Archive for Margaret Rutherford

Shopping

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2021 by dcairns

The non-essential shops and businesses are open in the UK — bizarrely, the pandemic is less rampant here than on the European mainland right now — so I got my first haircut in a year and hit the charity shops. Amazing what you can find.

My sister, who works in a lab, says now is the best time to go out and do stuff if you’re going to. Later will be more dangerous, probably.

I’ve never see S*P*I*E*S, the failed attempt to reunite the leads of M*A*S*H and I don’t expect it to be any damn good but I bought it for £2 because I’m curious what fresh new flavour of awful it may provide. I think C*I*A would have been a better title — calling up the asterisks of the earlier film but actually making sense. And if your satirical purpose was to do for the intelligence community what you did for the Korean War, you have at least the beginnings of a satirical line of attack, something I doubt this movie possesses. This is directed by Irvin Kershner, specialist in following up other people’s movies. But I’m a Vladek Sheybal completist, as you know.

I’ve seen RED ANGEL, Yasuzo Masumura’s own answer to M*A*S*H, kinda — well, it does deal with medicine in wartime. I found it incredible as cinema and deeply problematic in its attitudes to what it’s showing. The overheated and desperate atmosphere of it was so impressive I’m willing to see it again, and I wanted to own it because I am on some level horribly acquisitive.

Fiona liked Matteo Garrone’s TALE OF TALES more than I did, but it was certainly great-looking.

CEX, the dopily-named second-hand store was open too, but they know how to price the things I want high enough for me not to want them anymore. But I bought THE ‘BURBS on Blu-ray because I couldn’t resist all those extras and I wanted to see the original cut. And A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was actually pretty cheap.

Back to the charity shops — I hit the main clusters, in Leith, Morningside and Stockbridge. My favourite, the St Columba’s Bookshop, is kind of in the middle of nowhere but that’s on the walk between here and Stockbridge so I picked up some comics — The Steel Claw! — and books — The Genius of the System! — and DVDs.

I got Robert Wise’s HELEN OF TROY on a whim because it was only a pound — terrible film, but I don’t think I’ve ever see a good copy — maybe it’ll grown on me — Neil Jordan’s BYZANTIUM was equally cheap — don’t usually like his stuff but he has some ambition at least — MUDER AHOY with Margaret Rutherford was 50p so now I want all her Marple films — JSA: JOINT SECURITY AREA “from the director of OLDBOY” seemed worth a punt at 50p — and THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN even though we just watched it, and SHORTBUS because we’ve never seen it. GHOSTBUSTERS I&II — I’ve only seen one of them. I’ll probably never watch the other.

Can you look forward to reading about these films on Shadowplay? Oh, probably not. I have too many films, and too many ways of getting more. But if there are any you really want to hear more about, tell me.

The Sunday Intertitle: Choccy Moloch

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2021 by dcairns

I’M ALL RIGHT JACK holds up better than the other Boulting Bros’ satires, I think. It’s unusual in that it’s a right-wing satire that’s actually funny. There is a slight attempt at even-handedness: when a worker explains that by having two unions, they can continually pressure the bosses to raise salaries, he adds that without this crafty approach, they wouldn’t get any raises at all. That’s a pretty minuscule sop.

So if the film, firing in all directions, is FOR anything, it’s for “compassionate capitalism.” If the workers are treated fairly by the employers, we can do away with unions altogether and peace will reign. Kind of weird that they use that title, shorthand for “Sod you, Jack, I’m all right” — intended to convey individual selfishness. Here, the different classes are united in opposition to one another, but there’s real group unity within each. They stick together.

Still, with the bosses played by Terry-Thomas (idiot) and Richard Attenborough (cad) and in bed with sleazy politico Dennis Price (crook) and sleazy foreigner Marne Maitland (seen stealing the cutlery), it’s fair to say nobody comes out of it well. But if you unpick where the film is heading with its argument, you find near-fascism at the end of the ellipsis.

My late friend Lawrie Knight found himself trapped between doors with Roy Boulting: the “filming” light was on so they couldn’t go forward and there was no point going back outside. So they waited. RB noticed Lawrie’s public school tie, and immediately became friendlier than he had been previously. Lawrie was a mere third assistant director. And he was appalled at RB’s sudden change of manner. “I mean, I’m a terrible snob, but this was too much!”

