New Movies

MAN OF LA MANCHA (United Artists) could have been just another boring, routine eight songs, a dance and a love story musical, but it’s nor, for several reasons.

The story for one, again about man’s mistaken illusions, the subject the cinema seems to tackle best, and most often. This time an eccentric, ageing Spanish aristocrat, who believes he’s Don Quixote, a noble knight. Peter O’Toole, who I believe to be the most gifted actor now working in films, is amazing, made up to look about seventy, as he mounts charges against windmills, woos the innkeeper’s daughter, Sophia Loren, and inspires affection in his loyal Spanish (American accented) servant, played by James Coco. There are several other flaws as well, like badly dubbed singing voices, but well, it is a commercially made musical after all.

Particular praise should go to the soft, mellow colour in which the film was made, which heightens the atmosphere of the slowly ailing, illogical insanity of the main character, and, Arthur Hiller’s stagey, basic direction which helps O’Toole to mould yet another brilliant performance.

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (Laurie Marsh Group). Scripted by Gordon Honeycombe from his novel, this rather charming little British film about a couple who meet in wintry Jersey, fall in love, and who then are prematurely separated by the man’s death which the girl cannot, and refuses to believe, imagining the man still to be with her, makes for two intriguing contrasts, romantic and macabre. Susan Hampshire and Michael Petrovich act simply and beautifully and Fred Burnley’s direction succeeds admirably in capturing the two widely opposing elements of romanticism and the macabre, through the spectacular use he makes of the sight and sounds of the sea and scenery. I must praise the exquisite colour photography (Eastman Colour) which ensures the film works so well visually.

Another film which I found to be absorbing, sensitive and made with great dedication, which has generally been poorly reviewed, and underpublicised by its distributors.

WHEN THE LEGENDS DIE (Fox Rank Distributors). Stuart Miller’s debut as a director (he previously worked as William Whyler’s assistant) uses the American rodeo scene — the modern filmic symbol for the death of the traditional American life-style, to illustrate very poignantly how a young Indian from the reserve (Frederic Forest) another debut, is almost destroyed by the conflict between the rodeo life-style and the modern colour fridge syndrome, and finally rejects them both. The conflict is perpetuated by Richard Widmark as an alcoholic ex-rodeo star who cannot believe his way of life is dying, and has dreams of building the young Indian into a big star.

The film has romantic gestures to both the old Indian and white ways of life, loves its characters and I think shows the relationship between the American white man and the Indian, far more realistically than Arthur Penn’s terrible Little Big Man. It’s a pity this new distribution company didn’t publicise When The Legends Die a little more.

because compared to Penn’s film, it’s so sensitive, realistic and worthwhile.

SNOOPY COME HOME (Fox Rank). The second feature length cartoon, based on Charles Schulz’s well-loved comic strip is witty, inventive, thoughtful in places and visually entertaining.

JEREMIAH JOHNSON (Columbia-Warner). Well, you can’t say they don’t make those good clean All-American outdoor adventures any more, because Sydney (they don’t shoot directors) Pollack has come up with one, and what a bore it is too. Robert Redford, over-exposed to the cold, and these days to the film camera too, is set loose in a frozen Northern Carolina of the early eighteen hundreds, where he comes across just about every bearded, cliché ridden bear-trapping character you can imagine. He marries an Indian girl, adopts a wayward little boy/and naturally his happy little family is massacred by a tribe of marauding Indians, who Redford then kills off single handed, of course.

This film should have stopped after the beautiful opening shots of the snow-covered scenery, and had a good think.

Propaganda Or Truth

PRECINCT 45 (U.S. title — The New Centurions). Director: Richard Fleisher. Stars: George C. Scott, Stacey Keach, Colour, Panavision. Distributor: Columbia Warner. Cert AA.

