Page 8, 8th April 1977

8th April 1977
Page 8
Page 8, 8th April 1977 — Gang of art crooks intent on murder

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Locations: Los Angeles, Chicago


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Gang of art crooks intent on murder

OFFHAND, I cannot remember a better Royal Performance film then Silver Streak ("A", Odeon, Leicester Square), a comedy-thriller relying on well-tried formulae for success.

Set in a luxury train headed from Los Angeles to Chicago, it evokes innumerable train movies from "Murder on the Orient Express" (by the same executive producer, Frank Yablans) back to the earliest runaway trains and train-top cliffhangers. The passenger list is not as richly diverse as that of "Orient Express", but profits greatly from its star, Gene Wilder, as George, a publisher travellingby train to have a ci

His peace is first disturbed pleasurably by finding as a fellowtraveller (with connecting door in the sleeping compartment) a pretty secretary, Hilly (Jill Clayburgh), then almost at once, more alarmingly, by the sight of a dead body falling past the window.

The corpse was that of Hilly's art historian boss, and before long George and Hilly find themselves threatened by a gang of murderous art crooks led by Roger Devereau (Patrick McGoohan, in a disappointingly banal role for this splendid actor). They are to stop at nothing to recapture two Rembrandt letters to assist Devereau's machinations, The gang force George to interrupt his Journey, putting him off the train more than once and leaving him to find his way back — at one time by a lift in an ancient biplane from a similarly aged woman farmer, at another by a train-top balancing escape.

His most helpful encounter is with Grover (Roger Pryor), an engaging and resourceful black selfstyled thief. The director, Arthur Hiller ("Love Story", "Hospital" and "The Americanisation of Emily"), has concerted all the familiar elements with splendid energy to bring the train to its triumphant crash through Chicago Union station — and the film into the disaster movie class, if we can speak of a disaster comedy.

Tony Richardson made an international hit of "Tom Jones" (aided by Albert Finney as his star). His new version of another Fielding novel, Joseph Andrews ("AA", London Pavilion) has not quite the panache of its predecessor. Never having read anything closer to the original than an abbreviated and probably expurgated school edition, I do not know whether the novel was bawdier than "Tom Jones" or whether it only seems so because films have caught up with Fielding's coarseness in the meantime.

On the screen, "Joseph Andrews" looks more florid than "Tom Jones". The roamings of young Joseph, put to service as a pauper, have a more candidly bucolic air, with something of the gay squalor of "The Beggar's Opera" — Gay's, not Brecht's -with the smoothness of Playfair's production, Settings and costumes are a delight, as Joseph and his Fanny (Natalie Ogle) move from pigsty to

stable and through my lady's chamber. The cast is of the kind where players of the eminence of Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Sir John Gielgud are on and off before you notice.

One star given scope which he , takes with both hands is the inimitable Michael Hordern as Parson Adams. Beryl Reid makes a blowsy and endearing Mrs Malaprop of Mrs Slipslop. AnnMargret is a Spirited Lady Boob.

Peter Firth does well enough as the innocent young manservant, pursued by women of every rank, and Natalie Ogle as his faithful Fanny is a charmer despite her name. Not quite another "Tom Jones", but a refreshing and also exhausting outing in the 18th century countryside.

In Treasure of Matecumbe ("U", Odeon, St Martin's Lane), Walt Disney Productions have provided as satisfactory an adventure in search of hidden treasure as young filmgoers have been offered for some time.

The scene of Robert Lewis Taylor's novel is the Florida Everglades. When two small boys set out down the Mississippi they have the requisite map. They find crocodiles yapping at the paddle steamer, the amusing Joan Hackett. and Peter Ustinov as Dr Snodgrass, a benevolent travelling quack, and Indians — everything young filmgoers should require.

There must have been difficulties in filming Jack Higgins's novel about Hitler's plan to kidnap Winston Churchill in 1943 and bring him back to Germany from Norfolk or Alderney. But with Michael Caine as the gentlemanly German paratrooper in charge of operations, Donald Pleasence as Himmler, Anthony Quayle as Admiral Canaris, Robert Duval as Colonel Radl and John Standing as an anachronistically ecumenical parish priest, a good two-thirds of The Eagle Has Landed ("A", Empire Leicester Square) are reasonably gripping.

Caine and his men are apparently good Germans, though he tries to disguise them in uniforms of "Independent Poles" — not to be confused with the Poles then fighting in their hundreds of thousands in British uniforms. The Germans' IRA contact on this side (Donald Sutherland) is a more ambiguous figure, like the miscellaneous ladies, spies and heroines — kith and kin of "Dad's Army".

Your opinion of A Star Is Born ("AA", Warner 2) depends, it seems, more on your reactions to Barbra Streisand, the executive producer as well as the star, than on your memory, if any, of previous versions starring Janet Gaynor or Judy Garland.

I often admire her skill but never fall under her spell, and when she sings she is just strident Streisand to me. I found "A Star is Born", transferred from film studio to the pop-recording rat race with Kris Kristofferson as co-star, so, noisy, vulgar, and over long, and Streisand with her bird's nest hair-do so Medusa-like. that it is only fair to record the opinion of my husky young escort that Streisand and her singing were "fantastic."

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