Skip to main content

And he’s come home again, hearty and flush o’ money.

The Manxman
(1929)

(SPOILERS) I can’t say I blame Hitchcock for being so dismissive of this turgid love triangle fodder when Truffaut broached the picture with him. The Manxman may have been his final silent, but his adaptation of Hall Caine’s novel of the same name has very little to say for itself. Even its most unusual element, the setting, is rather undermined; if the Isle of Man scenery looks surprisingly idyllic, that’s because it was shot in Cornwall.

Apparently, the inauthentic choice of location resulted from the Manx-based author trying to stick his oar in. The film features Carl Brisson, the lead from The Ring (one of the director’s better silents), as poor duped fisherman Pete, and Malcolm Keen, the comic-relief plod from The Lodger, as Philip, his best pal and the guy who plays dirty with his dame. Brisson is solid as the chiselled sap, sometimes adopting Father Dougal-esque levels of bafflement, but Keen fares less well as the deadly earnest lawyer (and prospective Deemster). He embarks on a tawdry affair with Kate (Anny Ondra) when Pete goes off to Africa to make his fortune (dad Randle Ayrton has forbidden her marriage to a “penniless lout”). Then word comes back that he has snuffed it.

In the first instance, Philip appears honourable and earnest, having gone all Cyrano de Bergerac for his bashful pal. However, that doesn’t stop him knocking Kate up (complete with some Hitch mill-grinding symbolism to let us know the train is entering the tunnel). Her attraction to Philip isn’t really clear; she doesn’t seem to have any interest in Pete (“We’re free!” she squeals when news of Pete’s death reaches them), and one gets the impression she’s really in it for the thrill. The only difference between this and EastEnders is that no one calls her a slag.

To be fair to Kate – and Ondra really isn’t selling her as a good-hearted sort deep down – this clearly isn’t about money, since Pete comes back alive and loaded and she still wants Philip. “A trusting, joyous husband – an adored unhappy wife whose secret misery brought death into her soul” the subtitle tells us. Sheesh. And that’s before she tells Pete he’s going to be a dad.

Matters come to head in court when she’s brought up on charges of trying to top herself in the harbour; she comes before lucky old Philip on his first day as a Deemster (judge). You can’t write this stuff but Hitch tried; Pete turns up to plead for her, then her dad to disgrace Philip in front of everyone. All of whom congregate at the cottage window to see them go their separate ways. Hitch called it a “very banal picture”, and Truffaut noted its humourlessness, as well as the love-triangle parallels with Under Capricorn. The Manxman is tawdry stuff, but desperately unengaging. 



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

Just a little whiplash is all.

Duel (1971) (SPOILERS) I don’t know if it’s just me, but Spielberg’s ’70s efforts seem, perversely, much more mature, or “adult” at any rate, than his subsequent phase – from the mid-’80s onwards – of straining tremulously for critical acceptance. Perhaps because there’s less thrall to sentiment on display, or indulgence in character exploration that veered into unswerving melodrama. Duel , famously made for TV but more than good enough to garner a European cinema release the following year after the raves came flooding in, is the starkest, most undiluted example of the director as a purveyor of pure technical expertise, honed as it is to essentials in terms of narrative and plotting. Consequently, that’s both Duel ’s strength and weakness.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Ours is the richest banking house in Europe, and we’re still being kicked.

The House of Rothschild (1934) (SPOILERS) Fox’s Rothschild family propaganda pic does a pretty good job presenting the clan as poor, maligned, oppressed Jews who fought back in the only way available to them: making money, lots of lovely money! Indeed, it occurred to me watching The House of Rothschild , that for all its inclusion of a rotter of a Nazi stand-in (played by Boris Karloff), Hitler must have just loved the movie, as it’s essentially paying the family the compliment of being very very good at doing their very best to make money from everyone left, right and centre. It’s thus unsurprising to learn that a scene was used in the anti-Semitic (you might guess as much from the title) The Eternal Jew .

You are not brought upon this world to get it!

John Carpenter  Ranked For anyone’s formative film viewing experience during the 1980s, certain directors held undeniable, persuasive genre (SF/fantasy/horror genre) cachet. James Cameron. Ridley Scott ( when he was tackling genre). Joe Dante. David Cronenberg. John Carpenter. Thanks to Halloween , Carpenter’s name became synonymous with horror, but he made relatively few undiluted movies in that vein (the aforementioned, The Fog , Christine , Prince of Darkness (although it has an SF/fantasy streak), In the Mouth of Madness , The Ward ). Certainly, the pictures that cemented my appreciation for his work – Dark Star , The Thing – had only a foot or not at all in that mode.

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.

Sleep well, my friend, and forget us. Tomorrow you will wake up a new man.

The Prisoner 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling We want information. In an effort to locate Professor Seltzman, a scientist who has perfected a means of transferring one person’s mind to another person’s body, Number Two has Number Six’s mind installed in the body of the Colonel (a loyal servant of the Powers that Be). Six was the last person to have contact with Seltzman and, if he is to stand any chance of being returned to his own body, he must find him (the Village possesses only the means to make the switch, they cannot reverse the process). Awaking in London, Six encounters old acquaintances including his fiancée and her father Sir Charles Portland (Six’s superior and shown in the teaser sequence fretting over how to find Seltzman). Six discovers Seltzman’s hideout by decoding a series of photographs, and sets off to find him in Austria. He achieves this, but both men are captured and returned to the Village. Restoring Six and the Colonel to their respective bodie

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.