John Joseph Lennon 4th November 1932 – 16th March 2022

Champion golfer, jazz nut, chess player, photographer, opera fan, movie buff, keen
cruciverbalist, quizzer and fervent if frequently disappointed
follower of the nags, John had many interests and pursuits and was
above all an enthusiast, the original fanboy, decades before the term was coined. He appreciated everything from the everyday to the esoteric. His proudest boast of his time at University
College Galway was that he saw 300 films at the cinema in his first
year of alleged studying! He loved a good book and was widely read,
relishing everyone from Lawrence Durrell to Mikhail Sholokhov but
disliked most modern novels because he insisted they were too long and
life was too short. He was eternally devoted to PG Wodehouse and his
tales of Blandings Castle, the Drones Club and Bertie Wooster’s aunts.
He named his son for Gavin Lyall the thriller novelist whose work he
read avidly.
He wore his scholarship lightly. On one occasion when Elaine had
inadvertently given the impression in her workplace that she was
multilingual she called him for a few phrases in Greek during his
lunch hour and he immediately rattled off a list that she could say
phonetically for a TV producer. She thereby gained an entirely
unearned reputation as a Classics expert thanks to his effortless
recall of a traditional education. He never stopped learning and
passed on that love to his children.
Johnny was born in New York City and spent the first few years of his
life there with his parents James and Helen. He finally returned to
the land of his birth in the 1990s with Elaine when they attended the
New Orleans Mardi Gras. Despite being charmed by everyone he met he
persisted in expounding on his low opinion of ‘Yanks,’ as he insisted
on calling them – when he suddenly found himself talking to the caddy
of his hero, the great American golfer Sam Snead, who couldn’t have
been more delightful company. As a lifelong player himself and
boasting many shelves of trophies from around the clubs and courses of
Ireland, that encounter momentarily stunned him and put an end to his
complaints about his native countrymen!
He loved jazz music and opera and many nights were spent listening to
everyone from Benny Goodman and Count Basie to Jussi Bjorling and Tito
Gobbi. You could set the clock to Humphrey Lyttleton’s show on the
BBC which he recorded every week on cassette.
He was a very witty man with scabrous if occasionally unrepeatable
views on every conceivable subject which were expressed in the most
succinct terms and delivered with his inevitably wry smile which
camouflaged his capacity to shock. His favourite saying in later years
was “You should try everything once, except incest and folk dancing.”
We can confirm he never tried folk dancing. He was more your waltz kind
of guy.
He met Anne sixty-one years ago this week upon his return from Africa
where he spent a very enjoyable three years working for the Crown
Service building roads and bridges and shooting snakes on his days off. He drove a
red VW Beetle and a day after she saw him park it on the streets of
Longford Town he saw her talk to his colleague Maura McGowan in
Longford County Council and asked for an introduction. A lifetime of
golf widowhood and pithy conversation ensued.
Despite his commitment to a career in the civil service he was often
surprising and unconventional. After a brief flirtation with
Thatcherism in the Eighties he became disenchanted with those politics
when they were applied in his workplace where he was required to hire
road crew from the ranks of Fas recruits. His only question to the men
concerned their marital status. Why? Because, he said, any man doing
that kind of job would need a good breakfast and he wouldn’t take food
from the mouths of babies. He was besotted with babies and probably
wished he’d had more of them – he only had issues with children who
talked back to him when they developed minds of their own and
challenged his views – which were however remarkably tolerant and
tempered by his common sense, his travels and his reading.
He loved animals and his man of the twentieth century was David
Attenborough because he educated and informed
people about the real world inhabited by wonderful creatures whose
lives were shaped by the increasingly challenging environment made
by mankind – including young engineers let loose in Nigeria with a
shotgun. He wanted a universe for everyone. Twenty years ago when he
was watching the World Cup he said he wished it were on every summer
because he didn’t think he’d see too many more of them. His
anticipation of an easeful retirement to the golf course was
thwarted by the tricky turns in his health. He took the long view
of issues and understood that things changed slowly and then quickly
and often unexpectedly. A creature of habit, he swore he only bought The Irish Times for
Myles na gCopaleen but after the writer’s death in 1966 he saw no
reason to change his daily paper which sadly carries his
death notice this week. Johnny died the way Hemingway said men go bankrupt – gradually, then suddenly, with good grace and swift
acceptance. He was some kind of man.

