Archive for the ‘John Barry’ Tag

Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)   5 comments

title

A lone, black candle burns against a black background as we join a séance in progress. The camera pans over the anxious faces of the circle of believers. A soft, reassuring voice breaks the silence. The medium, Myra Savage (Kim Stanley) soothes the unruly spirits.

candle
“I hear dead people.”

After the séance, the faithful step outside, blinking at the daylight and we meet the players. Myra and her husband, Billy switch on the lights to reveal a room full of overstuffed chairs and bric-a-brac. Shabby and overdone, it looks as if it’s been stuck in time for fifty years. As dominant, unbalanced Myra goes on and on about her ‘gift’ we see the weak-willed Billy. He listens to her quiet ramblings with the resignation of a beaten man. As the two discuss their history, Myra belittles Billy, not coarsely, but softly and gently with a sweet lilt in her pretty voice. Amid the ‘yes dears’ and ‘you’re probably rights’, we see that Billy kow-tows to Myra, but she’s dependent on him as well. Constantly seeking reassurance, Myra makes Billy tell her over and over that he needs her and loves her.

yesdear
“Tell me you love me, Billy!”
“Of course, dear.”

These two quiet, middle-aged people have a plan. You see, for years Myra has held her weekly spiritual meetings for pitiful pay and even less recognition. She craves attention and the means to pull herself out of her drab environment. They plan to commit a crime. Myra will use her psychic powers to solve it thus cementing her reputation as a medium and gaining them some spending money. It’s clear that Myra’s plan doesn’t sit well with Billy and he tries weakly to talk her out of it. Myra can’t be moved and the story begins.

chloroform
“Does this rag smell like chloroform?”

Their detailed scheme is set in motion as Billy goes out and Myra dispenses instructions from home. Even after the first part of the crime goes off without a hitch, Billy has reservations and the strain of it shows on his face. As the pair dive deeper into their twisted conspiracy, it’s clear that the plot, their marriage, and her sanity rests on a house of cards doomed to collapse.

kim
“Do you smell toast?”

Bryan Forbes (The Stepford Wives) directs Séance on a Wet Afternoon subtly with a slow, but deliberate pace that gives Stanley and Attenborough room to show off their prodigious talents. The dialogue sounds natural and the two experienced character actors paint us a picture of an immature, possibly mad woman and the compliant, dependent man who indulges her. The duo work in shades of gray allowing Myra and Billy to experience a range of emotions and pull us into their strangely touching relationship. Stanley and Attenborough are all restraint and give beautifully nuanced performances. Both were nominated by the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts).  Attenborough won. The Academy nominated Stanley and she won both the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics’ Circle best actress awards. Forbes was also nominated for a BAFTA award for his screenplay based on Mark McShane’s novel.

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“Did they spell our names right?”

Gerry Turpin’s cinematography was also BAFTA nominated and deservedly so. The gorgeously shot black and white film has a look that screams 1960s Britain. Turpin contrasts the bleak English countryside and the dull interior of the couples’ home with the clean, modern home of the rich victims of their heinous crime. Forbes and Turpin chose beautiful tableaux to film and spend time there. There are no jump cuts. The suspense comes from the framing of the story and the understated performances of the two leads and the veteran actors like Patrick Magee, Mark Eden, Nanette Newman, and Gerald Sim working with them.

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This house, you have to watch it every minute. Wait, wrong movie.

The music and sound effects heighten the suspense as well. Much of the film has no music which accentuates the suffocating stillness of the Savage home. The sounds of nature coupled with John Barry’s (Yes, THAT John Barry!) spare score add to the quirky eeriness of this dark tale.

I recommend Séance on a Wet Afternoon. It’s a chilling character study that makes me want to see every British film of this era.

seance
“Yes, I know I Want to Hold Your Hand is number one. Yes, I know it’s a séance. You say that every time. Stop giggling.”

