Archive for Sidney J Furie

Pre Posterous

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2022 by dcairns

After reminding myself how good CASH ON DEMAND was, I wanted to see more of director Quentin Lawrence’s work, though the rest of it doesn’t have such a good rep. (COD is very highly regarded by the small number who know it.) I gave THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED a spin. It’s from 1963 and again has Peter Cushing in, but stars Stanley Baker. The supporting cast is fantastic — Mai Zetterling, Nigel Green, Niall MacGinnis, Eric Portman, Alfred Burke. It seems like Lawrence and I must have very similar tastes in actors, because those are all favourites of mine. A shame they’re all playing Germans, because it handicaps them a bit, and actual Germans would obviously be better.

But the film, based on a TV series, isn’t very exciting. It’s like the title, it wants to be dramatic and surprising, but isn’t. Hammer regular composer Philip Green has been hired to add dramatic stabs to every scene, which always seem heavy-handed, inappropriate, and tending to emphasise that nothing very devastating has really happened. A shame, all those nice actors and it looks quite nice, though Lawrence doesn’t seem to have many ideas about what to do with the wide screen. He just isn’t very inspired by the material, and I can’t say I blame him, but a better response might be that of Sidney J. Furie on THE IPCRESS FILE (an excellent script, but Furie didn’t care for it): go nuts, stylishly.

I perked up for one early scene with Cushing, which turned out to be the source for this TV ad, part of a series which did a DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID routine to sell booze. I’d always somehow imagined THE GHOUL was the source — Peter Cushing in smoking jacket and armchair by the fire, it seemed to fit. I wondered why they’d put it into black and white. But here we are ~

THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED stars Det. Inspector Harry Martineau; Girl Listening to Car Radio (uncredited); Doctor Van Helsing; Dr. Ilse Nordstrom; Thomas Colpeper, JP; Doctor Julian Karswell; Hercules; Professor Dippet; Detective Frank Webber; and Rand Hobart.

STOP PRESS: actually, this is a very nice widescreen shot ~

It seems like every time Portman is onscreen, everything else gets better. Also, every time Niall MacGinnis gets on a train, things don’t end well for him.

Dordogne Among the Dead Men

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2021 by dcairns

More J. Lee Thompson — EYE OF THE DEVIL was originally to be called DAY OF THE ARROW and then THIRTEEN, which would seem to have jinxed it. They started shooting on September 13th, also.

Sid Furie was originally slated to direct, and a few distinctive “Sid Furie shots” appear, but these seem to have been shot by Thompson and the resemblance is a matter of fashion. Not many directors shoot down through lampshades, it must be said. Within a year or two directors got all self-conscious about this kind of self-consciousness. The minute they found themselves crouching behind a potted fern, viewfinder nosing through the leaves, they would say to themselves, Oh God no, not a Sid Furie shot!

After Furie, Michael Anderson was attached, but got ill early in the shoot. Or did he? There are a number of questions hanging over this one. Did he fall or was he pushed?

So it became a Thompson film, starring Kim Novak, and then two weeks before the end of filming, Novak was out. The official story was that she’d injured her back in a fall, but everyone stressed the fact that she’d be fine, but she couldn’t work for a few months and so the film would have to be restarted with a replacement.

But David Hemmings, who makes an early appearance, indiscreetly reveals in his very readable memoir that Novak departed after rowing with producer Martin Ransohoff at a press conference. Hemmings reports that he can no longer recall what Ransohoff said to offend Novak, nor if she was justified in her outrage, but he had an indelible memory of Novak stubbing her cigarette into his one good eye…

Nothing that horrifying happens in the film, which is nominally a scary movie…

Anyway, that’s Novak out, but co-star David Niven comes to the rescue, roping in Deborah Kerr, making the film a kind of Powell & Pressburger affair since Flora Robson also appears.

It’s a kind of WICKER MAN/ROSEMARY’S BABY plot, but much less gripping and more guessable than either, and the horror at its heart is strangely uninteresting. But the film itself is sort of fascinating.

Thompson is treating it as an exercise du style, pulling in a lot of nouvelle vague influence — the opening blur of flashforwards, which has no real reason to exist, is certainly modernist and flashy — then MARIENBAD seems to be the order of the day. Thompson tracks incessantly and cuts before his movements finish, which pre-Resnais was considered filmically ungrammatical, though obviously this was always false (exceptions existed for cutting from a shot tracking with a character, to their POV, for instance, as seen so often in Hitchcock).

The direct cutting approach, unfortunately, lops all the tension out of the film. No sooner has the thought of a character going somewhere scary been planted, than we cut to them arriving, or already there. And yet MARIENBAD itself is quite a spooky film. Maybe because it combines sudden jumps in time (which promote nervousness) with funereal creep. This movie’s had all the creep excised.

It has Donald Pleasence doing his whispery bit, but the eeriest presences in it are Hemmings and Sharon Tate, as a twisted brother and sister. One’s first response to Tate is that she’s surely dubbed. Publicity at the time suggested she took lots of voice lessons to acquire a posh English accent and a deeper voice — but, as we know, the publicity people on this film were not always completely truthful.

In a way, it doesn’t much matter if Tate’s using her own voice — certainly there’s a lot of (pretty good) post-synching going on — the combination of the plummy purr and her striking beauty and stillness is quite uncanny. A slight feeling that her voice isn’t coming from her body but from somewhere beyond adds to the character’s sinister presence/absence.

Critics complained about her immobile face, evidence that the weekly film reviewer’s job is to notice anything fresh or interesting an actor does, and then condemn it. They trashed Anjelica Huston on first sight also.

This vertiginous sequence, part of the evil games Tate’s character indulges in, is genuinely alarming, partly because real child endangerment seems to be occurring. Sure, the shots are framed so that someone can always be hanging onto the kid, and ropes and harnesses may be involved, but it still seems dodgy.

Elsewhere, Niven gets some terrific stuff acting hypnotized — a mode of Niv we’ve never seen before. And there’s a relatively early example of a downbeat ending — not only does evil triumph, but it’s going to carry on perpetuating itself and triumphing down the generations. If the film had come out when it was new it would have perhaps had more impact, but it seems to have crept out incrementally over the course of about three years.

I’d love to see the outtakes — Michael Anderson’s stuff, Kim Novak’s. And I wonder if the MARIENBAD approach was established by Furie at the planning stage (it seems like something he might come up with) or Anderson (if Thompson were taking over early in the shoot it seems he’d want to match what had been filmed) or Thompson, who certainly went to town with it. “He’s given this film everything,” attested Niven.

EYE OF THE DEVIL stars Sister Clodagh; Sir Charles Lytton; Ernst Stavro Blofeld; Devon Miles; Queen Elizabeth I; Caligula; Sarah Shagal; Dildano; Sgt. Wilson; Lady of Lyonesse; Tsarevitch Alexei; Bunny Lake; and Vivian Darkbloom.

Night of Passion / Rites of Passage

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on November 29, 2017 by dcairns

The Forgotten returns, over at The Notebook, after a long Thanksgiving break, with an early Sid Furie, just before we plunge into the world of late cinema. It’s a goodie!

Umm, the link’s not live yet. I’ll let ou know when it is.

EDIT: We’re live!