Gilbert Lennon 17th April 2003 – 2nd August 2019

Gilbert10 May 05007.jpgGilbert in the Study 16 May 2005001.jpgGilbert 16 May 2005003.jpg

The world’s most charming and cine-literate cat died in my arms at 1120 today following a very short illness. Gilbert was the light of my life and accompanied me everywhere, including my travels on the internet to which he was a keen contributor and editor via this diary. I thought of a lot of things but not this. Now he is on the wild road with his brothers and sister. Vaya con Dios, amigo. You are the best of everything and Mondo Movies and I will not be right without you.

Paul O’Grady 14th June 1955 – 28th March 2023

Paul O’Grady has died suddenly at the age of 67. He played prostitute Roxanne in The Bill and his redoubtable and hilarious Lily Savage drag persona entered our living rooms via The Big Breakfast bed before going on to host Blankety Blank and then his great friend Cilla Black’s dating game, Blind Date. His evening chat shows on Channel 4 had a special atmosphere and his Sunday evening BBC Radio 2 shows were a source of great comfort, his banter with producer Malcolm Prince being an ever-heartening exchange to eavesdrop on particularly in those dark pandemic lockdowns. A tireless advocate of gay rights and champion – quite literally – of the underdog, his recent TV shows on behalf of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home earned him a new generation of fans. Performing just four days ago in a touring production of Annie, this has come as a shock. Comedian, drag queen, animal lover, TV legend, RIP the wonderful, irreplaceable, beloved Paul O’Grady.

Murder by Proxy (1955)

Aka Blackout. As far as I’m concerned last night was a complete blackout. Drunk and down-and-out US Army veteran Casey Morrow (Dane Clark) is living in London. Approached by a young and stunningly beautiful heiress Phyllis Brunner (Belinda Lee) in a bar, she offers him a lot of money if he will marry her. He accepts but wakes up the next morning in some other woman’s Chelsea studio flat with blood on his coat. She’s an artist called Maggie Summerfield (Eleanor Summerfield) and he knows she has something to do with Phyllis because her portrait hangs on Maggie’s wall. He finds Phyllis on the front pages of the newspapers where he learns about the murder of her father. And he’s the prime suspect. Now he has to unravel the mystery to clear his name, which leads him into a twisted labyrinth of encounters with various suspicious characters including Phyllis’s fiance Lance Gordon (Andrew Osborn), Phyllis’ mother Alicia (Betty Ann Davies) and her lawyer Travis (Harold Lang) who seem to make his situation worse the more he learns but prompts a reunion with his mother (Nora Gordon) who’s been in London for years which leads him back into the hands of the police in the form of Inspector Johnson (Michael Golden) … After the war I stayed in Europe for years searching for something, I don’t know what. Adapted by Richard H. Landau from Helen Nielsen’s second novel which was published in 1952, this film noir crime drama with a British twist plugs into all the style’s tropes with the added benefit of Lee, that gorgeous woman whose life was ultimately tragic and whose performance here practically sizzles. Most of Nielsen’s novels were set around where she lived in Laguna Beach and Oceanside, CA, and she is perhaps remembered in media terms for her scriptwriting on key TV series of the era – Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason, although the Black Lizard imprint republished a lot of her books in the past decade or so. This has a twisty plot and after a while, when it seems Clark is the patsy after all, it becomes perversely more enjoyable as the story winds itself into an impossible reveal. There’s impersonation, a highly recognisable scent, and something going on with the late Mr Brunner’s charities that leads to a dodgy office occupied by a man called Vanno. Produced by Michael Carreras at Hammer’s studios in Bray as part of an eight-film deal with America’s Lippert Pictures, this boasts some terrific scene-setting with its shots of Chelsea by day and night, a raft of familiar faces and a performance by a very young and uncredited Cleo Laine opening proceedings with a song as Clark gets sloshed. Lee was just 18 years old when this was made and she’s so accomplished as an apparent femme fatale bewitching Clark’s ordinary Joe it’s hard to reconcile with her youth. The film’s script supervisor Renee Glynne recalled her experiences for the Talking Pictures TV channel where we saw this and recalled her experiences with charismatic Lee, who she said was still very inexperienced at that time and I had to watch her quite carefully. She’d cross her legs the wrong way or turn her head at the wrong moment or come out with the wrong line, so I’d have to correct her and try to help her out. Dane obviously fancied her and got very cross with my professional interference’. He got quite nasty and was actually pushing me away from her.” Glynne [says she] had to take medication “in order to survive the rest of the film. After that I had to give all my instructions to him through the director, Terry Fisher…after some shots he’d have to put his head under cold water because he was so enraged that I was even there. Eventually he realised how silly it all was and went down on his knees, tears streaming down his face, begging me to forgive him, But I still asked Tony Hinds to take me off the next film he was in. Lee was well known throughout the Fifties, photographed regularly by her older husband Cornel Lucas in order to get publicity but really became tabloid fodder for her romantic relationships when she moved to Italy, particularly for adulterous relationship with Prince Filippo Orsini in the summer of 1958, the year of La dolce vita. She died tragically young at 25 in a car crash in San Bernardino, California with her new boyfriend Gualtiero Jacopetti and two of his colleagues when they were driving at high speed from a film shoot for Women of the World in Las Vegas. She was thrown from the vehicle when it flipped over; the others survived. It was the 12th March 1961, a year to the day that her peplum spectacle Messalina was released. Jacopetti went on to become a famous shockumentary maker a couple of years later with the release of Mondo Cane, the first of the genre that inspired this very blog. This was released in the UK sixty-eight years ago today, 28th March 1955. Watch out for Alfie Bass as Ernie the bartender. Directed by Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher. It’s a big jump from garbage cans to mink

