Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Siren by Request: Village of the Damned (1960)

Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles has an excellent post up about science fiction and his discontents, in which he defends, at length and with great wit, the notion that Star Wars isn’t science fiction. The Siren isn’t fully convinced--I mean, the blasters, and the hyperspace, and all those computers with the cunning little buttons--although, as she stated, she isn’t an aficionado. But the Siren recently was accused, in a couple of different forums, of uncritically thinking everything old is great, which peevish, unfounded nonsense caused her to tear her crinolines when she threw herself on the chesterfield in a fit of pique. So she is delighted to show herself gravitating toward relatively modern movies in this genre, while the fabulous Greg is over in his corner admitting he prefers older movies. The age of miracles hasn’t passed, as dear Ira Gershwin once wrote in a beautiful, and quite old, song. Onward.




Now that we take up Village of the Damned from 1960, (requested by Laura of Who Can Turn the World Off With Her Smile?) can we agree to agree on something beforehand? You can call it a science fiction movie, you can call it a horror movie, you can call it an allegory, but here at the Siren’s place, let’s face it, Village of the Damned is one thing above all: It’s a George Sanders movie. As such, it has several things that one expects, such as dry line deliveries, well-cut suits, occasional cocked eyebrows and George doing his secondary type of role, after all-around cad--that of somewhat effete intellectual.

It also has some things you don’t expect from Sanders, such as him going dewy over his wife’s announcement of a pregnancy, interaction with a child that doesn’t involve snapping (as Kim Morgan once suggested) “you’re too short for that gesture,” and most startling of all, Sanders fainting in his very first scene. A swoon from George Sanders, the King of Unflappable? It’s like confronting an opening in which Lee Marvin folds cloth napkins.

Village of the Damned, filmed in glorious black-and-white by DP Geoffrey Faithfull, is set in a bucolic, out-of-the-way English village, at first so postcardish you half-expect Margaret Rutherford to swing by on her bicycle, but later taking on a darker, dingier aspect. The opening has a great, fairy-tale hook, as Gordon Zellaby (our George) is on a phone call with his brother-in-law Alan (Michael Gwynn), a military officer, and suddenly faints dead away. But it isn’t just Gordon, it’s the whole village out cold. Eventually they come to, and things seem to return to normal. Except that suddenly, every woman in the village of childbearing age falls pregnant (a wonderful British idiom that suggests causes both active and passive).

In the course of a few short months, the women give birth at the same time, and before you know it, the kids are growing up at a decidedly inhuman pace. The children are all blonde, hyperintelligent and preternaturally adult. The authorities strongly suspect something is up and want to deal with the children en masse. But Sanders, a professor whose beautiful wife is one of the ones who’s given birth, is adamant that the children should be left alone so they can be observed. He even volunteers to teach the little darlings himself in a one-room schoolhouse, like some horror nerd’s idea of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Leaving the creatures alone turns out to be as lousy an idea as it was in The Thing From Another World, if not quite as spectacularly ill-judged as in Alien.

Here’s something to ponder--why do scientists so frequently get it in the neck from science fiction? By which the Siren means, for example, movies where the man (or woman) of action looks at the alien and its dripping fangs and the way it’s casually fiddling with the radio buttons in order to scramble communications with the Air Force, and the man (or woman) of action sensibly suggests blasting the thing. But the scientist is all, “No, we have to study it! We need to make friends! Just hold out your hand and let him sniff it!” The Siren would attribute this theme to the Cold War anxiety that gives so much classic sci-fi its subtext, but it crops up in later entries too. She thinks a thread common to many science fiction movies is, ironically, deep fear of science. (One great science-fiction movie that’s about embracing science? Close Encounters. It’s unusual in that regard.)

Sanders is particularly well-suited to a part that shows scientific curiosity killing the cat, and, unexpectedly, he tethers his performance to domestic emotions he rarely shows in other movies. Sanders reacts to becoming an expectant papa as a cerebral man confronting one of life’s elemental joys. He doesn’t have fierce sexual chemistry with the classically gorgeous Barbara Shelley, who’s playing his wife, but such is the age difference you might not buy that anyway. Instead, his eyes follow her as if he can’t quite believe his luck, and you feel for him keenly when he realizes her pregnancy wasn’t luck at all. When Sanders proposes to teach the children himself, it’s the act of a man who’s been burned by domestic emotion, going back to the sphere where he always felt more at ease, anyway. It makes his final act all the more poignant.