Precinct 45 is the finest and most objective movie about the Police that I have ever seen. It takes a short period in the lives of several cops in a poor, very tough precinct in Los Angeles, and through closely picturing their actions, experiences and reactions, both on and off duty, begins to build in our minds a composite picture of what kind of a man a cop is. What is it that makes him paranoically root out some innocent boy who’s got a couple of joints in his pocket, or risk his life chasing after some nutcase with a shot gun.

Scott as superb as ever, plays the old cop, the cynical, dedicated respected one who goes around punching Rachman type landlords on the nose. But this is not a sentimental, pro-police film, and there are scenes where we see cops at their fascistic, taunting worst, trapping gays in the park at night or illogically smashing up a car because they’ve got a bit of venom to work off. We are also given ideas, with a vengeance, of what it is like to be the wife of a cop, who’s just been shot, or at any time for that matter.

I liked the film very much, because it was entertaining, disturbing through its truthfulness, and above all it helped me to understand what makes a cop tick. After all it’s too easy isn’t it, to cry out “Pig”, or “He’s just a cop because he’s repressed”.

Our highly erratic censor, Mr Murphy has given the film an AA certificate. It contains some very violent, disturbing scenes, which I think warrant an X. They were really so convincingly done that I could feel my stomach drop, and I’ve seen more movie violence than you’ve seen episodes of ‘Crossroads’.

A really fine movie, topical and valid today in our stretched at the seams urban environment. The goodie Richard Fleisher has never quite managed before. Recommended.

But I Like It

OOH YOU ARE AWFUL (British Lion) “Dick Emery … At the bottom of it all” proclaim the posters with a big illustration of Dick in drag, and there’s a character in the film called Reggie, played by Ronald Fraser, who it is vaguely suggested, goes around buggering girls, and then has their bottoms tattooed by a rather camp tattoist. It could have all been some awful sexual On the Buses, but in fact the brilliant Dick Emery playing about seven parts, at least three of them in drag, John Warren and John Singer’s subtle and sarcastic screenplay and Cliff Owen’s imaginative direction, create a very amusing, absorbing film, which is centred around Emery, a small time con man, being pursued by the Mafia, which is sent up deliciously: very welcome after The Godfather. British Rail and the Royal Family are also treated to some pointed satirical jibes, in this very much above average British comedy.

Ooh! You Are Awful

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE : Director Ronald Neame. Stars : Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowell, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters. Distributor : Fox Rank.

Old time lavish adventures are fine on lavish budgets, but when you try and make ’em for under a million pounds, things begin to become unstuck – like Shelley Winters’ dress – I mean !! Seriously, you must be joking, there wasn’t even time to set the atmosphere of decadence, aboard an Atlantic cruise ship, badly most of the time, mocked up inside a studio. The publicity handouts suggest this is one of those movies where all our realistic, familiar Jones and Jonettes from next door, are plunged into a real life situation, like a ship turning over in an earthquake which takes place at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve. Have you ever been trapped in the middle of the lake in a leaking boat with the Vicar ?

Anyway, its all been done before. George Sanders made a movie like this, I wish I could remember its name, in the early sixties. It had an identical plot except the direction of the suspense was excellent, and the characters weren’t all shallow, fine upstanding citizens.

As those of you who read these columns regularly know, I am a great champion of entertaining, exciting cinema, but you can’t make effective big films on little budgets, nor can you fob off the discerning cinema goer, the only people who haven’t succumbed to the telly, whoever they may be, with cheap novel crap about people crawling upside down through an upturned ship with courage, valour and a stiff upper grip, or however Americans handle a situation like this. Incidentally I was very disappointed not to catch even one glimpsette of the Stars and Stripes or a plastic gold replica of the Statuette of Liberteria.

We don’t live next door to schmaltzy, elderly Jewish couples anymore – we live in the world of THE FRENCH CONNECTION Mr Hackman. Go and see The Poseidon Adventure if you can’t ignore the advertising, and then pause, think and compare it to Sunday Bloody Sunday, and see what makes me loathe and love and sometimes despair about the Cinema, as it alternates between firing ones mind with explosive brilliance and alienating its lovers. Its life really.

