The Letters Column

It’s worth trawling through everything in an old films and filming, from the small ads to the letters column. My June 1962 edition, the earliest I own, has Bryan Forbes writing in to defend his anti-union picture, THE ANGRY SILENCE, and the producer — also the director — of THE MASK — that part-3D Canadian horror movie with Slavko Vorkapich dream sequences — agreeing with the poor review the magazine gave his epic ~

You will have no argument from me since I would guess from editorial opinion and articles published that I agree in the main with your point of view. I deplore the gimmich film and the spurious attempts to bring people into the theatre. I went along with the point of view that the 3D sequences might be interesting enough from a fantasy point of view to make the project worthwhile. Believe me, we did try to give some credence and feeling in the 2D sections to an absolutely shoddy story. My greatest error was perhaps in not insisting on a better story. Mea culpa. I sincerely hope that my next film will be enough to expiate my sin and something we can both be proud of for Canada’s sake and mine. JULIAN ROFFMAN, 3 Ridge Hill Drive, Toronto. Canada.

I like THE MASK, personally, but only really for the dream sequences. The 2D is only useful as a kind of wadding to separate the dreams. But I like the voice saying “Put on the mask! Put on the mask!” but really meaning “Put on your 3D glasses!” It wouldn’t be half as good if it were all in 3D. (I would like Tim Burton’s awful ALICE IN WONDERLAND at least 5% more if he’d been allowed to make the scenes in England flat, as originally planned.)

Let’s see, what did Julian Roffman make next? Well, he never directed another feature. As producer, SPY IN YOUR EYE, four years after THE MASK, starred Brett Halsey and Pier Angeli. Whether Canada would be proud is moot, since it’s an Italian production, an espionage romp in which the Russians are learning US secrets via a camera hidden in Dana Andrews’ artificial eye. Works on the same principle as Trump’s android phone, I suppose.

Then Roffman is back in Canada for EXPLOSION, then he makes THE PYX which I do kind of like, though not necessarily better than THE MASK. It has a goddamn beautiful and eerie Karen Black soundtrack (!). He finishes his feature career with THE GLOVE, so nearly all his films are about things that you wear, including Dana Andrew’s glass eye (but I’d give it a wash first). That one is about an ex-con (Rosie Grier) beating his former tormentors to death with a metal glove. John Saxon is the bounty hunter hired to bring him in, and Joanna Cassidy, Aldo Ray and Keenan Wynn also appear.

I stand by my assertion that any Rosie Grier movie in which he ISN’T wearing Ray Milland’s cranium on his shoulder ought to be titled THE THING WITH ONE HEAD. And I say that with all due respect.

Oh, before THE MASK he made The BLOODY BROOD, a killer beatnik movie with Peter Falk in a non-lead role. Come to think of it, he should have had Falk in that Dana Andrews role…

Julian Roffman’s dreams of making Canada proud lie shattered like a glass eye punched with a steel glove.

19 Responses to “The Letters Column”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    Bryan Forbes later became one of Thatcher’s rabid defenders like John Schlesinger who coached her in camera technique appearance.

  2. Ugh. It was always clear from his work that Forbes was a man of the right, though his take on things was sometimes quite interesting. KING RAT is all over the map, but there’s a strong anti-Labour sentiment running through it, with Tom Courtenay representing a vengeful left-wing spirit whose time is coming as the war ends.

  3. Forbes only wrote THE ANGRY SILENCE (though I guess that means it was his sentiment). He wrote a lot of books. I actually liked (as a teen when they came out) most of his early films as a director, even KING RAT though the similarly set in a POW camp THE HILL (also 1965) directed by Sidney Lumet was far better. The author of the novel KING RAT, James Clavell later said “my feeling is the film failed because Forbes took away the story thread and made it a composite of character studies.” I guess I should see it again.
    Whistle Down the Wind (1961)
    The L-Shaped Room (1962)
    Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)
    King Rat (1965)
    The Wrong Box (1966)
    The Whisperers (1967)
    After that it was all down hill. I do remember enjoying his screenplays for ONLY TWO CAN PLAY (1962) and HOPSCOTCH (1980)

  4. Somewhere I have a letter from Bryan Forbes to Time Out calling me a ‘trufflehound’ because I didn’t like his film The Naked Face. Must dig it out.