People always ask how did I get such good performances out of you lot. Simple--I asked you to do nothing except be still and stare. Children fidget and I wanted you all to be absolutely still and steady and just stare. Very unchildlike, and, of course, very unsettling.
--Director Wolf Rilla addresses the youngest members of his Village of the Damned cast for a reunion on the U.K.’s Radio 4 in 2003; quoted in The Guardian, 12/4/03




What the Siren really liked about Village of the Damned, aside from the star, was the way an alien invasion was integrated into quite ordinary middle-class anxieties. There’s the fact, first of all, that the aliens choose to invade wombs and not airspace. That opening is weirdly sexy--the men are just out for the count, but what are the women experiencing? Apparently they don’t remember a thing, which is too bad for us as viewers; surely the Siren can’t be the only one dirty-minded enough to wonder about cross-galaxy mating. (Then again, if alien sex turned out to be like Demon Seed, an interesting movie that didn’t quite make the Siren’s list, it’s all for the best.) There’s a marvelously tense scene with a young girl going to her doctor and confronting the calamity of an unwed pregnancy in 1960, and trying to explain that she didn’t even do anything to get herself in this state. The anxieties of the men, whether it’s one deluded enough to think he’s the papa or one who's seethingly certain he isn’t, are also sharp and believable.


I knew it was an unusual part. I quietly liked it...having these very adult qualities and having control over the adult. Imagine having that power--and I could taste a bit of that. You realise how powerless you are as a child. I don't think I found it too much of a stretch, that part!"
--Martin Stephens (David Zellaby), ibid.


And the children themselves, with their flaxen hair and glowing eyes, are there at least in part to confirm our suspicion that there is something more than slightly creepy about a perfectly composed, adult-acting child. They’re a bit like miniature Georges, with their ramrod posture and their grammar so perfect they even differentiate between “shall” and “will.” Of course, to this day, the children mostly remind people of quite another group, especially after we see one of them as a toddler, telepathically commanding his mother to dunk her hand in boiling water after she accidentally overheats his bottle, one of the few genuinely frightening moments in a movie that’s more about anxiety than primal terror.


I don't think any of us were aware of it then, but of course now they remind you of the Hitler Youth, blond-haired Aryan children and all that. I'm convinced that was an unintentional subtext; after all, the war was still fresh in our memories. But none of us had any idea of the impact it would make.
--Rilla, ibid.


What the Siren didn’t like about Village was the military; god they’re a bunch of stiffs, with their maps and their brow-furrowing, even more than usual in a science-fiction film where the fate of the planet winds up resting with a civilian. Despite the movie’s crisp 78-minute length, every time it veers back to a meeting room with a map or a great big table or a desk and a telephone, suspense withers and time turtles.

Thank goodness for George, as always, finally confronting the fact that his son is never going to be fellow academic material and may in fact do something frightful, like try to take over the planet. The final scene, with the children surrounding George in a grim parody of classroom dynamics, now goes into the Siren’s large mental file of favorite Sanders moments.

46 comments:

Greg said...

But the Siren recently was accused, in a couple of different forums, of uncritically thinking everything old is great, which peevish, unfounded nonsense caused her to tear her crinolines when she threw herself on the chesterfield in a fit of pique.

Whoever said that about you is a liar or a fool. That's simply nonsense and anyone reading you would know that by now.

I'd also like to express here that Vanwall, someone I originally met here on your site before later becoming FB friends, has engaged me quite superbly in the comment thread on my post and I'm am grateful for such an intelligent conversation.

Now, to the movie at hand: A George Sanders movie? Yes, yes and yes! Even though the genre was never invented, The George Sanders Genre lives strong in my mind. Why, my wife and I must make some ludicrous reference to "a brick wall" at least once or twice a month, and always in Sanders' voice. Who knew he was so well-suited for such a story and yet, I can't imagine this really working without him. And it's impossible to believe those kids would foolishly trust anyone else.

Laura said...

"You can call it a science fiction movie, you can call it a horror movie, you can call it an allegory, but here at the Siren’s place, let’s face it, Village of the Damned is one thing above all: It’s a George Sanders movie."

