of those Fox cast-offs as a topping. For all the magnificence of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra, Burton, Taylor and Harrison don’t prove anywhere near as entertaining as this bunch.

       

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,763MI6 Agent

    I don't know a lot about Carry On, but .....2008? 🤔

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,148MI6 Agent

    I love the Carry On movies… it should be 1964, though, @chrisno1 was probably working on two pieces at the same time and accidentally used the wrong year, I’m sure he is fully aware of which year it was released.

    The infamy, infamy line was actually written by Frank Muir and used some years earlier and Talbot Rothwell asked him for permission to use it thus becoming legendary in movie history.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    Duly corrected... oops. I didn't know about that Frank Muir stuff. We live to learn.

    Ah, you know what. I can't be bothered. 2008. Let's call it a severe proofing error.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    THE REPTILE (1966)

    This atmospheric Hammer forerunner of the ‘folk horror’ cycle sees a colonial army officer inherit his late brother’s cottage in Cornwall and, upon choosing to live there with his wife, uncovering a foul pestilence of death and silence surrounding the village of Clagmoor Heath. The local manor house is owned by a sinister theologian, Dr Franklin, who rules his daughter with an iron tongue and severe discipline. A young Jacqueline Pearce is terrific as Anna Franklin, a smallish but very noticeable role. She’s less successful when asked to don an ill-fitting mask to impersonate her evil nemesis, a snake-like reptile. Anna and her father [Noel Willman, also very good] are in thrall to a mysterious Malay, who appears to be a mute servant, but is in fact the leader of a serpent cult. It is here, towards the end of the movie, that delirious antics and ridiculous explanations take over, ruining what had been a tremendous slow burn of a chiller, concentrating as it had done on the Franklin’s abusive yet interdependent relationship. The mist shrouded Cornish moors are well represented by Cobham Common in Surrey and the various maulings, wanderings and exhumations prove worthwhile distractions. The ending is too rushed though and seems not to fit with all that had gone before.

    Unlike later folk horror staples, the evil isn’t an incarnation of the generic Christian devil or his satanic worshippers, but an imaginary eastern black magic religion. This isn’t wholly successful, skewing the latent evil from human manifestation or imagination to the inhuman. The Reptile is a decent effort, but not much more. It was filmed back-to-back with the Cornish-set Plague of the Zombies, using much of the same cast, crew and locations.   

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,007MI6 Agent

    The Alamo (that 1960 version with John Wayne).

    It was better than I remembered, I last saw back in the 90s I have always ranked in the top 10 of classic westerns.

    Spoilers: They all die!

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • 00730073 COPPosts: 1,007MI6 Agent

    Excellent choice, Sir! NBNW must be up there as one of Cary Grants best movies IMHO. I re-watched "To Catch a Thief" this summer and that one is just as enjoyable.

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    A HAUNTING IN VENICE Kenneth Branagh, 2023

    Sir Ken's third Hercule Poirot film as director and star. Not as starry a cast as previously, though our own Michelle Yeoh is a standout as a medium. Tina Fey also gives a good performance as series regular Ariadne Oliver but the character is not written faithfully to Agatha Christie, unfortunately.

    Given the title, it's no surprise that this is a more spooky effort than the first two. It's based very loosely on Christie's "Halloween Party"- if you want a more faithful version of that watch the one with David Suchet.

    I hope it's successful enough to have a sequel. Since it's obviously a whodunnit I'll say no more.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    It's a full novel, and almost totally different from the film. Yes, the design etc were well done and the Venice exteriors were gorgeous. Branagh's interpretation of Poirot continues to evolve and irritate in roughly equal measures, which is maybe his intention.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    Yes, I agree - there's no topping Suchet and that isn't what Branagh is going for. A Mrs Oliver spin off would be interesting, and something quite different.

    (We're watching Suchet in "Halloween Party" at the moment. So different there's really no comparison.)

