Austrian Concoction

THE SALTZBURG CONNECTION. Director: Lee Katzin. Screenplay: Oscar Millard. Stars: Barry Newman, Anna Karina. Distributor: Fox Rank.

It’s a great pity this Austrian set concoction, swiftly made and named to cash in on a recent success, has such a lousy script, because it has several assets, which might have helped to create a sequel worthy of the word “connection”.

There’s the direction, attempting to be expansive and imaginative, in its panning, atmospheric shots of the Austrian scenery; attempting to inject some documentary semi-reality in its fast cuts to people inthe streets’ faces. There’s also Barry Newman, perpetuator of the modern car chase, in “Vanishing Point”, and also one of the few modern stars out of the Redford/Reynolds stable, who doesn’t have an expressionless face, and who can actually act.

The contrived, leaden script, having the character of an extended TV episode, has cardboard figures from the KGB, the CIA, Israel and the Neo-Nazi Party chasing after the same crate of German wartime secret papers, suitably placed at the bottom of a very cold, shallow lake. Cliches abound, and after the regulation shootings, car chase and double crossings, there isn’t really anything left of the 92 futile minutes to make us laugh, cry, think or tremble with excitement.

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.