Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 3. 1969.
Films — Reviving B.O.P
Where Eagles Dare is a veritable compendium of Boys' Own Paper cliches. Of course the B.O.P. bit is a cliche too, a critical bromide that I usually avoid. But how else to describe the plots and feats of fantastic ingenuity, the daring teats of heroism, and the generally incredible succession of events that takes place on the screen?
Richard Burton, whose upper lip is in danger of becoming fossilised, leads a heavy-lidded Clint Eastwood into the jaws of hell, to find a motley collection of posturing generals (mitt mock accents), a sinister but impressive Gestapo agent, and a vast array of German soldiers equipped with bullets made, it seems, of something less than putty. Eastwood exceeds even the excesses of his Italian westerns and knifes, zaps, shoots, chops, and otherwise mangles an unprecedented number of carefully selected victims. Burton's role is more subdued. He flirts with a couple of female conspirators, and generates some excitement with a few turgid and well-mouthed speeches designed to arouse in his captors (and the audience) doubts as to how many doubles precede his agent, if you know what I mean. Much more of this sort of thing and Burton's pock-marked face and impeccable delivery could become very tiresome indeed.
To disclose more of the film's treasures to prospective viewers. I would mention the rich vein of cranulous dialogue. Choice sample: Burton to Wymark, who has been found out and is about to be caned—"We know all about you.
"Well, I guess I have no cards left to play."
"No you haven't."
"What lies ahead of me?"
"The hangman's noose."
"(gulp) Is there no other way?"
"There is (pause), if you're prepared to take it."
Wymark, freely perspiring, nobly precipitates himself to God, 5000 feet below
This riotous piece was ably, and at times imaginatively directed by Brian G. Hutton, a talented young man who entered the lists a few years ago with a sensitive film about adolescent lovers on the run, entitled Wild Seed. This present tortured narrative, despite one or two good frames, pays no respects to his undoubted potential.
One film of unusual excellence has passed through Wellington recently. Lolita, conceived by Nabokov and nurtured by that budding genius Stanley Kubrick, is a powerful piece of cinema. Some critics have denied Kubrick the accoclade of greatness by referring to his apparent lack of "personal style". This sort of nonsense, often seen in Sight and Sound, ignores the fact that many directors have this quality yet consistently make bad films. Kubrick employs whatever style best suits his subject, and one can see this when comparing Lolita with Paths of Glory, Strangelove, Spartacus or Space Odyssey. Yet all these films bear his imprint in one way or another, whether through the choice of themes, the writing, or his handling of the actors. The visual style may never be recognisably Kubrick, but it is always recognisably superb.
Is Lolita a faithful rendition of the novel? The question interests me not one jot, and is thus disposed of. What interests and astonishes me is the juxtaposition of humour (even farce) and tragedy in this film, the way the personal idosyncraicies of Mason, Sellers and Shelley Winters are exploited, and the way in which Kubrick takes what seems to be at first sight a rambling collection of loose ends and distills from it a coherent whole of inexorable impact. The acting throughout, especially by Mason ("his face gloats in a rotting smile"), is excellent. the photography crisp and appropriate, and the music by Nelson Riddle, although apparently a pastiche of schmaltz, perfectly suited to the decadent, almost perverted atmosphere that pervades the film. Kubrick deserves an issue of Salient to himself, and if his upcoming Nanoleon is any better than Space Odyssey he'll have one