Thursday, July 31, 2003


Over the next couple days, I'll catch up with the rest of the Bob Hope movies I've seen recently. ZANZIBAR was the second "Road" picture, after ROAD TO SINGAPORE (which I haven't seen), just before they really hit their speed with their much acclaimed third movie ROAD TO MOROCCO. Hope and Bing Crosby are, as usual, partners on the run--this time, they're carnival performers in Africa, with Hope getting shot out of a cannon. On the trail of a diamond mine, they meet up with Dorothy Lamour and Una Merkel while avoiding thugs and the law. Eric Blore has a lamentably small part in the proceedings here, which haven't yet taken on the wild, anything-goes tone that would make the later movies so much fun. After a break during the war years, the duo return with UTOPIA, which is almost as good as MOROCCO. The plot doesn't matter nearly as much as the one-liners, the self-referential remarks, and the prickly chemistry between Hope and Crosby. In the opening, an aged Hope and Lamour open their door to an aged Crosby whom they left for dead in Alaska many years ago. The rest of the movie is a flashback to their Gold Rush adventures. Hope and Crosby are a struggling pair of vaudevillians; in Alaska on the trail of a gold mine, they meet up with Dorothy Lamour while avoiding thugs and the law (sound familiar?). The best bits are the frequent moments where they "break the fourth wall" and talk to the audience, as when Hope, seeing Crosby, says, "And I thought this was going to be an A-picture." At one point, a lovely snowy mountaintop turns into the Paramount logo. There's a talking fish, and later a talking bear complaining that the fish got two lines but he didn't get any. Robert Benchley pops in periodically with humorous asides, telling us that the studio hired him to help out becuase the movie made no sense. The ending gag is priceless. Overall, this one is probably funnier than MOROCCO, but both MOROCCO has a more interesting atmosphere; both of the movies stand the test of time nicely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


First Katharine Hepburn, now Bob Hope. The great icons of classic movies have pretty much all left us. Aside from the Christmas-themed THE LEMON DROP KID, I'm not really a fan of Hope's later movies, but I have recently discovered the pleasures of his early comedies, and not just the ROAD films. I've already reviewed his "revues" COLLEGE SWING and STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM, and one of the best of the ROAD films, ROAD TO MOROCCO. Thanks to an e-mail friend, I was finally able to see THE CAT AND THE CANARY, a remake of the silent film that was in all likelihood the model (along with Mary Roberts Rinehart's THE BAT) for all those thrillers set in old dark houses with secret passages and suspicious guests, right up to and including the Scooby Doo TV show of the 70's. In this one, a group of relatives gather at the aformentioned house (on the edge of the Bayou) for the reading of the will of a man who has been dead for ten years. His faithful housekeeper (Gale Sondergaard) still lives in the house. There are some simmering jealousies and resentments among the group which includes Bob Hope as a radio comic, Elizabeth Patterson and Nydia Westman as ditzy aunts, two young men (Douglass Montgomery and John Beal) with ill feelings for each other, and Paulette Goddard as the lovely daughter, who winds up the sole beneficiary of the old man's estate. However, if she dies or goes insane, someone else, whose identity is secret, will be made heir. Naturally, it develops that Goddard is in danger and Hope comes stumbling to the rescue. Hope and Goddard essentially did an uncredited remake of this in THE GHOST BREAKERS, which is a more atmospheric movie, but this one is fun and has some chilling moments. The escape of a mental patient called The Cat feels like a red herring, but it's not. George Zucco is surprisingly good in the role of the lawyer, who seems like the chief suspect until he winds up dead... or is he? For some reason, Universal has not issued this on DVD as they have with most of Hope's other Paramount comedies of the time, but it's worth a viewing if you run across it.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Three totally unrelated films:

LARCENY INC. (1942)--A humorous take on the gangster film with Edward G. Robinson as a con man just out of jail who decides to pull one last big heist before fulfilling a promise he made to his niece (Jane Wyman) to go straight. He buys a luggage store because he and his pals can dig through the cellar to the bank next door; they keep the store open as a front, but it becomes a money maker even as the dig stretches out in time due to various slapsticky delays. Woody Allen basically stole the idea and even specific situations for the first half of SMALL TIME CROOKS (except he replaces the luggage with donuts), most noticeably the scene where the crooks dig into the water pipes. Robinson is good as always and he gets strong support from Broderick Crawford, Edward Brophy, Harry Davenport, John Qualen, and a young Jackie Gleason. Jack Carson is Wyman's boyfriend and Anthony Quinn is the *bad* bad guy. The funniest scenes (aside from the spraying water) involve watching the gang adjust to retail success. There's also a nice Christmas Eve ending.

CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935)--This launched Errol Flynn as a swashbuckling superstar, and he is fine in the title role (literally, as his name is Peter Blood), but the movie is surprisingly slow and bland. With PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN such a big summer hit, it's interesting to note that this is probably the movie that is the archetype for all movies about "good" pirates. Flynn is a doctor in England who is thrown in prison for tending to the wounds of a rebel. He eventually winds up in Jamaica, sold in slavery to Olivia De Havilland, and put to work on her father's plantation. Eventually, of course, love springs up between De Havilland and Flynn, much to the disapproval of her father (Lionel Atwill). As the slaves plan to rebel, the Spanish attack Jamaica; in the confusion, Flynn and his pals escape and become pirates (indeed, of the Caribbean...). Basil Rathbone is a "bad" rival pirate, Guy Kibbee is one of the good pirates. All those who should, get their comeuppances. Parts of this are OK, but much of it comes off as lackluster, perhaps in unfair comparison to later films like ROBIN HOOD or THE BLACK SWAN.

THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939)--Boris Karloff plays the first of his "mad scientist" roles as Dr. Saavard who has created an artificial heart system that can revive the dead heart of a human being. He tries to test it on a willing subject but is stopped by the police; because the subject dies, Karloff is charged with murder. After his hanging, he is revived by his assistant using the artificial heart and decides to get revenge on the judge and jury that convicted him. Some interesting philosophical ideas about the concept of life after death are brought up but don't go anywhere. Charles Trowbridge is the judge and Lorna Gray (who later changed her name to Adrian Booth and appeared in lots of B-westerns) is Karloff's daughter. Aside from Karloff's usual good performance, this is a standard grade-B thriller with nothing special plotwise or stylewise.

Saturday, July 26, 2003


Most critics don't care for this film's length or leisurely pace, but I'm a sucker for this kind of Hollywood product: the story of a person's life, from youth to old age, with an episodic structure and an attempt at "epic" reach. As far as I'm concerned, GONE WITH THE WIND and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO are the epitomes of the genre (if it really *is* a genre), and this one is certainly not on a par with those, but it holds your attention and has an interesting cast. Gregory Peck, in one of his first starring roles, plays a Scottish priest who spends most of his life as a missionary in China. He arrives to find a mission building in ruins and a handful of fickle followers called "rice Catholics" who stay with the church only in order to get food. Peck rejects them and rebuilds the mission practically from scratch with some material aid from an important Mandarin (Leonard Strong), a boyhood pal who happens to be an atheist but still a good guy (Thomas Mitchell), and a sincere Chinese Catholic who has renamed himself Joseph (Benson Fong). Most of the story is told as a flashback after Peck has retired from missionary work and has been recalled to Scotland; a monsignor (Cedric Hardwicke) reads over the aged priest's journal in deciding whether or not to plead Peck's case to be allowed to remain in active duty in his home parish--apparently, among other things, Peck's claim to his congregation that an atheist can be an OK guy rubs some people the wrong way.

Other members of the large cast include Roddy McDowell (the priest as a young lad), Peggy Ann Garner (the young version of Peck's only romantic interest, who comes to no good as an adult), and Vincent Price (as a stuffy bishop). Rosa Stradner, an Austrian actress, plays the Mother Superior at Peck's mission; at first, she's rather harshly inclined toward the somewhat unorthodox Peck, but eventually their relationship becomes respectful and even warm. A few very good character actors are thrown in for color but largely wasted because their parts are so small. Edmund Gwenn has what amounts to one scene as a early mentor of Peck's. More frustratingly, James Gleason and Anne Revere, both wonderful and underrated supporting players, have interesting roles as "competing" Methodist missionaries who set up shop in China after Peck has finally established his church, but they also have only one scene, which is a shame since their characters have so much potential. The sets and art direction are excellent; there are many tableaux of destruction during civil war which are quite beautiful, especially a scene in a ruined church in the moonlight. Peck ages well, and even gets to have an "action hero" scene where he acts as a spy against a marauding warlord. Stradner left acting after this (which was her only major Hollywood role) and married Joseph Mankiewicz, who co-wrote this script, from A. J. Cronin's novel. This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


