“8 DEC. A HALL. RM.”
Not the Albert Hall who plays the Chief in APOCALYPSE NOW, whose name always makes me chuckle inwardly (but a round of a applause for Albert’s exit-line: “A spear.”) The building.
Is this a reference to the cryptic note in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH? Like Frank Vosper as Ramon the assassin, Rory McBride, the offscreen but much-discussed love machine in Richard Lester’s THE KNACK… AND HOW TO GET IT, has an assignation arranged in the Hall, although he’s entertaining his girlfriends rather than perforating a foreign dignitary.
While we’re on the subject, I always wondered if the scenes of white-clad women queueing outside that edifice were an influence on John Lennon’s lyrics for A Day in the Life. After all, the lines “I saw a film today,” and “The English army had just won the war,” were inspired by Lennon’s experience acting in Lester’s HOW I WON THE WAR. “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall,” could conceivably have been sparked by THE KNACK, which Lester made between his two Beatles assignments. And the obnoxious rude joke, referring to woman as holes, seems quite Lennonesque.
My late friend Lawrie filmed in the Albert Hall once, helping out as a third AD on David Lean’s THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS. “It was hard work because, you see, the Albert Hall has no interior stairs, so any time you had to get a message from the camera up above to the extras down below, you had to leave the building, go in another door, and all the way down and then back up again for the next message.” This was in the days before walkie-talkies, of course.
THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS, which only recently became available on DVD, is a very good Lean, closing out his British period and inaugurating the international one, with some modest location filming in Switzerland. Hmm, Switzerland to the Albert Hall, I wonder if Lean was under the influence of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH as well?
The Lean-Lester connection is quite interesting. Lean, a former editor, was blown away by Lester’s “image-mixing” in PETULIA and sent him a wildly congratulatory telegram, which he treasures to this day. Lester subsequently visited Lean, a tax exile in Rome, and thereby hangs another weird conjunction. Lester was struck by how the millionaire lived, accepting unnecessary discomfort with a rather Calvinist resignation — Lean lived in a hotel overlooking Rome’s zoo, and would be awoken at the crack of dawn by the roars of big cats getting their meaty breakfast. Which brings to mind the plot twist in Dario Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, where a phone call is traced via the sound of an exotic bird overheard in the background, meaning that the call came from a hotel near the zoo… at last, with Argento we find a filmmaker we KNOW was influenced by Hitchcock, even down to his casting of Reggie Nalder from the 1956 MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.