And that there is why I probably like it so much. A scifi movie can have the greatest effects, most compelling plot, and scariest monsters, but if there are no engaging characters/actors, I'm not gonna care about it at the end of the day (well, okay, if the monster is REALLY cool we'll see).

A while back I watched a series of YouTube reviews suggesting that was the problem with the recent Star Wars films. I'm not fanatical about the first trilogy, but I have to admit that Vader, Han Solo (le sigh!), and Leia are incredibly memorable, likable, and iconic. Maybe it's the continually stiff writing or the direction, but I found no characters even slightly interesting from the parts of the new movies I've seen. I mean, Jar-Jar Binks makes C3PO look awesome. That's bad. And yes, like you, I'm keeping Star Wars in the scifi genre, thanks.

But returning to Village of the Damned, I adore Martin Stephens's performance, but George is what makes it for me. The scene where he finds out about his wife's pregnancy is so funny and touching when you first see it, then bittersweet when you think about it after you find out, "ha, ha! Just kidding! Not yours, it's a mystical space fetus." George acts the part of the excited, potential father so convincingly! I love his fussing: "would you like a drink? No, that wouldn't be right." This might be the scene where I fell in love with him for the first time.

Wonderful review, thank you so much! I'm still ridiculously giddy you pulled my name out of that hat, random as the drawing was.

Paul said...

Sci-fi's ambivalence (trending to hostility) towards characters who are scientists goes back to its 19th-century sources: think of Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau, etc. Part Romantic revenge on abstract Reason, part reactionary fear of ever accelerating technological progress, part nerd baiting.

Flickhead said...

It's true: Star Wars isn't science fiction. It's crap. (And please, no moaning from that tiresome crowd who "grew up" with that shit.)

Otherwise, nice to read your bead on George and the damned kids.

Connected peripherally, Losey's These Are the Damned (1963) is an existential take on some of the same issues, contrasted with a portrait of Europe evolving from Old World sensibilities to the unpredictability of the atomic/nuclear age. It may not be Losey's best work, but it sure is fascinating.

However, if you ever brave Children of the Damned (1964), you might want to do so only after you've knocked back a few stiff ones.

Greg said...

See, Flickhead and I agree. And I did grow up loving those movies. Now, though, I think I'm with the "crap" consensus.

The Siren said...

Flickhead, ha! I had a moment of watching Star Wars a few years back and thinking it wasn't very good, I admit it. Then I got re-acquainted and remembered the stuff I loved. I will always maintain that it's Harrison Ford's star power that makes the first two great, and backgrounding him in favor of all that mush about the Force and daddy anxiety that made Return of the Jedi a relative drag.

Which goes to Laura's point about character mattering for science fiction as much as anything else. I look back at my list and it seems pretty clear that love of strong characters informs it as much as anything else I take to. And that also explains why, despite thinking CE3K is an objectively great movie, I never loved it; the way Dreyfuss treats his family in that one bugs me too much on a personal level. I believe Spielberg has said that if he'd made it after he had kids, he wouldn't have plotted it the same way, but I honestly don't think it would be as good if the central character were a good father. It's just that his behavior puts up a wall for me. A conundrum.

C. Jerry Kutner said...

Haneke's The White Ribbon is almost a remake of Village of the Damned - but without the sci-fi elements.

The Siren said...

Greg, Vanwall is primo. And the "brick wall" bit is awesome, although I am not sure I believe that prowling intellect could be so still, even under such circumstances.

Laura, it was my great pleasure. And yes, the "bundle of joy" scene was really touching. I'm glad I finally caught up with this one.

The Siren said...

Paul - "Part Romantic revenge on abstract Reason, part reactionary fear of ever accelerating technological progress, part nerd baiting."

Yep, yep, and yep hahaha!

C. Jerry, I liked The Piano Teacher and Cache very, very much but I approach Haneke with apprehension nonetheless...Never a jolly watch, is he.

