Reviews written by registered user
|35 reviews in total|
Wonderful surreal comedy of Dutch (bad) manners, with superb playing
through the entire cast of eccentrics, misfits and lunatics. Olga
Zuiderhoek is excellent as the implacably doting mother Duif, obsessed
with fertility and sabotaging all her husband's schemes to get their
son Abel to lead a "normal" life. But the film is made by Henri Garcin
as (the possibly ironically named) husband Victor, whose descent into
madness is delightfully reminiscent of Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus.
Only Annet Malherbe's Zus lets the side down, passive and accepting of her place on her admirers' pedestals, more cipher than Circe. Maybe her line that "all women like to be watched" seemed profound thirty years ago; not so much now.
This is one of the very bad Jason Kings basically created from stock
footage, random footage of Peter Wyngarde wandering round foreign
parts, and the occasional scene actually shot according to a script.
Perhaps the most risible scene is when Jason is supposedly touring Venice, while two assassins are trying to kill him. The various views of Jason are taken to be the views of the assassins as they stalk him - but of course, Jason never reacts, even when shot at. Meanwhile, we also have a few feet of film of Jason randomly wandering round Vienna, no doubt outtakes from the similarly risible Variations on a Theme episode.
Alarm bells ought to ring when Yutte Stensgaard appears - after all, one her most famous films, Zeta One, was similarly cobbled together from irrelevant footage.
If any of this cut-and-paste led to any excitement, it would be justified. However, it doesn't. Nigel Green is wasted in one of his last appearances, while Michael Bates is horribly miscast. A tiny, tiny quantum of interest is provided by one of the few dramatic roles for Ayesha Borough.
There has been much discussion about the accents in the movie. For the
record, George C. Scott's English is nearly OK but very variable - no
Englishman would say 'dah-ta' for 'data'. Jacques Roux is barely
comprehensible. But the worst performance is that of Tony Huston, his
first and mercifully final film performance, as Derek. No English
nobleman would be called Derek - even Kevin or Trevor would be more
plausible names. And his attempt at English is lamentable; it makes
Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins seem like Sir C. Aubrey Smith. Young
Derek is possibly the most murderable child actor in the history of
But strangely, the duff Englishisms add to the film's sense of an end-of-term pantomime. It is great fun, not serious, and not worth taking seriously.
In a sense, there has been too much effort and taste lavished on a
problem play that is a long way short of Shakespeare's best. The
Vermeer interiors and Rembrandt references look a treat, but (as well
as being anachronistic by half a century) add weight where there is
little in the text. A number of the performances do the same, including
Angela Down's magnificent Helena, and Paul Brooke's Lavache, the least
clownish, and most accountant-like, clown one could possibly hope to
The problem is that if the play is read as a piece with serious psychological points to make and where motivation may be complex but remains explicable, then it is a hard play to watch. Bertram is a distinctly unappealing husband (Ian Charleson's performance does not find hidden depths) for a strong character such as Helena. The tormenting of Parolles by Bertram and his friends can be dismissed as Elizabethan knockabout, unless the treatment is highly realistic, in which case - as in this production - it looks like torture. The attempted seduction of Diana can be farcical, with the clever comedic logic of the rings and the pregnancy, but here seems simply unpleasant.
Donald Sinden's King is the sort of eye-rolling ham performance that will make sense of this play, but amidst the restraint he falls rather flat.
The stand-out performance is Celia Johnson's Countess, a lovely role brilliantly played. She is not the butt of any jokes, and so can be played tenderly. As with Sinden, the older style of acting suits the material. Sometimes, for example during the Florentine scenes, one aches for Johnson to be on screen.
It's not awful, just very much the wrong style, like filming St Trinians in the style of Cathy Come Home.
I am a great fan of Jason King - at its best, entertaining, comic and
thrilling in equal measure. The Jason King character, first seen in
Department S, is surely one of the best to come out of the cycle of 60s
and 70s thrillers.