Christmas – Fantasy Or Fiction

I was going to make this a very heavy anti-Christmas article, decrying the brash commercialism, the intensified loneliness it brings to so many, especially gays, and the ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ situation of taking the boyfriend home for Christmas, or facing the family alone – “What do you get up to in London then?” “When are you going to get married?” Or could it be Birds Eye Frozen Turkey warmed up on the bedsit gas ring, or a big anti-climax. Christmas is the time when for some reason expectations rise in a silvery, glittery, fairy-tale fantasy, filling the mind with false hopes which can never be fulfilled, hence the big Boxing Day depression.

Really, I suppose, I rather enjoy Christmas. I’m very selfish. I love excesses of rich food and good wine, receiving exquisitely wrapped gifts, and watching a surfeit of movies on the telly; all the bourgeois trappings in fact. I don’t even find Boxing Day an anti-climax, because the movies are usually better than on Christmas Day.

Momentarily back in my Woolworths plastic gold comfy bum easy chairette, pretending to be a kind of male Gloria Swanson, my ideal fantasy Christmas would begin on Christmas Eve, with a long, slow, luxurious dinner in the company of my fantasy ideal boyfriend, who is a 21 year old, unpretentious, but intelligent Cockney lad of medium build, with brown hair, blue eyes and slightly tanned skin. In fact he’s so elusive that every time he comes to see me he arrives through the wall floating under a purple plastic halo, decorated with green tinsel, surrounded by a soft white mist. Long, soft, beautiful sex, accompanied by Judy Garland records from the four silver speakers, one attached to each of the four posts on the chintz curtained four poster bed. Christmas morning is spent opening presents of antiques and camp, coloured glasses, in front of a roaring tinsel-clad open fire. At lunchtime friends arrive. Another meal: this time a traditional gargantuan dinner followed by hours of horror films in my basement cinema.

To all of you reading this I hope Christmas will bring you a little bit of happiness; and remember it’s better to sit smiling and wanking over some delicious fantasy in front of the telly than weeping in a corner. And that’s really all the consolation I can offer you, without being patronising, but don’t forget the Boltons and the Biograph re-open on Boxing Day.

Films Of The Year

1972 has been a year when less feature films have been made than ever before, and this may have something to do with the fact that what films there were, were of a consistently high standard. The lack of money, and audiences has seen further massive closures of cinemas, particularly Rank Organisation Odeons, and vast areas of suburban London are now without filmic jollification. Where cinemas remain, seat prices have risen, and it is unusual to pay less than about 50p for your evening’s entertainment. As a confirmed film freak, I still believe that there is no better way of spending an evening than at your local Classic or ABC. The bleak hollows of Haverstock Hill, South Harrow and Burnt Oak look even more morose without their garish red Odeons, and thousands of old age pensioners and bored teenyboppers have lost their only escape from sordid reality. The lack of money on the production side has meant directors have tended to make their movies on location, which has greatly added to their realism. Most of the really fine films, because of the ever crazy, impossibly unaware, monopolistic cinema owners in this country, have hardly been shown. Furthermore, advertising by the ABC chain in the local press, the means most people use to find out what’s on at their local cinema, has been sparse and uninformative to the extent of killing many potential successes stone dead.

The British film industry, except for its slight over enthusiasm for making comedy films based on TV series, has produced some splendid films, free from foreign finance and specifically British. I don’t mean this chauvinistically; several films such as Family Life and Made have really managed to get to grips with life in Britain as it’s lived today. Clockwork Orange about the Great Western World urban disease, greatly benefited from being made here.

My British film of the year is Dulcima, written and directed by Frank Nesbitt and starring John Mills and Carol White. Based on a short story by H. E. Bates, John Mills beautifully characterises a gregarious, ageing, naturalistic farmer in the West country, who falls in love with a girl from the farm down the valley, who comes to clean his ramshackle pigsty of a house. Both White and Mills give a simple, charming, loving performances as the oddly assorted couple, in this realistic yet fantastic, funny yet sad, little film, with its unyielding affection for the beauty of the English countryside and its real characters.

