Sunday, February 3, 2013

Try And Get Me (1950)

By Monica Sullivan

It was the last Saturday night in November, 1933, exactly one month before Christmas.  The body of one of the best and brightest young men in San Jose had just been found and his two confessed killers were in jail, awaiting trial.  Only there was no trial.  The town's angry citizens tried and executed the defendants that night and California governor Sunny Jim Rolph praised their actions as he justified his own decision not to send in additional protection for the prisoners.  This may sound like the plot for more than one movie, and it has, in fact, been filmed at least twice before.  (German emigre director Fritz Lang first chose the story for his 1936 American film debut, "Fury")  The San Jose lynching of 1933 was never interpreted better than by the soon-to-be-blacklisted director Cy Endfield in 1950.  

"Try and Get Me" is a little-known film noir classic, focusing on Frank Lovejoy as an ordinary man with no money and no prospects.  His wife and child don't mind, they love him, anyway, but he turns out to be an absolutely vulnerable target for Lloyd Bridges' smooth-talking con man.  Before long, they have pulled several small town robberies, but their big score arrives in the form of a rich young man whom they kidnap and rob.  On a casual, but deliberate, impulse, Bridges kills his victim, sickening Lovejoy whose conscience, too late, kicks into gear.  The two men 'celebrate' their new-found riches by taking in a nightclub with two goodtime girls, but the fundamental decency of Lovejoy's character won't permit him to deny his horror and nausea over the killing.  He pours out a confession to his pickup girl and then staggers home while she summons the police.  Richard Carlson plays a newsman whose articles on the killing stir up the emotions of the townspeople to the point where he feels guilty for his part in the ultimate fate of the prisoners.  However, director Endfield reinforces this point far more effectively by sticking with Frank Lovejoy who conveys anguish with such conviction that he forces audiences to identify with his feelings, if not his actions.  Lloyd Bridges never got a part that demanded more of him than as Lovejoy's amoral partner in crime.  

It was a real loss for American audiences that Endfield, who got his start making "Our Gang'comedies, was forced to leave the country as a result of the Hollywood red scare of that era.  There are some movies that almost defy the term, they seem so real that you'd swear you were tailing real people and eavesdropping on them.  (And the superb, offbeat black-&-white camera work by Guy Roe certainly contributes to that illusion.)  Endfield would later make some excellent British adventure films like "Mysterious Island", but "Try and Get Me" forces viewers to confront their feelings about retributions in a way that no other film then or now has quite been able to match.  It's also known as "Sound And Fury."
© 2013 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 01/23/13
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Chorus Of Disapproval (1988) - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

If you enjoyed Jeremy Irons' performance in Barbet Schroeder's vastly overrated "Rcversal of Fortune", or even if you didn't, you might enjoy seeing him in "A Chorus of Disapproval", directed by Michael Winner.  Michael Winner began his career in 1957 by directing "This Is Belgium".  Strapped for funds, he shot much of the travelogue in the British suburban town of East Grinstead.  He achieved fame and fortune with the American-made "Death Wish" movies, but his early work on films like "The Jokers" and "I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name" reveal a remarkable feeling for sharp satire that he seldom exploits.  

Winner was a good choice to direct Sir Alan Ayckbourn's "A Chorus of Disapproval", a charming satire about the antics of an amateur suburban theatrical troupe.  Like many other Ayckbourn works, including "The Norman Conquests", the satire is in-house.  The characters may not behave in irreproachable ways, but they are not condemned for their shortcomings, they are simply shown as the intensely human lot they are.  Jeremy Irons is ideally cast as a widowed twit who auditions for the company led by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is an insensitive boor, but he is completely devoted to the company and takes the newcomer under his wing.  Faster than you can say, "What is there to do in this little town?", we learn that the chief indoor sport is extramarital affairs.  There is a swinging couple played by the seductive Jenny Seagrove and a rather puffy Gareth Hunt who invite Irons and a friend over for fun and games, but Irons is so dense that he brings a sweet little dowager who spends the evening sleeping through a television documentary.  There is Hopkins' wife (Prunella Scales) who falls head over heels for the shy young stranger.  Meanwhile, Alexandra Pigg and Patsy Kensit fight for the reluctant approval of a grungy kid in the troupe.  

For one of Britain's most prolific playwrights, Ayckbourn leads a somewhat insulated life.  At one point in his career, he maintained that he wrote everything for a suburban repertory theatre, not for West End showcases, television or the movies, and his work still remains untouched by urban sophistication.  As a writer, his chief fascination remains suburbia, a world he observes with affection and wit.  Along the way, we see pettiness and treachery, but we also see continuity and strength.  Some of Britain's finest actors are in the cast of  "A Chorus of Disapproval" (Sylvia Syms, Lionel Jeffries, Barbara Ferris, Richard Briers) and Winner's surprisingly low-key approach here is ideal for this sort of delicate material.
© 2013 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 01/23/13
Movie Magazine International