He Walked By Night (1948)

The work of a police, like that of woman, is never done. The city of Los Angeles. LAPD Officer Robert Rawlins (John McGuire) is a patrolman on his way home from work. He stops a man (Richard Basehart) whom he suspects of being a burglar and is shot and mortally wounded. The minor clues lead nowhere. Two police detectives, Sergeant Marty Brennan (Scott Brennan) and Sergeant Chuck Jones (James Cardwell) are assigned to catch the killer Roy Morgan a brilliant mystery man with no known criminal past. Morgan is hiding in a Hollywood bungalow and listening to police calls on his custom radio in an attempt to avoid capture. His only relationship is with his small dog. Roy consigns stolen electronic equipment to Paul Reeves (Whit Bissell) and is nearly caught when he tries to collect on his property. Reeves tells police that the suspect is a mystery man named Roy Martin. The case crosses the paths of Brennan and Jones, who stake out Reeves’s office to arrest and question Roy. However, Roy suspects a trap and in a brief shootout, he shoots and paralyses Jones. Jones wounds Roy, who performs surgery on himself to remove the bullet and to avoid the hospital, where his wound would be reported to the police. With his knowledge of police procedures, Roy changes his modus operandi and becomes an armed robber. During one robbery, he fires his semiautomatic pistol and the police recover the ejected casing.sics s Forensics specialist Lee Whitey (Jack Webb) matches the ejector marks on the casing to those recovered in the killing of Rawlins and the wounding of Jones, connecting all three shootings to one suspect. Captain Breen (Roy Roberts) uses the break in the case to gather all of the witnesses to the robberies. They assist Lee in building a composite sketch of the killer. Reeves then identifies Roy from the composite – but Roy hides in Reeves’s car and tries to intimidate him into revealing details of the police investigation. He just about escapes a stakeout of Reeves’s house. Because the police are unaware that Roy has inside knowledge of their work, the case goes nowhere – so Breen ends up removing Brennan from the case. Jones convinces his partner to stop viewing the case personally. Brennan uses the composite photograph, which results in information that Roy, whose real name is Roy Morgan, worked for a local police department as a civilian radio technician before he was drafted into the army … They showed that picture to the inmates of jails and prisons, to men with a wide acquaintance among the cat burglars and the violence boys. Informers and con men and sharpshooters were quizzed. Those on the fringe of crime and those deep in the rackets. Many wanted to help; nobody could. No one in the underworld recognised that mysterious face. He was as unknown as if he had lived in the 16th Century. One of our favourite Los Angeles movies, this is an astonishing combination of police procedural and post-war noir, concerning the crime spree of a returning veteran, a big social problem that beset the city in that era. Featuring a great titles and opening sequence, the semi-documentary form is hugely enhanced by the deep focus monochrome cinematography and lighting by the legendary John Alton and although it’s credited to director Alfred L.Werker it’s known that Anthony Mann played a role in helming this. The suspense, the chase, the topography of life above and below ground produce a narrative matrix that pays visual dividends (with photographic effects by George Teague) as all the technical stops are worked to identify Morgan who eventually becomes likened to a rat in a trap. The use of the LA sewer system is breathtaking (in every sense). It’s a bravura film, filled with memorable sequences and boasting a superb atmosphere in a tautly constructed plot about a disturbed loner. Written by John C. Higgins and producer Crane Wilbur based on Wilbur’s story, with additional dialogue by Harry Essex. Basehart is marvellous as the villain whom we come to admire merely for his ingenuity and survival and of course it’s an opportunity to see Webb shortly before his Dragnet days. And so the tedious quest went on. Sergeant Brennan wore out his shoes and his patience going from police station to police station, checking photos until his eyes were blurry. For police work is not all glamour and excitement and glory. There are days and days of routine, of tedious probing, of tireless searching. Fruitless days. Days when nothing goes right, when it seems as if no one could ever think his way through the maze of baffling trails a criminal leaves. But the answer to that is persistence and the hope that, sooner or later, something will turn up, some tiny lead that can grow into a warm trail and point to the cracking of a tough case MM# 4100 #300straightdaysofmondomovies

