Archive for Terry-Thomas

Seven Aside

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2019 by dcairns

More from WEEKEND MURDERS director Michele Lupo. SETTE VOLTE SETTE (SEVEN TIMES SEVEN) steals the premise of TWO WAY STRETCH but elaborates it in fun ways. Again, we’re in England, this time 1968 London. A team of seven prisoners (plus tagalong Lionel Stander) with names beginning with B (for some reason) try to break out of prison and back in again, unnoticed, committed a heist while at liberty to give themselves the perfect alibi. And all while the prison staff are distracted by the world cup (Everton versus Sheffield Wednesday, whatever that means).

Entirely gratuitous b&w set

Gastone Moschin from WEEKEND MURDERS is back as the ringleader, Benjamin Burton Brain, and there are cameos from Adolfo Celli and, almost inevitably, Terry-Thomas. Lupo directs with typical frenzy — extreme low angles, Dutch tilts, crash zooms, restless tracking shots, frequent resource to handheld, frenetic cutting…

Because the goal is to make this as touristically British as possible, the heist is carried out with a London double-decker bus as getaway car (Brain keeps it in his suburban garage, impossibly) and the music is very ITALIAN JOB. This is like the Italian cinema’s answer to that national insult. It’s a very affectionate response.

There are no subtitles for this so I cheerfully watched the English dub. The setting and some of the casting (cameo from David Lodge — who is in TWO WAY STRETCH) helps make that acceptable. I’m not sure if Moschin is playing gay or just very posh, but whoever’s dubbing him has decided on the former.

The movie may be derivative but it anticipates the OCEAN’S 11 reboot with a parkour/acrobat guy and a movie screen showing an image filmed in a duplicate set, used to flummox security camera (the prison is a magnificent Victorian panopticon but behind there scenes there’s lots of Bondian tech, appropriate enough since Celli is in charge. He probably had it in his contract.

As with the original OCEAN’S there’s a bitter ending as the plan goes ironically awry, but as with TOPKAPI there’s always the dream of a successful future job — the days of actually lucrative capers are still some way off. Funny, that — nowadays all heists must be successful and you couldn’t get away with the unresolved cliffhanger of THE ITALIAN JOB, the total ruination of RIFIFI or even Sinatra and gang’s long, disillusioned promenade…

SETTE VOLTE SETTE stars Fanucci; Archie Goodwin; Jekyll; Lord Alex Burman AKA Flashman; D’Artagnan, Maciste; Emmanuelle; Major Hitchcock; Emilio Largo; Calibos; Squire Trelawney; Ernest Hemingway (old); and Jelly Knight.

Wrath of Kwan

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by dcairns

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THE WILD AFFAIR is based on a novel by William Sansom — he wrote some good spook stories collected in some of the paperback anthologies I own — and is a pre-Swinging London sex comedy starring Nancy Kwan. Interestingly, Miss Kwan’s parents are played by a couple of white folks, including the Personality Kid herself, Bessie Love (by 1963 a British resident, accounting for her rather psychotronic credits) with no explanation for her racial difference, which is kind of nice. Of course, Kwan was a bit of a catch at that time. The only thing that would have been even nicer would be if they had found a couple of Anglo-Chinese actors — I’m certain they did exist.

Coming right before director John Krish made the micro-budget misogynist sci-fi UNEARTHLY STRANGER, this movie has gratifyingly more complex and less icky sexual politics, though we’re not quite out of the danger zone. Kwan, as Marjory,  is leaving her secretarial job at a perfume company to marry, but her alter-ego in the mirror, Sandra, thinks she should lose her virginity first, and the office Christmas party seems an ideal opportunity.

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The scenario seems to pose questions about whether monogamy and chastity are important for the modern young woman, but the movie slants things towards a conservative answer by making Marjory engaged, so that she’d be cheating, and by surrounding her with male clowns, so that the mere idea of sex is kind of icky. Jimmy Logan, the comedy Scotsman, is about the most seductive fellow on offer (he does downplay his trademark gurning but he’s hardly Sean Connery), Victor Spinetti is just impossible, and Terry-Thomas as Kwan’s lecherous boss is quite unappealing when he’s trying to worm his fingertips under her Mary Quant collar. The whole British sex comedy genre was based around desperate, craven, sex-starved men not getting any, an amusing conceit which started to disintegrate with the permissive age, when the possibility of actual screen intercourse rose into view.

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The film has several interesting women characters (including Kwan’s Miss Hyde in the mirror), but they do exist to drive home the lesson — the lonely spinster, the jealous, bitter mistress. And by making sex a practical impossibility, the movie unwisely creates for itself the problem George Axelrod diagnosed in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH: “The play was about a married man who cheats and feels guilty about it, whereas the film was about a married man who doesn’t cheat and feels guilty about it, so the film became rather trivial.” At the end of THE WILD AFFAIR — which is pretty entertaining  while it’s on — the main character has contemplated pre-marital sex and then decided against it — the wrong message for its era, and a heart-breaking waste of its adorable, sexy, smart and stylish star.

RIP Ian Carmichael

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 8, 2010 by dcairns

I originally uploaded the above clip from the Boulting Brothers’ BROTHERS IN LAW to celebrate the versatility of Terry-Thomas, who is quite remarkably excellent herein, as the vulpine Alfred Green. T-T personally rubbed the seams of his costume with pumice to give himself a threadbare, seedy look.

But sadly the occasion demands that we celebrate T-T’s co-star in this scene, the actual star of the film Ian Carmichael, who has just died aged 89. A great talent: along with Terry-Thomas he did more to popularize the image of the silly ass Englishman than any actor who ever lived.