Erin a.k.a. EB brings up EVITA (1997)
Grey Zone 1 presents an article on SAMBO
- Al Dekker:
Yes! Our Smithee working in the musical, war, and exploitation genres;
and yet each film has that signature style we all love. Thanks, Erin and
GZ, for your fine research.
It's so hard to pick, but I think you're neglecting a short-lived but
important interlude in his career. I'm speaking of course of
, which had a brief run at the Thalia in 1977. Yvonne de Carlo
played Lady MacBeth, Juliet Lewis in her first screen appearance played the
baby she dashed against the wall in a magnificent splatter sequence (and I
think it explains a lot that Lewis performed her own stunts), and the
ever-popular Smithee staples Patrick McGoohan--as MacBeth, and John Saxon--
in a virtuoso turn, playing several supporting roles. The film was further
distinguished by its casting of Michael MacLiammoir, who had starred in
Orson Welles' OTHELLO and made something of a
comeback in WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? (1971) .
Smithee intended to
out-Welles Welles, asking the cast to deliver their lines in unintelligible
Scottish accents, and it really worked magnificently. He also adopted a
monochromatic red color scheme for the film that is nothing if not creepy,
although the colors have already faded and all the prints you see now (and
they don't pop up much, maybe on late night TV once in a while, I hear
William K. Everson has 15 prints) look like they've been dipped in red
clay. His most scholarly and, I think, most affecting effort. Yvonne de
Carlo breaks your heart, she really does. It is, at the core, a love story.
- Grey Zone 1:
Indeed. When Smithee's work breaks one's heart, it stays broken.
I bow to the fine scholarship of Ms. Graham in regards to this criminally
neglected, and so often imitated work.
- toxic shakti:
And let us not forget Smithee's radical version of
KING LEAR, starring
Jerry Lewis in a dual role as Edward and the Fool. Maybe Jer thought he was
reprising his split-personality number in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, but Smithee
coaxed the Frogs' Fave into depths of characterization that he would not
approach again until Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY. When Jerry, as the
Fool, says, "Gosh, Mr. Lear. That Reagan!! She took away you-your
knights...and EVERYTHING!" one at last realizes the elemental pathos of
Lear's situation. The film's only drawback is that Jerry eclipses Keenan
Wynn's more stolid Lear, who does more slow-burn fuming than actual
ranting. (Granted, too, Wynn seems to be reprising his star turn in the
legendary SHACK OUT ON 101). Mamie Van Doren holds her own as Goneril,
though: by always shooting her from below, Smithee gave her breasts the
appearance of seige weapons. And Barbara Steel gave a soupcon of authentic
English grandeur to Cordelia, particularly during her death-by-flaying
Once again, Smithee proves himself equal to the most demanding material,
deviating from the strictures of mere fidelity in order to rediscover the
bleak heart of Shakespeare's vision
- Al Dekker:
Yes! Exceptional observations, Mr. Shakti.
Smithee's Ealing productions (
MRS. EVANS' BLEPHAROPLASTY (1952)
and DON'T I KNOW IT! (1954))
featured cameos from the young Peter Sellers and
the even younger Paul and Mike McCartney as tap dancing siamese twins and
their wacky surgeon father (MRS. E.'S B. )
and Sellers again as a dustman with a
problem (DON'T I KNOW IT). Musical sequences featuring the harmonica
of Goon Show regular Ray Ellington were supposed to draw in the crowds,
but people were just not in a movie mood in England in those years.
- x. trapnel:
One is rarely in the mood for a Smithee film, and when one is the matter
is probably best taken care of either through strong medication or the brief
application of a large mallet.
- Al Dekker:
Regarding the Smithee Ealing films, I recall that even more of a thud
THE WRONG WIDGIT (1955),
the caper comedy with Herbert Lom
in eight roles.
Smithee's free adaptation of
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1967)
interesting case from the British period. One couldn't ask for a better
cast: Julie Christie in the title role, James Fox and Dirk Bogarde as the
March Hare and the Mad Hatter, Ruth Gordon as the Queen of Hearts, Mick
Jagger as the Mock Turtle; but everyone just looks confused. The director's
continual references to '60s London culture---day-glo set design,
marijuana at the tea party, "light show" effects during Christie's
shrinking/growing scenes, the Queen's soldiers as fascist thugs in
playing-card motifed police uniforms---grow tiresome after 30 minutes. This
initially was to be a Joseph Losey project---what a different film that
would have been.
And what a different film Norman Jewison's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was from
Smithee's Christian-musical-bandwagon-jumping-ripoff effort of the
following year (1974),
THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE DESERT: JOHN THE
, starring Ben Vereen. I'll go ahead and quote the lyrics of
the title song (no one took credit for the music and lyrics of course,
and it was thought to have been taken from Andrew Lloyd Weber's
wastebasket by Smithee's assistant while Weber was writing SUPERSTAR) to
save you the trouble--I think we've all had them stuck in our heads at
Crying crying! Crying crying!
Oh ho ho I'm cryin' in the desert
Weeping oh no I'm not weeping
Hear my cry! I beseech you!
Coming coming! Coming coming!
Oh Lord Oh Lord he's coming
To bring you his ever lovin'
Ever lovin' ever lovin' ever lovin'
Bringing you his ever lovin' love!
Predictably, Maltin gives it one star and calls it "turgid," but he's
overlooking scenes that are downright visionary--I'm referring of course to
the dream sequences in which John the Jazzman discusses man's future with
a brontosaur, and another in which he sings a searching duet with Charles
Darwin (John Gielgud) about doubting creationism. If the 70s was the decade
that made a hippie of Jesus, Smithee was the iconoclast who asked
broader theological and philosophical questions. And without losing
one iota of entertainment value. I'm with Kael on this one anyway--she
called it "a valentine to the New Testament."
- Grey Zone 1:
My God--I'd forgotten entirely about JOHN THE JAZZMAN BAPTIST.
There are treasures here.