Archive for David Warner

A High Silk Hat and a Silver Caine

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by dcairns

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SILVER BEARS is one of a crowd of Michael Caine movies from the seventies which, it turns out, deserve to be better known. PULP is, in my view, great, and PEEPER comes close, but is let down by a weak last act. The fact that the climax, with supreme, toe-curling unfortunateness, involves Natalie Wood fighting in a lifeboat, may explain why the film isn’t more often revived.

SILVER BEARS is just very enjoyable. Caine plays a finance expert for the mob who conceives the idea of casino owner Martin Balsam buying his own Swiss bank to store his loot in (as if Swiss banks were notoriously picky about their customers — see also THE HOLCROFT COVENANT for Caine’s continuing PR campaign on behalf of Switzerland’s financial institutions). Caine buys the bank but finds he’s been conned, then gets offered a chance to come in on a silver mine in Iraq, which is right where the Bible says there should be a silver mine…

Ivan Passer directs with deadpan modesty. CUTTER AND BONE is the US film of his with the best reputation, but I prefer BORN TO LOSE, a defiantly uningratiating movie about junkies with George Segal. Like the best US seventies stuff it has a Twilight of the Gods melancholic downfall built in — somebody was bound to make something like JAWS and STAR WARS eventually, and as soon as they did films like this were bound to stop being made. It’s a movie that has no interest in explaining to us why we should care about its lead character. It knows we don’t even care about his real-life counterparts, so what will induce us to get interested in a fictional version? Doesn’t matter. He’s a human being. We SHOULD care. A brief early appearance by DeNiro, unusually cast as a cop, also enlivens.

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SILVER BEARS is positively jolly by comparison, and it has an even more impressive cast — Caine and Balsam are supported by a host of co-stars, most of them on their last legs as box office phenomena — Cybill Shepherd, Louis Jourdan, David Warner, Stephan Audran, Tommy Smothers, plus Charles Gray, Joss Ackland and a fleeting Nigel Patrick. And Jay Leno, for God’s sake, who turns out to be a very funny actor. Maybe he just didn’t want to go on playing idiots and low-lifes.

Caine is very funny (“He’s not a fag, he’s just English,” explains Balsam), caught midway between the Adonis of the sixties and the puffy-eyed, blotchy Caine of pay cheque fame. Fiona felt Louis Jourdan stole the show, though. And David Warner looks like this ~

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A big hand for Bernard Gribble’s editing, which enhances the comedy with slow-burn reaction shots. Jourdan steals the show, but it’s one of Shepherd’s good jobs too, and Caine is very funny. There’s a great bit of exposition delivered while marching at high speed through a stately home, led by Gray (one of the stately homos of England, as Quentin Crisp would have it). Good bit with Jourdan and Audran slapping each other — a dicey moment to get laughs with, but she sells it by looking more shocked when she slaps him than when he slaps her. Her surprised face looks like the outrage alien at the end of the Star Trek end credits.

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Peter Stone, who scripted CHARADE, has some good short circuits stored up for getting out of predictable situations in unpredictable ways. When Cybill realizes Caine slept with her to get info on her husband’s bank, she only pretends to be furious for the sake of appearances, for as she immediately explains, she realizes that he did her three times in one night, which was far more than necessary to learn what he needed to know. It’s a lightweight movie but it has enough inventions like that to keep me charmed.

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Uneasy Lies the Head

Posted in FILM with tags , on October 5, 2012 by dcairns

Via Richard Harland Smith on FaceBook, I learn that David Warner’s severed head has recently changed hands at auction. Don’t know how much it fetched.

The head was manufactured for THE OMEN, in which a stray sheet of glass separates the part of Warner that memorizes its lines from the part that does an impressive gorilla walk in MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT. From my own limited experience of prosthetics, I’d say it’s amazing how you can make a life cast of somebody and it can still not look entirely convincing, if caught from the wrong angle or seen for too long.

From this angle, he looks exactly like a peat bog Tintin. I guess they didn’t bother with ears because Warner’s mop of hair makes them invisible and unnecessary, on a prop head at least.

I absolutely love it that they’ve carefully labeled the head “DAVID WARNER,” in case, presumably, somebody didn’t recognize him among all the other severed heads they have lying around. That would seem possible if it weren’t that Warner is the only actor who gets decapitated in THE OMEN. But maybe they made fake heads for Gregory Peck and Billie Whitelaw and everybody else, too, just in case. Might come in handy in the event of an unfortunate accident. “One for Lloyds,” as we say in the Brit film industry.

If I could own an actor’s severed head (in prosthetic form), I suppose I might go for Arthur Lowe’s, since his truncation in THEATRE OF BLOOD gave me waking nightmares as a kid. I literally couldn’t enter a room without quickly scanning all the surfaces in case Arthur’s cranium was gazing at me from atop a milk bottle. Having him around now might finally exorcise that fear.

There must be a great many fake heads out there — I recall images of Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Alfred Hitchcock posing with prop head likenesses of themselves, and when you add up the number of loppings in movies since graphic dismemberment became an accepted and indeed required ingredient of family entertainment, it’s unlikely that there are any successful stars out there who haven’t shed at least one noggin during their careers. It might be nice if we could have a convention where all the heads could be brought together to, I don’t know, stare at each other. I admit, I haven’t really thought it through.

The Chymical Wedding

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by dcairns

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DARK AT NOON, AKA L’OEIL QUI MENT (THE EYE THAT LIES) is a bi-lingual Raoul Ruiz fable with John Hurt and David Warner keeping the British end up. Unfortunately, this was another sub-optimal Ruiz experience for me since my copy had no subtitles for the French bits. And I think the French bits may have contained a  number of clues, at the very least, as to why what was happening was happening.

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Nevertheless, it seemed that John Hurt, as the Marquis, wasn’t feeling too well, as his body had been invaded by a second John Hurt, a manufacturer of prosthetic limbs, and his young bride, who were attempting to create a child INSIDE the first John Hurt. The scenes of John Hurt possessed by a male consciousness down one side and a female down the other recall Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin in ALL OF ME. The mad science aspects suggest that a more profitable pairing might be with FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND, another film where John Hurt violates the creator’s laws (and a film which might have been well suited to Ruiz, since it has Mary Shelley and her fictional characters inhabiting the same film-universe, quite a Ruizian trope. All this and time travel too). Anyway, the pregnancy has peculiar side-effects for the Marquis:

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Nasty. Are you taking something for that?

(Given that the only Chilean filmmakers I know are Alejandro Jodorowsky and Raoul Ruiz, I really wonder what else they’re getting up to in that distant land…)

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The credits appear over luridly coloured shots of eels, which look like a scrambled cable porn channel viewed in a  hotel room — fittingly enough, since the eels are what our hero (Didier Bourdon) sees when he looks at John Hurt’s sperm through a microscope. “There are three forces in the universe: elcectricty, gravity… and sexuality.”

Add in a plague of Virgins (apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary), rogue levitations and a boy whose unsanctioned miracles are wreaking havoc with the prosthetic limb industry, and we have a typically peculiar Ruiz brew. I liked the special effects, especially the luminous B.V.M.s and David Warner’s paintings, which exude fungoid conwebs that ensnare the unwary while subduing them with a powerful soporific perfume. Now if only I knew what the French characters were on about — it might help me understand what the English characters were on about.

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Or it might not. For a while there, each Ruiz film I saw made more sense to me than the last. I can’t really say that with this and TREASURE ISLAND, but neither was an ideal case, T. ISLAND having been forcibly hacked down from four hours, and this one being only half-English and unsubtitled. I shall choose the next one with care…