Is It The Real Thing?

INNOCENT BYSTANDERS; starring Donald Pleasance, Geraldine Chaplin, Stanley Baker, Sue Lloyd, Dana Andrews, Warren Mitchell. Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Peter Collinson. Distributed by Scotia Barber.

Innocent Bystanders is the architypal commercial film made with an eye to a quick sale to American TV, with the staple ingredients of motiveless violence, and a plot which takes you through 5 countries in 90 minutes, almost without leaving Pinewood Studios. This is all sort of glued together on a miniscule budget, with everyone acting their scenes as if they were in a hurry to go to the loo. Sadly this particular example of the genre is written by the creator of Callan. How could he sink so low?

The British Secret Service and the KGB are both after the same man etc etc, and the dialogue is cliche ridden, the characters characterless too, except for the English section leader who comes alive through Donald Pleasance’s usual brilliant performance.

During the first half of the film, all one sees is airports, punches and assorted pieces of violence. This becomes so boring that suddenly (and it’s pretty obvious the script was hurriedly changed), a ridiculous Turkish-Australian Alf Garnett type character played by Warren Mitchell is introduced. The silliness of the character plus Warren Mitchell’s dreadful acting coaxes the audience into loud laughter, and I suppose the film begins to work a little bit, but poor Peter Collinson; there are some good imaginatively angled shots and you use sound well, but after Up The Junction and Straight On Till Morning we just know you can do better.

‘Someone So Beautiful’

04-197208XX 10“STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING” starring Rita Tushingham, Shane Briant, Tom Bell. Colour, directed by Peter Collinson. A Hammer Production from Anglo E.M.I. released by MGM-E.M.I.

“Straight on till Morning” is something of a departure for Hammer, not being a horror film in the usual sense of the word, but a kind of anti heterosexual, anti swinging London, anti plastic relationship film. Plain looking Brenda (Rita Tushingham) leaves Mum in an industrial Northern town to come to London, in search of a man who’s going to love her and give her a baby. She arrives and wanders through Earls Court bewildered by the frightening, rushing horror of London. She answers an ad., goes to work in a boutique run by a girl crazy, sterotype, boring het., and after a few non events goes to share a flat with the het’s girlfriend, who spends her time unemotionally screwing and throwing parties. Not Brenda’s scene she’s the awkward emotional type who’s awful at trendy parties, so she gets really cheesed off after one of them, and rushes through the streets crying. She finds a dog, an extremely scruffy one, takes it home and next morning goes round to the address on its collar. The door is answered by a very pretty blonde young man (Shane Briant), who much to Brenda’s surprise, asks her to come and live in his house and look after him. You see the poor boy is so tired of pretty women only wanting him for his body, that he’s murdered two such ladies, and he murders the dog too, because Brenda has washed it and made it look beautiful. He wants emotional love and he thinks an ugly girl can give it to him, and Peter Collinson the director really quite credibly shows the agony of someone who is so beautiful, they can never trust their love to anyone, because the other is always likely to only want their body. Unfortunately Brenda goes and gets a face lift and a fancy hair style, so our pretty little murderer, goes and does her in too.

The whole thing must sound quite wierd to the humble reader, but I must implore each and everyone of you to see the film. Peter Collinson manages to make it really eerie and thought provoking:- The sad futility of the straight Kings Road scene, and for the first time in any film I’ve seen, an attempt is made to be anti sexist. Sexism is the love and worship of physical beauty alone, without regard to the inner person.

Playing with “Straight on till Morning” in this double bill is a much more regulation Hammer horror, “Fear in the Night”, with Peter Cushing, and Judy Geeson. Strange, mysterious and entertaining goings on in a boy’s public school. Trouble is no boys, and that phrase is relevant to the film.