C. Jerry Kutner said...

One should always approach Haneke with apprehension. The White Ribbon, with its stark black & white period cinematography, is perhaps the most visually beautiful of his films. As in Village of the Damned, you have a small group of children terrorizing an insular town, but the explanation for their malevolence is not extraterrestrial. Rather, it seems to be a product of the rigid suppression, sexual and otherwise, of the town itself. And strangely enough, the most sympathetic character is, like George Sanders, a schoolteacher.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

(A) I'm a science-fiction fan, and (B) I'm not very fond of the "Star Wars" phenomenon. Let's phrase that another way: I've only seen the first three, and never did get around to "Jedi" until the '90s. What impressed me, though, about "Empire Strikes Back" (which I like best of the three) was the crucial presence of a woman screenwriter, namely Leigh Brackett. In "Empire," Carrie Fisher is on the helm of a starship and she wears a cloak and she's got Pertinent Character Conflict. And what happens once Brackett is gone? Fisher's got a metal collar attached to a chain and she dances hoochie-cooch in a bikini. Bit of a contrast, that.

I hope that most people 'round here have seen Martin Stephens as Miles in the Jack Clayton "The Innocents." He's just as creepy and wonderful. I would also recommend Barbara Shelley's performance in -- not "The Gorgon," although I have a certain affection for that, but "Quatermass and the Pit"-a.k.a.-"Five Million Years to Earth." A problematic picture, but a good one ... and Shelley is vivid.

The last time that I saw "Village of the Damned," I continued to love it ... but it also struck me as distinctly pokey. I kept wondering if the John Carpenter remake, which I've yet to see, made things a tad more dynamic.

Vanwall said...

I'm blushing. Gee, thanks for the encomiums! This site, and Greg's, are some of the few I comment on, the level of intelligent fun is sky high. It's a pleasure to swap tales twixt sword strokes, as it were, with such skillful fencers.

If Sanders was ever better in an atypical role, I can't think of it, and he's perfectly cast as Zellaby, a quietly heroic man in the book as well. Sanders was never un-intelligent in any role, and that was what was needed. You've got the Shelley look of his right, BTW, Siren, that was my take. This one of my faves from back when I was watching late night TV as a kid. Glowing eyes, glowing eyes. Brrr.

The alien sex was certainly implied, on a certain level it being hard to believe blond supermen carrying around high tech turkey-basters back then, altho it's less sexy watching it nowadays in the age of artificial insemination.

The Army chaps are cartoonish on purpose - they would never be able or strong enough to form the mental brick wall Gordon does, I think that was the main thrust.

The de-facto Damned Children sequel was a more interesting and superior film in some ways, with an implied gay subtext that was unusual in any SF film back then. Again, the acting was superb.

Losey's weird amalgamation of Teddy Boys and nuclear experimentation gone wrong in "These Are the Damned" is a much more interesting atomic age kiddie film on a lot of levels, and has Macdonald Carey's best role - (!!!) - he's quite quietly believable, where Oliver Reed is very over the top. Alexander Knox, a fixture as a supporting actor for so many years, steals the film as the chief scientist. I won't say anything more, as it has to be seen to be believed.

These English SF films, along with the Quatermass stuff and a few others, relied less on FX and more on character, almost anti-H'wood, and are much more enjoyable to watch, for me, anyway, than a lot of the dreck made back then.

I'm a SW lover on a lot of levels, and yeah, it's terribly flawed, but jeez, the lines to get in on the opening day, without hardly any official hype, were astounding - it was a differnt kind of film. The series got better in the second one, and the "I am your father" bit was wonderful, a great cinematic experience sitting in the theater. Then it went to cuddly hell, and then further down with wasted performances in the last three. SW made FX the money honey, and that's the way it's been since. Sadly.

Laura said...

MrsHenryWindleVale, totally on board with about how fantastic Martin Stephens was in The Innocents. Of course that's an all around excellent movie, with my favorite Deborah Kerr performance, but who would have suspected a ten-year-old boy could act as precociously creepy as Stephens? That scene where he recites the poem while dressed up as a little king just makes your jaw drop realizing that's A LITTLE FREAKING KID up there. No wonder Kerr suspected demonic possession, I know I still do.

gmoke said...

Saw "Village of the Damned" when it first came out (and I was a kid) but haven't seen it since. My recollection of the "wall" scene is the ambivalence and determination of Sanders, even after all these years. He is doing what must be done but he knows that he is also dealing with children, in one way, his own. There's great nobility in that scene.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Quite an iconic movie. So much so that the title Village of the Damened has passed into the language as a catch-all term for chilly malevolence.