Mr Malcolm’s List (2022)

I insist on being allowed to propose. England,1818. Beautiful Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) attends the opera with the most eligible bachelor of the season, Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). After she fails to impress him she is widely mocked in an upsetting caricature. Julia employs her cousin, the feckless Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, to see what she has done to offend Mr. Malcolm. I have exact requirements when building a stable and more stringent requirements when finding a wife. Malcolm reveals to Cassidy that he has a list of requirements for a wife which Julia did not meet. They include: Candid, truthful and guileless, amiable and even-tempered, having musical talent, and also being able to talk about politics. Cassidy lets this slip to Julia who is offended: she made a fool of herself when Malcolm asked her about the Corn Laws which she interpreted to be a new diet. She’s handsome enough but she’s not the one for me. Julia decides to invite her old schoolfriend, clergyman’s daughter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to London to get revenge on Malcolm, training the reluctant Selina to act as the perfect potential bride for the wealthy landowner. You have been cast into this world without fortune or prospects. On the night she is to meet Mr. Malcolm, Selina accidentally runs into him in the orangery where the two debate philosophy and are obviously attracted to one another. Then, when they are formally introduced, Mr. Malcolm invites Selina to the museum with him and he pleads his case with her that he and Julia had a very weak connection. They run into Captain Henry Ossery (Theo James) with whom Selina was previously acquainted, having served as his aunt’s companion in Bath. The following day, Ossery invites Selina to go walking with him and formally announces his intention to court her, as his aunt’s final letter to him expressed her desire for the two of them to be matched. However Malcolm does not stop his pursuit of Selina. Aided by Julia’s machinations, Selina continues to present herself to him as his perfect woman. When Julia and Selina accidentally run into Selina’s vulgar cousin Gertie Covington (Ashley Park) Julia claims her as her relation. Mr. Malcolm later privately expresses to Selina he is glad she is not related to someone so crass and this upsets Selina. When Mr. Malcolm learns the truth, he apologises to Selina and extends an invitation to Gertie to join him and the rest of the party at his country estate – where he intends to propose to Selina. Julia decides that Mr. Malcolm is suitably in love with Selina and determines the time has finally come for Selina to reject him. But Selina reveals she no longer wants to go forward with the plan: she thinks he is honourable and never had any intention of hurting Julia. At a masquerade, where Mr. Malcolm plans to propose to Selina, Julia has her maid call away Selina and lock her in a room, then sends a message to Mr. Malcolm to meet him in secret while posing as Selina and presenting him with her own list of requirements in a suitor. When Mr. Malcolm proposes, Julia rejects him and runs away, only to be immediately found out by Selina, Malcolm, and Ossery … And do you think you have never offended anyone? It happens, Julia. Several TV series have influenced this period romcom: Bridgerton, of course; Emily in Paris; and Gangs of London. How’s that?! A dreamboat; colour-blind casting; and an Austenesque story revolving around the romantic foibles of Regency society contemporise the genre without losing its pleasing attractions or invention. Adapted by Suzanne Allain from her own self-published novel, this is a sparky interpretation of the style with generous helpings of intrigue, mistaken identity, deception, revenge and a rather tasty masquerade ball, effectively staples of the traditional narrative which is of course a marriage plot (in every sense of the term). You are being blinded his intelligent conversation and devastatingly handsome good looks. It might however make the viewer nervous when Elliot Finch of Gangs … is presented as love’s young dream (although you have to hand it to Pinto, she’s ever youthful and lovely in the Elizabeth Bennet role). Luckily there’s James as the second male romantic lead. Witty performances by new and old names make this battle of the sexes a harmless and charming if slightly overlong (at 117 minutes) conventional romp. There’s a playful score by Amelia Warner. Directed by Emma Holly Jones who also directed the short in 2019 which starred Gemma Chan. No one wants a person incapable of forgiveness for a friend

