MUCH the most enjoyable of a rather daunting batch of new movies was, I found, the Walt Disney Productions' Hill's Angels (U, Odeon, St Martin's Lane). It is 'the fictional version of the true story of a Presbyterian minister in New York State in the sixties. With it, the problem of corruption undergoes a Disney clean-up.
Young Rev Albert Hill (Edward Hermann) rakes over his
parish and immediately finds the unds he had raised gambled away by a parishioner's husband. The film thereafter follows his campaign, helped by half a dozen doughty women parishioners, to cleanse the community frOm gambling. The whole adventure, starting with the minister losing his trousers, is decidedly elementary Disney fun and its development lar from subtle. But the meekand-mild minister is supported by such a lively and likeable league of parish ladies — including Cloris Leachman and Barbara Harris — and Disney's are so expert at reaching a happy ending after a multiple car chase that this is a most jolly triumph of good over evil.
One of my favourite moments was on the bus ride when Ruth Buzz' identifies herself as "K0X2345" or whatever the number is, "the Oecumenical Enchantress", with almost the aplomb of Beatrice Lillie.
Peter Brook's Meetings with Remarkable Men (U, Gate Two, Bloomsbury) I reviewed after seeing it in Cork. There I found it handsome, baffling and boring. Above all, I was disappointed at how little it illuminated for me the life of works of that remarkable man, the religious philsopher C;urdjeff. The film has now arrived aptly enough in Bloomsbury via the Oxford Festival.
Those better versed than I in the teachings of Gurdjeff will surely find the film a spectacular illustration of them, as it roves between Russia, Paris and Afghanistan often at mountaintop level. To those capable of persevering concentration it must anyway come as a welcome change front ordinary fare at the cinema.
Old Boyfriends (X, Camden Plaza) arrives via the Cannes Festival, brandishing the impressive record of its director, Joan Tewkesbury, whose first feature this is. After her own career as dance and choreographer, Miss Tewkesbury's previous film experience was to write the scripts for Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller and for his brilliant "Nashville".
For "Old Boyfriends" she has assembled technicians and a cast of comparable prestige. The screenplay she has rewritten was by Paul and Leonard Schrader, who wrote "Taxi Driver". The admirable cast includes Keith Carradine, Buck Henry and that fine former producer, John Houseman, as well as her interesting star, Talia Shire (a sister of Francis Ford Coppola).
The art director and cameraman are respectively Peter Jamison and Will Fraker. 1 name the last two because their work is of major importance in a film which technically and artistically is outstanding for a first work. The set designs, the composition and the soft tones are of exceptional quality and in themselves make the film arresting.
The story is less satisfying. Diane Cruise (Talia Shire), a "clinical psychologist" trying to recover from her own marital breakdown, sets out from Los Angeles to look up selected old boy friends. At first her search looks like a mixture between "Carnet de Bal" (where, you may remember. Marie Bell looked up her partners On an old dance programme) and current stories of' unmarried women. When I learned that the original story had been written as "Old Girlfriends" I understood the unease of the transposition.
Nevertheless, despite one very distasteful encounter and although Diane's search proves a dire record of her own failure, it is never without interest. Near the end John Houseman injects a powerful "cameo" as the consultant psychologist who turns on the mere clinical psychologist for daring, to interfere with another psychologist's patient by her "oblique walk down memory lane,"
Joan Tewkesbury's next film will be eagerly awaited, as will Talia Shire's. Another of the film's assets is the attractive score by David Shire, the star's Ii usba nd
Young friends capable of understanding the vocabulary and signs of science fiction assure me that Alien (X, Odeon, Leicester Square) has some coherence in that content and even great suspense. I am myself so devoid of' scientific nous that I cannot recognise, let alone appreciate, the design of the white computer called Mother.
could never tell when the space-tug "Nostromo" was coming or going on its way back to earth, when we were in outer space and when in inner or when underground.
Ignorance thus deprived me of suspense, although admittedly periodic sudden explosions of noise or something visually much nastier administered shocks. These apart, 1 found the film either boring or disgusting.
What upsets me is that anybody feeling tree to imagine a wholly new world, and apparently discounting heaven or hell, cannot think of anything beautiful or exciting but only a revolting space-monster suggesting a crab or tarantula or a load of offal on the butcher's bench.
No doubt the special effects are brilliant, but even a cast including such splendid actors as Ian Holm and John Hurt cannot make the space crew seem human, though Sigourney Weaver makes an impressive film debut as the leading airwoman.
Mere is nothing much wrong with either Harrison Ford as an American bomber pilot or Lesley Anne Down as a British nurse in 1943 in Hanover Street (A, Columbia). Neither is there anything to distinguish the film from any other feeble attempt to imitate the wartime romance of, say, Brief Encounter. The tube station of the title is invented and nothing else rings much truer.