Archive for the Politics Category

Don’t Mention the War

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by dcairns

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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They Saved Hitler’s Sperm

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Politics, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2019 by dcairns

Franklin J. Schaffner’s THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL is like MARATHON MAN’s brain-damaged clone or something. It’s hard to say which is the tackier take on Nazi war criminal conspiracies. I think at least MM has some kind of realistic point to make and exposes Operation Paperclip to daylight in a way that’s kind of commendable. I watched BOYS in dishonour of the late Bruno Ganz, who appears, and became periodically woken up by odd moments of Schaffnerian panache.

When Larry Olivier first sees a Baby Hitler, the kid is reflected in a double set of mirrors, CITIZEN KANE style, so there are like 95 of him. This is a fine idea — clever but stupid but clever — in a good movie it would be too obvious, i n this movie it is *PERFECT* and I wish Franklin J. Schaffner had come up with another dozen or so visual ideas like it.There’s a double sex murder scene staged to an Elaine Page song. As we wait for the body to be discovered, a Mr. Punch puppet pokes round a corner to irritate Prunella Scales. It’s unsettling, to say the least, but feels really peculiar. Normally, staging the normal scenes of domestic life in a normal way would make more sense than this baroque surrealist madness. It only occurred to me afterwards that Schaffner was keeping the little puppeteer offscreen for a good narrative purpose. At the time it registers as creepy eccentricity, like the whole film has gotten into the wrong hands and may at any moment be invaded by rampaging cowboys or gremlins.

There’s a brief iteration of Schaffner’s signature shot: the planimetric flat-on full stop, but it’s an undistinguished example. But Uta Hagen’s big scene has a nicely awkward moment where her hushed confab with her lawyer strains for attention against a blankly staring, static Olivier on the lower right of frame, creating an electric tension partly because you don’t know where to look.The very weird plot has Dr. Mengele producing 95 baby Hitlers, and then, since he’s undecided re nature v. nurture, planting them with foster families similar to the original Adolf’s. Since Hitler’s dad died aged 65 when the future Führer was still a lad, 95 future Führer foster fathers have to be assassinated, an almost biblical arrangement which serves to tip off aging Nazi hunter Larry Olivier, who starts to investigate. It’s one of those plots that starts bonkers and just gets crazier, has no choice in fact but to get crazier. Like one of those things that begins “Jack the Ripper steals HG Wells’ time machine… Do you believe me so far?”

Ira Levin’s narrative unfolds quasi-grippingly. Like his Rosemary’s  Baby, it somehow works despite everybody knowing the clever twist going in. We’re watching the gradual exposure of an absurd plot, and the pleasure seems to derive from how kinda-credibly it can be packaged, and the suspense of seeing a character we like stumbling closer to the awful truth.Gregory Peckory, of course, is the worst casting for Dr. Mengele you could get, outside of maybe Chuck Connors or Alfonso Bedoya, and he has the task of playing most of his scenes with James Mason and Laurence Olivier, either of whom you can imagine doing it brilliantly — and Olivier had just done so, of course, in all but name. I can see why they might not want Larry to repeat himself exactly, and his increasing frailty works better with him in the hero role. But why Peck? I guess THE OMEN had given him a slight boost, and this is the same kind of vulgar high-concept all-star malarkey, so I’m sure he was good B.O.

But Jesus.

Granted the dyed black hair is an interesting touch — makes him hard to look at, one thing you’d never normally say about the guy. He becomes a waxy mannequin — even more than normal.

Then there’s the claustrophobic effect produced by nearly everyone in it having to do a phony German accent: Lilli Palmer’s real one is a blessed relief. Bruno Ganz is Swiss but he was celebrated for his German-speaking, and rightly so as far as I can tell. His English here is rather lovely and he wisely kicks back and lets Olivier act for two.
The cat they’ve got to play Baby Hitler doesn’t look like Hitler, and is stretched (painfully: think Procrustes) by the demands of having to play him as German, Brit and American. A tall (new) order for any small boy. There must have been a big casting search, and they must’ve convinced themselves they had the answer — “THAT’S OUR HITLER!” — but Dick Shawn would not have been a markedly inferior choice. It’s not that the kid’s a bad actor, though I think he’s been encouraged to lay it on too thick. His dialogue as the English brat is so awkwardly written (“My mother is not receiving today. Don’t you understand English, you arse? We are not at home.” that he might as well have been dubbed, preferably by Paul Frees.Speaking of dialogue, to hear Olivier say, in a mounting falsetto, “He operated, mainly on tvins, VISS-out anaesthetic but VISS ze strains of Wagner providing an obbli-GAT-o to ze screams of the MU-tants he was cre-AT-ink!” is to hear a great deal, and to be unable to un-hear any of it.

John Rubinstein gets to share Olivier’s best scene (his final one in the film), but best perf is John Dehner, a former Disney animator, as the main American baby Hitler’s future Führer foster father — it’s like a real person walked into this bloodthirsty comic opera by mistake. You inhale deeply at the sudden infusion of oxygen.THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL stars Atticus Finch; Richard III; Erwin Rommel; Zarah Valeska; Carey Mahoney; Marcus Brody; Dr. Brodsky; Dr. Mabuse; Adolf Hitler; Henry Luce; General Gogol; Colonel Dankopf; Colonel Kurt von Strohm; Emeric Belasco; Sandor Szavost; Angel Blake; Sybill Fawlty; Mr. Slugworth; Prince of Tübingen; and the voice of VALIS. (It’s a Lew Grade production so it’s ridiculously stuffed with stars. I put it about even with the very enjoyable MEDUSA TOUCH and way ahead of RAISE THE TITANIC! which nevertheless I’m starting to feel I ought to see again even though I remember it being really boring. The plot in that one is that they’ve found out how to make an anti-nuke force field, but they need a rare mineral and the entire supply of it went down with the Titanic. Really! I’m not making this up.)

Bomb

Posted in FILM, Politics, Science, Television with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by dcairns

The breeze-block-like countenance of Brian Dennehy always comforts me.

Over at The Notebook, an obscure Joseph Sargent TV mini-series.

Sargent is the man. And he directed a film called THE MAN, so that works.