Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 6. April 9, 1968
Films — New Musical
Rod Steiger as the small-town police chief in the film "In The Heat Of The Night". Steiger received Best Actor of the Year awards for this role from the British Film Academy, the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics, the Film Critics Circle (U.S.A.), "Films and Filming" magazine, and the Hollywood Golden Globe Award.
I am sure the renaisaance of American musical comedy has occurred in England with George Sidney's Half A Sixpence, Paramount's big Easter attraction.
It reeks, at times, of all the lushness and sentimentalisings one associates with An in musicals. So it is a welcome change to hard times in England to see malfunctions of the Hollywood oeuvres starting up, and one looks forward to the new big productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Oliver! etc.
There hasn't been many English musical comedies, ever. Sidney Furie's two sleights before angular-distrophy set in, with Cliff Richard, various noisy trite things, which people like Michael Winner, John Boorman, and Richard Lester have risen above. And such rarities as Up Jumped a Swagman and Rhythm and Greens.
It took, therefore, one of America's veteran musical directors George Sidney (Showboat, Kiss Me Kate, Bye Bye Birdie, and The Swinger) to get Half A Sixpence off the ground.
Most people will turn away from it, and I don't blame them. Some will walk out before its 146 minutes are over. But I sat entranced, delighted by the new material —extraordinary crane shots, and hysterical "trombone" zooms during the dancing. Exterior period detail (Brighion?) and some of the most beautiful modulated colours I have ever seen, by photographer Geoffrey Unsworth. (Who, it is worth noting, is responsible for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is due for Easter release overseas.)
Half A Sixpence is loosely based on H. G. Well's Kipps. Its all very cheery with Tommny Steele (who has turned out to be a surprisingly delightful comedian) and Julia Foster heading a large flamboyant cast.
The tunes are quite memorable (for the moment), compared to the biological slop of Dr. Dolittle. Its vigour seems to last forever. A stop motion/montage sequence, with fish jumps, the lot, is hilarious, remembering that this is what made The Swinger intensely likeable.
There's soft focus to melt the heart of any cinic, so go see the bloody thing.
—M. J. Heath.