Page 8, 18th October 1974

18th October 1974
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Page 8, 18th October 1974 — Variety of stars in a cliffhanger
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Variety of stars in a cliffhanger

by FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART

Hope springs eternal in a film critic's heart, and it is impossible to repress hope of a season which opens with two such handsome slabs of popular entertainment as last week's "Thats Entertainment" and now Juggernaut ("A", Leicester Square Theatre).

The title is a bit of a millstone, even it' most people know by now that "Juggernaut" is neither about articulated lorries nor about First World War tanks, but about a luxury liner, Britannic, setting out on a "cruise of a lifetime."

Written and produced by Richard Dekoker, the movie is elasskally true to the lumiliar formula of a crowded setting—it could be a grand hotel, an air port or a battleship ca able

of assembling a vaticty or stars and then subjecting them to a shared danger which creates suspense.

'Juggernaut" is in fact the code name for a mystery voice which warns the Britannic that bombs are being planted on hoard. The issue becomes one of choice between paying the terrorist the ransom he demands to save the passengers' lives or waiting all those tense, ticking hours until Richard Harris. flown in at the head set a bomb disposal unit, 4. all kit:film: the device down in the engine room. Harris is not usually a favourite of mine but

is here impressively authoritative.

The original cliff-hanger appeal here splendidly dressed up with Omar Sharirs charm as Britannic's captain; Shirley Knight, always a pleasure to watch but not quite explained as the captain's fellow-traveller; Anthony Hopkins, dynamic as ever, representing the police and the Establishment generally, and Roy Kinnear, the genial. humbling ship's entertainments officer.

1 he secret, I deduce, which galvanises the conventional suspense voyage into perpetual motion (not just the pitching and tossing and the storm at sea) is the directorial touch of Richard Lester. who endows the cumbersome liner with some of the lightness he gave the Beatles' "Long Hard Day."

During last year's London Film Festival I missed The Spirit of the Beehive ("AA" Academy 1 wo) by the Spanish director, Victor Erice, Now in Oxford Street is still strikes me

as profoundly mysterious and obscure, but is completely spell-binding.

It is one of those Spanish films which are rooted in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The date is 1940. A man and his wife, drained and isolated by the exhaustion and expenditure of themselves, come home from the war to the small, low cottage on the Spanish plain to observe and tend their beehive and their two little girls.

Ana is the grave-eyed dark one; Isabel a little lighter, fairer, more like her mother. Ana it is who has the experiences, who sees the old Frankenstein film, who has the nightmare of the monster and falls into what seems like a coma or decline.

The film is so silent, so elusive, I found it impossible to follow the precise subtleties of the allegory — no doubt partly because it is difficult for Spanish directors to he quite explicit.

But the beautiful

photography of the small, dark cottage creates an enthralling atmosphere where silence and darkness arc eloquent and the two little girls are miraculous. It is a -difficult film to understand, but well worth every effort.

In, the same programme the supporting picture is Mlkis Theodorakis ("U") a movie biography •-described on the programme as "a profile of Grcekness" — of the popular Greek composer of "Zorba the Greek" and Leftist idol.

In the film Theodorakis tells us how he became a Communist during the wartime resistance and then apparently ceased active party membership. But I can't help being reminded of an article by Antony Lejeune called, I believe, "Footballers and Ballet-Dancers," It appears early in the "cold war" when Soviet footballers and dancers were the vanguard of Marxist infiltration.

Today,judging by Theodorakis film and "Cornpanero", a similar Chilean film starring Victor Jara, a folksinger martyr of the Allende counter-coup, their place seems to he taken by pop-singers similarly well timed to tie in with political propaganda campaigns.

Perhaps I am tired of vampires. There seems no end to the fascination for the screen of Count Dracula and his fanged friends., The latest exploits of Dracula's wife Vampira ("AA" Carlton) at least begins with a promise of a laugh as a send-up of the whole genre. But, alas, the shock of seeing Count Dracula played by David Niven, just while on radio Mr Niven is delighting listeners by reading aloud his ow n autobiography, sports the ioke.

A different kind of propaganda film which I found surprisingly lively and illuminating is I Was A Stranger, a

16 mm documentary made for the Missions to Seamen and the Apostleship of the Sea about their work among seafarers in Hongkong.

Pious movies are not always as good as their intentions. By contrast "1 Was A Stranger" is refreshing, informative and reassuring. It gives a vivid glimpse of the teeming population of Hongkong and a reassuring sense of the care taken by the Missions and the Apostleship to provide seamen not only with picnics and feminine company but with home contacts.

"1 Was A Stranger" was directed by Keith Hulse, and showings have been arranged between now and Christmas. Portsmouth and Plymouth see it this week, Rydal and Whitehaven (in the presence of the Bishop of Carlisle) at the turn of the month, and York, Blackburn and Sheffield in the first half of November.

Anybody interested in further details can get them from the Missions to Seamen, St Michael Paternoster Royal, College Hill, London, EC4.




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