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Judy Geeson vs wet paper bag
The other reviews are pretty spot-on in assessing this as utter drek, but oddly nobody has mentioned the ludicrous scene in which Judy Geeson - worst actress of 1968 without a doubt - suddenly bursts into song. After a good hour (which seems like a lifetime) of Geeson's high pitched, twelve year old schoolgirl voice, she appears in a nightclub 'singing', only her voice has been dubbed by a Madeline Bell soundalike (for those who aren't familiar with Miss Bell, she is a husky voiced jazz singer of the Shirley Bassey type). A more unsuitable voice double for Judy Geeson would be hard to imagine! The only plus in the entire film is the great Diana Dors, injecting interest and style into a project sadly lacking in both departments.
Madness of the Heart (1949)
This overwrought melodrama may have held the attention of undiscriminating audiences back in 1949, but is difficult to watch now without chuckling. Former superstar Margaret Lockwood is clearly slumming it with this turkey, and she knows it. Her performance never takes off, and although she was only 33 at the time of filming, she looks a good 15 years older. Her teeth, particularly in closeup, look crooked and ill cared for. In one scene she introduces her maid, saying "Rosa has looked after me since I was a little girl"... rather remarkable, seeing as Rosa is played by Thora Hird, in reality just five years older than Miss Lockwood, and looking slightly younger in this film - even without makeup! Shades of Patricia Roc playing Phyllis Calvert's daughter in Madonna of the Seven Moons! Maxwell Reed is, as usual, atrocious - however he is aided by a dubbed French accent. The best performance comes from Kathleen Byron - the undisputed queen of cinematic malevolence. As awful as I found this film, it did bring me one special satisfaction: as a child I saw a film on TV, in which the villainess attempts to kill the formerly-blind heroine by opening a door from which there is a sheer drop. That scary moment has remained vivid in my memory for fifty years, but I had no idea from which movie the scene came ... until I watched Madness of the Heart today!
Dated as can be
I have to wonder if the other reviewers on IMDb were watching the same film I have just seen. Waterfront must have been the most unrealistic "slice of life in the raw" film even upon its release in 1950. Some 64 years on it is simply laughable. Considering the Liverpool docks setting, and the fact that all the characters are meant to be local, it is incongruous to say the least that Ma is played by the Cockney sparrer herself, Kathleen Harrison, whilst her daughters are Susan Shaw (doing her It Always Rains on Sunday "EastEnders" bad girl accent), Avis Scott (who she?) at least attempting something vaguely Lancastrian - but certainly not Liverpudlian), and the two younger male leads are both Welsh - Richard Burton and Kenneth Griffith. Robert Newton opts for a mildly northern twang - occasionally. Newton, Harrison and Shaw are top-billed, though the starring role is actually played by Avis Scott, in what appears to have been her first and last lead (presumably Sally Gray was not available). Waterfront can only be viewed as a period piece, but it is not a good one, and is never for one moment believable or engrossing. Perhaps in the attempt for 'realism', none of the cast inject any personality into their characters: this is the only film in which the usually wonderful Kathleen Harrison has actually gotten on my nerves, and Richard Burton shows no sign of being a megastar in embryo.
Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)
A shameful waste
I have never understood why or how Sarah Miles became a film star. I assume that early in her career she must have been good in something, which led to her being promoted to leading roles, but whatever that magical film/play/TV role was I must have missed it. However until I saw Lady Caroline Lamb I had never thought her a truly terrible actress. I do now. In an unbecoming blonde wig and with weird, drag queen makeup (pencil thin eyebrows and pale pastel blue eyeshadow), Miles is strangely reminiscent of a faded Danny La Rue. In fact, Mr. La Rue might well have given a more nuanced, and almost certainly more entertaining performance. The most astonishing thing about this film is that it was written specifically for Miles by her then husband Robert Bolt as a showcase for her "talents". And to ensure success she was backed up by a supporting cast including the likes of Laurence Olivier, John Mills and Ralph Richardson. Playing a smallish role is Margaret Leighton, and she effortlessly steals the film. Leighton is sublime - a magnificent actress who commands attention and brings depth and meaning to her every line. Her genuine talent further exposes Miles as an amateur who is simply out of her depth. And as a delicious irony, Robert Bolt has Leighton say of Miles, to her screen husband, "Your wife is a mass of nothing. She has no centre, nothing at all". Talk about art imitating life!