Soldier Blue (1970)

It’s not her fault the Cheyennes grabbed her. Colorado Territory, 1877. Kathy Maribel ‘Cresta’ Lee (Candice Bergen) and Colorado Private Honus Gant (Peter Strauss) are joined together by fate when they are the only two survivors after their group is massacred by the Cheyenne tribe in an attack prompted by the cavalry’s. Gant is devoted to his country and duty; Cresta has lived with the Cheyenne for two years, is scornful of Gant and mockingly calls him ‘Soldier Blue’ and declares that in this conflict she sympathises with them,describing the horrors inflicted by the American soldiers on men, women and children which he cannot take in.. The two must now try to make it to the army camp at Fort Reunion where Cresta’s fiancé, army office Lt. McNair (Bob Carraway) waits for her. As they travel through the desert with very low supplies, hiding from the Indians, they are spotted by a group of Kiowa horsemen. Under pressure from Cresta, Honus fights and seriously wounds the group’s chief Running Fox (Jorge Russek) when the chief challenges him. Honus finds himself unable to kill the disgraced Kiowa leader – whose own men stab him in disgust! – riding off and leaving Honus and Cresta alone. The almost-puritanical Honus is disturbed by things Cresta barely notices and is shocked when he realises she lived with the Cheyenne chief as his wife. They are pursued by corrupt trader Isaac Q. Cucumber (Donald Pleasence) who Cresta says she doesn’t recognise. However Honus figures out that she met him when she was with the Cheyenne and that he’s selling guns to them – and Honus then proceeds to destroy this latest shipment of weapons. Cucumber shoots and injures Honus, who finds himself in a cave where Cresta leaves him to get help. She arrives at Fort Reunion, only to discover that her fiancé’s unit plans to attack the peaceful Indian village of the Cheyenne the following day under orders from Colonel Iverson (John Anderson) an obsessive madman. She rides to the village in time to warn Cheyenne chief Spotted Wolf (Jorge Rivero) – her former husband. He doesn’t acknowledge the danger and under two flags – the stars and stripes and a white truce – rides out to extend a hand of friendship to the American soldiers. The soldiers, however, obey the orders of their psychopathic commander and open artillery fire on the village … You look all shiny and beautiful like an angel. This avowed anti-Vietnam War allegory adapted by John Gay from the novel Arrow in the Sun by Theodore V. Olsen was a huge box office hit. A combination of romantic adventure and brutal anti-racist tract, its violence practically escalates it into the category of exploitation film. A devastating analogy with the My Lai massacre, this was the first depiction of the 1864 Sand Creek massacre and director Ralph Nelson and cinematographer Robert B. Hauser create an astonishing picture of frontierism and colonialism in action. The tone isn’t straightforward – Cresta is a lighthearted foul-mouthed product of hippiedom with her ‘bullshit’/’balls’ dialogue, her past shacked up with the supposed primitive male a shocking contrast with her origins in the civilised East; Honus is ‘honest’ and can’t comprehend what she’s telling him about soldiers’ behaviour towards the Native Americans – so their desert romance is far from conventional or equal. Her experience and her anticipation of what’s looming is pitted against his innocence and optimism. The gruesome massacre when it occurs verges on the unwatchable – from the graphic depiction of rapes, mutilations, burning, child murder and torture to the howling delight of the soldiers this proved unpopular in the US presumably because unlike the Fordian vision of the Cavalry these guys are cruel bloodthirsty maniacs: and it’s verifiable history. There’s a memorable score by Roy Budd and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s title song was a big hit. Director Nelson also plays Agent Long as ‘alf elson’. We can’t be ‘we’ anywhere else. When we go back it’s not ‘we’ any more

Jet Storm (1959)