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    Sorry, members, I am back just to p### @Number24 off with some high octane reviews set to challenge the mind, twist the tongue and generally assess them in a manner most people don't or can't be bothered to. You know, sometimes I really am too far up my own...

    Well, it's been a while...

    THE KILLERS (1964)

    Ernest Hemingway’s magnificent observational short story The Killers (1927) was originally adapted by Robert Siodmak from Anthony Veiller’s script. While the short story describes the lead up to a mob execution, the 1946 noir classic concerned its aftermath and an insurance investigator’s attempt to explain how and why Peter Lund was murdered. This second adaptation, a brightly lurid and bloody thriller of much power and little sympathy, also takes inspiration from Hemingway’s story, but little else. It also changes all the character names from the 1946 version. Basically, it is less of a remake than a complete reinvention.

    Here, Lee Marvin’s brooding, aging hit man is intrigued by the behaviour of Johnny North, a victim who doesn’t run, who even appears to welcome death. Charlie Strom decides, against his better judgement, to chase the truth, partly out of concern he’s been paid to assassinate an innocent, but also because if he hasn’t there is a million dollar hidden booty waiting for him. His partner, Lee, is a livewire fitness fanatic, health freak and vicious Cheshire Cat of a killer. Hiding almost permanently behind dark glasses and an acid-dipped smile, Clu Gulager turns Lee into a potent model of menace, disinterested in almost everything unless it serves his murderous, materialistic purpose. Lee Marvin, hovers, slightly hunched, like an American eagle watching its prey from an eyrie before springing into violent action. The two are synchronised less like a good-cop-bad-cop and more like two-bad-cops. There is no escaping their overbearing, deadly insistence. Almost all the scenes feature these two killers stand out. They intimidate, they absorb information, they cogitate, they conclude, all with a silky yet dangerous customised style. Just to see Marvin pick up a telephone receiver and utter monosyllabic replies into the speaker while Gulager twists from his push ups to watch and listen, is to witness two calculating, ever-prepared professionals at work. No moment of time is wasted, no words, no deed.

    Similarly, Ronald Reagan inhabits the villainous Jack Browning with all the sly, snakelike cunning he would later exhibit as U.S. President. Reagan had never played a villain before but he’s remarkable efficient and cool, and nasty with it, controlling his woman, Sheila Farr, with a heavy hand and his small gang with a harsh tongue. He’s not even fazed by the appearance of Sheila’s old flame, John Cassavetes’ failed racing driver. The damsel in not-so-much distress is played by Angie Dickinson and she’s probably even better than Marvin and Gulager; the audience is simply never sure whose side she is playing for: Johnny’s, Jack’s or her own. She takes a battering as rough as anything dealt out by James Cagney. The violence is distinctly in-your-face – especially the rough stuff dealt out to women – and this led to NBC television refusing to show the made for television film. Universal snapped it up for cinema release instead. You barely notice, the cast and production is so good.

    Gene L. Coon’s script crackles with intrigue, deception and menace. It begins in a school for the blind, which foreshadows everything happening within the film, as each character is ‘blinded’ to the truth of their situation. There is no happy heart and no happy ending to The Killers, everyone is scrambling for a million dollars, but it remains as unobtainable as Sheila was to Johnny North, or respectability to Jack Browning, retirement to Charlie Strom. These people are not searching for riches, merely personal fulfilment, approbation they have lived a good and decent life. We know they have all failed, but they can’t see that either. Blind men indeed.

    Don Siegel directs with his customary urgency and introduces some startling observational angles to focus or un-focus our sightlines, almost as if he's trying to compete with Hemingway. The sound effects recording is phenomenal – listen to the cracks as fists burst onto faces – and the photography gaudily colourful. Even the production design is sleek. There is an early incidental score from John Williams, although it utilises a Henry Mancini theme.

