The Sunday Intertitle: Carpet of Peril

Absolutely no silent movies watched this week, so here is my favourite quasi-intertitle from a  talking picture, HELP!

I like this one even better than the splendidly redundant “A strangled cry from the top of the stairs” in Bryan Forbes’ THE WRONG BOX, which is followed by the sound of a strangled cry from the top of the stairs, emitted by Peter Cook.

In the scene illustrated above, Sir Paul McCartney, injected with a shrink serum, is diminished to Grant Williams-like proportions, emerging naked from his own trouser leg, long before it was fashionable to do so. I suggest that any directorial career which could encompass a scene such as the one above as well as one where Sean Connery and Robert Shaw batter each other with maces, is a rich and fascinating one.


21 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Carpet of Peril”

  1. Indeed it is. I trust you’ll be moving on to The Bed-Sitting Room shortly.

  2. I did write about that one, here:
    I love Lester’s “trilogy of disillusionment” at the end of the 60s. I would happily spend a month looking at his whole oeuvre again. And maybe I should do that later this year?

  3. In that case we should expect an exceedingly careful dissection of Petulia.

  4. Oh yes. I’m showing that to students this semester. Heaven know what they’ll make of it, although the screenwriting class appreciated it last year. Chris Schneider and I have discussed the film on several occasions. Another great John Barry score.

  5. A fascinating film from all sorts of angles. It’s the aphotheosis of Julie, and DP Nicholas Roeg cops its narrative style for his films — particularly The Man Who Fell To Earth.

    The intensity with which he takes on a deeply seriosu story with no comedy whatsoever (despite a title that indicates it might be) demands a re-evaluation of Lester’s ways and means overall.

    Richard Chamberlain was still in the closet when he took on this Beyond Daring role of a gay pedophile.

    Makes a perfect Alcatraz-themed double-feature with Point Blank.

    And the ending left me a sobbing wreck.

  6. ”Petulia” is a fascinating film, though one I admire more than I like. Point Blank however is a masterpiece.

    I’m interested in Richard Lester’s Cuba which Steven Soderbergh is fascinated by. Not surprising considering he’s into all things Rick Lester and Che Guevara.

  7. The ending of Petulia is devastating. Lester had this ability to create a disturbing feeling out of innocent things: the gas they give her really feels like it’s murder rather than pain relief.

    Point Blank is undoubtedly a masterpiece, but it’s still a genre piece and the violence is kind of movie violence, unlike in Petulia. Deliverance has more of an edge.

    Cuba is very interesting. Rushed into production without a finished script to take advantage of a gap in Connery’s schedule, it was plagued by production problems — a train exploded, a plane crashed into a tree on the first take — and Lester nailed the underlying problem when he said that the background action is more interesting than the main plot. “Then you have a film about extras.” It soured his relationship with Connery, who nevertheless is excellent in it.

  8. Well I like the genre aspect of ”Point Blank”, it serves it the way genres suited Godard and Truffaut. Jonathan Rosenbaum noted that the early title for Godard’s Alphaville “Tarzan vs. IBM” might better apply to the Boorman. What also makes it work is that the tragedy of the Lee Marvin character is wonderfully realized though never fully outlined or explained. And of course the ending of that film, takes it to Marienbad territory, Alcatraz becomes as remote as that spa. And of course it’s radical to make a hitman movie where the hitman doesn’t actually kill anyone.

    It’s interesting the kind of influence Lester and Boorman and through them the modernist films of Europe had in American cinema. Kazan’s wonderful The Arrangement(which I saw for the first time recently) is in the same vein. I’m especially thinking of that final scene of the funeral and in the background you see these LA freeways. dwarfing the ceremony.

  9. I get the impression that filmmakers like Arthur Penn were trying to absorb the European influence from early on in the sixties but struggling to do so in the mainstream. And somehow everything changed in 67 and 68.

    Lester had a quick chat with Mike Nichols while he was making Petulia and Nichols was making The Graduate, and they both came away in a state of paranoia, convinced they were making the same movie. Which they weren’t at all, but there was obviously something in the air.

    Resnais and Antonioni do seem to be the strongest influences, with the specially painted scenery in Point Blank.

    I don’t mean to imply that Boorman’s use of genre is a problem in Point Blank, I just find Petulia affecting on a deeper level. Lester called it his first film with three-dimensional characters.

  10. That hallway is at LAX.

  11. I wanna go there!

    I take ANY opportunity to show that sequence to students. It’s interesting how even those who may not have any idea who Lee Marvin was immediately recognize him as the epitome of bad-ass cool.

    The character’s more absurd and pathetic qualities actually invite comparison with Robin and Marian… which I just watched. My throat hurts from not crying.

  12. The wife’s house is on Miller Drive, just above Sunset. That’s the same neighborhood where John Philip Law lived during the making of Skidoo.

    The most fascinting thing about Point Blank is that While Lee Marvin is the perfect physical embodiment of violence he never actually gets to kill anyone. His enemies either die by accident or at the hands of James Sikking’s paid assassin.

  13. I’m sure somebody recently compared this to The Walking Dead, where Karloff again drives his mobster enemies to their deaths without laying a finger on them. And since Walker is back from the dead (and his name was changed from Parker in Donald Westlake’s original book), the connection seems more than apt!

  14. All the stuff in that park is priceless. I wonder how exaggerated it is? The PA system telling everyone to keep moving (shades of The Bed Sitting Room) etc.

  15. I seem to remember seeing a TV documentary about Lee Marvin wherein John Boorman said that Marvin’s character was nameless in the script for “Point Blank,” and that it was the actor’s determined stride that inspired the name Walker. The veracity of this seems a bit suspect, but … I like the notion of it.

    It’s no secret ’round these parts that I’m crazy for “Point Blank” and (especially) “Petulia.” You could see both of ’em as the application of a certain point of view — Californian, with a visit to Alcatraz, late-’60s, scorning the life-in-death that is “plastic” Approvable Living — applied to male genre material (“Point Black”) and female (“Petulia”). Compare ‘n’ contrast: the shots of Marvin’s wife in “Point Black” preparing herself to meet him, and Christie on the operating table at the end of “Petulia.”

    Here’s a musical expression from that same period of much the same *weltanschauung*:

  16. Haven’t heard that version — I have an old cassette of You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore which has an equally but differently discombobulated version. Thanks!

  17. Here’s Anna Karina as Lee Marvin

  18. Wong Kar Wai greatly appreciates your putting in that that Zappa clip Chris.

  19. The combination of Zappa’s I have Been in You and the abattoir scenes in Happy Together really gave me an uncomfortable feeling in the stomach!

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