By FRANK DAVEY
Odeon, Leicester Square
WHEN a new colonel (John Mills) comes to take command of a Highland regiment with a history and a reputation, over the head of the lieutenant-colonel (Alec Guinness), who led it through war in the desert and now becomes second-in-command, you might forsee trouble (and you would be right). This is all the more likely because the new cornmanding officer is the last of a long line of ancestors who grew up with the regiment, while its battle leader has risen from the rank of piper, a tough, harddrinking fighter nonetheless loved by his officers and men. Moreover, the new colonel is a rigid disciplinarian who seems determined to put a foot wrong whenever possible
Add to these ingredients the lieutenant colonel's charming daughter (Susannah York) who loves Corporal Piper Fraser (John Fraser. as it happens), and the broth boils over.
The film is concerned with the boiling. and a fine mess it makes. It comes to a head when Guinness strikes the corporal whom he finds in a pub with his daughter; there is imminent danger of a courtmartial. Problem for John Mills, who has already made himself unpopular by ordering pre-breakfast Highland dancing practice for all
officers, and ridiculous by stopping a regimental ball when they revert to their rowdy way of doing these things. In the end, he relents from the sours: he considers his duty, stays the court martial and shoots himself. This calls for, and gets, a superb piece of acting from John Mills.
Alec Guinness, haunted by the feeling that he is a murderer, breaks down while briefing his officers for a military funeral fit for a field marshal.
A dour plot, you may say, not to say grim. But it gives Sir Alec the part of his life. Not room for humour, you think? But yes, as there is in all human tragedy. Frankly, I hardly expected it; that it is there is a measure of the film's understanding, even greatness. I am not given to crying in the cinema, but this one had its misty moments. When it was shown to the critics, even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer. It should sweep Americans off their feet.
THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER Certificate U: Director Jack Sher Odeon, Marble Arch
THERE'S an atmosphere of Christmas about this film, whose world premiere in aid of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was attended by the President, Princess Margaret, and Mr. Armstrong-Jones.
I should Iike to have seen it with an audience of children. They will enjoy it, I am sure, as much as I did! and they are less likely to quibble about the introduction of a couple of silly songs. It will doubtless be their parents who will appreciate the fact that Swift's satire has by no means been cornpletely lost in this quite magical version of "Gulliver's Travels".
There is a horrible word for the process—it is called SuperDynamation—which enables Mr. Ray Harryhauscn to present sixinch Lilliputians and sixty-foot Brobdingnagians in glorious technicolor, with Dr. Gulliver (Kerwin Mathews) and his Elizabeth (June Thorburn) in proportion on the screen. This is really impressive and great fun.
A word of praise is due to the dwarf emperor (Basil Sydney) and the giant king (Gregoire Asian) for making more than pantomime of their parts. It is remarkable how timeless Swift's story is, as when the emperor declares: "Of course I don't need a Prime Minister to fight a war. But I do need one to blame in case we lose it."
A NEW LOOK FOR YOUTH ASSOCIATIONS
RE-ORGANISATION of the National Catholic Youth Association. just approved by the bishops of England and Wales, entails the following important changes:
Bishop Bright. chairman since its establishment in 1942, is now ecclesiastical adviser, white Dr. Kevin McDonnell becomes independent chairman of the council of the Association. Hon. See. is Miss M. McCann, of the Grail.
The N.C.Y.A. is an advisory and representative body comprising representatives of Catholic youth organisations. The reorganisation is made necessary by the new emphasis on youth service. Twelve youth organisations, including Scouts, Guides, C.Y.M.S.. Grail, K.S.C. Squires, League of Christ the King, Legion of Mary, National Federation of Sodalities, U.C.S., Y.C.W. (Boys and Girls sections) and the Young Christian Students. A national federation of Catholic youth clubs may shortly be set up, and it will be entitled to membership in the N.C.Y.A. counciL