SENT RENE CLAIR TO SLEEP?
From Iris Conlay
CATHOLIC HERALD Film Critic SAY what we may, this has not been a big week for the films. And that in spite of very big names. In spite of a Rene Clair production, in spite of a Jack Buchanan and Maurice Chevalier tandem performance, in spite of Will Hay, Barry K. Barnes, in spite of the brilliant minority shows put up by Gibb McLaughlin as a night porter, Andrew Osborne as a shell-shocked war victim, and an anonymous dog as a roughhaired terrier—in spite of all this and in spite of the music and songs of Cole Porter we are not warmed to the films out of which they arise. Once again the workmen have proved better than their work.
Beginning with that I don't think anyone among the audience could have blushed.
For the rest of it, you must know that Who Goes Next? is a prisoner-of-war drama, set realistically and baldly without unnecessary embellishment in a German frontier camp. Seven British officers are billeted in a simple room, and they endeavour throughout months of labour to force a tunnel-way under the prison to safety. Ruling over them is a theatrical German officer—all greed and grasp, and in contrast with his paper-flimsiness, the British officers stand out three dimensional in their reality.
But the worst staginess of the whole affair is that eternal war coincidence of the two officers who, unknown to each other, love the same woman, then get sent to the same internment camp and only discover the impossible situation while escaping. For this hack it is difficult to absolve Who Goes Next? in spite of its incidental humanity.
Convict 99 is all Will Hay at his most
characteristic. This time he has been ejected from the headship of the famous St. Michael's school, and instead gets the governorship of Blackgang prison. Inevitably he finds himself an inmate instead of a governor of this establishment—but it seems all to the good because with inside information behind him, Mr. Hay makes a great success of his prison. Makes it a holiday camp in fact, and in his own words persuades the inhabitants " to regard the walls not as means to keep you in, but as protection to keep the riff-raff out."
And Will Hay's usual friends are with him again—Graham Moffatt, Moore Marriott and his own specs. Without them no Will Hay film would be complete — and this film is a very complete one indeed. It would make a sandwichman's sides creak.