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.

Try Again Woody

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Jerry Lacy. Certificate AA. Released by Paramount Pictures.

It’s not good for any movie star to be likened to another, so it’s invidious to say that Woody Allen is the new Groucho Marx, or even Buster Keaton. But whether it’s fair to call him that or not, that’s exactly what he is.

Just as Peter Sellers showed promise of being a comic talent some years ago, before his ability was squandered in the search for a few dollars more to buy another mini, Woody Allen now looks set firmly on course for being the best comedy actor we’ve had for years. And to cap it all he writes most of his own material.

Until recently (in fact until Bananas) he never put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned.

So it’s with some regret that I have to admit that I didn’t exactly die laughing at Woody clowning his way through Play It Again, Sam, Herbert Ross’ movie from Woody’s screenplay based on his own stage play.

Perhaps it’s because this movie is based on a stage play that it doesn’t work as well as Bananas or Take The Money and Run. Or perhaps it’s because it’s directed by someone other than Woody Allen himself — he directed the others and has just finished Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex etc.

Whatever the reason, this movie just doesn’t hang together as well as most of Woody Allen’s humour.

Basically, his usual maladroit everyman figure is surrounded by disasters, as usual — but this time they’re romantic disasters mostly.

True, there are moments when the usual brilliant visual humour shows through, but, generally speaking, those good patches stick out. And that’s a bad sign for any movie. If the good bits are conspicuous, then the rest can’t be up to scratch.

I love Woody Allen. He is me. He is a human disaster area. He is the victim of gadgets and 20th Century technological hardware. His hairdryer causes havoc in his medicine cupboard as he hurries to meet a girl.

The story is this: Woody is a movie-critic on a rather esoteric movie-mag. His wife walks out because he’s more hung-up about celluloid than sex. So he has to go out hunting for a new mate. He’s helped in this by Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) and his best friend’s wife (Diane Keaton).

The Bogart figure is the product of Woody’s movie-mad imagination. Bogie follows him on his dates and tells him what to do, for Woody is, as ever, completely flustered when faced with the realities of a situation.

Every date fixed for him by his best friends (and that wife of his) turns out to be a shambles, because Woody just can’t pull the birds any more. Not even a roaring nymphomaniac — a crazy cameo played by Viva (from the Warhol factory).

Meanwhile as rebuff after rebuff erodes our hero’s self-confidence. Woody discovers the only woman he feels comfortable with is his best friend’s wife. They have sex.

She tells her husband their marriage is on the rocks and he goes off on yet another of his business trips. Realising that she should be with her husband she rushes off to join him at the airport.

Meanwhile Woody turns up at the airport, but he won’t keep her from her husband because that’s not the way it happened in Casablanca — and sure enough, there’s Bogie at his elbow, mighty proud of him, and that’s the way he’s learned to treat dames.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly my elegant glass of Babycham. But this one’s different. It has to be with Woody Allen involved. Who else could give the woman he loves a plastic skunk for her birthday or say as she walks out of his life that that’s the scene he’s been wanting to play all his life – or, at least, since he first saw Casablanca.

Trouble is the movie’s produced by Arthur (Planet of the Apes) Jacobs and much of his influence seems to have spread throughout the movie. The intercutting of real Bogart footage is overly heavy and unnecessary. But Woody wins out in the end. There’s a scene where he’s elated and walks

along a bridge patting the backs of the boys fishing. One of course, falls off the parapet. Woody, of course, notices nothing.

It’s fun, but it’s not the best of Woody Allen. All the same it’s better than no Woody Allen. And that’s enough to get me into the cinema – even at 10.30 a.m.

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.

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.

Oh, Oh Susanah

IMAGES, directed by Robert Altman. Starring Susanah York. Released by Hemdale

IMAGES is a wow, a really good movie. Its main theme (in spite of what some bad advertising says) is madness. This subject is normally looked at in the cinema from the viewpoint of the sane, observing the actions of the insane, and rarely therefore, does it ever seem very real. We never get told what it is like to be mad.

Images is the second movie I’ve seen giving a view of the world from inside the mind of someone slipping into complete insanity. The other film was Polanski’s cruder attempt in ‘Repulsion’. There are a few superficial similarities, sexual fantasy and sinister telephone calls, violence real or imagined and a wealth of domestic detail.

Images is more subtle (less of a horror flic) infinitely more credible but still visually and emotionally shocking.

