Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 20. September 3, 1968
It's albright by night
It's albright by night
Admittedly it had gained an underswell reputation, but even that didn't prepare us for the baffling vagaries of Deadly Roulette (Universal), which had a one day release recently. After The Defector a Few weeks back, nothing surprises any more. The incarnation of the well-scrubbed high school crewe graduate, Robert Wagner is another emasculated male who proves no match for smoothie Peter Lawford in this came of masculine upmanship. But Lawford is no great allrounder either. His puppetry has even more diabolical strings. As for the audience they have no strings at all. The plot is a Pynchon-inspired paranoiac monstrosity which demands even more than hardest seated Lido addict could endure.
That said, one might wonder what the attraction is. Those who have seen Wagner on TV will realise how unsettling he is: there is no aura of comfort or assurance—he's strictly minor in league and talent. This unsettlingness is reinforced by the degenerate cruise ship—surely once occupied by Gabriel and Mrs Fogarty. This time we not only have Lola Albright (worth twice the price and smile) but Jill St John too! The ladies abet the unfortunate presence of Wagner in a weird pas de deux which may rhyme to little reason. Even a deadbeat Matt Helm finale can't submerge the nightmarish inexplicability. A mystique of powerlessness volcanieally underlies it which no amount of exegesis will clear. Lalo Schifrin's harpsichordic score added only another dimension of mental instability.
Universal, it seems, not just content to specialise in the low-budget TV-film, are dead set on unnerving audiences by letting younger directors and writers create with as much freedom as those in the Underground cinema, usual strings attached. With less money, you chance less. Deadly Roulette smacks of what we might believe from Emshwiller, but William Hale! And that isn't all. In the matrix of the antipathy of both popular and "art" audiences, these limbo movies are unjustly served. Christchurch audiences a few weeks back unprecedently forced Curtis Harrington's Games off its first release after only two days. Borgia Stick was here for one day, and we're still waiting for Champagne Murders, Banning, and Madigan. And who mentioned Michael Winner?