Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 4. March 25, 1953
My Six Convicts . . .
Stanley Kramer, the producer of such realistic films as "The Men" and "Home of the Brave." has brought us another that could have been of the same type, but, in fact is not. This. I think, from the point of view of entertainment value, is a matter for rejoicing. I am thoroughly sick of Hollywood's mass production of "stark psychological dramas." with their self-conscious attempts to point a moral. "My Six Convicts" does succeed in making us think about what goes on in a prison, but only after we have laughed at the film's comedy. Perhaps it doesn't go far enough, perhaps it could have posed deeper problems. I don't know. Anyway the producers have decided not to take any risks and have taken the easy way out. This film is merely refreshing entertainment, unharmed by complicated psychology.
The director and actors play for laughs, and they get them. There are times, of course, when they all get serious-minded and give us gun-shootings and punch-fightings; but they are necessary and never really distract us from the comedy. And there are times when the fantasy goes too far when the camera-work is too fussy and unobtrusive, when Dimitri Tiomkln's music score is too heavy and over-dramatic. At these times, I must admit. I was distracted (and slightly annoyed) but only to be won over again by the quality of the acting it had to be good if those six convicts were to be at all convincing. I can't mention them all but they were all quite human, with their mixture of toughness and fundamental simplicity. Punch Pinero and James T. Connie appealed to me most, but all the performances, including the psychologist's, were equally as competent.
Not a great film as it might have been if its makers had been more courageous and less inclined to play for safety. But "My Six Convicts" could have been terribly dull.
Who's Charley? With a certain amount of reluctance. I decided to go along to the St. James to find out. I was agreeably surprised, for I met a pleasant young Oxford undergraduate clowning, singing and dancing his way through a bright, broad and breezy musical adaptation of the famous "Charley's Aunt."
The setting of "Where's Charley?" is purposely theatrical, with painted-sky backdrops, black cardboard cloisters and artificial flowers. The tech-nicolour is bright and the acting broad in the light vaudeville manner. The songs are catchy and sung with lest. Naturally, there is a love interest but it is not heavy with emotional entanglements such as we usually associate with the Doris Days and Betty Grables of the more vulgar stage of other Hollywood musicals.
Ray Bolger the was in "The Wizard of Oz") as Charley is to be congratulated on bringing a smile to the face of a sour, often narrow-minded critic, who could have gone to town on the fact that "Where's Charley?" violates almost every rule of cinematic art. His charm and vigour, dancing skill and ability at mimicry made me forget all that.
"Highly Dangerous" is highly entertaining; and for the most part well made. Eric Ambler wrote the script and it la to him that we must give most of the credit. Cashing in on the current talk of germ warfare, he gives us a story of a female scientist who, in spite of a sinister chief of police, obtains some specimens of a very special basteria which a ruthless power is preparing to use as a weapon of war That in a few words la the plot is it corny, la it conventional? I think most of us would say "Yes" and Eric Ambler realises this. With a clever twist, he turns his film into a satife, a parody of the type of film it could have been. The young heroine has a habit of listening to radio serials ("Will Conway be Saved?" "Tune in next week!") and, in the course of her secret mission, begins to have the same illusions as the serials heroes. "Rusty, we must get through. Everything depends on us?" So she prepares a most fantastic plan and of course, is successful. An ingenious script from a clever writer, but if the film is not entirely successful it is because it sometimes forgets that it is being satirical it is often in danger of taking itself too seriously.
Margaret Lockwood and Dane Clark are adequate as the single-minded heroine and the "humorous" (of the "dry" variety) hero, while the chief of police, Marius Goring ("Rumour has it that that chap had a mother") obviously knows his radio and screen villains backwards. The director, Roy Baker, also plays his part well, in spite of his use of such a trick as the camera slowly sweeping the whole length of a man's body, only to reveal that, after all he is merely holding a revolver. But he did save the humour of the last sequence from straining to breaking point.
"Highly Dangerous" is superficial, but it did manage to entertain me. And as I was sitting in the second-to-front row that is indeed praise.
The Devil Makes Three . . .
and the poor script, fantastic plot and non-compensating direction, makes six.
On the credit side, the use made of the war-torn city and the mountain scenery. Pier Angeli (only because of her looks) and Gene Kelly (only because of his charm).