Archive for Irene Handl

Past Life Digression

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2018 by dcairns

The Late Show: light reprise.

Holy cats, ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER is quite a thing, isn’t it?

Nutty as it is (blame/credit Alan Lerner), I’d argue that, commercial failure notwithstanding, we could see this as a triumphant conclusion to Vincente Minnelli’s career, were it not for the fact that he made one more movie, A MATTER OF TIME, which was a disaster (recut and partially reshot by AIP, who apparently didn’t notice it was a period movie and spliced in lots of docu-style shots of seventies Rome).

There’s this ordinary girl, see, (only she’s played by Barbra Streisand, so not that ordinary) and she turns out to be really hypnotizable, and shrink Yves Montand discovers he can regress her to a past life and he falls in love with her past life, who was far from ordinary, and meanwhile her present life is romantically complicated by her unsuitable schnook boyfriend and her ex-stepbrother (Jack Nicholson!) and what is Yves Montand to do since he’s in love with a dead girl who he can only contact through her mundane contemporary incarnation who bores him rigid?

Welcome to VERTIGO, the musical. Only it’s barely a musical, since the songs are relatively scarce and usually get played as internal monologue or positioned as fantasies — a translucent apparition of Babs sings to the more solid version of herself, and of course they have great chemistry together). But even if it’s oddly fainthearted as operetta-film, and only a couple of the songs (notable the title number) are memorable, there’s A LOT to enjoy.

Cecil Beaton did the costumes for the period storyline, which feels way underdeveloped in narrative terms but looks astounding. Some friend of Streisand did her modern clothes which are mainly horrid but maybe they’re meant to be? John DeCuir did the production design — check out HIS amazing list of credits. Of course, he had a help from Brighton Pavilion, an amazing location. But he makes the modern-day New York sequences exotic and wild and cinematic too — Minnelli is a director who feeds off his production design (and feeds into it, of course).

The flashbacks are crowded with terrific Brit players — John Le Mesurier turns up just to drop a monocle — Irene Handl and Roy Kinnear and Pamela Brown. And, remarkably, Babs does a spot-on posh English accent and then shares a scene in cockney with her old mum, Handl, where her vocal work is… not embarrassing. No Dick Van Dyke, she. Well, she hasn’t got the legs for it. But you know what I mean.

What she can’t really do — and in fairness nobody seems to be trying to help her — is suggest ordinariness, or suggest why Montand thinks she’s boring and stupid. She plays it full-on kook, which she can certainly do, but she seems more appealing, as a personality, than her previous earthly form. But still, the film, which doesn’t have much of a narrative engine, is able to continually refresh itself by plunging in and out of the past, using a variety of trippy visual devices including stroboscopic flash-cutting, proving that Minnelli had at least noticed what was going on in the visual culture around him.

It’s on Netflix, by the way.

Starring Fanny Brice, Cesar ‘le Papet’ Soubeyran, Maj. Major Major, Schrank, Jake Gittes, Tumak, Queen Eleanor [of Aquitaine], Mrs. Gimble, Private Clapper, Sgt. Wilson, Mr. Alonzo Smith and Eegah.

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T.P.

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2017 by dcairns

Yes, enjoying Talking Pictures thanks very much. First heard about this new free cable channel when at the conference in London the other week. It’s up past Film4 so I might never have clicked onto it if I hadn’t had reason to suspect its presence. It arrived with no publicity, like a B-picture in the night.

But it’s not a B-picture channel — the real attraction is the quota quickies. The schedule is simply stuffed with British obscurities. We watched MRS. PYM OF SCOTLAND YARD (1940) which stars Mary Clare from ON THE NIGHT OF THE FIRE though sadly she doesn’t play her smart female detective the way she did her crazy street person in that film (“Ah-ahh-aaahhh-I’m gonna SCREAM!!!”). The plot involves a phony medium and murder by vacuum cleaner. It also features a nubile Irene Handle. 29 years old. You ain’t never had no Irene like that. And Nigel Patrick, doing his fast-talking thing that he did.

On first discovering the channel I set my box to record highlights of the next week’s airings, and a couple of days later we started watching. I think we watched five films. “They’re going to find us covered in cobwebs,” said Fiona.

Fiona got sucked into A TOUCH OF LOVE, a thick slice of Margaret Drabble from 1969 with Sandy Dennis doing an excellent English accent. She was waiting to see a nubile Ian McKellen, and by the time he turned up as a randy TV presenter, she had to know what happened next, a problem few seem to have had back in the day. Waris Hussein, an interesting guy with an interesting career, sadly does not look to be actually an interesting director on the basis of this one. Eleanor Bron cemented the sense of middle-class ennui, if one can cement a sense, and if anyone can it’s Eleanor.