I have to admit up front that I am not a Danny Kaye fan. He doesn't offend or irritate me, he just doesn't charm or interest me very much. This Kaye musical, although it was very popular in its day, dates rather badly. Kaye plays an almost totally fictionalized version of the famous Danish writer of fairy tales. The total make-believe aspect of the story doesn't bother me; I read a biography of the man a few years ago and his actual sad and frustrating life story does not suggest musicalization. Here, he is presented almost like a character in one of his stories, a shoemaker who loves spending his free time spinning tales to entertain the children of his village. The kids get so wrapped up in his stories that they are regularly late for school so the schoolmaster has him thrown out of town. Kaye and his young apprentice (Joey Walsh) head to the big city of Copenhagen where he winds up captivating more children, and falling in love with a ballerina (Zizi Jeanmaire). The trouble is 1) she's married to her dance director (Farley Granger) and 2) Andersen is socially inept except with children. He witnesses Granger being stern with Jeanmaire and assumes she is stuck in a loveless and violent marriage, so he writes her a story for a ballet, "The Little Mermaid." It turns out that the ballerina and her husband are quite happy (the dynamics of an adult relationship are presented as quite beyond the ken of the childlike Andersen) but the ballet company performs the tale, bringing great fame to the author. There are a couple of songs that became fairly popular, including "Inchworm" and "Thumbelina," and a song called "Wonderful Copenhagen" is quite catchy and is staged in a way that brings to mind "Who Will Buy" in OLIVER! fifteen years later. The "Mermaid" ballet, shown in its entirety, is a bit too long for me but visually has some nice Caligarish touches; it also seems to have been inspired a bit by THE RED SHOES. Overall, the whole thing needs more whimsey--it's too leaden to be successful at what it sets out to do: to tell a fairy tale *about* a writer of fairy tales. Moss Hart had a hand in the screenplay, and the choreographer Roland Petit dances with Jeanmaire in the ballet.

Sunday, July 20, 2003


I have a soft spot in my moviefan heart for the Charlie Chan films of the 30's and 40's; they are hardly high art but the ones I've seen are satisfying B-level mysteries, and it's always fun to see Chan go about his business in an unruffled, un-Western manner. I was looking forward to the Fox Movie Channel's presentation of the Chan movies, which had been recently restored, but their festival got derailed by a few complaints about the ethnic stereotypes involved. Actually, aside from the fact that Chan was always played by a non-Chinese actor, the films are remarkably free of the kinds of behavior that cause cringing in audiences today--the worst stereotyping I've seen in Chan films involves the shuffling and mumbling black characters, played by actors like Stepin Fetchit and Clarence Muse. At any rate, I was pleased to see this film, the first in the Mr. Moto series. Based on the evidence of this and MR. MOTO'S LAST WARNING, the Moto series is a little more subtle and less formulaic than the Chan movies.

Peter Lorre plays Moto, a Japanese cop/spy/detective (I was never quite sure how "official" his job was). Aside from seeing that he has ties with an international police force, we get very little establishing information about him in this first film, which helps to keep him a little on the mysterious side. The opening scene, in San Francisco, has Moto facing off against a man who has just killed someone and stuffed him in a wicker crate. Eventually, we discover this is tied in with the activities of a gang of jewel and drug smugglers who are using the ships of the Hitchings line to complete their nefarious deeds. On one of those ships heading for Singapore, Moto befriends Thomas Beck, son of the shipping line president. He is being tracked (and perhaps tricked) by lovely Virginia Field. A porter of Beck's is a bad guy and meets his end when Moto throws him through a porthole into the sea to his death--an oddly violent incident for this typically mild-mannered sleuth, though in general, Moto is a more physically active detective than Chan. It turns out that a highly placed shipping line associate is the ringleader for the gang. Sets are good, a notch above the typical B movie of the time. One funny line: as a drunken Beck is being put to bed by Lorre, he slurringly says, "You're the Japanese sandman" (quoting a popular tune of the era), to which Moto rolls his eyes and says, "Strange people, these Americans." The climax, with some disguises and double crosses, is pulled off very nicely. The mystery was fairly easy to follow, always a plus in my book. Lorre's "Orientalness" is fairly subtle, and never overdone; in fact, he really comes off more like a typical Lorre character than a typical Asian character.

