Archive for Neil Connery

A Very Great Review

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 5, 2019 by dcairns

This is from the July 1968 edition of films and filming:

OPERATION KID BROTHER

  1. And there arose from amongst the people, a certain prophet and producer who took unto himself the name of Dano Sabatello; who looked down upon the tribes of spy films and saw that they were good for they made money. And he spake, saying : I too shall make a spy film that will make money.
  2. And he took unto himself as many beautiful girls and Italian technicians as he could muster; going unto United Artists saying : Will you distribute?
  3. And Uniter Artists spake, saying : Yea, verily.
  4. And Sabatello cast about him for one that could lead the people in the paths of righteousness and moneymaking.
  5. And he took himself up into a high place and gazed down and lo : saw one who stood head and shoulders above the rest. And he went unto him saying : Lay down thy business partnership as a building contractor and follow me; For thou art the brother of the prophet Connery.
  6. And Connery spoke, saying : Let there be money.
  7. And there was money and a contract.
  8. For the prophet and producer Sabatello saw that Connery was good and would make a lot of money at the box office because his brother was a great prophet.
  9. And lo : Sabatello begot Connery which begot the distribution which begot the finance which begot and begot and begot until it could beget no more.
  10. And when all that was done, Sabatello spake, saying : In my film there are many locations and many beautiful girls and Sean Connery’s brother and much money has been spent on it. And he named it OPERATION KID BROTHER.
  11. And on the seventh day he rested and was well pleased.

The film was lousy : but I enjoyed the reception afterwards.

The author of this review: Michael Armstrong, future director of THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR and MARK OF THE DEVIL, screenwriter of ESKIMO NELL and bits of LIFEFORCE.

My own review of the same film is here.

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Circle of Safety

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2008 by dcairns

I was all excited — I’d discovered that there was a Jacques Tourneur film set in Scotland — CIRCLE OF DANGER. I’d also heard it was very minor, which proved to be the case. A thriller without any thrills or jeopardy, the film is enlivened solely by performances and Tourneur’s combination of bold imagination and impeccable taste in filming them.

I once got into an intractable cyber-squabble with a fellow who insisted that all he wanted from cinema was beautiful mise-en-scene. He didn’t care about story or performance, all he enjoyed was the way the director moved the camera and actors together in a kind of dance. I rather felt that a good deal of the purpose of that dance was to bring out story and character values and present the performances to the audience, so our minds did not, so to speak, meet.

Tourneur was a director much admired by both of us, and for similar but not identical reasons. The second-generation film director (his father, Maurice, was considered by some to be among the top three or four picture-makers in the world, in the late ’20s) was known for taking whatever job was offered him and filming the script as he found it. His work was always excellent — there are barely any weak performances in his films (Merle Oberon in BERLIN EXPRESS takes the prize for lameness) and his decoupagea thing of elegance and ingenuity. Only the last few films can really be faulted for his contribution. But, even though I’m a director myself, I can’t really find sufficient interest in a Tourneur film unless there’s a good script.

THE FEARMAKERS, an incredibly tedious confection with no drama whatsoever, is the test case. Without interesting situations to present, all Tourneur’s skill is essentially rudderless. Although it’s true to say that his approach is not obviously devoted to presenting each moment at its most impactful, but rather at weaving a mood of poetic intrigue, Tourneur is seriously hampered if the scenario doesn’t offer him a spark of tension.

Dana Andrews in happier days: NIGHT OF THE DEMON.

CIRCLE OF DANGER isn’t as moribund as FEARMAKERS, but it could certainly do with some added suspense. Ray Milland is trying to find out what happened to his brother, killed in action in WWII. His investigation brings him into contact with… some nice people. He gets angry at one of them, but it’s all a misunderstanding. Some thriller. It’s a tribute to Tourneur’s mastery and the charm of Ray Milland (oily variety) and Patricia Roc (a natural nice girl) that the thing is watchable at all. Fiona floated off into a magazine after ten minutes. What follows is a summary of most of the things I found to appreciate.

Peter Butterworth as an American salvage diver in Scene One. CARRY ON film stalwart Butterworth must have been proud of his Amurrican voice — he gets it out again in Richard Lester’s THE RITZ, in which his disguised accent is intended to transport us from Twickenham Film Studios outside London, to a gay sauna in Noo Yawk.

An office in the Ministry of Defence. Having just watched the tedious THE BODY STEALERS, a Tigon Production which completed my Neil Connery retrospective, I was impressed with the different quality Tourneur brought to his scenes, aided by designer Duncan Sutherland.

Wee Neil Connery surrounded by a pervasive ugliness.

While THE BODY STEALERS spends much time in brown and undistinguished offices, which are cramped and ugly without making a dramatic virtue of the fact, Tourneur shoots out onto a facing window, through which other office workers can be seen going about their miserable humdrum lives. It opens out the scene while actually emphasising the claustrophobic discomfort of the environment. It’s drab, but STIMULATINGLY drab.

Scotland. Only about a third of the action takes place in the Highlands, but there’s a little bit of nice scenery and it’s pleasant to think of Tourneur coming here. Otherwise, the film gets some good use out of its London locations, and also includes scenes set in Wales and Birmingham. No Brummie accents, but there’s an incomprehensible Welsh coal miner.

