The Golden Salamander—Francis—Report on Hong , Kong—Two Children's Films EAST week's cinema diet was
mixed, if not particularly nourishing. It included gunrunning in North Africa; a mule who talked; a documentary on Hong Kong; and, just to let adults get a glimpse of those Saturday morning performances which the children attend, two of the feature films which Miss Mary Fields makes exclusively for child
audiences. Ong of these. The Mysterious Poacher, made in Austria with Austrian child actors, was Excellent.
DEPENDING ON TYPFS
From the cinentagoer's point of view—that regular patron who seeks entertainment first and foremost—I itippose that Ronald Neame's The Golden Salamander (Ont.oN, NI A RBLE ARCH) is the most significant item on the menu. It is an example cif how a really competent director can take a thin and even trite story and turn it into an hour and a half cinema Lime that few will regret. It has a compelling opening, with the dimly distinguished features of Trevor Howard behind the rain-drenched windscreen of a car which he is driving to the accompaniment of extremely realistic thunder and lightning along a perilous North African cliff road. Mr. Neame keeps us for several minutes in this wild setting. with Trevor Howard getting eut now and again to reconnoitre in the most determined tropical rain that makes you forget those Hollywood studio rain pipes, and ends by making you
share Mr. Trevor's sense of being soaked to the skin.
A landslide. an abandoned lorry containing guns, and the beckoning lights of the village he is making for. bring this wild car ride to an end. British resource again wins the day and the rest of the journey is made on foot—hut not before one of the smuggled automatics has been transferred from the lorry to the pocket of the traveller. (The British again finding it absolutely impossible not to .stick their inquiring nose into anything fishy they may find on the road.)
ABSINTHE ON THE SLATE
With the arrival of Mr. Trevor at the village hostelry his real mission is revealed, He is an archaeologist sent out to catalogue and despatch a consignment of treasures destined for the (British'?) museum and wrecked on this particular hit of the coast. And as he lists and packs, he falls in love with the almost austere little French girl who runs the hostelry (Anouk), and, learning from one of the Greek treasures—a golden salamander-that he must face not evade evil. he uncovers an ugly gun-running racket which is keeping the " lord of the manor " in wicked luxury.
What is it that keeps your interest alive in this not very original story My guess is—the care that has been taken in casting and the ability of each character to establish its own particular type. Beginning with Trevor Howard's perfectly poised Englishman, smooth and diffident. continuing through Anouk's special brand of fascinating reticence to the dark " threat " of Herbert Loin and the appeal of the young French actor, Jacques Sernas — all these characters are knit together by means of the camera which lingers over each, unhurriedly, until they are etched on the mind.
Mr. Neame permits himself one macabre moment during a swim in the Mediterranean — which loses nothing of horror in its understatement. Wilfrid Hyde-Whyte (the educationist type of The Third Man) is also in the cast, playing Chopin on the piano and drinking endless absinthes.
WOULD YOU RATHER BE . . ?
Hollywood long ago has found a way to photograph animals so that they appear to talk. Now. one of them has become a star in his own right — by name Francis (LONDON PAVILION). Francis is a cynical mule who thinks that the Burma Campaign is being indifferently conducted and that second "loots " are a dime a dozen and therefore of no
strategic importance. Finding one of them in a clearing of the jungle, obviously lost, he says what he thinks and thereafter is the cause of many brilliant coups, giving advance information about the Yaps' intentions.
Much of the success of this excursion into fantasy depends on the playing of young Donald O'Connor as the lieutenant who has to spend repeated spells in the psychopathic ward making endless wicker baskets as the result of Francis' inspirations, I recommend this to military strategists who might find their ego slightly deflated as they listen to the mule's blistering line of satire.
This Modern Age times its latest Continued in next column. edition — a study of Hong Kong— very aptly for most people are wondering what is going to happen to this 'tightly packed bit of British China—half a size of Great London --under the new regime. The population which shrank during the occupation by the Japanese to half a million, is now swollen to two million — presenting a horrible example of overcrowding. It's the same old story—if there's a spot of stability anywhere near chaos and confusion, it is besieged by refugees. There are European and Chinese millionaires and, on the other side of the tracks, an appallingly low standard of life with women acting as beasts of burden, and shockingly overcrowded conditions.
The camera takes you everywhere—to tenement and to university —and shows us Hogg Kong as no small problem for the British authorities who seem to be trying to get a gallon measure into a pint sized pot.
POACHERS AND DRAGONS Of the two children's films, I liked the Mysterious Poacher very much. It shows a party of Austrian town children who go to the lakes and forests for a holiday and joining up with the local children become involved in tracking down a -deer poacher. The lovely mountain and lake scenery, the freedom of the children, their familiarity with boats, their resource and the painless capture of the villain make an entrancing picture and at the same time illustrates better than any lecture or prosy lesson how the children of another country live. The Dragon of Pendragon Castle — all about an impoverished family living in a castle—was I thought out of touch with modern life and except for the good acting of the smallest boy, rather silly.