Archive for the ‘talking pictures’ Category

Cloak and Dagger (1946)

Dir: Fritz Lang | Cast: Gary Cooper, Robert Alda, Lilli Palmer, Vladimir Sokolof, US 106’ Thriller

Made during that brief period just after the war before commies took over from nazis as Hollywood’s enemies of choice; when leftish sentiments penned by scriptwriters Albert Maltz and Ring Lardner (both soon blacklisted) could still be expressed onscreen by Gary Cooper (schooled in Dunstable and soon to be a ‘friendly witness’ before the HUAAC).

Anticipating Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain by twenty years, Coop plays a scientist sent into enemy territory to pick the brains of a top physicist (presumably based on Lise Meitner); aided on the ground by Robert Alda (father of Alan) and Lili Palmer (the latter making her Hollywood debut and receiving “and introducing” billing despite having been busy in British films since 1935).

It lags a bit during the second half but picks up with another sequence anticipating ‘Torn Curtain’ when he and a fascist fight dirty to the death. @RichardChatten


The Bamboo Saucer (1968)

Dir: Frank Telford | Cast: Dan Duryea, Lois Nettleton | US  Fantasy Sci-fi 100’

The Bamboo Saucer attempts far more than its obviously tiny budget can manage, and at 100 minutes takes much too long to deliver too little. Writer-director Frank Telford’s garrulous script feels like one written in the fifties that took ten years to get made – so was then brought up to date by making Red China rather than the Russkies the heavies. A competent cast led by the late Dan Duryea does their best, and Lois Nettleton as a hot Russian scientist with lovely blue eyes gamely spouts some particularly atrocious dialogue. (There’s a lot of Russian dialogue in the script; and it would be interesting to learn what a native Russian speaker makes of her accent and how convincing the dialogue spoken by her and the other actors playing Russians actually sounds.)

Competently lit in an overlit TV movie sort of way by twice Oscar-winning Hollywood veteran Hal Mohr, the ‘Chinese’ locations resemble an episode of Star Trek and the Chinese church where much of the action is played out is presumably a standing set from something made earlier. But where the corner-cutting really shows is in the dreadful music score and the perfunctory special effects. The score is obviously carelessly selected odds and sods taken from a library when a halfway decent score would have generated a bit of much-needed atmosphere to make up for the slack pacing. And the special effects are spectacularly inadequate.

The budget evidently didn’t exist for the design and construction of a full-sized flying saucer exterior for the studio scenes, so we instead get a flatly lit superimposition that looks even worse than Edward D. Wood Jr’s notorious hub-caps of ten years earlier. When the thing finally takes off, the flight to Saturn and back (aided by shots of outer space, the Moon, Mars and so on presumably lifted from other films) certainly makes for a final ten minutes that is fascinating for what it attempts with so little. @Richard Chatten

The Big Chance (1957) TPTV

Dir: Peter Graham Scott | Cast: Adrienne Corri, William Russell, Ian Colin, Penelope Bartley | UK Drama 59′

Yet another long-forgotten gem doing the rounds on Talking Pictures, the big chance – seized by both with both hands – those of director Peter Graham Scott and leading man William Russell (back then starting to make a name for himself as TVs Sir Lancelot).

Although billed second to femme fatale Adrienne Corri, Russell carries the film just like Joseph Cotton did in Andrew Stone’s The Steel Trap five years earlier, which seems to be its model; dreaming of escape to Honolulu, as Cotton had wanted to get away to Rio. Except here it gets even more complicated than Stone’s film when Corri enters the picture as a high maintenance dame in a fur coat.

Like Stone’s film vividly shot on location, the feature’s rough edges simply enhance the drama; and instead of Dimitri Tiomkin thundering away on the soundtrack we initially get Russell himself narrating the action (actually anticipating Stone’s Cry Terror the following year) and Eric Spear bringing out the cornet he later immortalised in his theme for ‘Coronation Street’.

Amazingly this all is all dealt with in under an hour during which you haven’t the foggiest idea how it’s all going to resolve itself; frequently thinking, as it grows more relentless, that it’s all going to have turned out to be a dream. Or a nightmare. @Richard Chatten


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