Aka Jet Stream/Killing Urge. I just figured out I’m in direct line of fire. Grief-stricken and mentally ill Ernest Tilley (Richard Attenborough), a former scientist who lost his daughter two years earlier in a hit-and-run accident by a drunk driver, tracks down James Brock (George Rose), the man he believes is responsible for the accident and boards the same airliner on a transatlantic flight, flying from London to New York. Tilley is accompanied by his second wife Carol (Mai Zetterling) a nurse he met while in hospital the previous year. Ernest appears to have hidden a bomb on board and threatens to blow it up in an act of vengeance not only killing Brock but also all passengers and crew. Brock tries to evade explanations to his wife Rose (Megs Jenkins). When Captain Bardow (Stanley Baker) and the passengers realise that he is serious and they can’t loate the bomb (which Tilley had attached to the underside of the airliner’s left wing), they begin to panic. Some want to pressure him into revealing the location of the bomb, while others such as Jewish Doctor Bergstein (David Kossoff) try to reason with the now silent Tilley. Mulliner (Patrick Allen), a terrified passenger, whose class-consciousness is gently mocked by Inez Barrington (Elizabeth Sellars) who’s seated next to him, decides he’s better than the useless soldier he encounters, Colonel Coe (Cec Linder) and attempts to kill Brock to stop Tilley from setting off the bomb … I just want a man of action aboard this plane to do something about it. Writer/director Cy Endfield (or C. Raker Endfield as he’s billed here) effectively creates the disaster movie years before the Airport franchise with this British thriller. And what a cast list to make up the passengers who are equal parts hostage to fortune and reliable character turns. Where to start? Maybe with Hermione Baddeley as brash lower class widow Mrs Satterly raising hell and stirring everything even physically assaulting newbie air hostess Pam Leyton (the lovely and tragic Virginia Maskell) who’s also trying to fend off the attentions of the American co-pilot; pop singer Marty Wilde as – ta da! – pop singer Billy Forrester, who can barely keep his eyes or hands off his Bardotesque wife (Jackie Lane); comedian Harry Secombe as comic Binky Meadows who’s cracking wise and gently romancing Emma Morgan (Dame Sybil Thorndike); gorgeous Diane Cilento as nervous flyer Angelica Como who assists Pam and then tries to intervene with Ernest when he’s held in the aeroplane bar; the Tracer family, played by Paul Eddington and Lana Morris and their son Jeremy (Jeremy Judge) who’s used to try to intervene with Ernest in the hopes that a child can make him see reason; Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly as the Randolfs, a separating couple who wind up deciding against a divorce. And so on. The man who turns his head away is one with the sinner. A variety of psychological, personal and marital scenarios plays out among the glamorous jet set grouping as Ernest makes grandiloquent pronouncements on the dreadful state of humanity. You think you have a plane full of people here – you have a travelling zoo. His admission that as a chemical engineer his specialisation is unstable compounds elicits quite the reaction from stunned Captain Baker. Mr Tilley you’re a decent man. You must fight this madness with everything you’ve got. This is a smartly written race against time narrative, nicely characterised and performed by an incredible cast, particularly of course by Attenborough as the tragic, lost protagonist and Baker as the captain who displays real grace under pressure, with the only threat to the jeopardy at the story’s centre the use of unconvincing models as a toy jet (with enormously luxurious footroom and a generous lounge deck) dips and dives in the sky above Shepperton Studios. Wilde sings the title song which he composed, with lyrics by Endfield. Endfield had previously worked with Baker on Hell Drivers and Sea Fury; they would form a production company in the 1960s and probably their greatest collaboration would be Zulu. From his association with Orson Welles, to his magic tricks, his escape from blacklisting by the HUAC and his invention of the microwriter, Endfield had such an amazing life, we wonder why he’s never been the subject of a biopic. The screenplay was co-written by Sigmund Miller, based on his original story. Watch out for an uncredited Marianne Stone (we always do). If this thing blows up I’ll never travel by plane again

Cause for Alarm! (1951)

