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It's hard to believe that a writer like David Williamson, who wrote
terrific screenplays for films like "The Club" and "Don's Party" could
make a dull film. It's hard to believe that director Tim Burstall,
who'd collaborated with Williamson on the flawed but fascinating
"Petersen", could make a dull film.
But unfortunately "Duet For Four" is a dull film.
This drama about a middle-aged businessman dealing with overseas takeover attempts, his ex-wife, troubled daughter and current partner seems potentially interesting but none of Williamson's usual incisiveness or Burstall's bluntness is on display.
It just ambles from one narrative incident to another without much passion or purpose. One suspects if DFF had been made in the mid-1970s it would've reflected the tumult, upheaval and radicalisation of that era and a more impassioned film would've resulted. But instead it feels complacent and safe.
That's not to say DFF is a horrible film. It's fairly easy to watch and has an interesting cast, including Diane Cilento in one of her rare post-1970 roles.
But overall this is a forgettable film and one of Williamson's weakest screenplays.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At surface level it would be easy to dismiss 'Night Of The Generals'
because from a purely cinematic perspective it has a lot of flaws:
* Some rather stilted direction from Anatole Litvak * Flashbacks awkwardly and randomly inserted * Distraction of German characters speaking with a variety of non-German accents (including Gordon Jackson in his traditional Scottish accent!) * Unnecessary scenes (such as Christopher Plummer's cameo as Rommel) that could've easily been excised
But on a broader level, NOTG is quite a fascinating film. Its observations on the importance of pursuing criminal acts even in wartime, how even those who commit heinous acts in wartime will be forgiven if they live long enough and the impact on individuals and general society WW2 even a generation onwards are quite profound.
In a funny way, if NOTG had been a slicker, smoother film it might have been less effective. It's so ambitious in the territory it covers and how it covers it that you genuinely don't know where the film will go next. As a result, the scene where Colonel Grau is murdered comes out of the blue and is genuinely shocking like few deaths I can recall seeing in a film.
To be sure, 'Night Of The Generals' is a far from perfect film. But in terms of a commentary on WW2 and its ramifications, its one of the best I've seen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though they have a lousy reputation I've generally been a fan of
Elvis Presley films. Many of them provide breezy, painless fun with
some good songs thrown in.
Unfortunately, there's precious little entertainment in 'Frankie And Johnny' which is especially frustrating as a lot of the elements are there for a satisfying film such as a workable plot, good supporting cast and colourful sets.
But this feels boring and lifeless from the word go. Elvis deserves some of the blame as - apart from 'The Trouble With Girls' - I can't recall him giving such a dull performance.
But the real culprit is Frederick De Cordova who directs the film so lifelessly and lazily that the film never has a chance.
Take for example the finale where it's been set up by a supporting character that in their staged musical number Frankie will shoot Johnnie with a real bullet instead of a blank. She does shoot him and appears to have killed him but through a stroke of remarkable luck he is unharmed. All this and the culprit is forgotten 15 seconds later for the upbeat closing musical number!
Even amongst his mid to late 1960s work, you can do much better if you're searching for an Elvis film to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With an acclaimed murder-mystery novel that had a great subversive,
twist ending as its source, "Trent's Last Case" should've been cracking
Alas, the director is Herbert Wilcox who had a lengthy and largely successful career but even his popular films haven't aged well due to his pedestrian, uninventive style and he's a forgotten figure today.
His patented conservative, dreary direction largely sinks this film almost immediately. The early segment at the coroner's inquest is so boring one struggles to maintain interest. The film does improve a bit though once Trent begins to investigate and challenge the official version of events.
And there are some nice performances from a very good cast. Orson Welles displays another of his vivid characterisations in his brief role. John McCallum gives an impressive performance as someone with plenty to hide; his facial reactions when Trent reveals he knows most of his secrets makes the scene quite compelling.
However, overall this film is a major disappointment. The final scene which tries to be both a revelation of who the actual murderer was AND be a romantic ending is especially poorly handled.
A look at the credits for this film suggest that this should've been
one of the prime British films of the decade. A quality cast led by
Glynis Johns, Donald Sinden and Peter Finch, a screenwriter (Nigel
Bachin) who had written the excellent drama 'Mandy' and helmed by the
famed producer/director combo Boulting Brothers at the peak of their
And yet, while 'Josephine And Men' should be an entertainingly light, frothy comedy, it turns out to be a stagy, silly, flat misfire.
A big problem seems to be that the Boulting brothers are atypically for this period aren't directing one of their own scripts. Their style of comedy was usually satirical and full of cartoonish characters; with a comic romantic script they seem totally lost and the film never comes to life.
The quality cast is largely left floundering with their characters and a silly plot. Peter Finch (who would do much better in 'Simon And Laura' from the same year) is especially wasted.
Only some nicely delivered one-liners from Jack Buchanan deliver any spark.
This tense drama - about a disturbed man locked in his apartment room
wanted by the police and seemingly in an untenable situation - is quite
unusual in its structure.
Apart from the studio and title of the film, there are no opening credits. There is no background music and the film takes place in 'real time'. These are challenging restrictions for a film but director Don Chaffey does a largely splendid job.
The secret to the film's success is that it doesn't excessively focus on the central character (played by Richard Attenborough in his typically intense, brooding style) but places him in the context of the law, support organisations and ordinary citizens (represented by other tenants of the building).
