Reviews written by registered user
|13 reviews in total|
As far as it goes, this film is well made, well acted, and atmospheric.
But that's about all. It is as if the film was mistakenly based on an
early draft of the script, still full of holes and redundancies.
We have a murderer who goes out in the rain and kills people "to rid the world of evil" or similar. What is supposed to be evil about the victims we don't know, and the police never ask. How the victims are selected and tracked, we don't know, the police don't care. The romantic interest is clumsily inserted and serves no dramatic purpose.
The climax is standard stuff, though very well done, but it did raise a doubt in my mind - was this really the guilty party? We never learn much about the killer, but we do know one thing for certain, and what happens at the climax seems in contradiction to it.
But nobody cares.
Since this TV movie was made every story Christie ever wrote has been
reworked into a Marple story, with only the plot, characters, and
setting altered. What this Seven Dials Mystery has going for it is that
it sticks quite closely to the original novel. Alas, that is about all
that can be said in its favour. The old quip, "less than the sum of its
parts" sums up the effect of a good cast, excellent locations, some
really classic 30's cars, feeble script, evident lack of rehearsal,
"don't follow me I'm lost" direction, and clumsy editing aimed more at
fitting in the commercial breaks than generating a sense of drama.
John Gielgud gives us a splendidly vague yet canny Marquis of Caterhan, while the acclaimed Cheryl Campbell does her best to interpret Lady Eileen 'Bundle' Brent, with little help from the script and presumably none from the director, as the character never really emerges. Stalwarts Harry Andrews, Leslie Sands, and Terence Alexander have easy two dimensional characters to work with and need no direction to be convincing. James Warwick's Jimmy Thesiger bears a disturbing resemblance to a Michael Palin Monty Python character.
The standout for me was Lucy Gutteridge, who made Lorraine Wade the only character who I cared about.
Checking out the future careers of the actors was far more fun than watching the film itself. Some of the names you only see on the Full Cast and Crew page, such as Roger Sloman, ended up with bigger careers than some of the principals.
The scenario in which a group of people find themselves in a closed
environment where a murder is then committed by an unseen hand was not
new when this short black and white film was made. However, Mystery
Junction plays out the tale neatly and efficiently, keeping us guessing
all the way, although following exactly who has done what to whom
becomes increasingly difficult.
The acting is excellent, the cinematography exemplary - there are some quite classical compositions, one in particular towards the end. This is a very British film, the drama comes from tension, not from heroics. Indeed, that heroism is futile is made plain throughout, and even where violence brings results, they will ever play you false.
The quality of this film is masked by its low budget, and, on the print I just saw on television, murky resolution. Two of the cast, Sydney Tafler and Ewen Solon, went on to prominent TV careers, and most of the others found plenty of work in television. However, for Pearl Cameron, whose performance was a minor highlight of the film, this was her second, and last credit.
While not an outstanding film, Mystery Junction is worth watching if you value tight, understated drama.
My wife, who finds homosexuality repulsive, insisted on seeing this
film, probably as a result of childhood memories of seeing Liberace on
the TV. I knew very little about him, my impression was a kind of Benny
Hill without the laughs, not that I am a fan of Benny Hill.
The cinema was quite full, entirely of hetero couples like ourselves old enough to remember Liberace, or at least his name. I don't think anyone walked out, though my wife says she nearly did in the early part.
I must commend the scriptwriter for drawing a coherent and mostly engaging script out of lives that were lived from moment to moment with little or no regard to thematic content. Like many successful artists, Liberace seems to have lived mainly for his art, if you will pardon the expression, and the pleasures that money can buy. This is not promising material, and if it were not for the Scott Thorson story element the film could not have been made. As it is, much use is made of anecdotal events to pad out the rather thin drama.
Michael Douglas does give depth to a character who appeared two dimensional in the filmed performances I have seen, it deserves an award of some kind, and he can be proud of it. Matt Damon is impressive as Scott Thorson, a young man utterly swept away in a tide of glitz, away from the life he had hoped for as a veterinarian. These two actors do manage to let us care what happens to their characters, when it would have been so easy to fall into cliché.
The direction is good, unostentatious craftsmanship, the atmosphere becomes increasingly claustrophobic as the tensions rise, and the wonky plot lines are neatly traversed. To me the end feels tacked on, but I don't think they had much option. As the film drew on I began to thirst for a female face, and towards the end when some girl dancers appeared, out of focus, behind Liberace, I drank them in like a camel in the desert. The constant close-ups of men you wouldn't buy a used car from gets a bit wearing, but this, I presume, is what Mr Soderbergh intended. The net impression is of lives and talents squandered. The audiences are next to invisible, and only now and then audible. Liberace was, maybe, his own audience.
Not a film I would have chosen to see, but not time entirely wasted.
