Freda Bruce Lockhart Even before the end of the 17th London Film Festival (on December 7) its first fruits are already making their appearance in the cinemas. There they mingle with the newest commercial movies to offer a curiously mixed fare.
A first group of titles suggests a natural history or 700 series: from Hollywood Ssssnake ("X," ABC Fulham Road and Edgware Road), from the Festival Ape and Superape "AA." Gala Royal) and The Double-Headed Eagle ("U," Odeons Chelsea and Swiss Cottage),
Roth the first two subscribe to theories of evolution. Ssssnake is a very peculiar picture. A benevolent-looking old ophiologist or snake-vet (Strother Martin) keeps a king cobra, mamba and other sinister serpents (and an unfortunate mongoose in a cage to frighten them). He cares more kindly for i he snakes than for the young apprentices, including his daughter's boy-friend (Dirk Benedict) whom he injects with venom in the hope they will evolve into snakes.
The early part of the film is reasonably intriguing for those who do not suffer from the Freudian allergy to snakes. When the object of the experiments is revealed, even that immunity,' may not save you from a few shudders.
Ape and Superape is a hit of a disappointment, From the distinguished Dutch documentarymaker, Bert Haanstra, the photography of course is beautiful and the film meticulously madc. But the theories of evolution it sets out to illustrate, and the inferences drawn for human behaviour, are so old-fashioned that any impact or novelty or originality is deadened.
I can only really recommend the picture to those (of whom I would have counted myself one) who like to see beautifully photographed animals to the exclusion of other interest.
The Double-Headed Eagle is not ornithological but political in interest. For this bird of prey is Hitler's Germany taking wing. This is an extraordinary film, 95 per cent. documentary from pre-war (often silent) German films made over by Lutz Becker, Becker is a young German who had been in both East and West Germany before he came to this country to work at the Slade School. Previously he has only made art films, and he has certainly used every artifice and ingenuity of " I i p synchronisation" as well as timing adjustment — to make his. remarkable material credible and vivid.
The pictures of Germany in the twenties and thirties arc fascinating. appalling whether seen with pity or horror.
The jargon Is the familiar idiom which identifies Fascism
with Nazism and counts
"bourgeois ' the next dirtiest word. I am not sure whether the
film will have everywhere the effect, presumably intended, of warning the so-called democratic world that Hitler was a bourgeois. It may convince the converted; or it may only make ordinary people understand better how so many ordinary Germans chose Hitler (in the early days) over the only alternative the film offers — the German Communist Party.
Politics and political portraiture on the screen get reinforcement and welcome relief from Churchill the Man ("U", London Pavilion) showing as second feature to of all things, a spaghetti Western, Man of the East ("A"), said to he a hit in the States.
The star of the Churchill film is the familiar, much-loved figure, not so much the politician, certainly not the party politician, as the father, husband, adventurer, warrior, wit, statesman, enfant terrible— the man. Its leading lady is his daughter Sarah. It is an endearing view, full of bons mots of which my favourite new ones (to me) are of Sir Stafford Cripps: "There but for the grace of God goes God" and when Churchill refused a fanfare for his entry to Guildhall: "I remembered that fanfares herald the arrival of monarchs; politicians have to blow their own trumpets."
In this film the trumpet takes on a mellow note from the sympathetic contributions of Miss Churchill and of the writerdirector-cameraman, Peter Lambert.
Meanwhile, one real oldfashioned entertainment film of the kind we used to love is 40 Carats ("A", Odeon, Haymarket). It is the style of American social comedy in which stars like Claudette Colbert or Myrna Loy used to delight us. Liv Ullman (whom it would be flippant to call one of Ingmar Bergman's young ladies) is a very good actress and works very hard, but the flip American dialogue is alien to her.
It is native repartee to Binnie Barnes, who is a joy as the heroine's mother, with each picking her matrimonial way across the generation gap. Because these are the seventies and not the thirties, this is a comedy of divorce rather than marriage. But it is a COMEDY! And may we not thank God for sonic laughter in the cinema when there is so little elsewhere'?
There is still another week of the London Film Festival. I should like to remind readers that it is open to the public, if they apply in time to the National Film Theatre; and to recommend as my/ tips for the last week Illumination by the brilliant young Pole, Zanussi: the Georgian Pirosmani, and
My Ain Folk by Scotland's Bill