Fender is a lowly clerk in the warehouse of clothing manufacturers Ranting and Co. His one ambition is to have an overcoat of his own. Refused one by the cold hearted Ranting he asks a ... See full summary »
Film screenwriter Jake Armitage and his wife Jo Armitage live in London with six of Jo's eight children, with the two eldest boys at boarding school. The children are spread over Jo's three... See full summary »
An all-knowing interlocutor guides us through a series of affairs in Vienna, 1900. A soldier meets an eager young lady of the evening. Later he has an affair with a young lady, who becomes ... See full summary »
Fender is a lowly clerk in the warehouse of clothing manufacturers Ranting and Co. His one ambition is to have an overcoat of his own. Refused one by the cold hearted Ranting he asks a tailor friend, Morry, to make him one instead, but dies of cold before he can take delivery of it. Unwilling to give up his only desire even in death, he returns as a ghost to persuade Morry to steal him the overcoat he so coveted in life. Written by
Celebrated British fantasy short from an equally famous source, a story by the great Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol which has been filmed several times (I own two other adaptations myself: the 1952 Italian version and a 1954 TV program also made in Britain: interestingly, both of these had served as dramatic showcases for comic stars i.e. Renato Rascel and Buster Keaton[!] respectively). For the record, yet another acclaimed cinematic rendition of the tale is the Russian one from 1959.
In the case of the film under review, however, the essentially low-key handling benefits tremendously from the presence of character actors in the central roles (and also by emphasizing their Jewishness): Alfie Bass – some of his mannerisms here would be reprised in Roman Polanski’s horror spoof THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967)! – is the poor and meek clerk, who wishes to own an overcoat that would shield him from the cold environment at his workplace (ironically, a textile business), and David Kossoff the modest but “Number One” tailor he entrusts with the task.
Actually, the film begins with Bass’ funeral – and Kossoff buries the coat with him, the former having died (of a broken heart from being sacked) before it was completed. Subsequently, the tailor is visited by the ghost of the clerk – recounting the animosity with his employer, how the ownership of the overcoat became a question of dignity and pride, how he lost his job and ensuing lonesome death. Bass, however – who feels spited, having been shown no gratitude for the service he diligently rendered for so long – asks Kossoff to accompany him to the shop intending to ‘abscond’ with a piece of expensive fabric (finally settling on a sheepskin coat).
Director Clayton boldly chose to treat ghost stories with the same level of realism accorded to a gritty drama (see also THE INNOCENTS , on whose R2 SE DVD this short was thankfully made available) and for which he employed cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitsky (especially effective are the transitions from the present to Bass’ recollections and back again) and composer Georges Auric (who supplies a lovely score). The end result – which emerged both an Oscar and Venice Film Festival winner – is fascinating and virtually flawless, ensuring its solid reputation (for a short subject) among cineastes.
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