The film deftly creates a range of characterisations who either want to help or apprehend 'the man upstairs' or just have him out of their way for their own personal reasons. It highlights how a character in the plight that Attenborough's is in is reliant on sensible, selfless and practical measures by those around him to not potentially ruin his life.
While not a classic, 'The Man Upstairs' is a fine film, worth seeking out.
In many ways, watching "Percy's Progress" is a depressing experience.
Not only because it was a failure as a comedy, but that the quality cast it assembled and capable director/producer team had seen much better days and illustrated how much of a rut the UK film industry was in the mid-1970s
The film's humour, a predictably endless series of double-entendres, is generally tedious.
Having said that, it could've been worse and is a slight improvement on the original 1971 film, "Percy".
This is because "Percy" tried to have it's cake and eat it too; be both a low-brow sex comedy and a serious analysis of the central character's predicament (and unsuccessful on both counts). This resulted in star Hywel Bennett's sad sack performance which belonged in another film.
At least "Percy's Progress" doesn't pretend it's anything other than a bawdy sex comedy and is a bit livelier than it's predecessor. It's farcical elements aren't particularly funny, but at least it's trying.
And there are minor pleasures in the performances. As the central character (although actually playing a different person from the first film technically), Leigh Lawson is an improvement on Bennett and is a fairly amiable rogue of a character.
And there are inevitable minor pleasures from a strong cast, including Corbett in an enjoyable performance as a Harold Wilson- type PM. And any film that has Vincent Price in it is always raised a level or two.
But overall, apart from being curio of 1970s UK cinema, this is a film not worth seeking out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a pity 'The Passionate Stranger' isn't better as - by the
standards of English 1950's mainstream cinema - it has some interesting
and daring ideas.
Having a fantasy sequence (based on a manuscript written by the lead female character) takes up virtually half the film; quite a bold move when the easy option would be to devote 10-15 minutes to it. The fantasy sequence is filmed in colour while the 'real' sequence is in black & white - it's very rare to find a film from any era split in this format.
And the attempts to say something on the contrast between the florid melodrama in romantic literature and how the subtleties of real married life are potentially much richer have great potential.
Alas, 'The Passionate Stranger' doesn't really work. The sluggish fantasy sequence in particular is a weakness as it could've been told in half the time.
And there are too many sloppy & unconvincing aspects to the narrative. Considering he has limited English skills, how is Carlo (Carlo Giustini) able to read an entire novel manuscript so quickly and ably? Why couldn't Judith (Margaret Leighton) put even a slight effort to not make her 'Mario' character somewhat different from Carlo?
Weakest of all, the entire post-fantasy closing segment is reliant on the Carlo completely changing his personality on the basis of a fiction manuscript. His going from a sincere, well-meaning personality to a lecherous and idiotic fool doesn't convince on any level; it also shows the film to have a rather patronising attitude to its 'foreign' character.
While not a success, 'The Passionate Stranger' isn't without its pleasures, in particular the performances of Leighton and Richardson (underused in this film), who create such an enjoyable dynamic as a couple in the 'real' section you wish there had been more of it.
When 'Emerald City' was released, expectations on it would presumably
have been high. A quality cast including the underrated John
Hargreaves, then young rising star Nicole Kidman and solid acting
talent in Robyn Nevin and Chris Haywood.
But even more significant for that was that David Williamson had written it, based on his own play. And Williamson had as much box-office clout as anyone in the Oz film industry at the time, having helmed numerous successful films (sometimes based on his own plays) ranging from Don's Party to Phar Lap.
Alas, when released in 1988 the film was a disappointment as it received little critical praise, minimal box office and was quickly forgotten. Why was this?
What lets it down is that instead of feeling like a film on its own terms, it feels like a filmed version of the play. The theatrical style comes through in the overacting and the lack of a cinematic feel, so therefore it feels like actors acting instead of characters behaving and interacting. As a result the potential impact is muted.
The blame for this is largely at director Michael Jenkins, whose career was largely in TV and it shows. His efforts here pale in comparison to that of Bruce Beresford, who made excellent films out of two David Williamson plays in Don's Party & The Club.
Despite that, the film is worth a look. Being a Williamson play, there are plenty of good lines and scenes with some occasional incisiveness at the artistic milieu the film concentrates on.
The four main actors are all entertaining to watch (although Hargreaves is a bit over-the-top at times), with probably the best performance by Robyn Nevin who makes her character multi-faceted and surprising and convincing.
Overall, a missed opportunity but not bad.
'The Frightened City' stars both Sean Connery and Herbert Lom just
before their iconic appearances in the Bond & Pink Panther series
respectively (although Lom already had a substantial film career before
The Pink Panther series).
But it wasn't the first time they appeared together, having appeared in 1957's 'Hell Drivers'. And it's this comparison that weakens TFC as while both films are similarly hard-nosed, rough-edged action films, HD is superior more interesting characters, compelling drama and more vivid action scenes.
That isn't to say TFC is a bad film - it's solidly entertaining with a good atmosphere and Connery displaying the charisma that was about to make him a major star (plus a nicely underplayed turn from Lom as the villain). But it's too conventional in its plotting and lacking great action scenes to be up to HD's level.
Still, TFC is a decent film and worth a look
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