The American cinema has undoubtedly entered a new phase during 1972. The flamboyant, ridiculous, Hollywood wealth image has finally been irrevocably overthrown, and a new wave of fast, realistic, made where they happen, entertaining films with a widespread appeal has taken its place; the two best examples are The French Connection and Prime Cut, The former set in New York, successfully combines a documentary picture of New York with the exciting story of the relentless search and tracking down of a drug ring, by a tough cop. Prime Cut does the same thing for modern rural America, being a gangster movie set in Kansas.

The traditional Western too, continues to change beyond recognition, from the dull patriotic crap for which those hallowed names John Ford and Audie Murphy, were in various ways responsible. The transformation is magical and gives us in 1972, two totally contrasting Westerns. One Chatos Land, directed by Michael Winner, is a tough, deliberate, visual, thinking masterpiece about a half breed Indian who is relentlessly and insanely pursued by racially crazed townsfolk, who finally perish in the desert. The moral overtones of the movie, which suggest that the oppressed will finally secure the demise of the oppressors, through the justness of fate, have many parallels with present day minority problems, and the fact that society will inevitably, illogically, crucify those who are different, who don’t fit in in some way. Charles Bronson’s performance as the half-breed is deeply haunting and the bullies are superb characterisations. Winner’s fine direction and visual style makes fantastic use of the scenery, and creates a masterpiece of realistic suspense.

The other outstanding Western Dynamite Man from Glory Jail, directed by Andrew McLagen and starring James Stewart and George Kennedy, is effectively a big send up of, if you excuse the phrase, the Western myth. The story concerns three old style bank robbers who are released in the early twenties, after serving forty years.

The film is a delight with its array of eccentrics, believable sentimentality and sympathetic affection for its characters that makes Dynamite Man from Glory Jail my second place film of the year.

There have of course be«n some real bummers, like Michael Winner’s The Nightcomer, based on Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. It altogether had the appearance of being made during the three days Michael Winner had in England, between making Chato’s Land in Spain and The Mechanic in Hollywood. One is so used to expecting so much from Winner, that this version of the story, made without the slowness and careful thought and atmosphere necessary to this type of subject is just a big let down. Historical/Epic film of the year is Lady Caroline Lamb, see my review in this issue.

Another real bummer was The Godfather, a gigantic con that tries to make out the Mafia are really quite nice people. In fact they’re really the nice family in Golders Green you’d like your daughter to marry into. It’s also about 2 hours too long and downright boring. There was also the dreadful Rentadick, 92 minutes of meaningless banter that was so bad it’s very celebrated script writers had their names removed from the credits. Talking of overrated films, you’d think Fuzz was another Godfather. Really it’s a kind of mildly amusing American ‘Carry on Constable’ without the camp. If it’s Burt Reynolds you fancy, you’d far better see him in Deliverance. His acting is as bad as ever, but nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile film, an adventure drama about pollution and a nightmare canoe journey four men make down America’s last unpolluted river.

Other notable films this year were, from Australia, Walkabout and Outback, which in their own ways showed the horrors of that land very succinctly. Comedies: there were two very original and entertaining products; The Ruling Class, a bitter satire on the English upper classes, their strange habits and ridiculous way of life, with Peter O’Toole as a schizoid Earl who believes he is, and acts out Jesus Christ, and later on Jack the Ripper. Pulp is a send up of just about everything from Hollywood to package holidays, with Michael Caine and Denis Price sending themselves up beyond the point of no return. On the musical front, both Cabaret and The Boy Friend were outstanding and novel examples of the genre. The Boy Friend is my musical of the year. Certainly Ken Russell’s most successful effort, it is a charming, escapist, camp pastiche of the 1930’s and that period’s theatre and musical films.

