Don’t Mention the War

Here I would be writing about THE ODESSA FILE, since it seemed the natural follow-up viewing for BOYS FROM BRAZIL. It ought to be a more serious take on the subject of neo-Nazi resurgence, right?

I found it unwatchable — so what follows is not a review, just a series of random notes.

The script is terrible — that much I can say after ten minutes. The opening lays out the plot in a crass infodump that spoils any fun the viewer could have following an unfolding mystery, and the dialogue, my God. When a character says “X and I like you,” and Jon Voight replies in a phony German accent, “I like you and X,” it’s kind of OK because it makes a joke about how on-the-nose it is. But it’s the least on-the-nose dialogue in the film. When we first see Jon Voight with his stripper girlfriend Mary Tamm (!) their conversation is all about how he’s a freelance reporter because he likes his independence and she’s a stripper because she can earn money that way. When Voight asks a cop about a suicide, the cop goes into a loud, angry-sounding spiel about how the case is of no interest and the newspapers would never cover it, which ought to make any journalist suspicious, but (a) Voight remains merely casually curious and (b) the script wants us to believe that this isn’t a cover-up, just a cop stating the facts.Ronald Neame = world’s most festive director. He made SCROOGE, or course, but also THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, in which the expensive cast literally climbs a Christmas tree to escape. This one begins with Perry Como singing Christmas Dream as Voight drives through a lit-up Berlin. (BOYS FROM BRAZIL prominently credits its Elaine Paige number, hilariously entitled We’re Home Again, which plays for about ten seconds as accompaniment to Linda Hayden and Michael Gough’s sex-murder).

(The jocular and avuncular Neame would have made great casting as either Santa — perhaps in place of his chum Attenborough — of the Ghost of Christmas Present, maybe.)

Jon Voight, wearing a brown coat in a brown car interior drives through a brown Berlin Christmas.

In the seventies, it seems, you could get brown Christmas lights.Tamm works at a strip club called REGINA. But that may be a typo.

It’s a muddy, ugly film, especially the urban stuff. They must have wanted it that way. You can see why making it look like OCEAN’S ELEVEN might not have seemed inappropriate. Still, there are gorgeously ugly seventies films (THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN makes fluorescent striplights glamorous) and this isn’t one, even though it’s shot by the great Ossie Morris. He does get to work in b&w for some WWII flashbacks, but these are highly dubious sequences by their very nature: flashbacking away from the main character just to serve up some Nazi war crimes feels wrong wrong wrong. Can you tell I’ve been watching Claude Lanzmann?

THE ODESSA FILE stars Joe Buck; Hauptmann (Capt.) Stransky; Helena Friese-Greene; Romana; Francis Bacon; Inspector Trout; Unteroffizier (Cpl.) Krüger; Von Luger ‘The Kommandant’; Professor Karl Manfred; Dr. Ravna; and, inevitably, Mr. Slugworth.

 

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3 Responses to “Don’t Mention the War”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    I interviewed Neame several years back for THIS piece about the British in L.A> He was very charming and great fun to talk to.

  2. And he made some very good films. Part of the crowd who came to directing from producing, cinematography, AD-ing. I like Guy Green, Michael Anderson, Roy Ward Baker, Guy Hamilton: the busy and often very effective second rank of post-war Brit filmmakers.

  3. Tony Williams Says:

    David E. Re. your fascinating article. I thought Vincent Price was born in St. Louis, MO? I’m sure this mistake is due to the copy editor?

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