Archive for I Was Monty's Double

Monty’s Double C’est Moi

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2021 by dcairns

A number of good things about I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE. It never mentions Operation Mincemeat, but the events of the film are happening alongside those of THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS, both plots concerning misleading Hitler about the proposed site of D Day. One worked by floating a dead body with fake documents off the coast of Franco’s Spain, the other by leaking the movements of a lifelike Field Marshal Montgomery impersonator recruited from the acting profession. And, weirdly, Clifton Webb, the star of the big-budget ‘Scope Deluxe Color Fox production, could have made a passable Monty or Monty Double himself. The filmmakers did consider hiring a movie star to play the part, before latching onto the genius idea of letting M.E. Clifton James, Montgomery’s actual real-life double and the author of the source memoir, play himself.

Given that, it’s a terrible shame they didn’t also cast the real intelligence officer who recruited James — David Niven. The idea MUST have been considered. I don’t know whether Niv was unaffordable, unavailable, or didn’t want to take part in a travesty. It would have elevated the film enormously, though his chum John Mills is excellent in the part.

Cecil Parker makes everything good.

Supposedly, the film is fairly true to life, except for the invention out of whole cloth of an action climax where the Nazis try to kidnap the ersatz Monty. This is the sequence where director John Guillermin pulls out all the stops, which mainly involves suspenseful tracking shots depicting POV and reaction of various characters, putting the audience right in there. Too bad none of it happened. It feels stylish yet inauthentic as you watch it, partly because the rest of the movie has yielded to, or embraced, the difficulties of the true-life adventure: moving in fits and starts, introducing and dropping a myriad of characters (where a fictioneer would have combined several into one), which does however allow plenty of room for beloved British character thesps. Also, the rest of the movie is played, and scored (by John Addison), as light comedy.

I don’t know if James’ memoir included all the stuff about stage fright and other bits tending to make fun of the acting profession, or at least having fun with the conjunction of war, espionage and acting. Screenwriter Bryan Forbes might be responsible for some of that.

I’m inclined to credit much of the visual panache of Guillermin’s most striking film, RAPTURE, to its French camera department, just because nothing else in his career seems to account for it. Elsewhere, he alternates weirdly between vigour and flair and living down to Welles’ characterisation of him as “one of the truly great incompetents.” His sadism comes through in a bit where a soldier gets shot and blood splashes the guy’s face — from a completely impossible angle. Guillermin obviously liked this bit so much (wrongly), he recycled it in EL CONDOR.

The next Guillermin film I watch will either be THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN, because I have it, or THE TOWERING INFERNO, because I haven’t seen it since it’s first UK TV airing and I have next to no memory of it. How bad could it be? Don’t answer that.

Oh — apologies are due to Duncan Lamont — he’s disappointing in this but I was forgetting about his amazing turn in the first TV Quatermass. Unforgiveable.

I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE stars Monty’s Double; Professor Bernard Quatermass; The Major; Rex Van Ryn (voice, uncredited); The Sorting Hat; Grapple of the Bedou; Conductor 51: Mrs. Terrain; Victor Carroon; Mr. Kipling; Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond; Buller Bullethead; Midnight; Arnold Bedford; Milchmann; Bryce Mercer; Shagal, the Inn-Keeper; Sgt. Wilson; General Gogol; Jelly Knight; The Malay; Tanya; Victor Maitland; and Turk Thrust.

Birt Evidence

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 5, 2021 by dcairns

I was happy to pick up a DVD of BURNT EVIDENCE, directed by Daniel Birt, partly so I could title a blog post in a weak fashion, but also because I quite liked Birt’s two Dylan Thomas scripted movies, THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS, a sort of Gothic, and NO ROOM AT THE INN, a surprisingly fierce social justice piece.

BURNT EVIDENCE is co-scripted by Ted Willis, who is no Dylan Thomas but did work on THE BLUE LAMP, FLAME IN THE STREETS and WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN. The story suggests film noir but the treatment is rather desultory. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no villain, just a series of unfortunate events that get cleared up by the police. They clear them up by wrongfully arresting an innocent woman, quite intentionally, to force a witness to come out of hiding. They don’t tell the poor woman she’s not really in trouble. It astounds me what audiences will accept from their fictional cops… and their real ones.

Another astounding thing is the way Detective Inspector Donald Gray answers the phone: “Hellospeaking?” No pause. No time for anyone to ask if this is D.I. Gray or whatever the character name is. This makes no sense. Even saying “Speaking?” with a question mark on it makes no sense, like he’s asking whether he’s speaking. Clear grounds for a retake.

This isn’t a very interesting blog post but I’m trying to rescue something from the ashes of the experience of watching this film. We made so many like it. The sole bright spot is Irene Handl (top, left), making the best of a makeshift supporting role. She’s always dazzling, and as such threatens to capsize the whole shoddy vehicle. Amusingly, I then watched I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE and “leading man” Duncan Lamont turns up in that for about thirty seconds and isn’t up to the task even in that tiny context. Here he has to carry half the film.

Fortunately the same disc has THE BLUE PARROT on it, which looks like an agreeably louche tale of Soho night life.