Tag Archives: Eagle-Lion Distributors

Hollow Triumph (1948, Steve Sekely)

Calling Hollow Triumph a vanity project for star (and producer) Paul Henreid might be a little too easy. He does play a guy who decides to murder someone who looks just like him–sadly, Daniel Fuchs’s script doesn’t have much fun with Henreid in the dual roles. In fact, Fuchs only gets in one joke–at the very end after everything has gone to pieces–and it’s not funny enough.

There’s a certain amorality to the film, which I suppose is mildly interesting. Henreid–in the protagonist role, not the double role–is a mildly successful crook, but one whose intelligence has led him to delusions of grandeur.

The opening ten or fifteen minutes are a boring heist gone wrong. Director Sekely is uneven. While Triumph does have a couple excellently directed sequences, it’s mostly medicare. Same goes for John Alton’s photography. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not.

Anyway, Henreid’s on the run and comes across a psychoanalyst who looks just like him. He plots the double’s murder. That portion of the film is somewhat successful. Also successful is Joan Bennett as the love interest. Fuchs’s dialogue for Henreid and the male characters tends to be too declarative, too obvious, but he writes well for Bennett’s character.

Until the end, when all the foreshadowing starts bumping into itself and Triumph’s ending becomes obvious.

Henreid’s fun to watch at times, but only for his absurd Austrian gangster bit. But he’s way too affected to take seriously.

Kind of like Triumph.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Steve Sekely; screenplay by Daniel Fuchs, based on the novel by Murray Forbes; director of photography, John Alton; edited by Fred Allen; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Paul Henreid; released by Eagle-Lion Films.

Starring Paul Henreid (John Muller / Dr. Bartok), Joan Bennett (Evelyn Hahn), Eduard Franz (Frederick Muller), Leslie Brooks (Virginia Taylor), John Qualen (Swangron), Mabel Paige (Charwoman) and Herbert Rudley (Marcy).


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Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean)

For the majority of Brief Encounter, I had very little opinion of Lean’s direction. It’s incredibly dispassionate and functional, but very solid. I think I assumed it’d be innovative (along the lines of the Archers) but it’s not. Very realistic, very British.

Until the second to last scene, when Lean has to essay the most dramatic moment in the film and fails miserably. He gets away with it for a couple reasons, which I’ll discuss in a moment, but it’s a terrible moment and Lean forecasts it as well, making it even worse.

But he gets away with it because Brief Encounter relies very little on his direction. The film rises and falls with Celia Johnson. Though the film is about her and Trevor Howard’s infidelity (he’s a married doctor, she’s a housewife–though she does have a maid and cook, so housewife doesn’t have the same connotation as the American sense), the film’s not about Howard at all. Quite unfortunately, Johnson narrates the film in her internal monologue confession to her boring but loving husband (Cyril Raymond).

If Johnson’s performance can overcome that narration–the film eventually breaks from it to show a single, humanizing scene with Howard–she can make Lean’s unfortunate spinning camera go away.

Brief Encounter is a rather good film, but fails to be anything extraordinary (except in terms of Johnson’s acting).

Oh, I forgot–the other way Lean makes up for the terrible direction moment. Immediately following it, there’s an exquisite fade, simply masterful.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by David Lean; screenplay by Anthony Havelock-Allan, Lean and Ronald Neame, based on a play by Noel Coward; director of photography, Robert Krasker; edited by Jack Harris; produced by Lean, Havelock-Allan and Neame; released by Eagle-Lion Distributors Limited.

Starring Celia Johnson (Laura Jesson), Trevor Howard (Dr. Alec Harvey), Stanley Holloway (Albert Godby), Joyce Carey (Myrtle Bagot), Cyril Raymond (Fred Jesson), Everley Gregg (Dolly Messiter), Marjorie Mars (Mary Norton) and Margaret Barton (Beryl Walters, Tea Room Assistant).


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The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

Well. What an incredibly unfortunate experience. The Red Shoes contains twenty of the most beautiful minutes ever put on film, the ballet sequence. It’s a visual feast–the film must be awe-inspiring on the big screen. The story, however, is awful. For a film with a fifty-two minute (of 134 minutes) first act, the idea of constructing a metaphor for The Red Shoes, Hans Christian Anderson’s story, amid a film about a production of a ballet of the same story… It’s incredibly unsuccessful. The final act is silly.

With The Tales of Hoffmann, the Archers just made an opera. They made a filmic opera. Maybe they couldn’t get the money to do a filmic ballet, but that’s all they really wanted to do with this film. The “real” moments still retain the surreal filmmaking techniques of the ballet sequence. Given this method, along with Marius Goring’s terrible performance–and utter lack of chemistry with female lead Moira Shearer (who’s passable, but obviously not an actress), the film is tedious at best.

Anton Walbrook is good as the Svengali ballet producer, I suppose, but he’s playing a type, but a character. There are deep character in this film. When, at the fifty-two minute mark, there’s an attempt at adding a layer to The Red Shoes, it’s so out of place you can see it grappling with the film’s existing structure. Amusingly, both Walbrook and Goring are eye-brow actors. Except Goring can’t do it and no one ever told him. In fact, Goring’s doing an Ernest Thesiger imitation (the Bride of Frankenstein mad scientist). In Tales of Hoffmann, someone else did a Thesiger imitation.

The film–for much of it–is incredibly well-made, incredibly beautiful to look at (again, it all comes apart in the third act, even if the Archers thought it was good stuff, it’s hard to package bullshit). It’s also an amazingly influential film. Bob Fosse lifted quite a bit for Cabaret, but the facehugger (!) from Alien is in here too. And Mel Brooks duplicated a scene here in Young Frankenstein–on closer examination, Gene Wilder’s whole performance in that film seems based on Walbrook’s here.

So, for the second time this month, the Archers failed me. Besides Powell’s Peeping Tom, I haven’t seen anything of their 1950s and after work… except They’re a Weird Mob, which was awful. I guess I’m not upset, because most of the film is watchable (if boring), it’s just that the Archers’ films usually are great. I never thought one (or two or three) wouldn’t be just as great.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; screenplay by Powell and Pressburger, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson; director of photography, Jack Cardiff; edited by Reginald Mills; music by Brian Easdale; released by Eagle-Lion Distributors.

Starring Anton Walbrook (Boris Lermontov), Marius Goring (Julian Craster), Moira Shearer (Victoria Page), Robert Helpmann (Ivan Boleslawsky), Léonide Massine (Grischa Ljubov), Albert Bassermann (Sergei Ratov), Ludmilla Tchérina (Irina Boronskaja), Esmond Knight (Livingstone ‘Livy’ Montagne), Jean Short (Terry Tyler) and Gordon Littmann (Ike Tanner).


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