Grace Conway on Films
KON-TIKI (Curzon: Certificate U) Producer: 011e Nordemar WHEN Thor Hayerdahl, a young Norwegian anthropologist, T Y announced his fantastic plan to cross the Pacific Ocean in the type of raft used by primitive peoples 1.500 years ago he was greeted by Jeremialts on every side. They would be swamped and swept into the sea by the first big wave, he was told.
Rut the craft was not sunk and this magnificent. courageous, audacious venture was brought off. Now. after the best-selling book, comes the film to show us in a day-to-day record just how the thing was done.
Thor Hayerdahl. who had been in the Polynesian Islands some years before. was convinced that the folk who lived in Peru ((he pre-Aztecs) and the folk who lived thousands of miles away on the other side of the Pacific had a common origin and that it would have been possible for the men from Peru to have sailed across. Old records were searched and the raft was constructed-a raft made of the soft wood of the balsa trees cut down in the Ecuador forests and lashed together with ropes.
Not a nail or a bolt was used-not a scrap of navigating equipment. Only a radio was taken along so that the raft's progress could be followed and checked.
And, of course, along went a 16 mm. movie camera. Some of the film was lost in a three-day storm and some when the raft, having completed its fantastic journey of 4,300 nautical miles, ran aground on a perilous reef. But enough has remained to give us a great picture, with the skipper himself providing the running commentary.
For crew there were four other young Norwegians-scientists who knew next to nothing about navigation, and a young Swede. Two of them submitted themselves as culinary guinea-pigs. Two menus were used throughout-one mid-2(1th century and one fifth century.
For the whole of the 65 minutes the film takes to run we are practically at water level. The raft is continually awash, but as quickly the water pours back. Sharks and whales are a constant escort, and flying fisha leap on deck-to provide a fresh breakfast every day for the crew.
The only lady on board was Lolita, a Peruvian parrot who was with them half way across the Pacific, perched ditaily on the rigging and observing everything-until one day she took off and was never seen again.
There has never been a film like this. and I suppose there never will be again. It is the biggest adventure story of the century. It is great to know that it has not had to be reconstructed on a pond in a studio, but is the real thing.
Some of the shots of the Kon-Tiki were taken front a rubber dinghy, but after one frightening experience when they got left behind (the raft was carried at a steady pace by currents and tradewinds) they never dared to go out in the dinghy again without a tow rope firmly attached to the parent ship!
When the film is over and the crew are on dry land again, even members of the audience have that peculiar feeling that they have just got off a ship. STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE (Cotton: Certificate A) Director: Henri Decoin
Oo the same programme is that great and greatly missed and much-loved actor Raimu in an adaptation of Georges Simenon's "Les lnconnus dans la Maison." A thriller about a youthful "gang" in a provincial town who begin their gangsterism as a game but find themselves the centre of a murder trial.
Unusual in a French film is to find the cinema being used as a platform for reform. Raimu, as a once brilliant lawyer and as the town's most famous drunkard, comes out of his retirement to defend the young man accused of the crime and denounces the town for having 37 cafés, bistros and "bars," and nothing else to distract the young.
THE MERRY WIDOW (Empire: Certificate Us) Director: Curtis Bernhardt
THE famous musical comedy by Franz Leber with Lana Turner, quite a lady until she breaks into the vernacular, wearing the dramatic hats and gowns which ushered in the 20th century. and with Fernando Lamas. a new and energetic masculine lead as Count (Don Juan) Danilo.
THE HAPPY TIME (Carlton: Certificate A) Director: Richard Fleischer SLIGHTLY filleted edition of the play of the same name written around a French Canadian family arid the I2-year-old son of one of the brothers (Charles Boyer).
The climax is reached in a fatherto-son talk about the "facts of life." Somehow it is all a bit self-consciously "Gallic" and hybrid. Louis Jordain, Marsha Hunt and Linda' Christian act pleasantly, but Bobby Driscoll as the 12-year-old is too much of an American boy to be credible.
PERILOUS EXPEDITION (Rialto: Certificate U) Director: Lau Lauritzen IHERE is one terrible moment in this semi-documentary Danish picture about the part Danish sailors played in British convoys during the war. One of the ships is sinking under a savage aerial bombardment. A sailor is trapped under a fallen beam. The decks are awash. His friend is risking his life trying to move the beam.
The camera switches to the inside of the German plane. An expensively-gloved hand moves to press a button-and a fresh flock of bombs is released. The ship is finished.
No grimmer commentary on the machine versus human agony has ever been made.