TIDBITS of Movies

Having read and previously posted (two weeks ago) about John LeCarre’s early novels, Call of the Dead and A Murder of Quality, I got the movies. The movie title of Call of the Dead is A Deadly Affair(James Mason). My advice: Stick with the novels.

“A Murder of Quality,” scripted by LeCarre is best but lacks the adult setting, subtle politics and society of adults. Set around a boy’s boarding school there are too many classroom scenes which convey little but expose a youthful Christian Bales as one of the boys to a grand future in the medium.

“A Deadly Affair” is Le Carre’s first George Smiley novel. It is necessary to know the novel to follow the movie. In the book not much time is devoted to George’s marriage to Ann and its dissolution, it is a big part of the movie. It seems Ann is played by a foreign actress (wrong – it is Harriet Anderson) who does not well represent Ann’s character in the book: a woman of means from gentry or nobility. There are senseless arguments between husband and wife. Indeed when husband and wife appear on the screen together, there is ridiculous bongo music. Throughout much of the music is not suited to espionage/murder, but more geared toward “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Much of the politics and pettiness in the Intelligence Community is overlooked or ignored. The script does not build to the end, but to save itself, the script slows and seems written from one chapter of the novel before going off on the screenwriter’s whim.

EXTRA. I was an extra in the now filming Helen Hunt/Robert Downey Jr. movie. I know I won’t be invited to the wrap party, but they’ll always remember me. When Helen and Robert are sitting on the park bench, I’m in the background waving at the camera.

“The Swiss Family Robinson” – When I was young, I saw this movie multiple times in movie theaters. I also read the book. I visited the tree house at Disneyland. John Mills is in it. James MacArthur, Danno of “Hawaii 50,” is in it. The guy who played and was “The Shaggy Dog” was in it, as the second son. For a scene he was wearing a Yippie Hat, something Abbie Hoffman might wear. This is very advant-garde for a Disney movie. The bad guy pirate in it was Colonel Saito in “Bridge on the River Kwai.” He wears a necklace that has torquoise. At the end there are lots of pirates to kill, as many as 150,  more than there are on Wall Street, especially after the second wave, 50 or so brigands hit the beach, off-loading from a small Chinese junk. MY CONCLUSION – This movie sucks.

“The Court Jester.” I saw this movie in Yosemite Valley at the movie theater that was there before it burned down. I remembered little about the plot, but I remember that the movie was very funny. I laughed very hard throughout. I liked Danny Kaye thereafter until I lost track of him.

Match the rhyme:       Flagon – Palace

                                     Vessel – Dragon

                                     Chalice – Pessel

Perhaps it is fond memories, but “The Court Jester” holds up. I recommend it.

I’ve read and recommend Film in the Third Reich, David Stewart Hull. In this short history Hull tells about a 1934 German movie, “Gold.” It is science fiction. In it is depicted an atomic reactor, used in an alchemy process to turn lead into gold. Hull writes,

“When the film was reviewed by an Allied censorship board after the war, the viewers wondered whether the German scientists had invented an atomic reactor long before they were supposed to have done so. An effort was made to seize every known print, and the film was put under a restricted category. It is even reported, on reliable authority, that a copy was flown to the United States to be viewed by atomic scientists to see if the machines could actually perform….” (p. 57, UC Press, 1969)

BRAVO! The film maker had his triumph – imagination over reality!  




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