The central figure is Kathryn (beautifully underplayed by Susanah York) a dreamy looking creature, whose voice we hear in the background endlessly composing a fantasy story. Most of the action takes place when she and her husband, who provides the comic relief, come down to their country house for a stay. Too little of the countryside is shown, but enough to suggest the primitive aspect and isolation of the area, it’s not Cotswold’s coach trip country.

Kathryn begins to see things and people that aren’t there, ie her husband reaching to embrace her turns into someone else, a randy neighbour turns into her husband, and a camera into an old lover.

The most frightening part of the fantasy is rather like the Doppleganger legend, walking down a road on a hazy day you see someone in the distance approaching, as he or she comes nearer you realise it’s yourself. Then, the legend has it, you die.

Kathryn does not die, but certainly comes face to face with herself on a few frightening occasions in the movie. The film is often confusing, the difference between reality and fantasy becomes less marked. We are forced to change our minds again and again about whether or not some things (the stabbing of her neighbour) did or didn’t happen.

In spite of some flaws, it’s a beautifully made, very personal film and needs to be seen more than once, I feel. Otherwise one might share to a greater or lesser degree the feeling of a lady in front of me who said, as we got up to leave, “What happened?”

Rags To Riches

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.

Strange Trivia Of Rosalie

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.

Menace Merchants

Three different horror films from three separate distributors recently opened in London on the same day, meaning there are three cinemas one third full. They are:

  • Dracula AD 1972, directed by Alan Gibson; starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Distributed by Columbia-Warner.
  • Dr Phibes Rises Again, starring Vincent Price; directed by Robert Fuest. An AIP release, distributed by Anglo-EMI.
  • Tales From The Crypt, starring Peter Cushing, Sir Ralph Richardson, Barbara Murray et al; directed by Freddie Francis, Released by Cinerama Releasing (UK).

In terms of horror, the most convincing and chilling is Dracula, in which the celebrated Count is brought back to life, amidst a present day Kings Road, Chelsea setting. The Dracula blood sucking scenes are as erotic and eerie as ever, while the Kings Road background enables the film to make some cynical comments on the plastic Chelsea scene.

Tales From The Crypt is composed of several short tales involving the evil thoughts of five very English, bourgeois people trapped with a shaking Sir Ralph (dressed in monk’s habit) in an underground crypt. The evil people are all very obviously money mad, wealthy and establishmentarian, and the film is really an attack on these values. In a way the philosophical ideas are so subtle that they might in fact escape the average cinemagoer, and this is really the reason for the introduction of the horror sequences, which are nearly all irrelevant to the ideas of the story, and grossly over-edited. A good film if you can quietly absorb its leftish ideas which are very subtly transmitted.

Dr Phibes Rises Again is a veritable farago of very camp 1930s pastiche, art-deco sets, trippy colours and eccentric characters, all of whom land up in and around Egyptian mummies, searching for the elixir of life. Sarcastic and very entertaining.

Real horror and reality returns with a jolt in Johnny Got His Gun, starring Jeff Bridges and Donald Sutherland; written and directed by Dalton Trumbo (one of the ten Hollywood writers blacklisted by McCarthy) and distributed by the Rank Organisation. A stern, bleak and very upsetting anti-war film about a young American who while fighting somewhere in the trenches in Europe during the first world war, loses his legs, arms, sight, hearing and the parts of his brain which help him to speak. A maniac doctor decides to keep him alive as a kind of scientific curiosity, and locks him up in a small dark room. But he hasn’t lost his feelings or his memory, and he spends his time thinking back to his life in small town America, which seems as futile as war and the vegetable it has made him. He eventually manages to communicate with one of the nurses by tapping his head on a pillow in morse code. The words “Kill me. kill me.”

A sad poignantly, horrific film. Not to be missed.

Up The Creek

DELIVERANCE, Produced and directed by John Boorman, written by James Dickey from his own novel. With Jon Voigt, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronnie Cox. Panavision, Technicolor. Distributed by Columbia-Warner Distributors.

Deliverance has been sold — to a certain extent – as the latest commercial product to hit London’s West End to contain a strong ‘gay’ content.

But after Stephen Murphy and Warner Communications have put away their scissors, there isn’t much of the famous male rape scene left — it’s a scene that got past the censors in every other country, in America and Europe but it’s one that’s lost 40 seconds in Britain.

Echoes here of what Warners did to Performance before showing it to John Trevelyan, the then-secretary of the British Board of Film Censors, and even then it was still cut some. The scene that we never got to see was James Fox and Mick Jagger making love, the scene that drove Fox into the arms of Jesus.

