Wednesday, September 28, 2016

ENCORE (1951)

This is the last of three British anthology films made from the stories of (and introduced by) W. Somerset Maugham, the earlier ones being QUARTET and TRIO. Television made these kinds of films mostly obsolete, but there is a certain nostalgic charm to this that makes it still quite watchable. In "The Ant and the Grasshopper," wealthy lawyer Roland Culver is constantly approached by his slacker brother (Nigel Patrick) for money which he immediately wastes on gambling. Culver begins refusing and insisting that Patrick be gainfully employed, so Patrick gets jobs that put Culver in an embarrassed position—doorman at his club, bartender at his pub, etc. Finally, Patrick goes on holiday, meets a rich woman, and an unexpected reversal of fortunes closes the story. In "Winter Cruise," which is amusing but is basically an extended variety show skit, Kay Walsh, a good-natured spinster who never shuts up, gets on the nerves of the crew of a cargo ship on which she has booked passage for a vacation cruise to the Caribbean and back. How the crew tries to distract her forms the bulk of the vignette.

The last story, "Gigolo and Gigolette," is about a husband-and-wife acrobat act (Glynis Johns and Terence Morgan, pictured) currently performing at a ritzy resort. At the climax of their act, Johns does a high dive into a small pool of water surrounded by a ring of fire. This is the gimmick that has made them in demand, but after hearing a story of a diver who lost her nerve, Johns becomes convinced that she will too, and tries to get out of doing the high dive. The rest of the story explains her loss of nerve and how her husband tries to help her get it back. Unfortunately, this last story is the weakest—it's well acted but feels underdone. Still, the first two are fun and not completely predictable. Culver, Patrick and Walsh are all quite good. It's a shame that the weak entry wasn’t first—I suspect it's in last place because it's the most serious. [TCM]

No comments: