THE VICTORS. This 1963 anti-war film by Carl Foreman [producer of GUNS OF NAVARONE etc] is a very mixed bag now, but has a sensational cast acting out various episodes showing how war corrupts everyone, victors as well as losers and victims, as it follows the fortunes of a squad who arrive in Southern Italy and move up to occupied Berlin at the climax. There are lots of strong sequences, some a bit over the top such as the execution of a deserter in the winter snow to the accompaniment of a Sinatra christmas song, and the shooting of the dog one soldier had befriended, as the squadron moves on and the dog runs after them ... there is also the mainly deteted sequence of the boy who sleeps with soldiers for money or food. The two main leads are Georges Peppard and Hamilton, one forgets what interesting young actors they were before excess and the perma-tanned life took over. There are also Vince Edwards, Eli Wallach, Maurice Ronet, Michael Callan, Peter Fonda, Robert Mitchum's son and a young Albert Finney for the climax in Germany.
The film was sold on its joblot of prestige European actresses at that interesting time when there was that growing interest in international cinema - so we have Romy Schneider as the young musician corrupted into being a prostitute, shell-shocked French widow Jeanne Moreau, war profiteer Melina Mercouri, lonely Italian wife Rosanno Schiaffino and Elke Sommer and Senta Berger as two sisters enjoying wartime benefits in wartorn Berlin. Something for everyone then!
FOUR IN THE MORNING - The body of a young woman is dragged unceremoniously from the Thames by two river police [above] who have clearly seen it all before. This opening scene is typical of this film's expertly judged realism; a bleak shabby London of frustrations and disappointments - a far cry from all the swinging that was taking place elsewhere. FOUR IN THE MORNING plays like "a L'AVVENTURA of the Docklands" [according to the British Film Institute]. This enigmatic 1965 British film directed by Anthony Simmons is a long-unseen item and would be a useful addition to that "London in the Movies" recent post of mine, as it is set along the Thames as a dark foggy dawn breaks at 4 a.m. Resolutely downbeat it features 3 intertwined story threads: we see the procedure as the body is taken to the mortuary, cleaned and put into storage; then there is the story of the couple [below] who meet by the river once the club where the woman works closes, she is Ann Lynn, a popular British actress of the time on television, sort of an English Monica Vitti type, and he is Brian Phelan and we watch them interact, take a motorboat drive and flirt around each other but both are unwilling to go further or commit; and finally there is the young Judi Dench as the resentful wife left alone with a screaming infant as her husband (Norman Rodway) is out late, also along the river, with his friend Joe Melia (another lost soul). The couple are having problems so the husband is delaying going home as she gets more and more annoyed. This was Dench's first main cinema role and she won a BAFTA for best newcomer! It is though a bit too resolutely downbeat....
AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL - A classic BBC Miss Marple mystery from 1987. I don't usually bother with the plethora of POIROTs and MARPLEs on television, but this one is an exception. I caught it once on television and it stayed in the memory - then it resurfaced this week so I made a point of seeing it again - and it is even more delightful! English comedy actress Joan Hickson was [in the absence of Katie Johnson] the perfect Miss Marple as created by Agatha Christie - Margaret Rutherford somehow seemed all wrong in those early '60s movies and though I revere Geraldine McEwan in MAPP AND LUCIA she is somehow not right for Miss Marple and the series she appeared in were all too convoluted and updated and crammed with guest stars. Julia McKenzie is also a perfect Marple so I am looking forward to seeing more of those. AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL though is perfect in every respect: the hotel, the staff (Miss Gorringe at reception is a delight) and the guests including reliables James Cossins, George Baker and the divine Caroline Blakiston as Bess Sedgwick, exactly as in the book. There is also the pleasure of seeing Joan Greenwood (though sadly aged) in one of her last roles as a dotty old dear Lady Selina Hazy, a friend of Jane's, and she still gets to discuss cake (seed cake here) just as she did in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST! It's a clever mystery as Miss Marple sits and observes all and it keeps one engrossed as well as enjoying classic BBC television at it's best.