With post-war demobilisation, young men coming home after a good many years, in some cases maybe a decade, in the armed forces, wanted to marry and settle down. However, after spending their formative adult years in a very different environment, they had outgrown the small suburban world of their parents. Beginning married life living with, or near, your in-laws was undesirable, but often unavoidable. Many marriages foundered at this point, others escaped through emigration. The situation in this film, although exaggerated, would have been familiar to the audience, who could go away and write their own sequels, as there is no solid resolution offered. The figure of the "Mother-in-law from Hell" is on the surface comic, but is actually tragic, we are shown ways out for everyone else, but she is trapped. The film is well made, and well acted. It is not The Magnificent Ambersons, nor was it meant to be, it has no pretensions to Art, makes no profound statements, but effectively illustrates one aspect of the human condition. Those involved in the making of this film would doubtless be surprised that it is still being watched, and appreciated, almost sixty years on. Anyone who recalls the era, or is interested in it, will not be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cute music, New York street scenes, lots of pace, some really good actors, an audacious plot, probably ahead of its time, some delightful vignettes, so what went wrong? Probably the fact that it is neither funny nor illuminating. There is humour, mostly visual, but this is outweighed by Shillitoe's wanton violence and abusiveness when thwarted. The film could not exist without Samson Shillitoe, no other set of characteristics would bring all those disparate plot and character elements together. You might say that Shillitoe is the creator of the story, indeed, of the little world that the film inhabits. As I watched, a memory began to surface, of the God Thor in Douglas Adams' novel "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul". That, with Shillitoe's obscure references to Apollo, and the failure of Menken's surgery, suggest that Shillitoe is not mortal, but a God of the classical era come amongst us on a whim, or perhaps in exile. Anyway, that's the only excuse I can think for for this shambles.
This was in the days before seat-back screens in airliners, "the" film was unavoidable. This one began with a bunch of people in an office talking, then, I think, some of them were somewhere else, talking. No laughs, no action, no clue as to why anyone should care about what comes next, and the production standards of an end-of-the-line "Murder She Wrote" after they moved it to New York. It did not help that I have never appreciated Crawford's acting, he gives me the creeps. If this was a kids' film why did it start off so slow and boring? Maybe the rest of it was better. I don't intend finding out. I'm glad so many people loved it, but there should be an "unsuitable for adults" classification for stuff like this.
I have read that Victor and Hugo are based on similar characters in Count Duckula, which I have never seen, though the drawings seem to support that claim. However, last night I saw The Wrong Box, made in 1966. Amongst the cornucopia of talent in that wonderful dead-pan comedy are Peter Cook and Dudley Moore playing brothers Morris and John, scheming, incompetent rotters. The characterisation is very similar, with the Dudley Moore character being the one who gets to do all the dirty work. There is even an exchange to the effect - "Why do I get to do all the dirty work?" "Because you are incredibly stupid!". Maybe Morris and John are the origin of both sets of characters. Well that is what I think anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The writers seem to have forgotten the ward nurse, who Ricky Hanson left lying on the floor, alive or dead we don't know. Either way this would have been a significant part of his trial, very hard for the slimy silk to gloss over, and something of a clincher for the jury. But then the job of the scriptwriter is to keep the pot boiling, so I'm not really complaining. We are delighted to see another season of this excellent series appearing on Australian television, it has wit, depth, compassion, and splendid ensemble acting. It's been a long time since The Sweeney and The Likely Lads, much has changed in the world and on television, but watching New Tricks I realise that much has not changed, about human nature, and about good drama. Today we have technology that makes trivial work of scenes that forty years ago would have been technically or financially impossible. Technology brings freedom, and this team makes good use of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is not a great film, but it is a good one. My measure of this is
that I have not seen it for some years but I remember much of it quite
vividly, unlike some other supposedly "better" films. Some parts could
have been improved, I'm sure, and the logic is sometimes wobbly, but
the art of enjoying a film is to get inside and accept it, not pick it
apart as you go.
My main problem on first viewing was the Borg queen. As other commentators have pointed out, the Borg, even if they are referred to for brevity as a "hive" culture, are a collective, they are egalitarian democracy taken to an extreme. The term coined by Kurt Vonnegut in The Sirens of Titan - "Hypnotic Anarchy" - fits the Borg rather nicely, indeed I wonder if that may not have been the inspiration for them.
But a collective does not have a queen. That worried me, until I remembered what happens when the queen "dies". All the flesh melts away, leaving a shiny metallic spine, that has red lights flickering inside and is evidently still alive, until broken, and the lights go out.
Just as the Borg determined that it needed Locutus to be their spokesman, it seems also to have determined that humanoid species think in terms of leaders, individuals who hold the reins of state. So, like the Greek city states of old, they created one. The Borg queen, as can be seen in its moment of destruction, is a machine, a puppet. Far from holding the reins of state, it is controlled by the myriad strings of the collective.
I would love know what arguments went on between the script writers, the director, and the producers, over this. Maybe this final scene was a compromise, that left both the dramatic value of the Borg queen and the integrity of the Borg concept intact.
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