Archive for Glynis Johns

Glamorous Glynis

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by dcairns

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Antony Darnborough produced three compendium adaptations of Somerset Maugham stories — QUARTET, TRIO and ENCORE. I watched the third one first, because I was interested in the contribution of director Anthony Pelissier, who seems to me an intriguing stylist. But in fact the real fascination proved to be elsewhere.

Three stories and, unlike the previous entries in the series, three different directors. Pat Jackson helmed a story about the hostilities between respected businessman Roland Culver and his ne-er-do-well brother Nigel Patrick. I like both actors, but this didn’t have too much to commend it either as cinema or story.

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The Pelissier episode stars Kay Walsh as a spinster and a bore, enlisting on a winter cruise to the Bahamas and ending up as the sole passenger. She’s driving the crew to distraction with her inane prattle, so they try to arrange a love affair with the attractive young French steward to give her a distraction and hopefully shut her up. It’s a comedy with the potential for heartbreak but the unexpected pay-off is rather brilliant — feminist, even.

Pelissier’s nicest moment is a montage in which Walsh’s chattering voice seems to drivel from every funnel and porthole on the ship. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to offer him much scope for the feverish expressionism he could bring to his work, and it definitely suffers from following so soon on the heels of a story which similarly concentrates on a series of variations on a single comic theme.

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But then we get Harold French’s story, scripted by Eric Ambler, which is a thriller. Glynis Johns and Terence Morgan are a daredevil act performing at a Monte Carlo hotel. In fact, he just announces the feat and she performs it, diving fifty feet into a tub of water which has been lit on fire with petrol. The crisis comes when Glynis comes to doubt her partner’s devotion and consequently loses her nerve. A lovely retired pair of circus artistes, Mary Merrill and Martin Miller, are on hand, and she, a former human cannonball, attests that when a couple of daredevils have a quarrel, it’s suicide to go on with the act.

This is all a very nice set-up for drama, and French surprised me with some vertiginous POV shots (I’d always thought he was kind of staid), but what sends it over the edge is the fearful intensity of Glynis J’s performance: for whole scenes she just STARES at whoever’s talking, and you know she feels like she’s staring Death in the face. It’s a look I have seen on the faces of those in the grip of acute anxiety.

While Glynis the light comedian is a treasure — we recently enjoyed THE CARD in which her voice, that delicious throaty gurgle, achieves a kind of apotheosis, echoing from within a partly submerged removal van, and she sounds like a baby coming back to life — Glynis the dramatic actress is also a force to be reckoned with, and something I must investigate further.

Three Films By Somerset Maugham – Trio / Encore / Quartet [DVD]

Fish Stories

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by dcairns

Over at The Forgotten, care of the Daily Notebook, 1948’s mermaid trawl is served up for your plate. There was quite a catch that year!

Dr. Cal O’Garry

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2008 by dcairns

I thought maybe seeing the 1962 CABINET OF CALIGARI meant I’d seen all the Caligaris — the original, the porno version, and now this, the 1960s reimagining, which despite its title, lacks any sort of significant cabinet. There’s a book case, a fish tank… no cabinet. What a gyp.

It does have a very interesting Dr. C. in the shape of Dan O’Herlihy, who plays the good doctor as Irish as can be, a sort of Dr. Carrigaline, or something. To show his star of to greatest effect, one-off director Robert Kay has devised a lighting approach of such perfection, such sinister aspect, that you’d have to backtrack to the moment when Josef Von Sternberg decided to go high, bright and frontal on Miss Dietrich to find its equal. The way those shadows almost consume the eyeballs, which yet manage to pop out of the dark like glowering beacons! The perfect meeting of face and light.

We also get Glynis Barber Johns (silly mistake! But there are so few Glynises, I get confused easily), appealing and distinctive and able to show real horror in an individual way, and then sadly we get gallons of raw verbiage from writer Robert Bloch, which the actors have to swim laboriously through as if cast adrift in a sea of marmite.

In plot terms, it’s a long and tedious crawl to get to the clunking twist ending, and until that comes it feels like nothing whatever can happen. A bath sequence crudely rehashes the success of PSYCHO’s shower, to approximately 0.000001% of the effect, and Kay stages things effectively whenever anything comes along TO stage, and then the climax arrives and we suddenly realise how pointless all this ennui was: rather than being constrained by his narrative so that he couldn’t have an eventful and action-packed story, Bloch had chosen a story that could have comfortably embraced ANYTHING — the plot could have been filled with irrational horrors, weirdness and perversion until the censor had conniptions — why, then, is it so wretchedly wordy and uneventful?

A great wasted opportunity, as Robert Kay pulls of some inventive and cunning direction, and that sequence quoted above is a humdinger of latter-day expressionism. This pull-back through a spyhole is a striking device, mirroring nicely the film’s very first shot, a track out of a dark tunnel. The movie is all dressed up with no place to go, but the dressings are admirable in their own right.

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