 

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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This Never Happened to the Other Fellow   Leave a comment

So here’s the thing, I love Sean. Sean is Bond. I didn’t grow up in the 80s or 90s with Dalton, Brosnan, Craig, and Dench and Moore is a poor man’s excuse for Bond. All ruffled tuxedo and ruffled demeanor. Moore is to Connery what New Coke is to Coke; sweeter and more generic. He’s the supermarket Kola you find when you’re looking for the real thing.

Naturally I thought I’d write about Sean for this favorite Bond series. I thought about Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, and Dr. No immediately. Then I realized something. I don’t own a single Bond film.* Why is that? I thought about it and realized that for me, the entire series lacks depth. Bond plays baccarat, cracks wise with arch-villains, beds a bevy of beauties, and foils the world domination plots of many while maintaining his poise and retaining his boutonniere. He never loses his cool because he isn’t a real guy. Let’s face it. It’s hard to get excited about a cardboard cutout, even a really attractive one. Without depth and some vulnerability, all the ski chases and 11th hour bomb defusing came to naught. Bond seemed less superhuman, and more subhuman.

Then it hit me. Lazenby. The odd man out. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The answer to many a Bond trivia question. Lazenby fit the bill. George Lazenby’s tall, dashing, Australian male model looks paired with his smart ass demeanor made him the perfect…er, replacement for Connery back in 1969 and his film, the perfect vehicle. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service we see Bond fight, ski, seduce, crack wise and even fall in love all set to a gorgeous John Barry score.

What appeals to me most about this film is the humanity it allows Bond to show. He still indulges in his usual Bondian vices, but something touches him. That something is the love of the beautiful Contessa Teresa diVicenzo played by Diana Rigg at the height of her 60’s Emma Peeliness. At first, Bond thinks of Tracy, as he calls her, as a curiosity. She’s a depressed jet-setter who finds the globe-trotting and endless parties soul-crushingly empty. After having a fling with Tracy, Bond finds himself summoned to the home of Marc-Ange Draco, Tracy’s father, the head of an international crime syndicate, and all around mensch. He wants Bond to marry Tracy to settle her down and give her something to live for. Bond refuses until Draco hints he can help with the capture of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This, by the way, is another reason I like this film so much. Blofeld is by far the best Bond villain. I hear he even changes the litter box. I digress. Bond agrees without actually agreeing to make a deal with Draco and we’re off.

I won’t recap the entire film. It’s a long Bond (insert off-color joke here), but most of its 2 hour and 20 minute running time moves the plot forward and shows George Lazenby in a most flattering light. He does dashing quite well and looks equally at home in a tuxedo or on skis. When he finally succumbs and falls for Tracy, you believe it. His voice even changes tone when  he speaks to her. There’s a gratuitous ‘falling in love’ sequence where I swear you can hear Roberta Flack for a second but no matter. You believe the love story and get caught up in the lovers’ dreams of a future together. This makes the ending and Bond’s comment to Tracy that “we have all the time in the world” that much more poignant.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Stats

James Bond=George Lazenby
Tracy=Diana Rigg
Draco=Gabriele Ferzetti
Blofeld=Telly Savalas!
Moneypenny=Lois Maxwell
M=Bernard Lee
Q=Desmond Llewelyn
Director=Peter Hunt
Music=John Barry

Scenes in Portugal and the Swiss Alps-check
Ski chases-check
Casino scene-check
Breaking the fourth wall-check
Weird allergy clinic eating scene-check
Frightening cos-play polar bear on skates scene-check
Lazenby’s Australian accent slipping through in spots-check
Isolated criminal lair which later gets blown up-check
Pumping by Bond (A Benetton Company)-check
Cool snow making machine death-check (Coen brothers took note)
Kilt wearing Bond-check
Bobsled chase-check!!!!!
Heartbreaking ending-*sob* check

Kerry’s Stats

Ist Bond Film-Goldfinger
Favorite Bond-Sean, natch
Favorite Bond Girl-Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman
How I discovered Bond_age_ -I noticed them on my TL and asked to join in. Now I’m hooked.

I wrote this piece for the James Bond Social Media Project favorite Bond series. Follow his blog about all things Bond. It’s well-written, entertaining, and informative. He’s @007hertzrumble on Twitter.

ohmss japanese

*I do now.

 

 

 

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