Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 4. 21st March 1973
If you like your films to have something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, then two of last week's releases might be worth the visit. 'The Red Tent' and 'Murders at the Rue Morgue' will not appeal to everyone, but to those fans of the action spectacular and the tale of terror respectively, they deserve a look in.
The stirring story of the Nobile attempt to land a zeppelin on the North Pole and its subsequent failure made excellent reading every time it appeared in the Boys Annual: the slightly more grandiose version of which 'The Red Tent' consists makes equally good viewing. The melodramatic story line is not without inconsistencies in the incidental detail, nor is it without some rather predictable moralizing; nonetheless it is strong enough, and appealing enough to overcome these momentary difficulties. More than this however, it provides ample opportunity for some stunning footage of the desolate arctic wastes, and for some delightful character acting from a bevy of enthusiastic Italian actors. With Peter Finch performing with customary aplomb in the major role, the film scrapes up enough substance to overcome any charges of vacuity, and goes on to reach the standard of such gilt-edged epics as Zulu and Khartoum. One may be suspicious of much of the motivation attributed to the characters, especially that of Amundsen, and the disorganised efforts to explain it away with psychological jargon, bul this is only to quibble. The sullen grandeur of the Arctic, and the comfortable familiarity of the proceedings (we all know what it means to be lost; in an adventure story at least); taken thus, on its own grounds, the film makes both sense and plenty of fun.
'The Murder at the Rue Morgue' is not much fun, but it is one of the best horror films to come our way for a long time. Following Edgar Allen Poe's tale of the same name very closely, it has a polished precision and sufficient understanding of the mechanics behind successful horror to place it far above its many rivals that have appeared here recently. There is real intrigue, real suspense, and real ghoulishness at hand, all of it is photographed very well, and the direction is sustained from the outset by the genuinely frantic pace. With seasoned performers in the starring roles the film has certain winners going for it — Jason Robards, Herbert Lorn and Alfredo Celi swirl their capes and twirl their moustaches with a panache one does not find in the hordes of television has-beens to be found roaming the sets of most horror films. Admittedly, the whole affair is taken a little too seriously, and some of the fantasy sequences are unduly self-conscious, but this does little to impair the total effect which is both bemusing and frequently inspiring. The most edifying aspect of the film, however is its American origin. High camp horror has been a traditionally weak spot in the American movie industry: should this be an indication of a new acquired understanding of the genre, then the thought of the doubtless innumerable successors is not so daunting. This is a splendid little film.
Of particular interest are some of the attractions soon to be seen at the Lido. Over the last six months this quaintly inconsistent theatre has shown some very poor stuff, but it seems that is about to be altered. A re-run of Fred Zimmerman's memorable 'Man for All Seasons' follows a new version of Euripides' 'The Trojan Women', with an extremely good cast headed by Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Genivieve Bujold and Irene Papas. As well as this, 'Battle of Algiers', seen at the film festival a year ago, is scheduled for Sunday 25th March; this brilliant depiction of the Algerian revolt against their colonial masters is required viewing for anyone who doesn't believe that cinema is a political medium. Shot in a quasi documentary style, it is both very spectacular and very violent — don't miss it.