In the end

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on November 30, 2015 by dcairns

joseph-mankiewicz on cleopatra set

From Richard Burton’s intro to Pictures Will Talk, a fine study of the work of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Best read in a rumbling Burton voice (try it: you can probably do it in your head as long as you don’t try to make any actual sound). Interesting for possible humour value (though I imagine Mankiewicz told this better than Burton’s account) and for the fact that it seems to reveal Mankiewicz joking in a ribald fashion about the death of Marilyn Monroe within hours of the event.

“Above all, he is witty. Witty with the kind of wit that makes people laugh and retell his tales, not merely smile and admire. His mind has an elaborate, paradoxically practical capacity for fantasy. For instance, some notable figure in our mad business had committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills — perhaps it was Monroe, I can’t remember — whereupon Joe mused that if some sort of pill were invented, a sleeping pill, I mean, which could only be taken rectally, a great many of these beautiful would-be suicides would find it not only boring but supremely undignified to stuff twenty or thirty suppositories up his or her beautiful ass. That was, of course, only the bare bones of his tale. He elaborated and wove around each pill a world of increasing tedium on the part of the pill taker until the beautiful one by, shall we say, pill six, said, “Oh, to hell with it, I’ll go and get me an enema.” The image he created in my mind — the bending over, missing the entrance, dropping the thing on the floor and carefully washing it before trying again, for the beauty must be hygienic even in death — reduced me to hysteria.”

The Sunday Intertitle: Van the Man

Posted in FILM with tags , on November 29, 2015 by dcairns


Since I made reference to Charles Vanel’s novel use of titling in his feature directorial debut/swan song DANS LA NUIT in Thursday’s edition of The Forgotten, I thought I’d show you examples. Anyway, I’m running about today on account of a film I’m making (yay!) so I have no time to do more.

Above we see the big decorative title cards which separate and announces the film’s major sequences. Nothing new there. But below we see the rather novel SUBtitle approach used for the very few bits of dialogue. These allow the exposition to be delivered without cutting away from the scene.


The nasty yellow German subs are courtesy of Arte and we can’t do a thing about them.

Where Eagles Dare passes the Bechdel Test

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2015 by dcairns


Rather unexpectedly. One might grumble that the test is quite hard to pass — Cukor’s THE WOMEN wouldn’t pass it, I don’t think, and no men appear in that movie. But many many films would pass the opposite version of the test — LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has no women with any dialogue at all, and THE THING has no women, period, nor do the men spend their time discussing the opposite sex.

But Alastair MacLean’s thick-ear warnography, referred to as WHERE EAGLES SHIT by Joseph Losey, includes a brief, all-business discussion between Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt. Go figure. The scene is quite redundant, which is even more obvious as it’s right next to an equally unnecessary discussion between lead Aryan supermen Anton Diffring (a man who needs binoculars to look down his nose at you) and Derren Nesbitt (described by Matthew Sweet, I think it was, as looking like he’s been dipped in peroxide from head to toe). Maybe there should be a Bechdel test for Nazis. Does your WWII film feature any scene between two Nazis when they’re not talking about the British?


Fiona quizzed me very closely on why the hell I was watching this film. “Well, I don’t know, some people seem to like it,” I blustered. Boys of my generation saw this on TV or on re-release around the same time as STAR WARS, and like to relate to their dads via manly combat films (dads who were themselves too young to be in the war). I can’t even recall seeing it, though the cable car action rang a vague bell. But maybe I was confusing it with MOONRAKER.

Richard Burton doesn’t look TOO drunk, although he’s doubled in many longshots. Not just for the abseiling — for the walking around shots. He was together enough to coin the phrase “dynamic lassitude,” a brilliant encapsulation of co-star Clint Eastwood’s screen manner. Nobody else makes a huge impression, though Patrick Wymark and Michael Hordern are on hand for beady-eyed perspiring and mmnah-hrrumph, respectively. “Functional” would be a very kind way of describing the dialogue. There is, quite literally, no characterisation whatsoever.


Matte-painted castle evokes Hammer horror, augmented by the fact that Ingrid frickin’ Pitt is up there.

Lots of things blow up, though. Sometimes they blow up for no discernible reason, which is interesting and suggests an idea for a really colourful but quite abstract film in which everything blows up in every scene for no reason. INCEPTION meets THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE meets ZABRISKIE POINT. I would watch that. I do enjoy explosions, it’s the grim-faced heroes or jocular heroes who tend to walk about in front of them that give me the pip.


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