Really it’s a dreadful cheat of a film. Its 70-minute running time is very well padded with stock footage. The rest are non descript exteriors and drab interiors scenes. The plot exposition is very poorly rendered. They are all just perfunctory scenes sort of strung together. There is no attempt at drama in scene selection but rather drama is communicated by the intensity of the actors. Please don’t ask. What saves this film, somewhat uniquely, IS the stock footage.
Category: Max von Meyerling
THE SEA AROUND US
Before Irwin Allen went on to produce crappy, clumsy, cardboard disaster epics with gaudy but primitive special effects, he managed to get himself noticed by throwing together a film version of Rachel Carson’s bestselling (82 weeks on the NY Times list) The Sea Around Us. I say put together because this film, which impressed everybody (1953 Academy Award) in the early Fifties by merely having undersea color photography, because the footage was supplied by people and organizations with an interest in self promotion like oil companies, commercial fishing companies, shipping companies and the Australian National Tourist Board.
A hot, dusty, situation-western filmed in the oven like alkali desert of Death Valley. Not really very good, it’s a variation on the “Lost Patrol” theme. It does have a thing in showing a remarkable variety of gun battles from cover. It’s almost like a stock shot catalogue of Winchester fights. There’s some excellent overwrought character acting here. Charles McGraw is at his most stalwart and he’s in fine voice here too – tough and gravelly. Paul Richards – I never realized he was so short! is the ripest of all and mercifully dies early. John Doucette has a different role here as a Polish immigrant who left Poland because they wanted to put him in the army. Peter Graves gets to try the villain thing before STALAG 17.
AFTER THE DANCE
AFTER THE DANCE is the one about the innocent guy wrongly convicted and sent to prison who breaks out and becomes a show biz hit but is recaptured and sent back to the pen. What’s interesting about this little programmer is that in some ways it’s a proto-noir.
BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
Forget the prequel to Midway tag. It’s a war picture but the sub-genre isn’t naval warfare, but rather a POW picture. The only things representing the battle are the bookends, stock footage (some anachronistic) of naval warfare kind of stuff. The set-up: Cliff Robertson is a sub commander sent out on a recon mission before the aforementioned battle with the strong suggestion that if he has to sacrifice his boat, his men, and himself he must not reveal the dingus, the rendezvous point. Emphasis. So of course that’s just what happens. Japanese Navy frogmen in post war scuba (!) gear attach mines to the sub and Robertson gives up after scuttling the boat. That’s the first half hour.
INVENTING THE ABBOTTS
There was a time when films made for women, the so-called “Women’s picture”, were also entertaining and involving for a wider audience to enjoy. Now they are an exclusively female designed, designated, manufactured and sold product. The “chick flick” of today. There’s got to be more than just endless variations on “who’s going with whom”. The same giggly obsession of 8-year-old girls in the schoolyard matching up their schoolmates. It reminds me of an analogy with duplicate bridge where the same characters and elements can be played a different way each time and still lead to an arbitrary predetermined ending. Maybe there’s a better analogy.
This is a pretty terrible film, call it at its best – “derivative”. Another snore fest of the innocent American girl falling for a dubious but charming and handsome Italian nobleman, complete with secret door and hidden room containing “the truth”. The star attraction, except for maybe a nearly extinct cult following for the laconic and sardonic George Sanders, is non-existent. There is nothing remarkable about this film either aesthetically, cinematically, or historically.
More than just another cheesy exploitation flick, more than just another old man ego trip, more than just another dumb-ass the-kids-will eat-this-crap-up Sixties movie, this is the official OTTO PREMINGER take on the times.
WHERE IT’S AT
I have this interest in an as yet unrecognized sub-genre, films “old” Hollywood made in the ’60s to appeal to the new “youth culture”. Think of some sixty-year-old studio exec or agent exclaiming about how the kids love David Niven, their idea of a hip swinger. The most typical film of this genre is PRUDENCE AND THE PILL, which is based on the asinine premise that women couldn’t tell the difference between a birth control pill and an aspirin. Ha ha. Obviously made by people who had never seen a birth control pill FOR people who had heard of but had never seen a birth control pill. Its like the Orson Welles story about the frog and the scorpion – Hollywood was trapped by their very nature.
SENTINELS IN THE AIR
One of a series of self-serving propaganda films made by RKO during the period it was owned by Howard Hughes. This was made circa 1955 (there is one 1956 Dodge seen on a dealers lot, all other cars are 1955’s or earlier). It is a peon to the Air National Guard and emphasizes its importance in defending America – from what? The implication on the minds of audiences at the time was of course that Soviet bombers would penetrate US airspace and attack places like Marietta, Georgia, even though it was a 24-hour ride from the closest point in Russia.