Category: Max von Meyerling



I don’t remember if it was more than one critic who complained: “What, another Holocaust film?” It got me to thinking; just how many Holocaust films are there and how often do they come out? I mean. are there as many as there are zombie films or vampire films or serial killer films or hitman films? I asked a non-cineaste friend and he ventured to guess “three.” I said what about Anne Frank films and he said he thought that only films about the concentration camps counted as Holocaust Films.


The really great thing about movies is that they dramatize life. The really crappy thing about movies is that they dramatize life.


Silent films, as any good film critic or cineaste could tell you, were never silent. They were shown with music. Even if it was just a mean piano or piano violin duo in a nickelodeon, or a symphony orchestra, there was musical accompaniment. Films were distributed with special scores or just appropriate cues to be played along with the films. In fact, the Warner Brothers invented the sound film principally to save money by not having to hire musicians, as they owned the theaters that played their movies. Having the music already available, canned as it were, they could eliminate the musicians. The addition of dialogue was just an improvisation.


I find that I’ve written a lot about historical films in regard to their accuracy and authenticity and analyzed just about every way a film can be screwed up. But after having seen Clint Eastwood’s J. EDGAR, to take a limerick out of context: “look here Jock, and see what I’ve got, I think I found one new way”. This is the first film I’ve seen that I recognized that historical accuracy was sacrificed because of the necessities of editing. The film on the screen is not the same film that was written and shot.


Every historical film, every one of them, should have appended to its’ ending the epilogue from Ed Wood’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE where the inimitable Criswell intones in his most serious voice – Can you prove it didn’t happen? It’s the same impeccable logic that George W. used and 200 million Americans approved of before invading Iraq. Can you prove you have no WMDs? Can you prove it didn’t happen?


This is an amusing little trifle. No more or no less. A charming cast, a fast pace, snappy dialog, charming players, a very silly story and a naked and unexplained denouement. The film started with the footage Tay Garnett made during a round-the-world sail. Or at least as far as Bombay sail. What to do with this footage? Dorothy Parker and sometime husband Alan Campbell, and Frank Adams, an ex-reporter and music composer who co-wrote “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” concocted a story about a classy broad who thinks she shot and killed a man and escapes San Francisco by going west to Hawaii, Japan, China, etc. She is being chased by the World’s Greatest Detective, the dumbest flatfoot on the force who never-the-less is high ranking, and said detectives’ secretary. So you see the background shots are used as the backgrounds of all the places they go. Miss Parker is responsible for some mighty clever lines, lines that gave Ann Southern a whole career.


Almost every historical movie is mostly movie and very little history. The fault of LA CONJURA DE EL ESCORIAL is that for once it might be too much history. The action takes place in the court of Spain’s King Philip ll. The year is 1578 and the crisis is about the war against the rebels, Protestant supporters of William of Orange in the Netherlands. There are two views at the court. The aging Duke of Alba, a blunt military man, would go to all out war, and the young and progressive Prime Minister, Antonio Perez (Jason Isaacs), objects to the expense of the war and argues for a negotiated settlement.


This is a really moronic film, but as it went along within its own context I must admit I was amused. So my warning is to dump it in the first 5 minutes if you don’t like it or you will kill another 40 minutes. As it is even low comedy has a floor and this is in the basement. The humor is that of the burlesque theater and it wouldn’t surprise me if the writers came from that discipline.


HUNT THE MAN DOWN is a routine little noir of slightly more than an hour in length but rich in its characterizations so not a total waste of time. It’s a strange combination of CALL NORTHSIDE 777 and Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, which was filmed as MURDER MY SWEET. A short order cook in a one arm joint thwarts an armed robber and his photo in the paper reveals him to be an escaped murderer who escaped his trial 12 years previously just before the verdict was to be read. Now if you ignore the plot hole that a man wanted and nearly convicted of murder and facing the gas chamber would stick around Los Angeles you can watch him as he passively is re-arrested. He draws Gig Young as his public defender who, though initially skeptical of his client’s innocence, goes about proving it.


There is absolutely no reason to see NO LEAVE, NO LOVE. It’s not really awful, or terrible, just a lot of milling about to little effect. Just another routine offering that aimed at mindless entertainment and failed. It is of some historical importance however as it represents the fault line between wartime entertainment and post-war films.