BITTER SPRINGS (GAtimoNv) Director : Ralph Smart
AFRICA has long been called the Dark Continent but, it seems to
me that Australia, until quite recently, has run it a close second.
While ever since the movies began, the United States has turned out Westerns on the cinema assembly line with unfaltering pace, British Dominions and possessions have gone uncamera'd and unrecorded. Until Ealing came along.
How far this extreme economy of words is going to affect the " Western " fan, brought up on a diet of heroics, gun-play. Red Indians, wild horses. cattle stampedes and torrid romance, I wouldn't like to say. Ealing certainly leans quite heavily to the documeutary side. being content merely to sketch in the human, personal angle.
My own reaction to this type of treatment is to find a certain amount of jerkiness in the production. The camera will switch from one character to another to record a brief sentence, then off again to take up the maio theme.
While this may be the only way to deal with Tommy Trinder and his wisecracks. I certainly feel that the other characters should be given much more opportunity to establish themselves. Never have the British been shown so strong, silent and, yes, it must be said. dull.
In Chips Rafferty Australian films have a gift from heaven. This man typifies, in physique, in speech, in action, the real Australian-and no one who saw his fine performance in The Overlanders will argue about that.
Lean, long-nosed, his eyes slitted against the uncompromising sun, as he leads his small group 600 miles across desert and mountains to take up the plot of sheep country, he has rented from the Government, he seems part of the land itself.
No attempt has been made to idealise the way of the white man in his search for land. The aborigines own whatever water holes there are -mad they have already parcelled them out among themselves. They oppose the few guns of the white invaders with spears. They think that if the white men shoot on their game, they can help themselves to an occasional sheep from the invaders' flock.
Just to show that the Government is keeping an eye on things, a lone trooper appears from time to timea kind of liaison officer whose job it is to pacify the aborigines and stop what at one time looks like being a first-class racial war. He has all my sympathy.
The best way to enjoy this really illuminating film is to regard it as a documentary. For that is what it is. A record of the drive of the white man inlapd from the coast, a glimpse of what the aborigines looked like and how they lived, and some wonderful shots of a baby kangaroo at play.
The location was in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. a dramatic landscape of great cliffs, massive trees, vvater-holes and game.
The 130 aborigines came from a mission station 300 miles away and, according to the director, not only made intelligent and unself-conscious actors, but were shrewd bargaiDers.
Ealing has made history in being the first film studio to give not only the world at large but the Australian, themselves a chance to see th natives at close quarters.
MONTANA (LoNnoN PnviLior:i Director: Tay Enright THE " Western " mentioned at the beginning of this column is here presented in all its traditional trappings.
A Technicolor red head (Alexis Smith) whose family have always regarded Montana as cattle country, threatens to shoot Errol Flynn who thinks the sheep should get some grazing there. And, of course, the old formula remains-except that the girl actually does shoot him, prior to the final clinch.
Was it my imagination or did Mr. Flynn use a double for the rough riding and the savage fist fights ? WINCHESTER '73
(ODEON, LEICESTER SQUARE)
Director : Anthony Mann JAMES Stewart, who, after the gun of the title, is the hero of this Cowboys and Indians affray, seems to me to fit much more logically into the rough-riding atmosphere.
To begin with, he uses a real weather-beaten make-up that suggests a lifetime spent in sun, dust and wind.
There's a frightful lot of shooting, ending in fratricide.
Why should a film be dedicated to
a rifle ? Because, say those who should know, it put an end to Red Indians scalping their victims.
THE LADY TAKES A SAILOR (WARNERS) Director : Michael Curtiz
nNE of these trapeze-like comedies that leap about all over the place. This time from shiny emporium (where Jane Wyman is a director) to the bottom of the sea where Dennis Morgan is using a craft that can only travel up and down.
Mostly slapstick but really very funny most of the time.
Director : Irving Reis
I HEARD a groan go round my part of the cinema as this opened with voices heard from "heaven?".
Emlyn Williams, who, I believe, was carried off to Hollywood specially to make this film, succeeds in as much as he makes the three husbands look and sound like raw overgrown adolescents.
Eve Arden lends her special brand of comic resignation to help what is a sadly undistinguished bit of screenplay.
RELEASES Night and the City : Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney in the Loodon underworld.
Wabash Avenue Betty Grable. Formula as before.