Thursday, July 17, 2003


The big Oscar winning musical CHICAGO was based on a 20's play which was filmed twice before, once as a silent (which I haven't seen) and once as this film. The 2002 film is more entertaining, but this version, though not a musical, is fun and clearly influenced the makers of CHICAGO. Ginger Rogers is Roxie, a rather tarty dame married to a schlub (George Chandler); she is anxious to break out of her humdrum married life and into show biz (think Lucy Ricardo), perhaps with some help from talent agent Nigel Bruce. One night, a man (Bruce's partner) is killed in her apartment and Chandler confesses, saying he shot a robber, but when his wife's connection to the dead man is made clear, he recants and Roxie is arrested. She insists she is innocent, but people keep telling her that she has a good chance at getting off (Chicago goes easy on its well-publicized female killers) and Bruce even thinks the charges could jumpstart her career. She hires expensive laywer Billy Flynn (Adolphe Menjou), older, more rumpled, and less self-assured than Richard Gere in the 2002 film. Roxie soon realizes it's all about publicity and illusion, and that even real life is show biz; there's a very nice bit in the prison holding room where she tap dances down the stairs in front of the waiting reporters and soon the scene is a full fledged musical number, with the reporters joining in on the merriment. This cynical theme is, surprisingly for the time, almost as central to the movie as it is to the musical.

George Montgomery, who narrates the story from 15 years later, is a young reporter who falls for Roxie; Spring Byington is columnist Mary Sunshine who takes up Roxie's cause in the press; Phil Silvers, a little less obnoxious than usual, is the chief photographer. Sara Allgood is the matron; her part is not nearly as important as Queen Latifah's in the recent film, but she does have a nice scene where she stops a fight between Roxie and another prisoner (complete with snarling cats on the soundtrack). The film is dedicated to all the women "who shot their men full of holes out of pique." There's a clever pun on the word "madam," unusual for a Code movie. Even the judge is not exempt from criticism as he makes sure he is prominent in all the photos shot of Roxie in his courtroom. Words like "audience" and "performance" are used frequently to refer to the judicial proceedings, and we see Menjou silently mouthing along with Rogers' testimony. Unlike in the original and the musical, Roxie is actually innocent (the burden of the Code, I assume) and justice is served in the end (and Montgomery gets his gal). In a film with many clever touches, one of the best is William Frawley playing a bartender who is listening with much interest to Montgomery's story in the present--it turns out he was the foreman of Roxie's jury. George Chandler, who I know mostly from very small roles, is quite good here, and Rogers is at her best. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


An early non-gangster role for James Cagney. He plays a well known car racer who goes home for a visit and ends up taking his adoring younger brother (Eric Linden) under his wing, training him to follow in his footsteps. There are female troubles for both: because of some misunderstandings, Ann Dvorak, Cagney's live-in girlfriend, gets kicked out, and Dvorak's friend, Joan Blondell, falls for Linden. Neither woman, in Cagney's eyes, is good enough for either one of them. Eventually, Cagney gets overly cocky, drives drunk in a race, and causes the death of his sidekick pal, Frank McHugh. This sends Cagney spiraling downward while his brother's career is on the rise. In the end, Cagney is redeemed, and in a comic finale, he and his brother race each other to the hospital in ambulances. The race scenes use real racing footage and they're fairly well done; otherwise, it's bland formulaic fare, despite a strong cast (also including Guy Kibbee). Some real-life racing drivers of the era have cameos. Warners remade this in 1939 as INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY, with Pat O'Brien, John Payne, and Ann Sheridan, but I haven't been able to talk myself into watching it yet.

Monday, July 14, 2003


This is best approached as an artifact of its time. It doesn't hold up all that well, but I stuck with it and am glad to say that I've seen it. You'll be happier with it if you can get past any expectation of a coherent, linear plot, even though the movie does have the trappings of a fairly traditional narrative. Peter Sellers is Sir Guy Grand, a British millionaire who adopts a homeless hippie (Ringo Starr), making him heir to the Grand fortune. Starr's name, Youngman, helps give a Candide-like quality to the character who trips along passively with Sellers on adventure after adventure as they use money to tempt people to do stupid things. By about halfway through, the pre-Monty Python vaudeville mood does become infectious. The rest of the cast members mostly have cameos as they appear for their skits then vanish. Leonard Frey is a character named Lawrence Faggot; Laurence Harvey plays himself, doing a strip-teasing Hamlet on stage; John Cleese is an auction agent in one of the movie's funniest scenes. The next-to-last, and quite surreal, section of the film takes place on a cruise ship called the Magic Christian; Christopher Lee (as a vampire), Raquel Welch (as Priestess of the Whip), and Roman Polanski show up here. The finale has Sellers tempting dozens of quite respectable citizens into a huge vat of shit and piss into which he has thrown thousands of dollars (or pounds, I suppose). Also with Yul Brynner, Spike Milligan, and Graham Chapman. Starr winds up doing very little, even though he's on screen almost constantly. Overall, it's very hit-and-miss, and it certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it does reflect the wild, "anything goes" attitude that infected popular culture for a few years.

