Niven in an attractive story of a romantic fantasist
Very few weeks pass at the cinema without attention being provoked or invited. to some aspect of film censorship or the • he crying -need of -ordinary people, especially of parents, for entertainment fit for the family.
The latest people to discuss this problem with me have been the versatile veteran documentary director, Ken Annakin, and his wife. From long-ago times of "Holiday Camp' to "These Magnificent Men in their Hying Machines," Annakin has been a wide-ranging director, providing meticulous location backgrounds for a variety of sub)jects. He and his wife both told me of the numbers of complaints they heard from friends, looking round the gaudy advertisements of "X" film, of the increasing difficulty of finding movies to which they could take their families.
Search for an answer to this need "just for good honest entertainment," Ken stressed -took the Annakins to Malaysia for the location of Paper Tiger "A" Odeon Leicester Square.
In the contemporary 'context the set-up is a simple one of the kidnapping by terrorists of the small son (Ando) of the Japanese Ambassador (Toshire Mifune), with his English tutor (David Niven).
The screenplay. by Jack DaVies a former British film critic now living in France, ,gives the tutor a 'character closely reminiscent of the bogus gentleman and officer played so attractively by Niven in the film of Terence Rattigan's "Separate 'Fables."
Major Bradbury (Niven) entrances the polite little Japanese 'boy by his stories of valour in the field and his winn ing of the M.C. and Croix de Guerre. Eventually Bradbury has to face up to his own true timidity when they are captured by the terrorists; and to rely on the child's courage in living up to the ideals of chivalry he has been taught.
The story is not immensely powerful, but it is attractive. The little Japanese boy has all the enchantment and nbne of the embarrassment of the very best child stars. Niven is wholly at home in his character of romantic fantasist. An additional asset is the occasional presence of Hardy Kruger as a German television reporter.
Puritan moralists may object that this is no film for children which sets up a compulsive liar as its hero. But such selfromanticisation is an almost universal foible and probably not the most reprehensible form of lying, Additionally the film suggests, through the stern courtesy of the ambassador, that such fictions may set real standards. I might share the view of my, revered colleague, David Robinson of The Times that it is sad to see the great Toshire Mifune "in such a tame supporting role," but could not agree that Mifune was "humiliated." He is not wasted because the stern integrity he gives the Japanese Ambassador, his tolerance and disciplined feeling give the picture its backbone by presenting another notion of upright Japanese morality to offset the wavering ideals of the western "paper tiger."
Al Capone in particular, and Chicago gangsters in general have, since the days of Paul Muni and James Cagney, become a familiar figure of American pantomime. If there were an American Commedia del Arte Capone would be right there along with Harlequin or Pulcinello. So the arrival of Capone ("X", Rialto) arouses a strong reaction of deft! vu.
The Capone ' story is too familiar: the Catholic Chicago boy who begins by frowning on a proiect for bootlegging and long before his end is running the Chicago protection racket during its Worst period and ruthlessly and indiscriminately machine-gunning, or ordering the machine-gunning of anybody who would get in his way. Ben Gazzarra plays Alfonso Capone as a great, coarse brute, so thin-tipped (presumably by wadding) it is almost impossible to see, let alone hear what he says — which may he just as well.
"Capone" could be called a cautionary tale. Before he dies his brain disintegrates with neuro-syphilis. But it is hardly agreeable entertainment.