Every year there seems to be one film which shakes everyone who goes to see it into a rigid appraisal of their lifestyle and attitudes. Last year it was Sunday Bloody Sunday, this year Billy Jack, which most unfortunately has hardly been shown outside central London due to the vagaries of Columbia-Warner. Story aside, Billy Jack is about the need to evolve a different lifestyle, within the practical limitations of the reality in which we live. Set in contemporary mid-West America, Billy Jack is half Indian, half white man and is hated and bullied by the local townspeople because of the way he protects the wildlife they want to shoot, and his involvement with the free-school in the desert outside the town. A school where all kids can go and do and create what they like, away from their parents who paranoically seek money, goods and success. The crux of the film lies in the scenes where the kids go into the town and are stoned by those jealous of their freedom, and in the unrehearsed, unscripted segments where some of the townsfolk are invited to the school to air their grievances in discussion. Again a highly moral film, in which the oppressed ultimately react violently to the oppressors, the parents. Billy Jack played by Tom Laughlin who also directed the movie, is a man neither black nor white, rich nor poor, or interested in making money. He therefore doesn’t fit into any of the ghettoes. Films like these are far more relevant to gays, than obviously homosexual movies like Fortune and Mens Eyes, since they clarify our position in society. It desperately cries out for a quick change in our attitudes to all those who are not good, money-loving, white, middle-class citizens. It is now up to you to persuade your local cinema manager to show what I would say is the film of the year.

Films For Christmas

If you’re planning a Special Christmas visit to a West End Cinema, the film I most recommend you to see is Lady Caroline Lamb at the Empire cinema, Leicester Square (see my review). It shows daily at 2.30, 5.30 and 8.30.

At the Odeon Marble Arch, one of the most reasonably priced, luxurious and comfortable cinemas, you can see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the latest adaptation of Lews Carroll’s classic of our inner minds. This version promises to work more successfully than most, with music by John Barry and a magnificently eccentric cast, which includes Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dennis Price, Flora Robson, Dudley Moore and Fiona Fullerton as Alice.

For the addicts the latest carry on, Carry On Abroad, shows at the Metropole Victoria until December 27th and for Alistair Maclean addicts there’s Where Eagles Dare, also until December 27th, at the Astoria Charing X Road. If you’d like some rather more original British comedy you can see Dick Emery flaunting and camping his way through Ooh, You Are Awful at the Astoria and Metropole from December 28th, or Danny La Rue as several good women in his first film, Our Miss Fred, which is showing at the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue.

There aren’t any new epics this Christmas so 20th Century Fox have rehashed the mammoth and ridiculously lavish 1962 version of Cleopatra. More famous at the time for the dramas on the set than for its narrative performances, it’s certainly worth a look at if you’re keen on historical films, or fascinated by the Taylor/Burton mystique. It’s showing at Studio One, Oxford Street.

After all the sweetness and plastic tinsel of the Christmas festivities, you might like to see a couple of films with slightly acidic tongues. Kubrick’s well publicised and deservedly highly praised Clockwork Orange is showing at the Warner West End, Leicester Square; and breaking all box office records at the Odeon Haymarket – it’s now in its eighth month – is the Ruling Class, a bitter, entertaining, delightfully destructive attack on the British upper classes with Peter O’Toole giving his best performance to date as the schizoid Earl.

Happy movie viewing this Christmas.

West End Cinemas Footnote

Since writing this feature certain changes have come to light, Cleopatra is no longer showing at the Studio 1. Where Eagles Dare is no longer running at the Astoria. It has been replaced by Ooh you are awful, but Carry on Abroad continues at the Metropole until the 27th. I wrote “for the addicts” before seeing it. It is in fact the best Carry On for ages, and literally had me screaming with laughter non stop for 90 minutes. The extreme blueness of the jokes, plus the riveting satire of those deserving targets, Mediterranean resorts, with their charming unfinished hotels, really make an entertaining film, which has a brilliance in its caricatures, which I am sure will ensure it is regarded as a British comedy classic by the NFT in about 30 years time. In support is a little publicised, exquisite, delicate, amusing and exciting thriller Ransom for a Dead Man, directed by the unknown Richard Irving; it is as superb as Hitchcock’s more brilliant efforts; a highly recommended double bill.

