Page 7, 13th December 1968

13th December 1968
Page 7
Page 7, 13th December 1968 — FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART FILMS

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Not so Great Catherine

CREAT CATHERINE `"jil ("U", Warner) was origally written by Shaw for a successful young actress (Gertrude Kingston) who had till then specialised in playing fluffy-headed popsies. Nobody could say the same of Jeanne Moreau, who plays the film version.

Something special might be expected from a part that could tempt two such different leading ladies, and from a film that has lured Peter OToole into the production side as well as into playing the ludicrously stiff-upper-lipped English captain, wrestling (literally) • with the preposterous majesty of St Petersburg's Court.

Disappointingly not hi ng special emerges to draw out this one-acter into a fulllength film. • Costumes and colour are magnificent, Hugh Leonard has written in an engagingly idiotic toy battle scene, and there is some spectacular Cossack dancing and some additional dialogue quite as good as Shaw's.

The trouble is that it isn't any better, because this still remains one of Shaw's least funny plays and neither Miss Moreau, Mr. °Toole, nor Zero Mostel falling about in all directions as Prince Potiemkin can really keep the fireworks glittering. There is *teat pleasure though, in seeing Jack Hawkins, as the British Ambassador, coming back to play his first speaking part since the cancer operation on his throat which threatened to end his career.

Alan Bates is best known for stage and TV satire. He Is far from home (but very happy) as The King of Hearts at Cameo Poly, which is not his usual type of satire at all.

It is set in a Northern French little town in 1918, when retreating German troops leave behind them a fused ammunition dump to blow up the town and the incoming British soldiers.

The plot is half-discovered, the town deserted except for a zoo-circus and the lunatic asylum, and Alan Bates as about the only soldier in his Highland regiment who speaks good French, is sent to find and dismantle the explosives.

Meanwhile the Germans have let out the lunatics, and the delighted lunatics have let out 'the animals and taken possession of the town like a big-scale nursery.

War and lunacy are delicate subjects for humour, but Daniel Boulanger has written, and Philippe de Broca directed an irreproachable, irresistible small fantasy. If you can visualise a combination of Voltaire and "Alice in Wonderland," this is it; and the laugh is not on the lunatics at all.

In some ways the most potentially interesting, disturbing and, as vaunted, controversial of the new movies is Twisted Nerve ("X," Carlton). The study of a young psychopath (Hywell Bennett) might have been interesting and could hardly be better played.

But the screenplay (coming through five pairs of hands) piles up so many possible causes: mother-fixation jealousy leading to carving up stepfather with scissors; alternate spoiling and rejection by mother (Phyllis Calvert); sexmania provoking him to take a hatchet to his landlady (Billie Whitelaw, excellent as ever), and exposing her daughter (Hayley Mills) to as many perils as Pauline.

The socially inexcusable and dramatically unnecessary addition of a mongol brother can hardly fail to leave implications of connection between mongolism a n d criminal psychosis which no disclamatory foreword or hospital lecture illustrated by diagrams of chromosomes can quite allay. This would be a really outrageous use of halfbaked—by which I -mean unproven—scientific speculation for the sake of sensationalism; while Mummie's farming-out the mongol brother raises a whole other problem.

Nor could the film's oftquoted text about "a twisted nerve or ganglion gone awry" predestinating the sinner or the saint ever be acceptable to Catholics.

Fortunately Hayley Mills's discovery among the boy's books of "Psychopathia Sexualis" reduces the distressing matter to the level of fangs on the viper-hut, the label POISON on the bottle, or just something nasty in the woodshed.

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