  5. I do have fond memories of The Mask because I saw it at Croydon ABC with a boy I liked, and I think it was the first 3D film (albeit not all the way through) I’d ever seen.

  6. Who could like that slow-moving overly violent waste of good actors? Only the infamous producers, Golan-Globus. ‘Nuff said?

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    A “trufflehound”? Now, that’s a new one. As Scotty says in HAWKS’S THING (1951) – “The mind boggles.”

  8. “Trufflehound” should be a badge of honour.

    I haven’t heard anything good about The Naked Face but I would totally watch that crap. Maybe for my late movies blogathon?

    Agree about all those good Forbes films — he really had something for a while there, and League of Gentlemen, which he wrote, is fine too. Plus as producer he commissioned The Railway Children.

    The Hill is a military prison camp, not a POW camp, and of course it’s excellent. I’m not sure I’d say it’s *far* superior — King Rat is really impressive.

    Clavell = another big rightwinger.

  9. I guess I should no longer depend on my memory and look up plots for films. 1965 was along time ago. And yes, LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN I have good memories too.

  10. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Never knew that about Schlesinger and Thatcher. Yikes! But then I’m more than disappointed that Meryl Streep played her in “The Iron Pancake Turner” and won an Oscar for it. Happily we have on the other hand —

  11. ehrenstein47 Says:

    The only Forbes I like :

  12. ehrenstein47 Says:

    The remake was dreadful.

    Kim Stanley is the auteur of “Séance on a Wet Afternoon”

  13. Richard Attenborough’s putty nose deserves some credit too.

    One of my earliest pieces:

    That one has a good quasi-remake by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

  14. Tony Williams Says:

    David E. I have very fond memories of Kim Stanley since she constantly traveled to the UK to appear in TV productions. I remember one when her dominating husband (William Sylvester) wanted her to be exclusively confined to the home. The play ended with her humming insanely swinging on a chair outside with her husband realising the error of his Eisenhower ways. It was a brilliant performance and she always shone whenever she appeared in UK TV plays.

    Good for Glenda. I shared that news clip with others who did not realize how horrible Thatcher was. Victor Maddern was also a Thatcherite

  15. ehrenstein47 Says:

    When my husband Bill Reed arrived in New York way back in the day one of the first things that happened to him was he was invited to watch rehearsals of a production of “The Three Sisters” that was being staged by group of Actors Studio Alumni. The director (I think it was Kazan) asked the actresses what they wanted to eat on stage in a dinner scene. Kim Stanley yelled out “Chili! Good Ol’ Texans Chili!”

    So much for “The Method”

    The second thing that happened to Bill was he was invited to a party where he met James Baldwin and Diana Sand. Those were the days!

  16. C. Jerry Kutner Says:

    Of course, Julian Roffman was happy to disavow THE MASK. All the best scenes (the 3-D sequences) were directed by Slavko Vorkapich! BTW, in the 3-D screening of Burton’s ALICE that I saw, all the non-Wonderland scenes *were* flat.

  17. The 3-D sequences would be even better — they’re already gorgeous — if the “resolutely shoddy story” gave them more rason for existing. But it’s still nice to have cheap B piture that keeps transforming nto a surreal art film.

  18. The early 1960’s Actors’ Studio production of THREE SISTERS mentioned above is all of it on YouTube. Kazan didn’t direct it– was it Strasberg instead?

  19. Credits list Paul Bogart as “director” but I think that’s just for the video recording. Strasberg is listed as “artistic director for the Actors’ Studio2 so I guess he’s the one in charge of chilli.

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