Friday, July 11, 2003


An early "disaster" film from Fox about the infamous O'Leary family whose cow supposedly started the great Chicago fire. I doubt that much, if any, of the movie is based on truth, but that never bothers Hollywood (or its audiences). The film opens with the family traveling across the plains to Chicago; the father dies after being dragged by his runaway horses during a playful race, leaving Mrs. O'Leary (Alice Brady) to raise her three sons. One becomes Tyrone Power, a handsome scoundrel; though he has plenty of surface charm, he winds up becoming an 1870's version of a gangster who runs activities in the Patch, an old and rickety part of the city, known for its saloons and gambling dens. Another son is Don Ameche, not quite as charming or slick as Power; he works hard to become a lawyer who eventually becomes mayor (partly due to some shady deals done by Power, unknown to Ameche). The third son is Tom Brown, a bland fellow with a wife and kids who is shunted off to the background most of the time. Alice Faye is Belle, a singer who is courted by both Power and Ameche, but who succumbs to Power even though she knows about his rougish ways. In Power's meanest deed, he marries Faye only to stop her from testifying against him in a court of law.

Various melodramatic plot threads come together in the last third of the movie when Mrs. O'Leary's cow finally kicks over the lantern in the barn, which starts the huge fire, this event being rather clumsily foreshadowed early on. The effects during the 20 minute fire sequence are pretty good for their time. In a rather predictable ending, one brother dies and one brother learns a tough lesson; no one really cares what happens to the third brother! Faye seems uncomfortable all the way through, though she is lovely. Power's character is the most interesting; even when he's being thoroughly nasty and seems fully irredeemable, he manages to be mostly charming (and quite the looker!). This is certainly one of his best performances. Ameche is fine, as usual. Madame Sul-Te-Wan plays Faye's maid and manages to come off in a much less subservient way than most black maids of 30's Hollywood. Also with Andy Devine & Brian Donleavy. Rondo Hatton has a small role as a bodyguard, and he's called Rondo at least once in the movie. Most tediously repeated line: "We O'Leary's are a strange tribe." Worth watching.

Monday, July 07, 2003


1939 is often considered the greatest year in Hollywood history (WIZARD OF OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, etc.), but the year had its share of stinkers, flops, and little-known films as well. This one, probably released as the bottom half of a double feature, is nothing special but is nonetheless a solid B-film for what I assume was a niche market of teenage girls (to whom much of Hollywood's product now seems aimed). Anne Shirley is a small town girl, daughter of a drug store owner (J. M. Kerrigan, who had small roles in 14 movies released in 1939). Dad has scrimped and saved and gotten bank loans to send his girl off to college. At the college boarding house, Shirley bonds with her roommates, one who is friendly but bookish (Barbara Read) and one who is friendly but social-climbing (Pamela Blake). The sororities are rushing and the social climber is sure she is a shoo-in, but she winds up blackballed due mostly to her pushy aunt who visits the house thinking she has influence. James Ellison, a "big man on campus," takes a shine to Shirley and tells people her father is rich so the sororities will be interested in her. The father shows up on bid night with some money that Shirley needs, but she is embarrassed by him and snubs him. In the climax, Blake nearly kills herself when she doesn't get a bid, and Shirley gets a bid but decides to turn it down to stay at the boarding house to start a more democratic social club. It sounds a little silly in the re-telling, but at 64 minutes, it speeds along nicely, and Shirley and Ellison make an appealing couple. Dalton Trumbo, later one of the writers who suffered from the HUAC blacklist, wrote the predictable screenplay, based on a story by Mary Chase who also wrote HARVEY. PS--I had a hard time finding information about this film, and I'm not absolutely certain that the social climber is indeed Pamela Blake; some info I found conflicts with other info. I'm fairly sure that the character was called Merle, and according to All Movie Guide, she is played by Blake.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

OUR TOWN (1940)