Alistair Maclean fans who missed out on Where Eagles Dare, can see the latest adaptation of his work, Fear is the Key, starring Barry (Vanishing Point) Newman at the ABC (twin cinemas, the other shows Our Miss Fred) Shaftesbury Avenue.

I have only seen excerpts, but it seems reasonably thrilling. Rather ironically, although mainly made in the USA, it was financed by a British distributor Anglo-EMI.

All Star History Show

LADY CAROLINE LAMB Writer/Director: Robert Bolt. Stars: Sarah Miles, Jon Finch, Richard Chamberlain, John Mills, Margaret Leighton, Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier. Music: Richard Rodney Bennett, played by the New Philharmonia Orchestra. UK Distributors: Anglo-EMI. Cert. ‘A’.

‘Lady Caroline Lamb’ is an eccentric, sensitive, vivacious, extreme young woman who dazzled and shocked the prim, extremely hypocritical London society in the 19th century, with her flaunting of every ridiculous convention in her exuberance and concentration of her energies into extremes, whether they were horse riding or her passionate love for Lord Byron. Her husband, William Lamb, although a Whig, is conservative and unimaginative and loves Lady Caroline deeply. In as much as he can show it, he is shocked and saddened by her scandal-making affair with Byron, and not only for the sake of propriety either. The film is basically about the collision course of natural romanticism and natural unrestrained living, with the hard conventions of society.

It differs from most other historical films I have seen in that the characters like Wellington (Laurence Olivier), and other legendary historical figures appear as real people with feelings and failings, rather then the cardboard moving pictures of other historical films: it is in fact a series of fascinating character studies. Sarah Miles’ performance as Lady Caroline Lamb is the best performance by any actress I have seen this year. She manages completely to become the person she is playing and to transfer this person’s intense feelings to the audience.

London society is shown as colourful, lavish, sad, and there is a good deal of subtle, delicate send-up as well as accurate historical detail. Who better to talk about the genius of the film than Robert Bolt the writer/director, who says: “I find out all I can about my characters and their background … I look at the pictures and read the literature of the period and try to pick up the flavour of their thinking. The glamour of the past, of high living, gives me the freedom to explore a style of speech, an elegance. We make a mistake in judging the aristocracy of the early 19th century by the standards of today. I hope first and foremost that the audience will leave the cinema feeling they have had their money’s worth in mere entertainment. I have a faint hope, as a sort of bonus, that they will leave feeling a little encouraged about life in general and their own lives in particular.”

Bolt certainly succeeds in his aims. Basically because he unpretentiously produces the almost perfect film which has universal appeal. It is romantic, instructive, and entertaining. Recommended.

Well Engineered

THE MECHANIC Director Michael Winner, Stars: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent. Distributor United Artists. Cert AA.

‘The Mechanic’ is an interesting film about the inner character of a middle-aged, declining, professional assassin. A necessarily cold and completely unemotional man, a wife or girlfriend would wreck his cool; he’s forced to make use of a society prostitute. He is also vaguely homosexual in his feelings and fascinated by the young man he decides shall become his apprentice, who he subconsciously realises will be his successor.

The film would have been compelling, rather than just interesting, if Michael Winner’s latterly acquired, rather tough, unsubtle, fast style of direction hadn’t masked a lot of the feeling of desperation and extreme isolation I think the character was supposed to have. Charles Bronson is miscast. His ability to play parts requiring a blank, expressionless coldness and no more, works well in Westerns, but is not sufficient m films like this, in which a deep character study is the base.

The serious stuff is interspersed with exciting action scenes, where Winner’s superb talent creates some scintillating suspense.

