By FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART
SAIL A CROOKED SHIP Certificate `U' Director : Irving Brecher
CHRISTMAS in British show 1,--4 business means pantomime and a pre-pantomime silly season. Once upon a time the cinema enjoyed a splendid school of crazy comedy. Nathaniel Benchley's novel turns into a tougher, more knockabout brand of fun. But it has an authentic daftness affecting all aboard the kidnapped Liberty ship.
Juvenile leads (Robert Wagner and Dolores Hart) are fair game and Miss Hart makes a splendid butt of the correct conventional ingenue. More creative comics are the dazzling Ernie Kovacs as the skipper who plans this crazy cruise to enable him to rob a bank, his selected eccentric crew, and above all the El Greco-like Carolyn Jones for his and our delight.
Seasickness, a hurricane also called Caroline. and a riotously ill-planned bank robbery shake the nonsense pretty thoroughly out of everybody. They also make for some of the most uninhibited, if
not too well co-ordinated, fun since the Marx Brothers.
PETTICOAT PIRATES Certificate "U" Director: David MacDonald
CHARLIE DRAKE, like many popular comedians, is meat for millions poison to me. So I am grateful that quite a lot of this comedy about a day in the life of the Royal Navy. when 150 Wrens take command of a frigate, carries on without him.
Not that it is more than an amiable enough minor British joke. The Wrens at least. led by Maxine Audley and Anne Heywood are attractive as well as smart.
Cecil Parker is in his clement as the C-in-C who in best ministerial fashion takes credit for what he could not prevent and David MacDonald has directed operations with professional slickness.
Charlie Drake's huge public may be consoled by one or two frenetic interludes, though to me he always seems to introduce a note of so-called "innocent" vulgarity.
BACHELOR FLAT Certificate "U" Director: FrankTashlin
TERRY-THOMAS introduces a welcome satiric edge into broad British comedy, In this Hollywood minor farce he becomes a buffoon, a stock caricature Englishman.
As a professor in a Californian college he is hunted almost to death by his girl students.
Hopes are raised by the professor's betrothal to that delightful actress Celeste Holm, but she appears too little and too late. The best-looking and hardestworking member of the cast is Jessica the dachshund; the most amusing, a newcomer to me, Fran
cesca Bellini. As a vehicle for Terry-Thomas its quality may be deduced from opening and closing sequences showing the star in his underpants.
LA VERITE Certificate "X"
Director: Henri-Georges Cluurot • THE KNIFE Certificate "X"
Director: Fons Rademakers yNCREASINGLY often in the -1. cinema it seems that "X" the unknown quantity equals despair. Both this large slow French. and this small slow Dutch film concern a young person driven to attempt suicide. Both make use of what may loosely be called the flashback form of narration which is being so overworked. In other respects the two films differ totally. Clouzot's screenplay is a straight court case. the trial for murder of a loose-living girl who shoots the only man she loves, for a variety of reasons including jealousy of her respectable. talented sister.
In "The Knife", desperation rather than despair perhaps k what goads the small schoolboy hero to think both of suicide and murder. His story too is told in flashback, a more fluid flashback as he remembers in the school train all he has already suffered. mostly through the overneated agony of jealousy roused by his mother's lover.
The poignant story is told with sensibility and delicacy and the human situation is observed with some of the gentle exactitude of e Dutch still life.