'Who Done It?' - which had been directed by Basil Dearden and produced by Michael Relph - had been a throwback to both Dearden & Ealing's slapstick comedies of the pre-war and wartime period. 'Davy' by contrast marked the first of several attempts over the next few years to launch popular British TV comedians on the big screen in Technicolor; but also remained one of the least successful. First-time director Relph (whose father George plays 'Uncle Pat') seemed overwhelmed by the wide screen, which drains the life from this expensive folly's attempts to try for pathos, in the face of a surprisingly poor script from veteran comedy writer William Rose which would probably have worked better if less elaborately produced.
A sort of cross between Hitchcock's 'I Confess' and Sidney Lumet's 'Child's Play', in which the unlikable central character is mischievously manipulated as in scriptwriter Anthony Shaffer's earlier classics 'Sleuth' and 'The Wicker Man', it becomes more confusing and less interesting as it progresses. Basically a two-hander for much of its duration, Billy Connolly, Andrew Keir and Brian Glover, along with most of the rest of the supporting cast are given remarkably little to do, adding even more to the disjointed feel of the thing (consolidated of course by its fitful release record over the decade that followed).
Yet the the victim is described as "a little nympho...without morals or scruples of any kind" who came to London to have "an operation" after getting pregnant by her mother's fiancée. "Reefers and" "cocaine" are also mentioned by name and a character is stabbed to death in what is obviously a gay club. Incredibly this only carried an 'A' certificate in 1963, which shows how rapidly times were then changing.
Like Inspector Morse, Ian Hendry (who was still young and dashing then before his drinking got the better of him) as the detective drives a Bentley and knows his opera. Coincidence?
Amy Adams is always worth watching and it's worth sitting through the garrulous main body of the film for the ingenious surprise at the end of the film following a period of mounting tensions between the superpowers (in which America is reassuringly portrayed as the less bellicose of those interested parties that possess nukes).
The transformation of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins et al into dwarfs is convincingly and unobtrusively done, but as usual the special effects team is allowed to run away with the rest of the film too.
A cursory glance tells you that Kristen Stewart does not have skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood or hair as black as ebony; while Charlize Theron remains too blonde to properly chill the spine as the Wicked Queen.
Despite the whimsical title sequence, the racy exotic dance by Josephine Blake that accompanies the ghostly banquet and a fairly gruesome moment involving a snake (plus the fact that on its original release Anglo-Amalgamated paired this film with the incredibly nasty 'Horrors of the Black Museum', also scored by Gerard Schurmann) belied my initial expectation that this would be a children's film.
The rather grand castle set looks as if it was left over from an earlier production, and the torches in wall mounts left burning overnight would probably even in 1959 have been in breach of fire regulations.
The highly stylised theatrical musical numbers staged by Vida Hope are pointedly bookended by idyllic scenes shot on location in the pretty little village were he rejoins girl next door Patricia Driscoll. The other women - Shirley Eaton (much later reunited with director Guy Hamilton in 'Goldfinger') and Florence Desmond - both appear only briefly and are depictly as shallow and fickle; the strongest impression being made when the film is nearly over by a nine year-old Jane Asher.
However, Castle was amenable to co-producing the film with Hammer and in the spring of 1962 arrived at Bray to shoot the new version with a script by Robert Dillon under his arm very loosely based on the original (there is no Sir Roderick, for example, and it's been turned into a whodunnit in which the murderer - in a typical Castle 'twist' - predictably turns out be the least likely possible candidate) and the American TV comedian Tom Poston (later a familiar face as the landlord in 'Mork and Mindy'), who had just starred for Castle in a film called 'Zotz!'.
In black & white from a script by Jimmy Sangster, Hammer might have turned in an interestingly creepy version in the vein of their psycho-thrillers like 'Taste of Fear' and 'Paranoiac'. But Castle decides to send the whole thing up in Technicolor! The end result is a travesty of James Whale's original but - as befits Charles Addams' whimsical opening titles - can be enjoyed like an episode of 'The Addams Family' or 'The Munsters' in incongruously vibrant colours.
Hammer's hand is only really evident in Bernard Robinson's excellent set, the cast consisting of English eccentrics most of whom are making their only appearances in a Hammer film, with Fenella Fielding in eye-catching primary colours in a role that anticipates her more famous appearance a few years later in 'Carry On Screaming'.
Having enjoyed enormous critical acclaim a couple of years earlier with 'A Cold Wind in August', Alexander Singer blew all the clout he'd gained with that freak success in this elaborate, breaktakingly pretentious folly about the love lives of the fabulously wealthy; and found himself condemned to spend the rest of his career in television. But 'Psyche 59' has awarded him the last laugh, it exists!!
A weird hybrid of 'The Miracle Worker' and 'The Pumpkin Eater' (both of which ironically starred Anne Bancroft, who replaced Patricia Neal when she nearly died following a debilitating strike while filming '7 Women' in 1965, barely a year after she'd won an Oscar for 'Hud'). Had Ms Neal died this film would probably be better remembered today, and it would certainly make it an even more vivid experience to watch than it already is. She wears a succession of fabulous outfits devised by Julie Harris plus a pair of those chic sunglasses that blind people always do in the movies, the photography by Walter Lassally is stunning, and the restless score by Kenneth V. Jones creates a similar mood to that his music lent soon afterwards to Roger Corman's 'The Tomb of Ligeia'. Definitely a film to be watched at least once.
