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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 8. April 30 1968

Films: The Way West

page 9

Films: The Way West

Cinema offerings over the past few weeks have been disappointing, especially in new releases. Highlight of Easter weekend was a chance to see a rare screening of Victor Fleming's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) with Spencer Tracy brilliant in a double role as the charming kindly doctor and the grinning diabolical Hyde.

Kirk Douglas confronts Richard Widmark in an early scene from Harold Hecht's "The Way Wast".

Kirk Douglas confronts Richard Widmark in an early scene from Harold Hecht's "The Way Wast".

Although 27 years old the original print was in good condition but it deserves more than a showing at 1.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. For some reason the advertising made no mention of either Tracy or his co-stars, Ingrid Bergman (as the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold) and the young and glamorous Lana Turner. Many people have [unclear: issed] a great film.

The re-issue at Cinerama of Fleming's most famous film Gone With The Wind is a mixture of good and bad, as is to be expected of a film made in 1939. The increased size, stereophonic sound and new colour printing emphasise its good production values, but the curvature of the cinerama screen is unsuitable, except for the brief outdoor scenes during the first half. The flatter 70 mm screen at the Kings would have been a better choice.

The photography remains striking; some of it quite breathtaking in the imaginative use of colour, notably in the burning of Atlanta and the escape back to the lantation.

The dialogue is justly memorable for some of the biting lines delivered by Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), and the [unclear: inal] retort of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable)—"Frankly, I [unclear: lon]'t give a damn."

The sentimentality and melodrama of Margret Mitchell's long novel provides enough plot to keep office girls and housewives happy wiping (ears from their eyes while [unclear: tuffing] their mouths with sweets.

For sophisticated viewers it is something of an endur[unclear: nce] test (four-hours) and the front stalls, even at 90c, are not recommended for those prone to stiff necks.

Max Steiner's music is at times insufferable. The acting of a period when "stylism", not "method" was paramount can be appreciated, however.

The Way West

Harold Hecht's production of A. B. Guthrie's The Way west aspires to greatness, but that's about all. Its sprawing narrative lacks tension and elementary entertainment values in order to achieve a degree of realism. The [unclear: result] mainly boring. High points in action and incident are good in themselves, but are not integrated into the epic worm. There are several scenes that are taut and finely andled (director, Andrew V. McLaglen), notably the crossing of the Platte river before the cattle train, most of the sequences with the Sioux, especially the hanging of one of the Liberty Train's young men for killing an Indian boy, and the decent of the canyon at the end of one trail. The best parts of the film are visual action. Despite the location shooting, the scenery shows to little advantage in the appalling colour procesing, and William [unclear: lotheier] has done better work.

Guthrie's novel (previous writing includes the classic [unclear: hane]) could explore in depth the experience of the regon Liberty train in its long trek from Missouri. The personal creation of Senator William Tadlock (Kirk Douglas), who is determined to build a new society in virgin Oregon. But an unfeeling superman possessed by a vision to the detriment of the lesser mortals with limited horizons, is just too vulnerable a character. Predictably his vision survives, but he doesn't.

There is undoubtedly some merit in attempting to film an epic journey with some truthfulness, but unfortunately the scriptwriters did not develop the characters beyond stereotype.

It is, one imagines, an inferior Stagecoach writ large, and a warning that serious novels of the West don't necessarily contain the ingredients of a good Western. This can be best appreciated by comparison with either Sergio Leone's Italian-made ode to violence For A Few Dollars More, the minor masterpieces of Budd Boetticher (Commanche Station (1958), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), The Tall T (1957) are recently-seen examples), or last year's two best Westerns, El Dorado and The War Wagon.

Point Blank

Best of the new releases is due at the Plaza following the popular Bedazzled. John Boorman's Point Blank is the best new American film since In The Heat Of The Night, and probably for some time yet. It has none of the racial melodrama of the latter film and all (and more) of its technical stylism. Resnais-style flashbacks, Lee Marvin brilliantly wry and brutal, slashing, killing— a man obsessed by revenge and jealousy—and Boorman's pacy direction make this an impressive achievement.

Although not wholly digestible in one screening Point Blank will no doubt cause many to turn away with unsavourv palates. The violence is at times uncontrolled; glass-slashed faces caused an uproar more than once in the theatre. There is no moralising to satisfy the bourgeois, no tragic catharthic ending.

The beautifully muted colours of Philip Lathrop's photography (Last seen to effect in The Happening) adds a strange hypnotic realism. Co-star Angie Dickinson was last seen with Marvin in Don Seigel's neglected, violent essay The Killers.

Boorman's first feature was the small but effective Dave Clarke Five vehicle, Catch Us If You Can. With Point Blank he has made a first-class modern American thriller proving that Hollywood is not the dead-end in film-making.

Sharp eyes may have detected three cuts made by the censor (in reels 3, 5, 7), a habit he has in most new films dealing with violence and sex. The cuts here are probably for sex, as they were in Bonnie and Clyde. Verdict: a must see.

Watch for return season shortly at the Paramount of one of last years best but least-seen films, Fred Coe's brilliant adaption of A Thousand Clowns.

Excellent acting imaginative photography and "grab-you" music

Nevil Gibson/M. J. Heath.