However its standards were highly variable, and this particular show is abysmal. It is set in Vienna. Normally in a show of this type, we would see a bit of library footage of tourist traps while everything else would be shot in the studio or in obviously English countryside near London. Cheap and cheerful.
It is surprising, therefore, that 'Variations on a Theme' sees genuine footage of Jason walking around Vienna. Extra realism - until you realise that this is where the budget went. The external shots (of which there are several interminable sequences) show Jason walking round, talking to strangers, patting horses, smiling at pretty women. No other actor in the show appears in any of this footage. Barely a single frame of it advances the plot in any way. Most of it looks like holiday films.
What seems to have happened is that writer Philip Broadley was shown these sequences and then asked to come up with a plot based around them. Unfortunately, he came up with a clunker - a girl arranges to meet him; Jason goes to the rendezvous (cue some of the holiday footage); the girl isn't there; she arranges to meet him again; he goes to the rendezvous (cue more of the holiday footage); the girl isn't there, etc. You get the drift.
This is stunningly boring. There is an exciting pre-credits sequence, and yet it is 25 minutes into the show before the plot is advanced any further than that.
Not only that, but the integration of the holiday film and the proper stuff is badly done. Jason clearly has a lot more hair in the studio shots than he does in his holiday footage. He is forced, as a result of the editing, to wear the same outfit two days running - surely an impossibility for Jason. Worse - most criminal - some of the holiday footage in the Zentralfriedhof (the graves of the great Viennese composers), which already goes on for way too long, is repeated!
Good actors, such as Ralph Bates and Alexandra Bastedo, are wasted. Eric Pohlmann is brought on to do a quick turn for one scene, and they can't even bother to spell his name correctly in the credits!
The summary says it all. This 'film' is actually two completely
unconnected episodes of the TV series The Persuaders stuck together to
make a feature-length film.
There is little or no attempt to make a coherent storyline. A short scene at the beginning shows the Judge, a regular character in The Persuaders, blackmailing Brett (Roger Moore) and Danny (Tony Curtis) into doing some investigating for him. However, the opening story appears to have no conceivable connection with this opening scene. Indeed if the Judge had a suspicion of the plot that was underway, then he would have been much better advised simply calling the police immediately.
The Persuaders was fun but quickly becomes tiresome. Watching the antics twice over is about half the fun of watching a single episode.
The third series of the Power Game occasionally stalled, as this
comedic episode demonstrates. Its conceit is to restrict the action to
two boozy drinks parties one Sunday, during which Kane and Wilder butt
up against each other like two stags competing for supremacy, each
trying to secure a contract for a solar energy power station (a
technology forty years ahead of its time, we need it now, guys!) for
their preferred bidders.
There are some marvellous highlights along the way. A couple of camp CIA men appear and disappear. Dowling makes progress in his seduction of Lady Pamela. Sir Jason, who had become ineffective to the point of invisibility in previous weeks, unable even to put on a show of controlling Dowling, suddenly bursts forth with a self-pitying stream of consciousness. There are some hilarious, if irrelevant, cameos from Kenneth Keeling as a drunken guest and Anne Jameson as socialite Mirabelle Wentworth.
But at the end of it all, it's not clear what the viewer has got out of all the intrigue, or even what all the intrigue was for. Had Wilder and Kane simply told each other what their intentions were and why right at the beginning of the programme, everything could have been sorted out before the first commercial break.
This is a strange, antediluvian pleasantry (old-fashioned even in
1974), resembling nothing so much as one of those Francis Durbridge
serials where everyone is a suspect, everyone has a secret and everyone
lies like mad.
A businessman is shot, and suspicion falls on his 'friends' (all parasitical hangers-on), 'secretary' (mistress) and his estranged son (John Thaw, just prior to his Sweeney superstardom). A gritty detective (Glyn Owen) and an enigmatic MI5 man (Peter Sallis) investigate, and soon link the crime to the murders of various shady Chicago characters in the UK. The suspects are slain at regular intervals, until the final unmasking of the villain and a somewhat perfunctory climax.