Losey's film is its complete opposite in that the children in question are inncoents who mean no harm whatsover. Their radioactivity dooms them to be separated from a world they long to see. Their heart-redering cries at the film's conclusion are overwhelming.

Yojimboen said...

I don’t really see Losey’s The Damned slotting in with Village of… or Children of… which were both landmark beauties.

Losey at the time considered it a quick and nasty assignment. He had just had Eva taken away from him by the Hakim Bros (who proceeded to recut it and destroy it for all time) so Losey needed rent money while waiting for Pinter to finish the script for The Servant.

Supposedly Metro leaned on Losey/Hammer/Columbia to change The Damned, the British title, to These Are The Damned for American release, because MGM was busy shooting Children of the Damned and wanted to avoid confusion?
(No, I don’t get it either.)

A year or so later the film was shown in some cinemas in Britain under the US title. People who had paid to see it once (more than enough) and found out they’d been stiffed were seriously unhappy.

And then three years later Visconti released La Caduta Degli Dei (1969) under the title The Damned and we all threw up our hands and turned on the TV.

I remember thinking it was just god-awful (sorry, David), as reportedly did Losey. Maybe it’s time to take another look.
Or maybe not.

Peter Nellhaus said...

" . . . peevish, unfounded nonsense caused her to tear her crinolines when she threw herself on the chesterfield in a fit of pique."

This is why I read The Siren.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh it's definitely time to take anohter look. I saw it in 1965 -- two years after I first laid eyes on The Servant. Losey and Godard were my twin abiding obsessions in the early days of myfilm writing. Godard was my college professor. Losey was like a drug. I learned everythign about the importance of camera movement from Losey. (The last shot of The Servant being a particular revelation.) The Damned may have just been a job to him, but he gave it his all, especially as regards Alexander Knox and Vivica Lindfors.

His use of scope is also impressive.

Tom Shone said...

Lovely post. When I first saw Village of the Damned I identified, weirdly, with the spooky blonde children; the same with the book by John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos, on which it was based: I clearly nursed a deep childhood fantasy of being found terrifying by adults. Wyndham wrote another book, Chocky, about a gifted young boy whose imaginary friend may or may not be an extra-terrestrial intelligence; rereading it recently I was struck by how little sympathy for the boy there was in the book, how alienated he is, and only then did I connect it with Wyndham's own childhood (parents divorced when he was 8, shuffled between a series of prep schools, only sporadic contact with his father) and realise how much the monstrous children in The Midwich Cuckoos and the weirdly neuter hero of Chocky are extrapolations of the feelings of freakishness common to many children of divorce. It's science fiction that lands very close to home. No wonder Spielberg has bought the rights to Chocky.

The Siren said...

C. Jerry, I have heard really good things about The White Ribbon but I am psyching myself up for it. It could take a while. I've been doing that for *years* for Suspiria...

Mrs HWV, you're so right about that dog collar in RofTJ. As for the sequels, I can't remember Tom Shone's exact phrasing in Blockbuster, but it was something along the lines of people saying "how bad it can be?" and the answer being, "that bad." Which didn't exactly kindle a huge desire to seek out the prequels. Anyway, I never wanted to know how Darth Vader got to be bad, I wanted to know how the princess and a guy like Han Solo got along.

You and Laura are right of course, The Innocents is the business. The ne plus ultra of spooky kid movies.

Peter, thank you so much. I'd promise not to change, but since you've been kind enough to come here all this time no such thought probably ever crossed your mind anyway.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, Yojimboen and David, unfortunately I can't contribute to the Losey discussion as I don't know the film, but it certainly sounds interesting. The Servant is freaking terrifying.

Gmoke, I completely agree, there is a lot of nobility in that scene. Sanders plays his scenes with his demon spawn as someone who does love the boy, albeit reluctantly and knowing what he is. There's even a sense when he's arguing for studying the kids, that he's arguing in part just to get a chance to see if there's anything there to redeem.

Tom, I love that observation. I found myself wishing I'd encountered this movie in childhood. I was a well-behaved kid (I even had good grammar) and maybe it isn't surprising that I always secretly loved bad seeds in movies and books. I don't know the book this was based on, I'm sorry to say. When I was doing a bit of reading on Village in the British papers the Wyndham novel seemed well-regarded. Chocky sounds like a great choice for Spielberg provided the boy stays as you describe and doesn't get Elliott-ized.