Everything involving Marius Goring. While most of the performers satisfy Tourneur’s usual requirement of dreamy restraint (Patricia Roc, a limited but endearing player, is particularly well suited to Tourneur’s approach), Goring, with his sinister pointy teeth, is allowed to be a firebrand from the word go. Since he’s the only not-too-nice person we meet, his appearance is doubly welcome. Better yet, he’s an ex-commando, known for his savagery in battle, who’s now directing a ballet, and he’s very obviously meant to be gay. The surprise factor of a heroic and fearsome soldier who’s camp as knickers is pleasing enough, so that the character’s unpleasantness can be forgiven, but it gets better.

(How do we know he’s gay? His job, plus the fact that when Milland hears that the male dancer is being difficult, he tells Goring, “I think you should spank him. Hard.” Later, Milland will refer to Goring as “it” and “that freak”.)

Goring seems to be associated with fellow balletomane Reginald Beckwith (who later returned to Tourneur’s fold, playing the medium Mr. Meekin NIGHT OF THE DEMON), who’s certainly “light on his feet”, as they say, but he also appears devoted to taciturn Scotsman Hugh Sinclair, his commander in the war. At one point, Goring seats himself at Sinclair’s feet and leans into the man’s crotch to light his cigarette with a lighter Sinclair’s holding at groin level. Furthermore, the film’s “surprise ending” does surprise in one sense — Goring turns out to be a wholly positive character, whose rude manner hides a heart of gold, and he averts a tragedy that the pigheaded Milland was on the point of causing.

Based on this, and despite its numerous weaknesses as drama, I would have to say that CIRCLE OF DANGER presents possibly the most positive male homosexual character not only of 1951, but of all mainstream cinema up to this point. A tip of the hat to Tourneur, Goring, writer Philip MacDonald and producer Joan Harrison.

“Why does Mr. Thai employ only blind men in his rug factory?”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2008 by dcairns

That, and other stupid questions, may or may not be answered in jaunty shit-fest OPERATION DOUBLE 007, AKA OPERATION KID BROTHER, AKA OK CONNERY. I like the last title best, it makes the film sound like some kind of demented response to HELLO DOLLY! Or Hello, Kitty. Or possibly NOW, VOYAGER, I’m not sure.

A cheesy Italian Bond rip-off starring Sean Connery’s little brother Neil that nobody would ever expect to be any good, OK CONNERY defies expectations by being barely watchable, until a kind of punchiness afflicts the viewer, at which point the film becomes persistently hilarious, not as a spy spoof, but as a kind of incoherent cheese dream transcribed onto celluloid by faeces-wielding chimpanzees dressed as Toulouse-Lautrec. That’s how I chose to enjoy it, anyway.

Forgive me for neglecting to mention this previously, but I have a special lens that enables me to look into cartoon skunk Pepé lePew’s sexual fantasies.

Even as a mock-Bond, this… thing  ain’t too coherent as a narrative. Actually, any plot synopsis is likely to sound like a bit of William Burroughs fold-in literature, individual words picked at random from a hat by an eyeless madman wearing a bib. “Thanatos are trying to steal an atomic nucleus. Beta is using radioactive rugs to create high-frequency magnetism. Only plastic surgeon lip-reader prize archer and hypnotist Dr. Neil Connery can stop them.”

Thanatos — or maybe that should be T*H*A*N*A*T*O*S (Terrible Hokey Associated Nefarious Assholes Terrorising Our Society?) — is run by Adolfo Celi, formerly Largo from THUNDERBALL, one of several refugees from the proper James Bond films. We get indentured Moneypenny Lois Maxwell (glumly dutiful), professional scary-face Anthony Dawson from DR. NO (craggily weary), minor Bond girl Andrea Bianchi (predictably the same) and original “M” Bernard Lee (visibly drunk). Ursula Andress, incredibly, had better things to do.

It’s both remarkable and amusing that these actors (especially series regulars Maxwell and Lee) had so little loyalty to their paymasters at Eon Productions that they were happy to jump ship and make fools of themselves in this boisterous trash. My guess is that they simply weren’t getting paid enough to feel any gratitude to Bond boss Alberto “Cubby” Broccoli for bestowing immortality upon them. I seem to recall that Sean Connery himself, by the time of GOLDFINGER, his third Walther-toting outing in tux, was only getting five grand for the whole picture. Ludicrous.

Neil Connery, in a bold stretch, plays Dr. Neil Connery, who can not only hypnotise people just by putting his fingers together to form a sort of tent, but can also fire a sub-machine gun while disguised as Vincent Van Gogh, an unusual set of skills. Combine that with his archery, plastic surgery and lip-reading and you’d have to say he was a force to reckon with. A shame acting isn’t one of his super-powers.

 

We don’t expect any mere actor-brother — whether it’s Harrison’s older sibling Terence Ford (“Terence”???) or Bob’s little bro’ Jim Mitchum — to be more than a sickly shade of the original, but Neil Connery deserves credit for being slightly more surprising than that. Unfortunately he’s been dubbed with a standard-issue Amurrican accent, even though the character is described as originating from Edinburgh (for some reason, when big brother Sean’s birthplace is cited in films, e.g. THE ROCK, it’s usually given as Glasgow). But Neil compensates physically with weird mannerisms. (1) Clutching his groin protectively with both hands while talking to Bianchi. (2) Randomly alternating his total of two facial expressions, one of which seems to say “This line has a clever hidden meaning that only I know,” while the other signifies, desperately “I have no idea what that line means.” (3) Blinking furiously whenever he’s not actually trying to hypnotise anyone. I think he might actually be signalling in Morse Code — a message just for me, that’s crossed four decades to reach its target. “If you’re watching this, and I can only pray you are, please — FORGIVE ME!”

But I can’t actually read Morse Code so it’s tough luck for Neil.