    Lee Marvin would recreate this flavour of character again in John Boorman’s stupendous Point Blank and Michael Ritchie’s underrated Prime Cut. Marvin exhibits star quality the like he hadn’t displayed before. A couple of years earlier he was overplaying his hand opposite John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but the psychopath he plays here is a much more refined, believable and enduring character. Having chased across America for the opportunity to nab a million dollars, wounded and half-crazed, he doesn’t even have time for explanations: his gun is levelled and the bullets hit home. Yet there is no happy ending for Charlie Strom. Unlike Johnny North, Charlie tries to run, his dark sunglasses are cast aside and he sees the folly of his pursuit at the moment of death, the dollar bills caught in the wind.    

    A very fine updating of a classic noir.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA (1965)

    Anthony Quinn and James Coburn play late nineteenth century Caribbean pirates who, having stolen the cargo of a clipper bound for England, accidentally take on board the seven children being sent back to Blighty. Based on a popular and controversial children’s novel – the 1920’s equivalent of a Young Adult adventure – the film can’t quite cope with the broader subjects of adolescent desires and the potential for illicit sex on the high seas. Director Alexander MacKendrick injects some of these themes, but they are muffled so sufficiently to almost not be there at all. The rather one-note performances from the kids don’t help. One of them is renowned future author Martin Amis; another played Susan in the cinema version of Dr Who and the Daleks. Quinn and Coburn do not convince as pirates. The photography is muddy. The courtroom climax is bleak and over-hysterical. Not a good movie.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,270MI6 Agent

    Just a heads up that Talking Pictures TV channel is showing Michael Caine's cult early 70s movie Pulp tonight (Saturday 30 Sep) at around 9pm.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    GOLD (1974)

    Wilbur Smith wrote a series of great and unsubtle adventure stories following his breakthrough bestseller When the Lion Feeds. The epic sweep of that debut counted against it for cinema adaptation, but there seemed no reason why his shorter, grittier, contemporary books couldn’t prove good box-office. The Dark of the Sun was adapted as The Mercenaries and starred Rod Taylor, but despite the best efforts of his agent, Smith’s novels remained untouched by Hollywood. Micheal Klinger – producer of Get Carter – held the faith, but even he struggled to raise finance for this project about sabotage in a South African gold mine. He did well to get a star in Roger Moore, the new James Bond, who ably performs a cardboard role as the hero Rod Slater. Support comes from Ray Milland as mine owner Harry Hirshfield, Bradford Dillman as homosexual managing director Manfred Styner and Susannah York as Styner’s precocious wife Terri. She also happens to be Harry’s daughter and, following a series of short, sharp and sensually provocative meetings, she also becomes Rod’s lover.

    Meanwhile oversees financier Fallon, played by John Gielgud in a part he probably filmed in a day or two, heads a shady multinational syndicate who are manipulating the gold prices. He has Styner’s assurance the Sonderditch mine will be flooded by Christmas, thus significantly increasing the syndicate’s other gold holdings. Sounds a bit like Goldfinger to me. Well, Rod Slater isn’t convinced, but Styner’s fake geologist’s reports sways him and he secretly leads a small team penetrating deeper into an underground dike hoping to strike a gold seam. Instead they penetrate a subterranean lake and a full blown flood erupts over Christmas. Can Rod evade the clutching arms of Terri long enough to save the mine and rescue the miners?

    It's all very cliched. It certainly isn’t the worst film you’ll ever see. Character development is all over the place. The screenplay doesn’t care enough about the people to make them sympathetic. Acting is passable. Simon Saleba is notable as a native miner who turns hero more than once. Many Bond alumni turn up in the credits: Peter Hunt directed, John Glen edited, Maurice Binder did the title sequence, Don Black was the lyricist, Bernard Horsfall pitches up as a bigoted drill leader, Alec Mills is a second unit cameraman. The film looks pretty when on safari and pretty grim when down the mine. The crew spent several weeks filming in a real South African mine for authenticity’s sake and the effort pays off with some claustrophobic and suitably sweaty underground action. The effects are good and the editing is swift, strong and punchy. Elmer Bernstein contributes a score of some note, including a power heavy title song for soul maestro Jimmy Helms and a soft Oscar nominated ballad for Maureen McGovern.