But the movie I’m supposed to be discussing is Deliverance. It’s a fine movie, but I just can’t bring myself to like it. And I don’t think it’s because I feel cheated at the rape scene. In fact, I didn’t feel at all cheated by that.

My main gripe (and that’s all it is) is that there’s a strong feeling of deja vu about Deliverance. Especially for those of us movie-buffs old enough to have seen The Misfits.

Deliverance is about a group of men trying to make the last canoe journey down a rapid-packed river (which is about to be turned into a reservoir). But they come to this confrontation with nature as city-bred men. The cruellest clash comes when two rough mountain men grab two of the party of four. They tie one up and bugger the other.

The city adventurers kill them both and hide the bodies under the rapidly rising waters of the reservoir.

I went expecting great things of Deliverance and felt a little cheated. Go with less expectations and you’ll probably enjoy it more.

One thing’s for sure, it’s a powerful statement about the degrading quality of American life. Perhaps the all-male cast does something to expose the phoniness of the wife-and-kids-at-home syndrome.

There’s a marvellous bit where Voight drops his wallet which contains his Diners Club Card and photo of his wife and kids, a photo that’s exactly like a credit card.

All the same, it’s a bit like the Misfits-On-lce-Under-Water.

Peter Holmes

More Deliverance

DELIVERANCE is one of the truly fantastic films of 1972, an explosion of the violence some of us feel about the way in which our world is being raped of the greenness, wildness, and the ways of living, which enable us to use some form of ingenuity and inventiveness, and to some extent, none of the four middle class, superficially stereotyped American suburban males, who go on a life-risking canoe trip down a rapid ridden river in cosy hamburger-ridden America’s last wilderness, accept this condition, albeit in some cases only semi-consciously. The men who live in desperate poverty in all ways except spiritually, in this wilderness, associate all outsiders with the bastards who are going to build a hydro-electric dam across their river and flood their valley, their 1920s idyll of undeveloped technology — rusty cars, straw hats, blue denim overalls and fishing. The now famous rape scene reverses the process; the man who gets raped is the one in the canoeing party who most symbolises the suburban horror. He’s fat and balding, working for an insurance company, looks like an oversized french fry.

Like all overtly realistic films. Deliverance is a mass of conflicts as it manifests Man’s dilemma. The leader of the canoe party who seems the one most anxious to return to Life, uses all his urban male chauvinist aggression, as he treats the locals like shits while remorselessly spearing fish and loving the river The guy who claims he’s been dragged along, doesn’t know why he’s there, would rather be home playing golf, is the one who finds it most difficult to spear and shoot.

This is a desperate film. Man is running round in ever-decreasing desperate circles. See it — you might find you are too.

David Seligman

An Apt Title

Endless Night. Starring Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. Directed/Produced by Launder & Gilliat. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Cert. ‘AA’ Distributed by British Lion.

Launder and Gilliat, the director-producer team of many successful British films were ill advised. Someone obviously thought of the long success Agatha Christie has had with THE MOUSETRAP must have dug through her novels in hopes of finding a suitable new film subject and they came across ENDLESS NIGHT.

The first twenty minutes are spent establishing the character of Hywel Bennett playing a chauffeur to the rich. He is seen first bidding for an expensive painting and a few moments later donning his working hat – the first ‘surprise’ twist, proving he is merely a working man after all. Soon after he is admiring the landscape somewhere in Southern England and taking photographs there. Enter our heroine, an American girl played by, of all people, Hayley Mills. She attempts an American drawl for a few moments and then gives up the game, going back to her arch accent.

Courtship follows by long distance and soon after our hero and heroine are wed. It is then established that Hayley is one of the richest girls in the world and of course her step mother is much against her marrying a chauffeur. But love overcomes all and they duly move into their dream house built on the site where they first met by a dying Swedish architect. No sooner have they begun to settle down to wedded bliss than Hayley’s former companion-secretary arrives, played prettily but without any talent by Britt Eckland.

The in-laws move into the district and Hayley’s step father is often seen riding a horse in the grounds. Also an old girl keeps appearing from nowhere with mysterious threats about the ground being unlucky. By now an hour has parsed and very little has occurred.

It wouldn’t really be fair to divulge what does occur without giving the plot away, but I can say that Miss Christie has one of her last-minute twists up her sleeve which manages to give an opportunity for some of today’s in-style violence to be shown. Hywel Bennett manages fairly well but Hayley Mills seems a bit stumped by her role, accent and dubbed singing voice. Poor old George Sanders makes a farewell appearance as the family lawyer and Per Oscarson does the best he can with the dying architect. The running time is around 100 minutes but for me it certainly seemed an endless night.