By GRACE CONWAY
MAN IN THE MOON
Certificate Odeon, Leicester Square Director: Basil Dearden
BY the time this appears in print the Queen will have seen "Man in the Moon" and, like the rest of us, will have laughed a great deal. The Establishment is still under fire — this time the youngest member of the family, the National Atomic Research Station. And if, behind the fun, sou can detect a more sinister theme (like boffins discussing the relative values of human versus animal life) no doubt the authors have put that bit in for those who like to read while they run.
Kenneth More, as a young volunteer (William Blood) at the
Common Cold Research Centre. is at the top of his form. He is discovered first of all in bed in the middle of a field. He has come unscathed through all the other "cold" tests — his magnitivent system flatly refusing to entertain anything in the nature of a germ. He is an old boy of the Seasick Centre and tropical disease germs fly screeching at his approach.
In fact, the officials at the Cold Centre are quite annoyed with him. (One of the tests is a replica of an English beach on a midsummer day with deck chairs being blown all over the place and the guinea pigs bending their heads to the storm. A second is a replica of the rain-soaked cricket ground at Old Trafford with a few drenched Spectators guinea-pigs — sneezing hopefully).
Just as William is about to take off for his lucrative annual fortnight at the Seasick Centre he is waylaid by one of the boffins at the nearby atomic station (Michael Hordern). Surely, he thinks, this wonder man — immune from all earthly ills (and emotions, too) — is the very man to send on a rocket to the moon. He brings him along to meet his colleagues (John GlynJones and John Phillips) and soon William has taken his place in the gym along with the team of supermen who are already on the waiting list,
So many things happen after that — William failing the 1.Q. and callisthenics tests but outscoring the rest of the team so
decidedly in the ice and heat chambers that, out of jealousy, one of the team tries to do him in. The boffins tumble to the plot and subject the would-he murderer to a brainwashing treatment — suspending him in a tank of water and insulating him from all thought and emotion. The brain washed, he is then indoctrinated with love instead of hate for the guileless William. ("I must have my wife given this treatment some time," says one boffin absentmindedly.) The dialogue, which is bright and witty, is full of quips and cranks like that. "Watch the temperature — we don't want the thermostats to freeze," says one boffin. "And, of course, there are the men," says another as an afterthought.
Well, eventually the rocket, with William inside. is launched—and indeed the moon looks exactly like what we have always imagined it was. Dusty and rocky — in fact not unlike .... but that would be telling.
Congratulations to the authors of the screenplay — Bryan Forbes and Michael Relph — not only for their plot and light touch on a heavy subject, hut for the technical side of the whole production: not even the most knowledgeable schoolboy will be able to fault it.
The only woman in the cast is Shirley Anne Field in the rather zany part of a "stripper" girl from Soho who takes to wandering the
country roads to protect her honour and who gets the wonder man as a reward in the end.
PORTRAIT IN BLACK
Certificate AT:Leatirceester Square Theatre
Director: Michael Gordon
LANA TURNER, whose private life of recent years has been looming larger than her film career, turns up here as the erring wife of a tyrant-tycoon. Her beauty (fined down by the years) and her poise are as considerable as ever, and she fits perfectly into this good old magaziney story. The wife has fallen in love with the doctor (Anthony Quinn) attending her husband, and. when the old man shows no immediate signs of dissolution, the doctor gives him quietus in the form of an injection.
There is an ornate funeral in the pouring rain, but what promised to be a carefree time for the lovers develops into a nightmare as anonymous printed missives begin to arrive saying the writer "knows all".
I must say I was a bit surprised to see Anthony Quinn in a film of this type — it's not exactly his cup of tea. But he does what the script allows him — showing a man gradually breaking under a nervous and emotional strain, while Lana Turner watches him with large, distressed blue eyes and wears some wonderful clothes. For this is crime (yes, there's more than one murder) in very elegant surroundings.
Among the supporting roles, a particularly good portrait of a scheming chauffeur comes from Ray Walston, and there is our old friend Richard Baseheart as one of the suspect letter writers.
Retribution comes in a melodramatic finale — and I was left wondering where the aptness of the title came in.
RIVER OF LIFE
Certificate U: Leicester Square Theatre
Directors: Julian Wintle and Leslie Patkin
ADELIGHTFUL 20-minute documentary dealing with. the River Usk from its source in the Black Mountains of Monmouthshire and putting on record the fascinating life in the deeps and shallows and the bird life above. Commentary spoken by Stephen Murray with Welsh songs played and sung by Welsh harpist Osian Ellis.