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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 1. March 1, 1946

Film and Stage

Film and Stage

For the returning out-of-towner the movie horizon presents a rather barren prospect. Few of the old and trieds are exhibiting at the moment, and the major shows are featuring a number of what might be called post-war players.

Among these is Van Johnson who recently gave a routine hero preformance in "Thrill of a Romance"; he is notable for his effect on the Bobbysock imagination and a rather sub-standard appearance.

The Brighton Strangler

For stage one psychologists and those who are not over-reflective about the effects of concussion, this film [unclear: might] be dramatically effective. Otherwise it succeeds only too often in labouring its attempt to make plausible the process of behaviour flxation of an actor who is stunned by a falling beam in an air raid. This actor, John Loder, at the time of the accident is playing the title role of a stage play of the same name as the film in London during the blitz. Following his blow on the head he loses his memory and promptly proceeds to re-live the thing he most remembers; the plot of the play that he has lived 300 times. An original contribution to the apparently endless series of psychopathological themes, and one which is ably supported by Loder, who provides some impressive ocular and facial work.

The obvious aim of a story of this kind is suspense with perhaps a little straight horror for the less sophisticated, but it fails in both. The straight horror is too quickly done, without yells or other acoustical results of strangulation, of which there are two and a half examples. The suspense fails because, by the end of reel one, even the most indifferent are aware that the hero is about to reproduce in real life the triple murder which he commits in his play. Having been deprived of the major interest, that is the promise of the unknown, one is [unclear: forced] to be content with speculating on two minor issues. One, whether the charming but trite [unclear: Waaf] officer whom the strangler meets immediately after his accident, and who is patently intended to be victim number three, will be abolished in due course. And, two, what kind of fate awaits the hero-strangler who is not responsible for his actions, but is engaged to another heroine who thinks him dead. After two of the real life victims have fallen it becomes certain that the hero just has to die eventually; they always do. Also it is early assured that the old movie custom of not allowing one of a couple in love to be ingloriously murdered, will be observed, and that the Waaf officer will not die because she is married to an American marine.

The film is supported by a particularly moronic Hollywood slapstick short, and I might serve a negative function in recommending this as a show to avoid.


Madonna of the Seven Moons

To quote G.M., it is a story of sin and schizophrenia in Italy. A story which may or may not make a social point depending on one's beliefs, but I would not feel justified in saying that this film is intended to be more than a particularly tense and unknowable drama of a case of dual personality. Phyllis Calvert is the victim of a sexual assault when a schoolgirl which materialises in adulthood as a double life: a process which is not defined in the development of the theme. It is a fault of psychological dramas that the relations between cause and effect are too often excluded from the substance of the action, or even worse, are inaccurate or pander to naive concepts. In all these methods there is an impression of artificiality and unconvincingness. And this is an effect that detracts from the power of the Madonna to enthral. Uniquely enough, some of the advertising blurb which accompanied the film is actually justified in the seeing. By this I mean that there are not a few ingeniously contrived situations where the atmosphere and play are intelligent and feasible enough to arouse even those who go along to impress their companions with a blasé apathy.

Unknowable was the adjective which I used to classify one of the two main elements of the action and for that reason I would refrain from giving an outline of its development; suffice it to say that the plot is highly intriguing and unlikely.

For those who like drastic characters and can stand almost unrelieved unhappiness, this is a film to see at once.