Miss Scott remains, however, an innocent abroad, and a more interesting film might have been one that concentrated on the two seasoned contest regulars played by Jacqueline Jones & Jackie White we see earlier on to whom this is just a living; although that might have deprived us of the fantastic ending in which the impact is revealed that big sister's corruption has had on her bright-eyed kid sister.
Hammer Films has in the past been criticised for its racial insensivity in casting the likes of Christopher Lee as a Chinaman in 'Terror of the Tongs', but here we get Dennis Price making no attempt at an appropriate accent (we're told that he went to Oxford), supposedly playing a German officer; later followed by a Serbian actress playing an Italian. (The film also contains a degree of explicit nudity we wouldn't see again in a Hammer Film until the 1970s; too bad it's George Cole rather than Nadja Regin!)
It looks good, and passes it's short running time agreeably enough. But as several previous reviewers have already noted devotes very little time to W.W.Jacobs' spine-chilling short story itself (not so long ago 'South Park' parodied it beautifully), clutters up the story with a gratuitous flashback structure, and even adds a little coda having finally given us the famous final act, just in case we'd found it all a bit too scary!
The piece they're presently working on, Beethoven's Op.131, provides a suitably soulful backdrop to the proceedings.
Considering the title, it takes Wilbert Winkle (a name that sounds remarkably similar to Wendell Willkie, one of the few Republican interventionists prior to Pearl Harbor) a surprisingly long time even to get posted to duty in the Pacific; and he actually pesters those in charge not to give him the desk job for which he's obviously best suited but on the front line.
When at the start he approaches his boss to tell them he's quitting his job, we assume he's doing so to join the army. But No, he's actually setting up his own shop, in the face of fierce opposition of his harpie of a wife, Ruth Warrick. Then his call-up papers arrive, and despite being obviously way too old and obviously physically unfit somehow gets through basic training with a very middle-aged looking unit including Robert Armstrong and Sergeant Richard Lane; whereupon almost by accident he lays waste with a mechanical digger to a whole platoon of machine-gun wielding Japs and returns a hero and to the arms of his now-proud wife.
Based on a play called 'Call for Catty' by Patrick Cargill (who had just appeared in 'Carry On Regardless') & Jack Beale that producer Peter Rogers had owned for several years and had wanted to film when he had to make 'Carry On Nurse' instead'; it's obvious from the opening credits accompanied by Bruce Montgomery's soaring score that this is a completely kettle of fish more akin to the 'Sanatorium' episode of 'Trio' (1950).
When I recently spent two months in hospital being treated for a stroke, I often thought about this film, and how soul-destroyingly boring hospital life must have been without the iPad my sister supplied me with. Everybody in this film looks far too healthy, the interminable nights and the tedium and melancholy of the days is suggested only by Kenneth Williams' desperation for a chess partner; and while going to the toilet isn't overlooked, and is here treated as a subject of mirth, it looms large in your calculations if you're stuck in bed all day.
To return to the credit sequence, Amanda Reiss as Nurse Beamish (referred to only as 'Dorothy' in the cast list) is listed right at the bottom of the cast despite featuring prominently and touchingly throughout the film itself.
A lot happens in barely an hour's running time - although most of it we are told about rather than actually shown - and because it is framed in flashback we know much of what is going to happen but not how it will come to pass. The final rabbit pulled out of the hat to provide the 'surprise' conclusion is a surprise only to the audience, not the characters, since we've been deliberately kept in the dark about its existence right up to the rather abrupt conclusion.
In between it ambles nonchalantly through various scenes depicting Inspector John Bentley chatting with his sidekick in his office and American visitor Phyllis Kirk constantly inconveniently finding diamonds in her possession when being searched until she and Bentley join forces to clear her name and foil the bad guys in time for the final clinch. The End.
The women as usual are entirely marginal to the scheming & swordplay which occupies most of the film's running time; although this film will ironically only be known to the few people who have ever heard of it because the second female lead is Dianiela Bianchi - whose next film was 'From Russia with Love'. It's a nothing part, however, and a much stronger impression is in fact made by the late Eliana Grimaldi in the even more marginal role of a lady-in-waiting called Bianca, who gassed herself before the film was released.
David Warner had an exceptionally demeaning supporting role in James Cameron's later travesty, but is here soulful and sympathetic as real-life survivor Lawrence Beesley (1877-1967), who was entirely omitted from Cameron's version, but whose burgeoning romance with Susan Saint James gets the most screen time in this version and is far more interesting and touching to follow than the egregious scenes between DiCaprio & Kate Winslet which eat up footage in the remake.
(SEMI-SPOILER COMING: Most of the reviews of this film - and even the IMDb's own synopsis & cast list - reveal the central plot development, which is itself revealed in the film itself after only twenty minutes and recently used in 'White Heat'.)