THE RAGMAN’S DAUGHTER directed by Harold Becker. Screenplay Alan Sillitoe. Starring Simon Rouse. Victoria Tennant, Patrick O’Connell, Leslie Sands. Released by 20th Century Fox.
The Ragman’s Daughter is one of those films which make me want to be able to write more vividly, more tenderly, because it stained my eyes with tears, not because of its sloppy sentimentality, but because of its simple poignant reality. It’s one of those films one falls in love with, one wants to see it over and over again.
Filmed almost entirely on location in and around Nottingham, it traces, largely in flashback, the brief stpirited youth and inextricable fast decline of one of yer average Nottingham lads, or perhaps he’s not all that average; he is in fact a sub-conscious revolutionary. He doesn’t work — he won’t work. He steals for kicks, for money, and this is what attracts the girl to him. She’s wealthy; her Dad’s a kind of Nottingham mafia regime. When yer short of cash, he gives you a pittance for your bundle of old clothes.
Stealing’s exciting and the boy’s good looking, good in bed, but she won’t go away with him – likes her monied security as well. He falls in love with her of course. Gets her pregnant; gets caught burgling. Approved School. His hair’s cut; he emerges stooping, unattractive, youthful vitality gone, the grey drag of life on his shoulders. She got married while he was inside, killed in a motor accident. They used to ride madly on his bike without accidents, but that was in the brief period of youthful freedom fate allowed.
We also see the boy ten or fifteen years later, married, kids, living in a tower block. That’s not as friendly as the old terraced houses, where you met the neighbours at the row of loos behind the terrace. Nottingham’s as grey as ever. He’s got a soul destroying job in a wholesale dairy. Gets the push for stealing a pound of cheese. His life with fifty million others has congealed in a drab rut. Super movie.
THE STRANGE VENGEANCE OF ROSALIE directed by Jack Starrett. Starring Bonnie Bedelia, Ken Howard, Released by Palomar Pictures International. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
8pm in a cinema in central London – 10 people in the stalls. The film showing, is being advertised in underground stations and sparsely in newspapers, but the posters don’t really show what it’s about, ie, scantily dressed girls aren’t the main subject of the film after all, which is made by an unknown director and cast. There have been a few very tiny write-ups in the papers, but no mentions as far as I know on the telly cinema programmes. In other words, the film has received the minimum amount of publicity without even having the good start of having a famous name. There are lots of good films which get this treatment and deserve better; after a loss making two week run in the West End of London, they disappear forever, never to be seen in the rest of the UK. Johnny Got His Gun was a recent example of this. There must be something wrong somewhere.
This particular film, The Strange Vengeance Of Rosalie – well I don’t think it’ll be missed very much. A pleasant, modern but unimportant tale about an American travelling salesman who is held hostage by a crazily lonely Indian girl in New Mexico. Although I believe the intentions of the makers were reasonably serious, the film succumbs to what are fast becoming the cliches of the modern American cinema, as it makes great play on the disappearing wilderness of America, and the inability of the average suburban American male to cope with any situation outside the confines of his motorised plastic environment.
It is a technically superb film; the colour photography makes the best of the glorious New Mexico scenery and the soundtrack is 100% audible, a rarity in modern films. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really lead anywhere and isn’t really successful either as a piece of entertainment or as a piece of serious cinema. Not to be wholly negative, you might well find it an easily forgettable, pleasantly flippant 106 minutes.
HAMMERSMITH IS OUT directed by Peter Ustinov. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Beau Bridges. Distributed by Cinerama Releasing.
Hammersmith Is Out is an attempt by Mr Ustinov to transfer his own particular brand of acute satirical observation, from the TV chat show to the big screen. The idea in this film is to DO America, and I expect you’ll appreciate it too, providing you’re an Oxford don or similar breed of heavy intellectual, as most of the funnies and everything else are presented under a thick veil of over-intellectualised dialogue which baffles the audience into a kind of stunned silence of embarrassed laughter, at the sight, or rather sound, of their cult heroes Burton and Taylor, spouting a load of meaningless dialogue.
The story? Hammersmith is a kind of English gentleman imprisoned in a straight jacket in a mental hospital, run by a zany, but run-of-the-mill Ustinov-type middle-European psychiatrist. Hammersmith’s one goal in life seems to be to triumphantly beat the system by making more money than any of its rulers, like owners of oil wells, etc. So you see there are some novel ideas which just aren’t used. There are also some good performances too, like Beau Bridges’. He plays the warder who helps Hammersmith escape and then becomes his minion as they go around taking over big business. Elizabeth Taylor is adequate as their girl friend but her performance is rather too closely modelled on Karen Black’s in that far more successful American satire, Five Easy Pieces. As I said before there are some good jokes, targets include American food, stupidity, big business etc, but they have little visual impetus and any that there is, is completely and utterly dampened by the soul destroying turgid dialogue. In about 100 minutes there are about two really funny lines and the end product is boredom and yet more disenchantment for cinema goers.
We would have liked to have included a review of “Made” starring Carol White, which I found exciting and interesting, but after 3 phone calls to the distributors ANGLO-EMI, no stills were forthcoming. I decided that if the distributor couldn’t be bothered to send me the stills to illustrate a favourable review of one of their films, I couldn’t be bothered to review it.
During a fortnight when the new releases have been dominated by a host of serious films, all of which have been abject failures, it was pleasing to witness the return to form of British horror movies. The latest double bill from Anglo-EMI, Tower of Evil and Demons of the Mind is three hours of glorious escapism, being sexy, exciting and entertaining. It is interesting to note that of the ten or so cinemas I have visited over the last fortnight, the one showing these lovelies was the only one even approaching half full.