Mr. K said...

I also throw in with THESE ARE THE DAMNED. The restoration they just showed on TCM (presumably the same one as on the new Hammer box set) was very beautiful, making wonderful use of bleak English cliff-sides and modern art.

And Alexander Knox as the chief scientist is amazing. So sympathetic, so empathetic and rational... which is why his decisions at the end are so heartbreaking.

And the ending sequence has to stand as one of the ultimate downer s-f/horror endings, even in comparison to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Vanwall said...

I'd add that Alexander Knox's performance in TATD was terrifyingly cold and calculating - in some ways it reminded me of Brian Cox's Lecktor masterpiece in "Manhunter."

Siren, you simply must see "Suspiria" as soon as possible.

Exiled in NJ said...

A entire village of Penmarks.

How many Python sketches begin with an English village? Like this

http://vodpod.com/watch/5273129-monty-python-flying-circus-gangs-in-bolton

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Servant taught me everything I needed to know about sex.

Arthur S. said...

Losey for me was harder to like but some of his films cast a real spell like LA TRUITE. THESE ARE THE DAMNED was the first Losey movie I completely loved, it's a real supermasterpiece, completely transcending its science-fiction genre in a way few have ever been able to achieve. It takes a horror film premise and includes asides on class, sex, juvenile rebellion, incest and the importance of art in a civilization poised on the brink of apocalypse. It's one of the greatest political films in British cinema. And some of the camera movements in the film as well as its use of 'Scope is unforgettable.

My other favourite Loseys are M. KLEIN and THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY(with Alain Delon and Romy Schneider and Richard Burton who is incredibly effective as Trotsky).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Monsieur Klein, I believe, is his masterpeice -- closely followed by Modesty Blaise and The Servant.

Eve is his great maudit thanks to the hackery of the Hakims.

Other Losey films of note includeThe Assasination of Trotsky, La Truite, Secret Ceremony, The Big Night and his marvelous remake of M.

JustJoan said...

But the Siren recently was accused, in a couple of different forums, of uncritically thinking everything old is great, which peevish, unfounded nonsense caused her to tear her crinolines when she threw herself on the chesterfield in a fit of pique.

Why, it's enough to give a girl the vapors. Or descend into a snit. A tight, ill-fitting snit. I raise my vial of sal volatile in solidarity, Siren.

JustJoan said...

Thank you for reminding me of Barbara Shelley in this. It's a much nicer remembrance than my usual one, which is of her raped and about to be murdered, reciting in near-catatonia a psalm in Hitchcock's Frenzy.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

@ JustJoan Actually, the woman in "Frenzy" is Barbara Leigh-Hunt, who also played Lady Bareacres in the 2004 "Vanity Fair" and the vice-principal in "Billy Elliott."

Barbara Shelley's name is most often associated with Hammer pictures like "Dracula, Prince of Darkness" and "Rasputin, The Mad Monk" and the two I mention in my earlier note. There's also an RSC "Comedy of Errors" which was adapted by Trevor Nunn and broadcast on ATV in 1978. And what did she play? A "courtesan," wouldn't you know.

The Siren said...

Exiled, it's so true! Except Rhoda had a better hairstyle.

There is something intrinsically funny AND sinister about a cute little English village, just as there is something funny and sinister about a Southern small town. Too many movies!

Yojimboen said...

I’ll take your suggestion, David, and give The Damned another look, but I don’t expect much. There were as I remember (it’s 40 years since I’ve seen it) a few too many potholes in its construction for smooth appreciation. The main obstacle for me was Ollie Reed, who did this exact role (I won’t say ‘played’) more than a dozen times in his career - Beat Girl; The Party’s Over etc.; an act which got really old really fast.

Another impediment was the putative star – seriously, McDonald Carey as a romantic lead?? For decades, there was in the world of British programme-fillers that phenomenon of the medium-budget film starring some fading Hollywood actor or actress. Truly, there were hundreds of those films, and British cineastes entered British cinemas warily, ready to dislike them; usually, sadly, with cause.

No, Shirley Ann Field was the main draw for us pimply-faced would-be teddy-boys; she was just, to quote the boss, so-o-o-o cu-u-ute, I’d’ve paid money to watch her clean fish. This, years later, is an embarrassing statement – all I really knew of SAF was her semi-star turn in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. But I wasn’t alone; it took the British Industry years (The Damned was her 20th film) to recognize there was a real actress beneath that gorgeous face and bod.

