Page 9, 13th March 1964

13th March 1964
Page 9
Page 9, 13th March 1964 — NEW IN THE CINEMA FREDA BRUCE Locum K EY plays in

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the development of our present-day theatrical mood have, 1 suppose, been Look Back in Anger, Waiting for Godot, The Chairs, and The Caretaker; key playwrights John Osborne. Samuel Becket, lonesco end Harold Pinter, Not having seen The Caretaker" on the stage. I cannot tell whether this is one of the foundation plays or a derivative. We have now grown so used to seeing burlesque and satire of this type of drama it is difficult today to tell whether we are watching the real thing itself or an expedient followup.

But Pinter's prolific and consistent record puts him,bcyond doubt. Certainly with the showing of the movie the audience is implored not to read any message into ''The Caretaker". but rather to treat it as one of those do-it-yourself" shows.

"It is just a play about three people in a certain situation. if there were three such people. this is how they would behave," is how somebody familiar with the play explained it to me

After seeing the film of The Caretaker ("A". Academy) twice, T find it certainly meant more to me than at first sight. Exactly what that -meaningis I would not risk defining . . . but it N charged with rich human content.

There are only three characters. Davies. alias Jenkins (Donald Pleasance) is the tramp. the eternal stranger. beggar, outsider of centuries of drama. Scruffy. unshaven. stinking and garrulous, his grasping greed and self-pity always c‘ Idently end by alienating whoever takes pity on him until. rejected and ejected, he is forced to move on, Soon after the opening of the film. the tramp is just being offered the freedom of the attic owned by two unusual brothers. Mick (Alan Rates), the younger, is a beginner in the building trade with a sly sense of humour. He pretends to engage the old tramp as interior decorator or as caretaker.

Mick's elder brother Astor (Robert Shaw) is a strange, gentle monosyllabic giant whose unshaven head and shallow brow give his face a withdrawn appearance as if abstracted from his natural' personality.

To soy that these two parts and their performative by Alan Hates and Robert Shaw glee the film its

• extraordinary potency is not to decry Donald Pleasance's uncanny brilliance as the tramp. Only his acting is more conventional in a mere traditionally unconventional role.

\S hen I first saw Alan Bates' Mick he struck me as fascinating but unrecognisable. A second look made dear the great privilege of seeing so richly talented and expressive an actor in the intimate detail and close-up of a film.

His Mick grew so much that, as I get a third view of "The Caretaker", he may grow still further.

Shaw's performance is extraordinary. His sudden breakthrough of Astor's tight-held silence to describe the treatment he was given in a mental home is the play's great and significant climax which colours all that goes before or conies after and makes Mick's underlying compassion and brotherly loyalty the more profound and touching.

As a prize transferred from the new drama to the new cinema "The Caretaker" is a treasure for all concerned. Mr. Harold Pinter has clinched his reputation nn film and television screen as well as in the theatre. I His screenplay for The Servant" was only adaptation and additional dialogue.)

The director of The Caretaker" is Clive Donner fresh from his triumph (and with Alan Bates again) as director of Nothing eat the Best. Robert Shaw, a straightforward hero up till now takes on new stature and a new dimension.

Bette Davis has been around a long time. She appears now to have been ahead of her time, too, in specialising in anti-pathetic parts ever since her waitress in Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" nearly 30 years ago.

Yet last year's "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane." that heavyweight (dramatically counting) championship contest in evil sisterhood between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, chalked up not only one of Miss Davie's most brilliant and repulsive characterisations in the grotesque; it was also one of the few big box office hits.

In this year's Dead Image ("A", Warner), Miss Davis goes right on from where she left oft as Baby Jane.

This time she plays identical twins, Margaret De Lorca and Edie Philips, who meet again, after years of separation, at the funeral of Maggie's husband. Frank.

This is a typical Davis vehicle with all stops out and no coincidence barred.

Maggie's rich husband, Frank, had previously been in love with poor little sister Edie. When Frank dies of a heart attack, the family cupboard—or rather golf hag proves full of arsenic. and Edict faithful admirer (Karl Malden) 'turns up as a police sergeant in charge of the investigation, Rich sister's lover is the most old-fashioned of cads (Peter lawford), who is almost her match in villainy.

'This fantastically complicated plot is hugely enlivened not only by Miss Davis's virtuosity in villainy, but by a stylish background.

Rich twin appears to have married into a family of Californian Catholic aristocracy and has some amusing, if outrageous scenes where familyprayers are led by Donna Anna (Estelle Winwood at her most eccentric). A perfect capped-and-aproned ladies' maid brings Miss Davis " Madam's Rosary and handkerchief for prayers.'

Miss Davis adds to her notches of monstrosity not just elementary poisoning, double death-stealing and blackmail, but deliberate selfwounding with a red-hot poker and savaging of her lover by her pet Great Dane (or Schaefer). It all sounds very callous and should, no doubt, be X•ish, but is, however, shamefully, riotously absurd.

Perhaps it owes some of its slickness, even elegance, to direction by Paul Henreid, who used to he one of Miss Davis's more romantic co-stars, and at the same studio.

What fun they must have had making this dotty hit of grand gaignol.

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