60s spy caper - worth a look
Subterfuge is quite an elusive title to track down, however it was released on VHS in the US, and DVD copies have recently become available. The cast is pretty starry, however the plot is rather confused, and Peter Graham Scott's direction couldn't be described as anything other than workmanlike. Of chief interest are the location shots of the London of 1968 - fascinating for those who know the capital well - and the luminous Joan Collins, who, clearly realising the weak script wasn't going to give the audience much for their money, and that her good-girl role lacked much substance, sets about creating a one-woman style festival. So we get Joan in hats, leotards, thigh-high leather boots, evening dresses, mini-dresses, furs ... you name it - if it was 'in' in 1968, Joan is wearing it and looking as glorious as always (and slimmer than ever). And for the more sombre scenes when her character's life is in turmoil, Joan isn't afraid to deglamourise her look. As for the rest of the cast, the only performances of note are Marius Goring (his name way down in the credits!) as the chief villain, and Suzanna Leigh being surprisingly good as a somewhat psycho villainess. Top-billed Gene Barry resembles a walking store-window dummy: devoid of any emotion or talent whatsoever, he seems disinterested and disconnected from the action and the actors around him, and he is the main reason the film fails. A poor script can be enlivened by a star turn such as that of Miss Collins, or a fun and campy characterisation such as that of Miss Leigh, but with a leading man as uninspired as Gene Barry, Subterfuge is beyond saving.
Master Spy (1963)
June Thorburn's final film
As noted by the other reviewers, Master Spy is no classic, but it is a must-see for fans of British B movies of the era. The story is fairly routine, but is much enlivened by the cast - Alan Wheatley (excellent as always), John Carson (with his James Mason-sound-alike voice!), Peter Gimore playing his role to perfection, and most interestingly the tragic June Thorburn cast against type as a scientist who becomes dangerously involved in the espionage plot. With her shorter, blonder hair, Miss Thorburn here is a dead ringer for Angela Douglas, a likeness I had never noticed before, and she is totally credible and brings much to what could have been a nothing part. Very sadly she died in a plane crash a couple of years after completing this, her final film.
They Flew Alone (1942)
Good old Anna
Anna Neagle gives a sterling performance in this otherwise dreary and pedestrian biopic of flying ace Amy Johnson - she even manages a very credible northern accent for a lady with such natural RP delivery. Anna was always slighted as an actress of limited range, promoted to major stardom by her besotted husband Herbert Wilcox, however of the two personalities, Wilcox was really the lesser talent. His direction of this - and every Wilcox/Neagle film - is uninspiring and flat. No wonder Anna rarely came across brilliantly on the screen, under her husband's leaden workmanship. How sad that the man who did pick her from nowhere and promote her to stardom was a director of such limited skill: had she been spotted by a Hitchcock, or a Korda, for example, who knows how much more Miss Neagle might have brought to her roles.
Why so little interest?
Having just watched Carnival I was interested to see what other IMDb users thought about it. Astonishingly there was just one review! Extraordinary! Well - if you get the chance, do try to catch this excellent piece of British cinema history. As well as being an unusual, well acted and interesting drama, Carnival is crammed with wonderful English stars and character players ... in fact, there are so many that well-known faces such as Kathleen Harrison aren't even billed in the credits! The film marked Sally Gray's triumphant return to the screen following a five year absence, and although a good ten years too old for her role, she still gives a luminous performance, commanding all her scenes with a natural authority and star quality. There is one scene which made me smile, as the supposedly 19 year old Sally looks into a mirror and wistfully says "In eleven years I'll be 30. I wonder what I'll look like". Not much different, one imagines the audience thinking. The plot concerns a young dancer (Sally Gray) in turn of the century London. Her home life is not particularly harmonious, living with her mismatched parents (Stanley Holloway and Catherine Lacey) and her younger sister (Hazel Court). Courted by stage door johnnies along with her fellow dancers (Jean Kent, Brenda Bruce), she resists temptation but does fall in love with a temperamental artist (Michael Wilding). When he asks her to go away with him, she must choose whether to follow her heart or stay on the straight and narrow. At this point the film takes a most unexpected and fascinating turn, leading to a genuinely shocking conclusion, and I defy anyone to guess what will happen in the last three minutes!
Die Screaming Marianne (1971)
Poor poor Leo
I foolishly bought the DVD of this without checking out the reviews first ...won't do that again! One thing that surprises me is that while many IMDb reviewers mention that Die Screaming, Marianne is a waste of Susan George's talents, nobody has commented on the fact that the former Oscar nominee Leo Genn had been reduced to appearing in this tawdry, inept trash. In fact, poor Leo ended up doing uncredited bit parts in a couple of films after this (though neither was actually as bad as Marianne). I remember as a kid, when this film played for three mights at my local fleapit as the bottom half a double bill, the it was incorrectly titled "Ice Cream and Marianne" in the local paper! Still makes me chuckle ...
Fantastic little thriller
Playback is the very best of the Edgar Wallace crime films shot at Merton in the early 60s. The taut script is beautifully acted by Barry Foster as a young policeman who becomes involved with a glamorous German woman in London - a standout performance by the fabulous Margit Saad. It's surprising Saad did not have a major career in British films ... she is sensational in this 60 minute low budget thriller, so imagine how great she would have been in a major movie! Also in support are Nigel Green (the Prince Charles lookalike) as a dangerous casino owner, and a very young Dinsdale Landen as foster's fellow copper. If you only see one of the many Edgar Wallace series, make it this one.