JustJoan said...

MrsHenry, if I may be so forward, you are SO right. And I confess I constantly make this mistake. But no more, Girl Scout's honor.

Yojimboen said...

Apropos nothing, Christopher Hitchens has a nice piece in the current Slate on History vs The Movies.

http://www.slate.com/id/2282194/

X. Trapnel said...

"Good movie, bad history"--It was ever so and ever more shall be.

KalliBeth said...

blasts from the past! wow!
http://www.nyfa.edu/film-school/photography/
NYFA Photography

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

@ Yojimboen

Things To Remember:

1) The sun rises in the east;
2) "Beer on whisky, mighty risky";
3) Never trust Christopher Hitchens.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - I thought Carey acted quite well, not the usual Murican in Yurp.

Yojimboen said...

Mrs.HWV – Oops.

Mea Culpa:

Things to forget:

a) I’ll take your word for it; as a writer I’m never up early enough to know where the sun rises.
b) Believe it or not, I’ve never drunk a beer in my life, and
c) I’ve been reading Hitchens probably as long as he’s been writing; I’ve disagreed with his opinions or conclusions countless times (sometimes violently), but I’ve never found his knowledge of, understanding of, or citing of historical facts open to much question.
d) But that’s just me. :))

Anyhow, to whom does one turn after having read (at least 10 times) every word by Twain, Zweig, Mencken and Hunter Thompson?

M VW – wasn’t criticizing Carey’s skills (he, Knox and Lindfors give the usual solid pro performances one came to expect from them) just the nature and believability of the character.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

My apologies, Yojimboen. Let's say that I was a tad too eager to make myself sound clever. A syndrome that we've all encountered, no?

I myself, don't drink. I'd elaborate, but ... phrases like "Tradition 12" and "the spiritual foundation of all our traditions" get in the way.

I've also been reading Christopher Hitchens since, at least, the '80s. While I enjoy Hitchens -- particularly when he writes about Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh -- I can't say that his political twists and turns make me want to trust him.

Noel Vera said...

"the blasters, and the hyperspace, and all those computers with the cunning little buttons"

It's not that they're there, it's how they're used. To rescue a princess, to fight evil (not irrationality, or aliens, or man's self-destructive nature). The blasters are crossbows, hyperspace is travel via an incantation and a puff of green smoke, and all those computers are Merlin's familiars, clicking away in the dark.

And how Dreyfus treats his family in CE3K? That's probably what's left of Paul Schrader's original script. Only sense of something uncomfortable and unhealthy in an otherwise wholesome film (not a compliment, coming from me).

gmoke said...

Losey's "King and Country" showed me my own mortality when I was 16 or 17. I remember walking out of the Bleecker Street Cinema after seeing it and realizing that I, too, was going to die. It stared me in the face as I looked at the gutter.

The way I recognize a great film is that I still see with the director's eyes once I walk out of the theater. "King and Country," G*d help me, gave me that. Haven't seen it since but I already received a great gift from it and don't need to revisit it for seconds.

Besides, there's the library DVD of "24 Eyes" that I have to watch before returning it at the end of the week.

DavidEhrenstein said...

These are the Damned and My Beautiful Laundrette are the very best of Shirley Ann Field.

X. Trapnel said...

Hitchens is always superb on English poetry (which is good enough for me), but his political journalism, as he himself might admit, is perishable stuff: mostly wrong when he was on the left, mostly wrong when he was on the right and the rest not terribly original or personal. No Orwell he, but always enjoyable to read.

Y, thrilled that you are a Zweigian.

James Keepnews said...

Whatever you do, Ms. S, please watch Das weiße Band before you watch Suspiria, which I hope you find as ridiculous and overpraised -- if extraordinarily well art-directed -- as I do.

I didn't put it together until these comments but Das weiße Band really does echo Village, and not least in its intimations of ür-Hitler Youth. I also consider it his finest work to date, though am startled no one discusses my favorite Haneke film, Wolfzeit, one of the best, least-contrived apocalypses-now produced in this century. As Village was in its own.

Noel Vera said...

I do like Time of the Wolf. But maybe my favorite Haneke is Code Unknown.