Archive for Dad’s Army

“Don’t tell him, Pike!”

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2016 by dcairns

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36 HOURS (1964) has a really neat thriller premise, derived from Roald Dahl: James Garner has the details of the D-Day landings in his head, and German psychologist Rod Taylor wants to make him spill. He kidnaps Garner and tries to convince him that traumatic amnesia has caused him to lose all recall of the last six years — it’s really 1950 and the war is over, and to help him recover his memory, he ought to tell the good doctor everything he can remember…

Since Garner’s character is called Jefferson Pike, this whole film is basically “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

The Dad’s Army similarity is reinforced by a bit of ill-advised comedy relief at the end involving the German Home Guard and featuring, among others, an aged, aged Sig Rumann.

The other televisual connection is with The Prisoner. Here’s Jim Garner waking up in a  new environment ~

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And here’s Patrick McGoohan doing the same. ~

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To clinch the resemblance, recall that McGoohan was put through a similar scheme, being tricked into thinking he’d escaped from The Village, in the episode entitled The Chimes of Big Ben.

36 HOURS would be pretty good too, a Phildickian conspiracy thriller, except it turns into a run-of-the-mill escape drama at the end — too bad, they got ninety minutes out of their Unique Selling Point High-Concept, then abandoned it. Garner and Taylor make great sparring partners, and the movie even manages to make its villain sympathetic by giving him a nasty, stupid S.S. officer opponent. Werner Peters plays this part nicely, his purring delivery at times recalling the considerably suaver Anton Walbrook. And he has a cute way of ending a conversation with a mumbled, “H’l’ittler.”

Eva Marie Saint, obviously, is good too, though it seems sadly typical of MGM to cast, as a concentration camp survivor, the least Jewish actor they could find.

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I liked the detail of this newspaper — the Germans have to invent an alternate future, based on the information available in 1944, to convince Garner that it’s 1950. Roosevelt’s vice-president, Henry Wallace, was generally expected to succeed him, and Harry Truman was a nonentity in 1944. Werner Peter’s sickly reactions to Taylor’s recounting of the war’s end is wickedly funny.

I wonder how the original story ends? Dahl was rather good at endings.

One thing about George Seaton’s script and direction — he makes a lot of play of windows, and this pays off nicely at the end, when of course romance must blossom…

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Glazed Hamlet

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2015 by dcairns

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John Laurie, in he role of Hamlet, by Scottish newspaper caricaturist Emilio Coia.

Laurie was a bit of a stage star, and his Hamlet was well-received — probably it got him his part, as one of the few non-Irish players, in Hitchcock’s JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK.

My late friend Lawrie told me that if ever one met John Laurie, within seconds he would tell you about his Hamlet.

And, to my delight, when J.L. appears in Michael Powell’s RETURN TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, he staggers from an alighting helicopter, hoves up to camera, and tells us who he is – since he’s an actor, this explanation consists of a list of roles, and first on the list is Hamlet, followed by the crofter in THE 39 STEPS, and Private Frazer in Dad’s Army on TV.

“We’re all doomed,” was his TV catchphrase, and one can see how the actor’s sepulchral quality would have translated well to the melancholy Dane. I also like the suggestion in this illustration that J.L.’s Hamlet would have been an expressionistic one, bent into some sort of human Swastika.

John Gilling Presents

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , on July 4, 2015 by dcairns

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A curiosity — the intro to John Gilling’s 1948 directorial debut, a 38-minute quickie called ESCAPE FROM BROADMOOR, states that it is the first of a series, a sort of “John Gilling Presents,” themed around the concept of “psychic mysteries” — but Gilling made no further short films of this kind. His next, the following year, is an hour long (a feature!) and comes from a different company, so evidently the idea didn’t catch on.

Obviously, it’s not a true story at all, just some baloney Gilling has made up. A gangster meets the ghost of a previous victim. Or is she? Or isn’t she? Or are he?

All the early Gilling movies are crime thrillers, aspiring to be hardboiled, but he was already flirting with the horror genre he’s remembered for, scripting THE GREED OF WILLIAM HART, a Burke-and-Hare film a clef starring Tod Slaughter. So, unlike a lot of Hammer’s employees, I think he had a genuine interest in the macabre. Odd bursts of creativity erupt amid lifeless stretches throughout his career.

In ESCAPE FROM BROADMOOR, nobody escapes from the titular asylum for the criminally insane, or not onscreen anyway. Isn’t it cheating to name your film after something that’s pure backstory? The film’s psycho is played by a surprise choice, the usually sweet-natured comedy actor John Le Mesurier, famous in the UK for his role in Dad’s Army as a superannuated sergeant in the Home Guard. He was in gazillions of films, usually in small, ineffectual, bureaucratic roles, a nervous fusspot. He plays a very queer king courtier in JABBERWOCKY.

As a cockney gangster with mental health issues, he’s surprisingly effective!

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