Thornton Wilder's stage masterpiece is brought to the screen with a couple of major changes but it survives the translation to become, if not a great movie, a respectable and effective version of Wilder's material. On the surface, it seems almost plotless, but there is a clear narrative line: a boy and girl in small town America during the early part of the 20th century fall in love, get married, and begin to raise a family. The play is narrated by a stage manager who quite literally manages the onstage proceedings. This device, which works well in the theatre, is kept in the film in the person of the town druggist (Frank Craven) who seems to be controlling the filming. The gimmick is a little creaky; sometimes, as in the beginning and end, it works well, but sometimes it doesn't, as in a section where Craven seems to invite audience participation. Martha Scott (who just died earlier this year) is Emily, a young girl who lives next to and falls in love with William Holden, a boy who is torn between going to an agricultural college and staying in town and taking over the family farm. The film begins in the New England town of Grover's Corners in 1940, but the events take place in 1901, 1904, and 1913. The adults are a fine group of character actors: Thomas Mitchell wisely underplays the role of the town doctor (Holden's father) and Fay Bainter is his wife; Guy Kibbee and Beulah Bondi are Emily's parents. None of the characters or situations are extraordinary, which is the point of the whole thing. A little bit like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this is supposed to be about the everyday living that average, ordinary Americans go through (white middle-class Americans, that is). Most of the dialogue is made up of banal conversational chat, but the acting goes a long way towards making the film fairly compelling. The camerawork is also interesting, with lots of close-ups and interesting use of shadows, and some lovely backdrop matte paintings. The sets, in direct opposition to the play, are realistic and detailed. In the play, a major character dies which brings about a moving last section set in the town graveyard. In the movie, the character, suspended for a while between life and death, ultimately lives, but the material remains powerful. The dead are consigned to an afterlife in the cemetery; remembering the million little joys of life is too sad, so they learn to forget the past instead. It's a rather depressing idea, the strength of which is not compromised by the fact that in the movie, this section winds up being a dream; in the end, the melancholy mood of the play is kept almost intact. Worth seeing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


Terence Stamp plays a swinging 60's British variation of Norman Bates, a socially and emotionally stunted young man who kidnaps Samantha Eggar, a lovely and vivacious art student he has been stalking for years. At heart Stamp isn't a killer or even a rapist (perhaps only because he's so repressed); what he wants is for Eggar to fall in love with him. Though a sense of menace is sustained, there are times when the proceedings almost turn comic. It's essentially a two-character drama, presented very much like a play (a bit like WAIT UNTIL DARK without that movie's taut suspense). Stamp attacks Eggar, chloroforms her, and holds her prisoner in the rather spacious and nicely decked-out cellar of a country home that he was able to buy because he won a lottery--we briefly see Mona Washbourne (the aged nanny in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED) in a flashback as his aunt who comes to the bank where he works to tell him about his winnings. Aside from his boring clerk job, his only other interest seems to be collecting butterflies (symbol alert!!). Stamp thinks he's treating Eggar well, feeding her and stocking her cellar with clothes, books, and art he thinks she'll like, but he also handcuffs her when he takes her up to the house to bathe. One scene of comic suspense involves such an incident where a neighbor visits while she's bathing and Eggar cunningly tries to escape. Inevitably, Eggar bears the brunt of some violence, although she also dishes some out to him, in the movie's most exciting scene.

Even though he's dumb enough to think that his treatment and her isolation will cause her to love him, he's also smart enough to know when she's patronizing him, which she is dumb enough to keep doing, again and again. This is a fault in the movie; for much of its running time, they simply go back and forth in a slippery power dynamic which gets old fast. Distinctions of class, looks, and intellectual ability are brought up in their conversations: he doesn't like modern art, doesn't understand why she loves "The Catcher in the Rye," and resents her upper-middle class ways. More knowledge of the backgrounds of both characters would have been helpful; he doesn't need to be "explained" like Norman Bates is in the last minutes of PSYCHO, but some understanding of how he came to be nervous and repressed would be nice. She is actually even more of a cipher; aside from what Stamp observes about her, we don't get to know her at all. She remains a symbol of a way of life rather than a flesh and blood person. I don't want to use any spoilers here, but after a long and draggy middle, the last 15 minutes or so pick up in speed and action, and the ending is nicely chilling, though it's way too subtle to work in today's brutal milieu of movies about slashers and cannibals. Maurice Jarre's music is terrible, drawing attention to itself and constantly interrupting the otherwise sublte moods developed by the acting and the camerawork. Stamp's intense gaze serves him well and his handsomeness is downplayed here in favor of nerdy creepiness--he wears ill-fitting clothes and never smiles (imagine a Crispin Glover character who bathed and wasn't on speed). At a full two hours, it's too long, especially in the first half, but it's an interesting and worthwhile film.