Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The most bonkers over the top performance ever?

I nominate THE PASSAGE from 1979 as the most loony daft so-called thriller ever. I thought SHINING THROUGH was bad enough – that’s the one where Melanie Griffith is sent undercover into Nazi germany as a spy and has to be rescued by her boss Michael Douglas who poses as a Nazi but he does not speak German!. Here, in THE PASSAGE, we have the older Anthony Quinn and James Mason with the distressingly frail Patricia Neal who are being chased over the mountains by psychotic WW2 Nazi Captain Malcolm McDowell as the most demented camp Nazi you will ever see.

McDowell said in an interview: "I played this real nasty Nazi who was chasing these people across the Pyrenees. We all knew real early on that the movie was not going to be any great work of art and so I was determined to have some fun with it. My attitude was that if I was going to play a Nazi, I was going to take it totally over the top and do it right. I ended up playing the character like a pantomime queen. What I was doing was so far out that James Mason turned to me one day and said, 'That's wonderful dear boy, but are you in our film? You seem to be doing something different from the rest of us'..."

This farrago was put together by veteran J Lee Thompson in 1979 – 20 years earlier he was helming cracking films like TIGER BAY and NORTHWEST FRONTIER before going on to THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and CAPE FEAR (1962) – here is directing by numbers and allowing McDowell to go way over the top, Quinn is the mainly silent Basque (titled The Basque) and Mason has nothing much to play with either. It is obvious that Patricia Neal as Mason’s wife is so frail she will not last long … the less said about Kay Lenz’s very wooden performance as the daughter the better. One ludicrous scene has her as the prisoner of McDowell who prepares to anally rape her (or so it is suggested) and he strips off to reveal he is wearing a jockstrap (were they in use then?) with a swastika on it! He also camps around with his cigarette holder and has great fun chopping off the fingers of Michel Lonsdale while "preparing dinner", and watch out once he traps that band of gypsies headed by a dignified Christopher Lee …. The party struggle over the Pyrenees aided by Zorba The Basque with some ambushes on the way until the demented climax with some unforgivable fantasy moments as McDowell comes back from the dead …. It all got dreadful reviews at the time and vanished from cinemas in a week or so, one can now see why! McDowell was brilliant in lots of things (I love TIME AFTER TIME) but allowed his head here, the same year as CALIGULA, he certainly seems to enjoy seeing how far he can go. So bad then it’s one to relish.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, how did I miss this one?