Magnificent Fistful

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE, directed by Sergio Leone. Starring Rod Steiger, James Coburn. Music by Ennio Morricone. Released by United Artists.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE, directed by George McCowan. Starring Lee van Cleef. Music Elmer Bernstein. A Mirisch Production distributed by United Artists.

From the late thirties to the early sixties, a small wizened American with a black patch over one eye and a rather odd preference for Big John Wayne, made countless loud, patriotic, (US Cavalry stiff upper lip) Westerns. They were I suppose, always exciting and there was the occasional masterpiece like ‘Stagecoach’. Nevertheless, his reputation as a ‘living legend’ has largely been created by some rather pseudy queens who run the National Film Theatre, and the film programmes on BBC2, who are now running a season of his films on Sunday nights, so you can see for yourselves can’t you? Basically the old style Westerns were sweet; they upheld what are now Mr Nixon’s values.

The modern Western is essentially (that is if it is any good) sour, cynical, bloody, funny, realistic, escapist; and one of the best exponents, directorially speaking, is Sergio Leone.

In fact he’s a kind of latterday John Ford. His films are ponderous, rich in ideas, yet entertaining, atmospheric and exciting. His latest, A Fistful Of Dynamite, originally and more aptly titled ‘Duck, You Suckers’, is divided into two segments. It is 1913, and in hot dry Mexico a peasant who has become a bandit, because he is a fundamental revolutionary, not an intellectual revolutionary, relieves his abject poverty by robbing those who have wealth; he doesn’t care for, or understand, demonstrations or violently exchanging one ideological political junta for another. After various amusing incidents he comes together with a dynamite expert who is wanted by the British for his IRA activities. I think I and Leone as he shows in the film love the IRA because its members, unusually, are both thinkers and activists. Through a series of amusing incidents they plan a series of bank robberies. While travelling to Mesa Verde where they are planning to rob the National Bank, John Mallory (James Coburn) is saved from being arrested by one of the leaders of the Mexican revolution, who then persuades him and his partner, Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) to rob the bank, while he tries to divert the attention of the anti-revolutionary troops who are covering the town. The bank vaults turn out to be full of political prisoners rather than gold bars; they set them free and suddenly find themselves heroes of the revolution, most unwillingly on the part of Juan, who simply realises it is money, not a new dictatorship that will help his people.

From here onwards the film loses its flippancy and becomes a stern, suspenseful saga on the bloody reality and conflict of revolution. Steiger’s performance as the man who the revolution is supposedly about, but who can’t relate to what the revolutionaries are doing, is masterful, and the ability of the film as a whole to fuse such disparate elements as amusing action scenes with pieces of dynamite, and the philosophy of revolution, makes for a very satisfying cinematic experience.

The Magnificent Seven Ride

features that ageing spaghetti cowboy, Lee van Cleef in his first starring role in an American Western. Dear old Lee! He just can’t act. Thats fine in low budget Italian westerns where half the fun lies in the bad acting, and anyway there’s a wailing pouf of a screaming director who just can’t fail to contort your face into some kind of expression. But I’m afraid our hero back in his homeland where everyone is faced with the choice of either just dead pan or grimace finds himself rather out of depth in this cheaply, hurriedly made Seven film, which just doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, except in a monetary sense. After the brilliance and success of earlier Seven films the money grabbing distributors, realised that they could serve up the gullible cinema-going public with just about anything with ‘Magnificent Seven’ in the title and they’d go and see it.

Everything in the film is kind of watery and insipid, from the rather unoriginal story which deals with a group of seven men who set out to track and kill a Mexican gang, seventy strong, and naturally succeed, after they’ve kidnapped the marshall’s wife. Everything that made Leone’s film brilliant is lacking here and the flat fifties style direction, and the drab, cliche ridden script seems to have been ripped off from every bad western ever made. The whole thing’s probably making Audie Murphy turn in his grave.