Peter Sellers’ magisterial performance as Fred Kite, union man, makes the film, though it’s crammed to the rafters with superb players in meaty comic roles. Dennis Price raises his game: sure, he’s always good, but he’s always THE SAME. He could have played this role with his eyes closed, but he wakes up for it and knocks it out of the park.

There’s a modest attempt to portray the women as the sensible parties, but this involves showing Mrs. Kite (Irene Handl, fabulous as always) cozying up to our hero’s posh Aunt Dolly with a forelock-tugging obsequiousness that’s portrayed as somehow instinctive and proper. Uncomfortable. Though seeing those two share a scene is a joy.

But I mainly want to talk about the chocolate factory. Our hero (Ian Carmichael, mousy drip to perfection) is taken on a tour of this joint, and if Willie Wonka’s plant is a gaudy death-trap, and that of Lord Scrumptious an expressionistic panopticon, then the Num-Yum factory’s METROPOLIS-inspired imagery, with the rhythmic soundtrack of burping and farting machinery (no doubt inspired by the jazzy chemistry sounds of THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, a subtler, more compassionate and genuinely curious film than this) takes the film into a nauseating nightmare realm, just for this one scene. It’s a film full of disgust, moral or aesthetic, but it only assumes visceral form here. The boultings may have had the wrong slant on politics and society, but they got one thing right about satire: it’s motivated by nausea.

I’M ALL RIGHT JACK stars Bertie Wooster; Sir Hiss – A Snake; Chance; Kris Kringle; Jeeves; Madame Arcati; Mrs Gimble; Glad Trimble; Canon Chasuble; The Malay; Sgt. Wilson; Mr. Hoylake; Anxious O’Toole; Lenny the Dip; Archbishop Gilday; Orlando O’Connor; Lily Swann; and Sgt. Potty Chambers.

The V.U.P.s

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2020 by dcairns

Anthony “Puffin” Asquith’s transmutation from the spectacular UFA-esque pure cinema of A COTTAGE ON DARTMOOR to the “well-made play” school of swank British tedium is likely to remain a headscratcher. Maybe he got all his excitement from the rumoured wild parties, leaving only a rather turgid display of craftsmanship for the movies.

Don’t give him Cinemascope, for God’s sake! Worst thing you could do.

So here’s THE V.I.P.S, with a Rattigan script, Burton & Taylor (and Louis Jourdan makes three), Orson Welles and Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith (probably the main draw, nowadays — well, she’s about the only survivor).

It did turn out to be an adequate afternoon timewaster — Orson, playing a caricature of Korda and looking like a boiled owl, is funny, as is Margaret Rutherford. The Burtons’ stuff is a drag. David Frost does a fun self-parody, though Peter Cook could have done it with more relish. He and Richard Wattis seem like the only ones really trying to be entertaining. Oh, and Elsa Martinelli is fun, and actually IS glamorous.

The conceit, that airports are glamorous and exciting, and tax problems and cash-flow problems and marital problems are glamorous and exciting when they afflict movie-star types, is hilariously dated.

It’s a PLAY. The compositions, admittedly, are pleasing. The camera pushes in occasionally. Otherwise, the cinema does not intrude — until the last reel, where Liz staggers across the concourse, searching, searching, searching for her Dick, and Puffin throws in some reasonably frantic POV shots scanning the throng.

Miklos Rosza insists it’s all very emotionally significant but he’s lied to us too often in the past.

Very good costumes — not for the glamour, for the CHARACTER. And we did get an emotional charge from the Rod Taylor/Maggie Smith romance, maybe because we like RT so much and Smith is so good at projecting silent adoration and concern (and anything else you ask her to project, of course). It tapped into our affection for the actors.

The V.I.P.s stars Gloria Wandrous; Thomas Becket; Stefan Brand; Anna Maria ‘Dallas’ D’Allesandro / Mama Tembo; Madame Arcati; Minerva McGonagall; Pongo (voice); Unicron (voice); Princess Panthea; Louis D’Ascoyne; Albert Prosser; Jock McTaggart; Bob Trubshaw; Miss Tonks; Frith (voice); Old Fred (voice); Wallace (voice); Mr. Stringer; Blackaver (voice); Mme. Dubonnet; Mr. Meek; Louis XIII (voice, uncredited); Violet Bradman; and Ives ‘the mole’.