    So, they really tried to put a marker out for this film, but its doesn’t quite make the grade. It’s isn’t terrible, but the standard heroics, love affairs and big business skulduggery has been done to death and done better.

    There was some controversy at the time of release as the movie broke the apartheid embargo. Box office was good nonetheless. I enjoyed it.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    Me too. I saw it in the cinema on release, have a DVD now, and read the book. What, no T-shirt?

    As you say, much of the plot and characters are purest cardboard but there's a solid Bernstein score and enjoyable scenery. Moore and York worked together so well that they appeared in another film shortly afterwards ("That Lucky Touch") which wasn't very good and didn't do well. Otherwise we might have had more screen pairings of the two.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,238MI6 Agent

    Yes. It is interesting to watch Moore in an early movie role after he effectively became a movie star - as opposed to a television star - to see how hard he tries not to be the Saint or James Bond or even Brett Sinclair. I detected just a couple of moments: one during an assignation with Ms York where he does that cocky half smile, looks slightly stupefied and raises a quizzical brow; the other early on when he pulls a brunette in a bar and buys everyone drinks like he'd won the lottery. Oh, Sir Roger, you really were a STAR and not an ACTOR, but bless, you do try and the rewards, like here, are fleetingly watchable. I think he was best in The Man Who Haunted Himself and Escape to Athena. The Wild Geese was a decent effort also. Not seen That Lucky Touch. I have just added it to my ever increasing list of 'movies to see'.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    Please, don't bother. There's plenty better movies to watch.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,270MI6 Agent

    Such as A Touch of Class starring the late Glenda Jackson and the late - God it's depressing isn't it - George Segal. Not to mention the late Paul Sorvino. For some reason I feel the Moore film was sort of inspired by that. Touch of Class is never shown on telly any more and I have no idea why. My parents had it on late night telly back in the day. It's a comedy. The sort of thing they used to show late at night - Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf also with Segal another one that stayed with me, I caught that in 1983, year of Octopussy during the heatwave when my parents were down at Chichester for the weekend trying to sort out my Dad's elderly parents in their final furlongs.

    Tonight I listened to a load of vinyl records from Sinatra to the Beatles and so on while my 94-year-old Dad listened on in his chair, happy recognition flickering at some but not others.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,208Chief of Staff

    Double bill of Hammer movies -


    The Satanic Rites Of Dracula 1974

    A direct sequel to "Dracula AD 1972" and an odd blend of normal if updated horror ingredients with 70s spy stuff and a script that doesn't make much sense even if you don't think about it. A few Bond alumni (Joanna Lumley, Richard Vernon and of course Dracula himself) but the big plus is seeing Sir Christopher Lee as Drac and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing one last time together. They would each play those parts one more time, though not in the same movie.

    Lee is simply going through the motions he hated so much, apart from one scene where he is attempting to persuade Van Helsing that he's a property developer named D.D. Denham and adopts a curious accent reminiscent of no less than Bela Lugosi! Cushing is excellent as ever, smoking a bit more than I remembered him doing, and persuades effectively as both loving grandfather and determined vampire hunter.



    Prehistoric Women. 1967

    Hammer had just had a huge hit with "One Million Years BC" so wanted to make a quick successor (it's not a sequel) without spending too much money. This has the same (or very similar) costumes, a set or two reused, but no star names or Harryhausen dinosaurs. Leading the cast is our own Martine Beswick, who had been in the previous film, and she does what she's going to be remembered for - girl fighting, as she'd done in that movie as well as FRWL.

    The plot is so silly I'm not going to recap it, the effects are mostly poor, the acting non-existent. A weak follow up.

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