There’s nothing a woman likes better than showing a man around. Lovely Ellen (Loretta Young) recalls that she met Air Force pilot George Jones (Barry Sullivan) in a naval hospital during World War 2 while she was dating their mutual friend, young military doctor Lieutenant Ranney Grahame (Bruce Cowling) whose schedule barely left time for her. Ellen swiftly fell in love with him despite his evident capacity for arrogance and selfishness. They married and wound up in a leafy suburb in Los Angeles. Now George is now confined to his bed with heart problems. There is a heat wave and Ellen is spending her time caring for him. George’s doctor is their old friend Ranney and George thinks Ellen is having an affair. In response, Ranney suggests George might need psychological help. After Ellen tells her bedridden husband she dreams of having children, he becomes angry. Meanwhile, George has written a letter to the District Attorney claiming his wife and best friend are killing him with overdoses of heart medication. He was in love with her before I met her. Neighborhood boy (Billy Mora) dressed as the movie and TV cowboy, Hopalong Cassidy befriends Ellen and pesters her for cookies. He gives her a small toy (fake) television set and asks her to give it to George, which she does whilst serving her husband lunch in bed. He regales her with an unsettling story about how, as a child, he had beaten a neighbour boy with a rake until he drew blood. He asks her to send that letter he’s written .Thinking it has something to do with insurance, Ellen gives it to the postman (Irving Bacon) who moans about the heat and sees George peering from the curtains in the upstairs bedroom window. When Ellen rushes up to find out why he has got out of bed, George lets her know what the letter says and who it is addressed to. George pulls a gun and is about to kill her when he drops dead on the bed. In her voiceover narration she calls George’s death one of those awful dreams. Ellen panics over the letter and does everything she can to retrieve it … A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. This interesting domestic noir melodrama takes place in full daylight, in a heatwave, in the suburbs, with Young playing the most stunning housewife we’ve ever sign, perfectly dolled up in frills as she plays the devoted wife to a clearly paranoid husband. She recalls how they met, in the company of her friend and his, and the spiralling suspense of her husband stitching her up while she blames herself for his apparent illness and resultant paranoid depression is remarkably well paced. The minutiae of life in the ‘burbs, the annoying kid, the nosy neighbour, the fractious postman – what a drama is constructed when Ellen tries to get back the letter! – all those elements that could be irritating are built up and plundered to the nth degree and that’s before the aunt Mrs Warren (Georgia Backus) arrives, only to conclude marriage hasn’t improved her nasty nephew as she’d hoped. It’s co-written by Mel Dinelli (from a radio play by Larry Marcus) who had recently contributed that expert and stylish noir about a woman under threat, The Reckless Moment (as well as those great suspensers The Spiral Staircase and The Window) and if this doesn’t have the salty murderous tang of that Ophuls film it boasts a fine performance by Young, bedevilled by that vicious bedridden invalid husband calling the shots from the depths of his dangerous delusions. Produced and co-written by Young’s husband producer Tom Lewis, this was put together at speed, with a 14-day shoot, a lesson the pair learned for forthcoming The Loretta Young Show for the movies’ rival medium that gets a shoutout a couple of times here with a bit of mockery thrown in – a kids’ toy TV being seen as quite the coefficient to a real gogglebox. Effective, pacy storytelling and terrific performances mark this one out although the entire second half is (rather amusingly) dedicated for the most part to finding that pesky letter with unbelievable levels of red tape involved in that escapade – and then all these people show up at the front door. It’s enough to make Ellen tear her fabulous hair out and it’s styled by Sydney Guilaroff! Meanwhile, George is still dead. And it’s hot … Watch out for Richard Anderson as a sailor. The score is by Andre Previn. Directed by Tay Garnett. I knew that somewhere somehow I’d have to begin to live again but right then all I could do was pray to lose that one day, that one terrifying day

Walk East on Beacon (1952)

You made me a widower. I would prefer to have been a bachelor. FBI agent Inspector Jim Belden (George Murphy) is assigned to locate a spy ring operating in Bostson that’s behind the leaking of information in a top secret science programme and to trace all avenues of information utilised by the suspected Communists. Professor Albert Kafer (Finlay Currie) is the space-weapons scientist being blackmailed by the Reds into cooperating with them and the Feds try to get information out of him by holding his son hostage. Using state of the art technology, like an early miniature video camera as well as methods like a roomful of foreign- language lip readers, the G-men discover that Gregory Anders aka Alexi Laschenkov (Karel Stepanek) might be the top Eastern-Bloc spy behind the local sleeper cell. The FBI enlist the help of the US Coast Guard in an attempt to rescue the professor before he can be spirited away … Would you say she was a trotter or a pacer or did she single-foot? Adapted from a May 1951 Reader’s Digest article The Crime of the Century: The Case of the A-Bomb Spies credited to none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself, this substitutes a vague scientific story for the real-life atomic secrets scandal but in real life the original ultimately led to the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Written by Leo Rosten, with additional writing by Virginia Shaler, Laurence Heath (as Leonard Heideman, appropriately) and Emmett Murphy, this combines a police procedural structure with anti-commie hysteria at the height of the Cold War when relations were at an all-time low between the McCarthyite US and the Stalinist Soviet Union. The docu-drama style was being perfected in the early post-war era by studios looking to combine low budget and realist tropes with ripped from the headlines stories and the daddy of them all was probably The House on 92nd Street, also produced by Louis de Rochemont and featuring Hoover himself. With the typically authoritative voiceover narration and noir stylings, the reliably conventional protagonist Murphy plays second fiddle to Stepanek and Currie as far as Red Scare drama is concerned. There’s a nice supporting performance by Louisa Horton as Mrs Elaine Wilben. She was married to director George Roy Hill for several years and he plays her hubby here. Those Reds are everywhere! Nicely shot on location in New England by Joseph C. Brun and directed efficiently by Alfred L. Werker who only gets to let loose in the closing sequence off the New Hampshire coast. When men’s bodies are enslaved so are their minds