There was a short consisting of Algernon Blackwood clubbishly narrating his worst ever story to, persistently, the wrong camera — I was in heaven. There was BITTER HARVEST, which I’d actually heard of and wanted to see — a 1963 adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. God it was dreadful. In fairness, Peter Graham Scott directed with expressive gusto (usually misplace) and you could see they were trying to make a Bardot out of the perky Janet Munro, which could have worked if they hadn’t converted Hamilton’s low-key melancholy into a prurient-yet-moralising Road to Ruin farrago. Alan Badel was supposed to turn up as a smutty toff, so I had to watch, but we got a framed picture of him in scene one and then he didn’t appear in person until about ten minutes from the end. As with the Drabble, the terrible title should have been a warning.

Best of this batch was probably COSH BOY (known in America as THE SLASHER) , a 1953 juvie crime epic directed by Lewis Gilbert. The violence is nearly all off-camera. James Kenney is impressively loathsome, except a bit of charm or enjoyable menace might have made the thing more watchable. It’s like having Andy Robinson’s Scorpio killer as your lead character, although the movie keeps backing away from having anyone badly hurt. It promises mayhem and then in the next scene it’ll turn out that, oh, that night watchman was only slightly injured by the bullet to the chest. It’s like the padre scene of IF…. going on forever. Kenney does do some Oscar-worthy snivelling when his comeuppance is to hand, and we get a fair amount of screen time devoted to a teenage Joan Collins, talking in her natural cock-er-knee accent.

COSH BOY backwards is pronounced YOB SHOCK.

Be sure to watch this channel if you have it. I don’t know if their business model — showing mostly forgotten rubbish — is really workable, but I sure hope so. You also get Chaplins, Wylers, Laurel & Hardys and Ken Russells thrown into the mix, so it’s not like it’s all just impressive for its obscurity. But the stuff that’s got me gripped is that dredged from the murky sumps of British cinema. I guess I’m just born bad — with a talent for trouble! Seeking sensations at any cost!

Key Details

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by dcairns

THE KEY is another of these latter-day Carol Reed movies with a shaky reputation: I went in expecting a leaden piece of White Elephant Art, forgetting how much I sometimes enjoy WEA when it’s done with passion and energy. Will nobody stand up for the poor pale pachyderm?

Carl Foreman provides the script, based on Jan de Hartog’s novel, StellaTHE INSPECTOR (aka LISA), also based on a JDH book, covers in some ways similar ground: boats, war, a traumatised girl. This is much better than Philip Dunne’s movie, which was authentically turgid.

Here, things actually build pretty compellingly. The set-up is interesting: tug-boat captains in wartime whose mission is to rescue lame duck ships from the U-boats. Since any ship crippled is written off as a loss, any ship saved is regarded as pure profit, so the work of the tugs is under-appreciated and consequently under-resourced: they have barely any working defenses and no anti-shell plating.

Reed’s dutch tilts look even nicer in widescreen.

The titular key belongs to a flat containing Sophia Loren, and is therefor a highly prized possession, already passed down from slain captain to slain captain several times before its current owner, Trevor Howard, who plays a sozzled old sea-dog not a million leagues from his real-life persona. William Holden plays another captain (he’s enlisted in the Canadian navy before Pearl Harbor) who inherits key, flat and woman when Howard buys it.

The point is, as Holden slowly understands, that this is not a merely commercial arrangement for Loren, but a matter of psychological necessity. After her fiance was killed at sea, she has filled the void with a succession of captains, all standing in for the original. The question for Holden is, can he replace the original loss and be loved for himself? Also, can he avoid going the way of the previous tenants?

If THE MAN BETWEEN served up lots of moody visuals that sometimes felt far more evocative than their surrounding narrative, this movie does build to some powerful dramatic scenes which utilize Malcolm Arnold’s haunting music and Oswald Morris’s astonishing, lambent cinematography to full effect. A scene in which Holden, by now believing himself doomed, seems to see Howard, risen from the grave, gazing balefully at him across the bridge, creates a frisson of true supernatural terror, resolved yet disspelled by a cut which shows the impression to be a trick of the mind —

It’s a trick borrowed from Hitchcock’s SABOTAGE, but it’s even better here. That sharp, low-key sunlight hitting Trev!

Loren, of course, is excellent, with a striking ability to suggest trauma, deep mourning, and compartmentalized psychological spaces unreachable by man. And one has to appreciate any film which gives her a scene with Irene Handl. Howard is splendid, if a little uncomfortable to watch when cosying up to Loren: there’s a pulchritude imbalance that feel’s a touch bestial/necrophilic. And Holden unites the show, progressing into the darker scenes very naturally, as he always did: in a way, it’s his strongest territory, despite his undoubted light comedy skills. Give him a marked man to play and he shone.

Only a slightly episodic start, and an inconclusive ending, mar the movie. Reed’s filming of the sea battles is impressive, with just a couple of models and process shots amid the footage of real vessels captured under unpleasant and risky North Sea conditions. Reed’s best bits often demand a multitude of angles, so there was no way to cut corners here, and the director was also working under the handicap of knowing nothing about ships: he would blithely instruct his submarine commander to surface at a given mark, unaware how impossible this was.

Here’s Oscar Homolka’s best scene! A wonderfully compact actor.