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.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

'60s David Warner double bill

Of all the new actors to emerge in England in the '60s, the most unusual must surely have been David Warner, tall and gangly and with that odd face, he was as individual as posh boy James Fox, among those working class new boys Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Tom Courtenay, Terence Stamp, David Hemmings, Michael York or the very individual Peter O'Toole. Warner was a sensational HAMLET in the early '60s (wish I had seen him, he would have been a choice addition to those other Hamlets I have seen: Peter McEnery, Michael York, Alan Bates, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Dillane, David Tennant's understudy).
David was soon in films with his amusing creep Blifil in TOM JONES in '63 and then came his star-making role in MORGAN in 1966, which also launched Vanessa Redgrave, the same year as her mystery woman in BLOW-UP (below). They were also together in Lumet's film of Chekhov's THE SEA GULL in 1968 - as per recent review below.
MORGAN is a black comedy by Karel Reisz, it and GEORGY GIRL were the two must-see British films that summer. Morgan Delt is a failed and irresponsible left-wing artist whose Communist parents own a fish and chips shop in downmarket London. He is also an aggressive and self-admitted dreamer, a fantasist who uses his flights of fancy as refuge from external reality, where his unconventional behavior lands him in a divorce from his wife, Leonie, trouble with the police and, ultimately, incarceration in a lunatic asylum. Morgan also is obsessed about animals, gorillas in particular, even dressing up in a gorilla suit to wreck his wife's new marriage reception, a wildly funny sequence, and we also gets extracts from Tarzan films and the original KING KONG. Written by David Mercer and with a John Dankworth score, it presses all the right buttons. 

Vanessa is radiant again as Leonie, that posh girl with that fabulour house (she was nominated as Best Actress at the Oscars, as was her sister Lynn for GEORGIE GIRL, a first since the DeHavilland/Fontaine sisters). Robert Stephens is her oily boyfriend (as uctious as he was in A TASTE OF HONEY), and Irene Handl is of course perfection as Morgan's defiantly working-class mother. Morgan and his zany antics could get rather trying, but the film mixed all the elements perfectly, as we leave Morgan tending his flower patch at the hospital, with its hammer and sickle flower pattern, as a very pregnant Leonie laughs. Somehow it captures that perfect mid-60s moment perfectly, like the scene with Leonie and new boyfriend in the car - careful with that scarf, Vanessa - this isn't ISADORA

Warner went on to lots more films and in fact, despite a hiatus in the '70s, has hardly stopped working and is still going now. IMDB lists over 200 credits as he has been in everything from TITANIC (two Titanics actually, also a tv movie) to episodes of MURDER SHE WROTE and TWIN PEAKS. Sam Peckinpah used him several times, in CABLE HOGUE, STRAW DOGS, CROSS OF IRON. Other films of the time included THE BOFORS GUN, WORK IS A FOUR LETTER WORD, THE FIXER. I saw him on stage in a production of I CLAUDIUS as the stammering lead, in the '70s. Then there was THE OMEN, Resnais's PROVIDENCE in '77, an AIRPORT movie - the CONCORDE one, Losey's A DOLL'S HOUSE, and his Edward II meeting that grisly end on stage in THE DEADLY AFFAIR ... We particularly liked his chilling Jack The Ripper in another '70s favourite, TIME AFTER TIME, where he and Malcolm McDowell are perfectly pitched together, this is due for a re-look and review sometime soon now. David is certainly one of the "People We Like".
Another oddity of his, never seen now, is the 1968 German film MICHAEL KOHLHAAS by Volker Schlondorff (we reviewed his SWANN IN LOVE from 1984 a while back), which is oddly fascinating.
It's medieval times. Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer. When going to the local fair to sell his horses, he is forced by a nobleman to leave him part of the merchandise as payment for traveling through his land, promising to give the horses back when the fair is over. When he returns, the horses are almost dead, and the man refuse to respond, so Kohlhass begins to fight unsuccesfuly against the injustice. He becomes a folk hero but cannot defeat the system. It ends with him broken on a wheel, even though he has won,and dying in agony as he sees his horses running free in the distance. 
Life in 16th century Europe was short and brutal and brutalising it seems, and here is more proof. Schlondorff though piles on the agony and the brutality, as even our hero's wife - Anna Karina - is trampled to death. Others are trapped in burning buildings and meet all kinds of nasty ends, as Kohlhaas wages war on tax collectors and judges. The unrelenting detail gets rather too much. It all looks perfectly in period though as it shows how a man can be consumed by revenge - is Michael Kohlhaas a tragic hero or simply a fool who cannot adopt and survive?   
Mads Mikkelsen has also played Kohlhaas in a recent 2013 production. 
Next: Terry and Julie - but not together ...

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