Monday, June 20, 2011

The Many Mini Reviews: British Invasion!

What better way to spend a terribly rainy weekend than to soak up some solid British acting?

Despite Dr. Bryerly’s (Esmond Knight) adamant objections, Carolyn Ruthyn (Jean Simmons), a recently orphaned girl concedes to her late father’s wishes that she go live with her Uncle Silas. Having never met her uncle, Carolyn is fascinated with the rumors she has heard about his misdeeds and apparent repentance of them. Thoroughly trusting him to care for her, Carolyn will soon regret ever agreeing to live with Uncle Silas.
I don’t want to give too much of this story away- it’s definitely a must see! Containing wonderful performances by Jean Simmons, Derrick DeMarney as her Uncle Silas and Katina Paxinou as Madam de la Rougirre his evil accomplice, Uncle Silas delivers as a substantial drama/horror mixture. I read that there is a TV version of this film with Peter O’Toole as Uncle Silas- I would LOVE to get my hands on that!
Behind the exterior of the shy and socially awkward Henry Holland (Alec Guinness), lies a man yearning to be rich but wise and patient enough to wait for a foolproof plan to arise before he robs his way to that goal. For twenty years, Holland has worked as a bank transfer agent for the delivery of gold bullion and it isn’t until he meets and befriends Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), that he sees his dreams coming to fruition. Pendlebury, a maker of souvenirs, agrees with Holland when he suggests that Pendlebury’s smelting equipment could be used to forge gold into toy Eiffel Towers that could legally be transferred from England to France. Realizing that Holland is actually being serious, the two set out to find two more accomplises and begin an adventure wrought with several twists and turns.
A thoroughly entertaining film from start to finish, The Lavender Hill Mob is a must see! Be on the look out for Audrey Hepburn in a walk on role.
 Louis Manzzini (Dennis Price) vows to avenge his mother who was shunned by her aristocratic family for eloping with an Italian opera singer. A distant relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne, Manzzini manages to successfully inherit the Dukedom by murdering the eight other heirs in the line of succession to the title only to be brought to heel by his jealous lover Sibella (Joan Greenwood). His deeds are as follows:
Young Ascoyne D'Ascoyne (son of Lord Ascoyne D'Ascoyne): Sent over a closed dam in a boat with his girlfriend.
Young Henry D'Ascoyne (photographer): Killed in the explosion of his darkroom when Manzzini substitutes petrol for the paraffin.
Reverend Lord Henry D'Ascoyne: Drinks poisoned port.
Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne: Dies in the crash of her air balloon while distributing suffragist leaflets, when Manzzini shoots an arrow at it.
Admiral Lord Horatio D'Ascoyne: Dies without assistance by Manzzini in a shipwreck of his own doing.
General Lord Rufus D'Ascoyne: Detonation of a bomb concealed in a pot of caviar.
Ethelred D'Ascoyne, 8th Duke of Chalfont: Lured into a mantrap and shot with his own gun, made to appear to be an accident.
Lord Ascoyne D'Ascoyne (Banker): Dies of shock on hearing of the death of Ethelred and the news that he is now the Duke.
A light comedy that is thoroughly entertaining from end to finish, Kind Hearts and Coronets is a must see. Kudos to Alec Guinness for playing each of the eight D’Ascoynes to perfection!
 Sister Clodah (Deborah Kerr) is given the responsibility of becoming Sister Superior when she and four other nuns are dispatched to the Himalayas to open a new convent. Sister Clodah, as well as her own Mother Superior, has doubts as to whether she can succeed. Although she knows she can depend upon Sister Phillipa (Flora Robson) and Sister Briony (Judith Furse), there are obvious misgivings about Sister Honey (Jenny Laird) who is quite young, and Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) whose devotion to the order is questionable. However, each sister’s strength and faith is tested with this new assignment. There is something in the clean, high altitudes of the Himalayas that causes Sister Clodah to reminisce about an early romance and Sister Phillipa to plant flowers instead of the food they need to eat. As for Sister Briony and Sister Honey, they clash over how to best treat their new patients with Sister Briony heeding local agent Mr. Dean’s (David Farrar) advice about treating the deathly ill as there would be dire consequences if the patient doesn't recover. As for Sister Ruth, she is slowly going mad, having become obsessed with Mr. Dean. When she decides to suddenly leave the order and go to him, his refusal of her leads to tragic results.
Black Narcissus was the second film that helped propel Deborah Kerr to fame in America, however I think Kathleen Byron completely steals the film away from her. Kerr’s Sister Clodah comes off not so much holy or generous as she does and critical and unapproachable. In fact, it seems no wonder that Sister Ruth is suspicious of her and eventually comes to despise her.  Sister Clodah is not at all likeable. Thoroughly likeable was Sabu as The Young General, with finery to match his fine manners. He adds a light touch to a heavy film. Though she speaks no lines, Jean Simmons as the young dancer Kanchi looks quite beautiful and exotic in her costume.
 I was very impressed with the use of Technicolor (Egads! Me?) in this film thanks to the magic hands of cinematographer, Jack Cardiff. The color adds eeriness to Sister Ruth’s decent into madness giving the film a spookier twist, especially on the close-ups.
Per tradition, Philippe de Montfaucon the Marquis de Bellac (David Niven) must sacrifice himself (literally) in order for his vineyards near Bordeaux to produce. He instructs his wife, Catherine (Deborah Kerr), to remain in Paris with the children. Disturbed by his behavior, Catherine follows a few days later with the children. The collective actions of Countess Estelle, Philippe's aunt (Flora Robson), Père Dominic (Donald Pleasance), the local priest, and the menacing Christian de Caray (David Hemmings) and his sister, Odile (Sharon Tate) leads Catherine to believe something evil is afoot. Will she be able to figure out what it is before lives are ruined?
Like some classic legends of the screen, Deborah Kerr got her horror movie on as well. Luckily she aged better than Bette Davis and didn’t have to resort to the same kind of fate as that dynamic star. Eye of the Devil has elements of the usual sixties horror fare though not particularly scary or even interesting. However, I love David Niven too much to pass on anything he may be in.

Tonight on TCM!
Hotel (1967) -A New Orleans hotel owner fights off a corporate raider while his guests struggle through a variety of personal problems. Dir: Richard Quine Cast: Rod Taylor, Catherine Spaak, Karl Malden.

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