BASIL DEARDEN and Michael Relph have a respected director writer partnership in British films. For over 30 years they have turned out fair films on topical themes.
There was Dead of Night, The Captive Heart, The Blue Lamp, Sapphire, the first British film on the colour problem; and Dirk Bogarde in Victim, the first British film on homosexuality.
They have been the competent creators of British movies able to give adequate account of a straightforward story; not the sort of craftsmen who by sheer wit and style can keep a piece of nonsense frothing fantastically.
The Assassination Bureau ("A," Paramount) needs the wit and lightness of a Lubitsch, with its neo-Ruritanian flavour of Edwardian Europe.
Michael Relph has based the screenplay on an idea in a book by Jack London and Robert Fish. A young lady (Diana Rigg), with femininist
tendencies, in answer to an
advertisement in the personal
column of The Times, finds
herself applying to Ivan Drago
miloff (Oliver Reed) of a Round Table Club which might be renamed Assassinations International.
Elaborate complications set up a situation where the chairman finds his bureau committed to assassinate himself. The consequent chase across Europe stops at a "house of assignation" in Paris (presided over by Beryl Reid), a Swiss bank, the Grand Canal, and a German castle where a Zeppelin waits to bomb a conference of crowned heads.
The set-up gives Oliver Reed scope for yet another and more polished type of part. He and Diana Rigg make an attractive leading pair. The formidable Telly Savalas heads the distinguished supporting cast as a newspaper baron.
In a negligible sort of way the sideshows and fireworks are lively enough. The trouble is that there is no real substance to either story or characters; and not enough wit to give the diversionary nonsense more than a faint period
flavour, somewhere between Sherlock Holmes and Those Daring Young Men, that is mildly enjoyable. Two of the new pictures take trips among the so-called hippies that are not perhaps as different as they seem. The Italian Escalation ("X," BerKeley) follows a rich young Italian's progress from the London hippies' version of Eastern meditation, to sex as learned from an Italian girl psychoanalyst, a slight case of murder; to end up understandably worshipping power and industrial efficiency.
In What's Good for the Goose ("A," on Release) Norman Wisdom of all people plays a timid but not-too-tired little businessman who gets picked up on his way to a conference in Southport by two determined teenagers. His passengers proceed to initiate him into the behaviour, clothing and unclothing, the manners and methods of hippies.
Frankly, I found this picture nauseating and only ever tolerable because of Sally Geeson's candid charm as the seductress.
But the film's conception of
innocence is curious. There is
some rudimentary farce in Mr. Wisdom's efforts to get
from hotel bedroom to boardroom and back smoothly, and a little fun in his psychedelic shirts,
Far worse than his antics in bedroom or bathroom I found the implicit moral, not that he deserved what he got for carry. ing on at his age, but that wives might get a new lease of marriage through allowing their husbands extra-marital escapades.
Strindberg's obsessive mysogony makes some of the most indigestible fare in the European theatre. The version of Dense Macabre ("X," Cinecenta) does not suggest that it is any more adaptable to the screen. The atmosphere of the cramped, hate-filled but on the small island is effective enough in a distantly Bergmanesque way. But the hate-filled, stilted solemnity really makes no call on normal interest, unless in the performance of that excellent actress Lilli Palmer as the hated and hating wife. She, like the rest of the cast, appears to be "dubbed"— though probably by her own voice.