Absolutely nothing wrong with this, and it is great fun for those who like Paul Temple, or who prefer the slower pace of 70s television, and a whodunnit spread over six episodes. It is certainly not cutting edge drama, and is a surprising product of the pen of Ian Kennedy Martin, who usually produced somewhat more sophisticated material than this.
The one really hard thing for the modern viewer to cope with is the dreadful CSO, especially as for some reason a large part of this drama seems to involve deep discussions between car drivers and their passengers, all outlined by a terrible blue line, and with the background remaining stubbornly at the same perspective as the camera zooms in and out on the characters. It couldn't have looked good even then.
This is an impressive thriller for children with adult themes which
debuted in 1976. Spies, lies and betrayals are littered through the
work, and although the plot twists are not particularly challenging,
they keep the interest throughout the six episodes.
Star of the piece, in his final role as Kirby (he was already dead by the time the series was broadcast), is John Gregson, who ditches his usual likable persona for a hard-drinking workaholic beer-gutted divorcée who still relies on his ex-wife for support and who can only express his love for his son through money, not intimacy. He is already half-way through a mysterious transaction when he enlists the help of Laura (Prunella Ransome) to escape surveillance. Soon, bodies start piling up, and Kirby's explanations about what is going on ring hollow. Yet the mystery seems to involve Laura's father, played by Patrick Allen (doing his patent impression of a particularly stern Easter Island statue). Accusations and counter-accusations fly. Who is the traitor?
The plot is brilliantly marshalled by scriptwriter N.J. Crisp, who plays cleverly with point of view. The central protagonist is Kirby, but the script keeps his knowledge concealed. The audience generally sees the action from Kirby's point of view, but our knowledge of the plot is essentially Laura's, and we piece together the jigsaw from the fragments in Laura's possession. A clever device that keeps our sympathies with Kirby while maintaining suspense.
Locations in Hampshire and Brittany are nicely used, although the climactic scene is rendered slightly comical by being filmed in what appears to be a force 9 gale. The plentiful use of location filming adds to the realism.
The portrayal of Kirby and his unhappy life is magnificent. There is literally no chance that any character in any children's drama today could be shown sticking away as much booze as Kirby does. Neither could one expect to see such a difficult, complex and realistic relationship as he has with wife Claire and son Robin portrayed nowadays. The obvious bond between him and Robin, and the difficulty they both have in expressing it, is remarkably moving at times, as well as being characteristic of British males in the 1970s before the world was ruined by touchy-feely stuff. Excellent performances from David Gwillim and Ruth Trouncer.
Political incorrectness is a fine thing, but it can be taken too far. If there is a false note here, it is in the burgeoning romance between Kirby and Laura. I won't anticipate the outcome in a spoiler, but will note that 24 years (between Gregson and Ransome) is a pretty big age difference. In fact, it is a larger difference than between Gregson and Elisabeth Bergner, who plays the aged Madame Lafois. 'Nuff said.
As most of the other comments point out this is an excellent and
faithful performance, to the text and to the period. It is theatrical
rather than cinematic, as with virtually all of this BBC complete
Shakespeare, rendering comparison with the Branagh futile - it is
comparing chalk and cheese.
Here, the comedy is brilliantly rendered, with several laugh-out-loud moments and enjoyably over the top acting. It is particularly fun to see Robert Lindsay at the masque - his movements of body and head are so characteristic of him that he is extremely easy to recognise even in his mask.
However, none of the comments so far have mentioned what for me is the stand-out performance of the play, Vernon Dobtcheff's Don John. This is an excellent, understated expression of pure villainy, snake-like, ruthless and sly, counterpointing the exuberant comedy elsewhere perfectly.
|Page 1 of 4:||   |