By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Maybe crime does pay.
James Brewster (Alan Bates) is a young ambitious man who will do anything to not only climb the corporate ladder, but raise his social standing as well. He works at a large company and finds things tough. Everyone else is competing for the same thing and James finds himself being boxed out and unable to get the attention and recognition he feels he deserves. Then he meets Charles (Denholm Elliot) a master con-man and forger and he realizes the only way to move up is by doing it the criminal way. The two move in together where Charles teaches James all the tricks of the trade. James becomes so good at it that he realizes he no longer needs Charles so he murders him and stuffs his body inside a large trunk, which he has hidden. Then he becomes engaged to the beautiful Ann Horton (Milicent Martin), but her extended family has connections he is not aware of, which could put a kink to his otherwise lofty plans.
The screenplay was written by Frederic Raphael who has had a distinguished career in screenwriting including penning the script to Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut. Although there really isn’t any one particularly funny moment and some of the criminal activity is a bit complex and hard-to-follow the dialogue is still snappy and the less than honorable characters surprisingly engaging. Clive Donner’s direction gives the proceedings a breezy pace and the characterizations of the upper British crust are on-target and fun.
Elliot, who is one of the best character actors ever and had a long and distinguished career playing a wide variety of them, is terrific. Somehow this guy has always had an ability to make conniving, immoral people engaging, funny and even somewhat likable and his part here is no exception. His presence is a major plus and helps give the film its drive and it’s a shame he couldn’t have remained through the whole duration. I also enjoyed Pauline Delaney as James’s landlady Mrs. March who becomes aware of his illegal activity and extorts sex out of him in order to keep quiet.
There are a couple of twists at the end that are interesting, but not what you expect. James never really gets the comeuppance that you think he should, which to some degree is disappointing, but on the other hand kind of refreshing. We are so used to seeing films have a moral theme of some kind where bad guys are eventually punished and justice prevails that having one pretty much get away with it is intriguing simply for its novelty.
The color on the print I watched was horribly faded making it look almost like a cheap computer colorized attempt even though it really wasn’t. This film, which was widely hailed by critics and audiences alike, deserves a Criterion release and a thorough restoration and I am shocked that it hasn’t already.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: March 10, 1964
Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes
Director: Clive Donner
Studio: Royal Films International
Available: None at this time.
Posted in 60's Movies, Black Comedy, British Movies, Foreign Films, Obscure Movies
Tagged Alan Bates, Clive Donner, Denholm Elliot, Entertainment, Frederic Raphael, Milicent Martin, Movies, Pauline Delaney, Review
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Couple scams insurance company.
Rex (Laurence Harvey) is a victim of a plane crash when the airplane he is piloting crashes in a forest. He survives with minor injuries, but the plane is totaled and he expects a big payout from his insurance company. However, since he was two days late with his premium payment the policy was canceled and he gets nothing. Outraged he plans a scheme to get revenge with the help of his wife Stella (Lee Remick). He purchases a glider plane and has it insured with the same company. He then intentionally crashes it into the water and before help arrives he dives into the lake and by using an underwater apparatus swims ashore undetected. He hides out on a small island during the investigation and when it is finally confirmed that he was ‘lost-at-sea’ and the insurance pays a handsome sum to Stella the two then run off to Spain, but insurance investigator Stephan (Alan Bates) still has his suspicions and follows the two while continuing to hound them with questions forcing them into a shrewd game of cat-and-mouse.
Based on the novel by Shelley Smith this is a thriller in the most classic sense. The plot is completely believable and still very timely without any of the annoying loopholes. The action particularly during the final 30 minutes, which had me literally on the edge of my seat, is very exciting. The twists are interesting and unpredictable.
What I enjoyed most though was the way the characters evolve and change as the story progresses. Stella initially comes off as carefree and callous only to end up being beleaguered, worn out, and even feeling a bit guilty. Rex seems slick and conniving at the start, but eventually turns crass, vindictive and wholly unlikable. Stephan is nosy and intrusive when it begins, but before it is over he is the most sympathetic to the viewer. Having worked in the insurance industry now for 15 years I liked how the film shows things from both side not only the rigid business-like end, but also how those that try to cheat the system even when they feel somehow ‘justified’ in doing it only ends up making it worse for everybody else. The very ironic ending hits the bullseye.
Director Carol Reed is in top form. I liked how he captures the many different exotic locales of Spain not only with the outdoor scenery and villas, but also inside an old church cathedral as well as an empty bullfighting arena. The opening credit sequence showing Harvey’s shadowing figure running in front of a colored background is good as his the variety of camera angles used particularly during Rex’s final attempt to escape by airplane. The only part that I thought was unnecessary was in when Rex finds a passport left by an Australian that he was talking to inside a bar. Rex picks it up and it is clear to the viewer that he was thinking of using it for his own change of identity, but Reed still felt the need to superimpose Rex’s head shot over the Australian’s, which seemed heavy-handed as does the booming music that is played when Stephan meets Stella for the second time while in Spain.
Remick is excellent and the stresses and strains that her character conveys are easily felt by the viewer. Harvey seems to be having a grand old time particularly when he is in the disguise of the Australian. Although there is some debate over it at IMDB I actually felt that his Aussie accent was alright. He does however look much too scrawny in his bathing suit although Remick in her bikini is delectable.
Why this exciting and polished thriller has never been released onto DVD, or Blu-ray let alone VHS is a complete mystery especially when it stars two major actors from 60’s British cinema and directed by a legend. This movie is waiting to be discovered by new fans and can be enjoyed by just about everyone.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: October 2, 1963
Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes
Director: Carol Reed
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Not Available at this time.
Posted in 60's Movies, British Movies, Foreign Films, Movies Based on Novels, Obscure Movies, Thrillers/Suspense
Tagged Alan Bates, Carol Reed, Entertainment, Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick, Movies, Review