Archive for Hayley Mills

Dirty Nuke

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by dcairns


Optimum Releasing, who have a strange knack of finding and reissuing the least complete copy of any film you could wish to see (they’ve returned to circulation the version of Bunuel’s EXTERMINATING ANGEL with the deleted repetition!), have outdone themselves with John & Roy Boulting’s SEVEN DAYS TO NOON, which they’ve put out in a completely ahistorical 16:9 ratio, artfully shaving off the top and bottom of each of Gilbert Taylor’s beautiful shots (it seems quite possible this movie got Taylor the job shooting STRANGELOVE). Nevertheless, the film survives with its considerable qualities more or less intact (which is not to say the parties responsible should not be slow-boiled in uranium: they should).

The plot of this one deals with a government scientist cracking under the strain and absconding with a miniature nuclear bomb in a briefcase (no nuclear weapons of this size existed at the time, but the public wasn’t allowed to know that, or much else). He threatens to detonate the contraption in central London if the prime minister doesn’t announce immediate atomic disarmament. Of course, such a story can be read every which way — as a warning of the dangers of terrorism, the dangers of nuclear power, the dangers of uncontrolled peaceniks. One shot, framing the frazzled prof through dinosaur bones at the British museum, suggests the Boulting sympathies may not entirely be with the well-meaning loon. I think this film, one of the first to concoct a fanciful narrative around the Bomb, has widely and for a long time been read as an anti-nuclear parable, and I suspect that’s wrong — I see no evidence within its text to justify such a view. Indeed, the prof’s religious insipration might actually count against him in a Boulting movie, bearing in mind their later pungent satire on British Christianity, HEAVENS ABOVE!

Viewing the film as more of a right-wing than a left-wing yarn doesn’t make me dismiss it out of hand — although I dismiss its politics. It’s hard to imagine how the Boultings could believe the British characters they evoked in I’M ALRIGHT JACK should be trusted with thermonuclear weapons.

But among this film’s numerous virtues are a rapid pace that never feels hurried, and low-key performances (touched with occasional humour) from a cast not as peppered with familiar faces as usual. Barry Jones is melancholy and sympthetic as the scientist, which adds to the feeling of complexity and compassion. Hammer stalwart André Morell is nicely understated as the detective in charge of the case. And the film’s climax, in an evacuated London, is genuinely epic: all those deserted streets (and by the way, 28 DAYS LATER? Dreadful film), and the empty train station with its cages full of abandoned pets…

The difference between me and the Boultings? I would have wallpapered my home in discarded “This is the man we want” posters. Whereas the only bit of his work Roy Boulting took home was Hayley Mills.


Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2008 by dcairns

I got this email…

I work at Edinburgh College of Art, teaching in the film department (what FUN we have!). The department pays host to the Scottish Documentary Institute, the body for the promotion of documentary-making in Scotland. And, I guess they know I run a blog, although hearing it described as a “newsletter”, below, seems pleasantly quaint. Anyhow, I NEVER say no to a request to stick something on this blog, so I’m passing it on. Aspirant documentary producers could find this a great opportunity.


Interdoc, the training lab on international finance which helped Geoffrey Smith fund The English Surgeon (winner at Hotdocs and Silverdocs), is now taking applications for the 2008 edition.

Interdoc helps 12 ambitious producers with a feature doc in development strategise their finance plans, increasing their chances of successfully funding their documentaries.

The programme takes place over 8 days (2 x 4 days) in Edinburgh in September and October 2008 and is run by Initialize Films and Scottish Documentary Institute.

This is a very exciting opportunity for all Documentary makers based in the UK and we were hoping that you would be able to include some promotional material for this in your next newsletter.

The deadline for applications is the 1st of August so it would be fantastic if anything could go out in the next few days.

Many thanks for your help, its greatly appreciated.



Scottish Documentary Institute

ECA, 74 Lauriston Place



Tel: 01312216116

Couldn’t think how to illustrate this, so above is a still from Ida Lupino’s THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS. Scary, isn’t it? The Japanese say that if you see a ghost like that, partially occluded, it means the person concerned still has unfinished business on earth.

Whereas if you see a live person like that in a Hayley Mills movie, it just means I’ve pressed PAUSE as they’re coming through a door.

Coffin nails

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 28, 2008 by dcairns

Hayley Mills smokes with considerable panache! Not surprising, as she has been TAUGHT BY A MASTER — the film, THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS, is directed by Ida Lupino, one of those classic ’40s starlets who appear anatomically incomplete without a fag drooping from the corner of the mouth.

Lupino’s forehead bulges due to nicotine deprivation.

THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS is a largely oestrogen-fuelled flick: Lupino directs, from a script by TV writer Blanche Hanalis, based on a novel by Jane Trahey, starring a bunch of schoolgirls and a bunch of nuns, driven by Rosalind Russell. Fiona found it “weird” — it’s not quite a regular kids’ film (that smoking!) and it doesn’t have a plot, it just follows some girls through three years of schooling.

Lupino directs smoothly, with some very nice match cuts and sound segues to take us across the temporal jumps of the story, and some nicely stylised colour — at the old folks home, ALL the old dears are in purple and lavender. For a long time, Lupino was the only female member of the Director’s Guild, after Dorothy Arzner quit the business to teach.

Ultimately, this movie’s a slightly sickening ad for the Catholic church, a sinister organisation, I feel. I was horrified at the idea of Hayley Mills marrying Christ at the end. Isn’t the difference in their ages a bit much?

But what got me thinking was the smoking. We look at old ads and see all this propaganda for smoking as a healthy past-time — “The smoke doctors recommend!” and all that. So it seems there was a time, not so long ago, when the truth about smoking’s deleterious effects was not universally accepted. A time when Fred Flintstone could shill for Winston Filter Cigarettes and nobody thought the worse of him for it. What the hell, he’s a caveman, cut him some slack.

But kids were never allowed to smoke. If it’s so damn healthy, why not? It’s obvious that adults always knew that the smokes were a harmful vice, deep down, like swearing and drinking and other things adults are basically allowed to do under controlled circumstances, but which are verboten for the kinder. One more little hypocrisy for the kids to take note of as they learn about the world…