Billion Dollar Brain (1967)

Now is the winter of our discontent. Former MI5 spy turned private detective Harry Palmer (Michael Caine)  is told by a mechanical voice on the phone to take a package to Helsinki. The package is a Thermos flask that contains six virus-laden eggs that have been stolen from the Government’s research facility in Porton Down. In Helsinki, he is met by Anya (Francoise Dorleac) who takes him to meet her handler, Harry’s old friend Leo Newbigen (Karl Malden). Leo is in love with Anya, but Harry sees that she’ is faking it. Deciding that he can’t trust either Leo or Anya, Harry is abducted by his former MI5 boss, Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman) who coerces him into working once more for the British government in pursuing the conspiracy and getting the eggs back. Leo takes Harry to a secret room where a computer issues daily instructions to the local team, speaking in the same voice that summoned Harry to Helsinki. The computer orders Leo to kill Anya- but he doesn’t. They all go to meet a scientist who assesses the value of the eggs and Harry is introduced as a new operator. Harry is ordered to Latvia in the Soviet Union where he embeds with rebels to obtain intelligence. After being captured and left for dead, Harry is set free by Colonel Stok (Oscar Holmolka) an old acquaintance from the KGB. Back in Helsinki, Anya tries to kill Harry while seducing him, then confesses that the computer told her to kill him. Harry locks her in a room and waits for Leo at the computer. Leo offers to pay off Harry for his trouble, but Harry insists on half of the money Leo is getting from whatever the conspiracy is all about. They go to Texas where Harry meets oil tycoon General Midwinter (Ed Begley) who proudly displays his billion-dollar ‘Brain’ that is, a room full of computers issuing orders to his agents around the world. The General is in the midst of planning a rebellion in Latvia which he claims will trigger the fall of Communism worldwide. He believes Leo has hired hundreds of Latvian agents but actually there are only a handful because Leo is pocketing his money. The General is planning to begin a rebellion using these agents while his own private army invades to back them and simultaneously infecting the Red Army with the viruses. Meanwhile, Leo subverts Midwinter’s computer orders and escapes with the eggs. Midwinter figures out that Harry is a double agent but Harry tells him what Leo is doing and convinces him that he can track Leo down … It puts MI5 and the CIA back into the Stone Age. An astonishing blend of spy fiction, Cold War geopolitics, Government gamesmanship, tricksy storytelling (with a clever screenplay by John McGrath from Len Deighton’s eponymous novel), delectable location shooting, brilliant direction (by Ken Russell) and the kind of mad double crossing that makes you laugh out loud, this owes as much to Doctor Strangelove as the espionage genre, with its ideological complexity playing out in stunningly beautiful Finnish snowfields. Palmer is quite at home with his old Russian faux-adversary, the Brezhnevian Holmolka (returning from Funeral in Berlin); Malden makes a very good crafty but really not very bright both-ends-against-the-middle colleague; and military cowboy Begley with his own brand of raving patriotic anti-commie madness really could be riding the rocket at the end of Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece. The action, the framing, the transitions, the sheer cinematic virtuosity of the production really puts this ahead of all the other thrillers of the era. There are whole sequences of breathtaking shots that are instructive as the best of contemporary cinematography (and should be studied by budding cameramen): Russell and cinematographer Billy Williams really make the most of the interiors and exteriors with Honeywell providing some of the technological locations and Finland doing the rest. The sense of place and space is indelible. And then there’s the Brain, which has quite the personality of its own. Some games are more dangerous than others. The titles by Maurice Binder (see below) set up the dramatic concerns rather well, the production design by Syd Cain is splendid and Caine looks mighty fine in a bear skin but then he has a competitor – or a complementary scheming seductress who matches him for attractiveness, if you will. We could have made nice babies, she purrs. When the ravishing Dorleac finally bids him goodbye it really is Adieu. She died in a car crash a few miles from Nice, 26th June 1967, five weeks after the shoot finished and six months before this was released. She was 25 years old. Born on the 21st March 1942 she should have been celebrating her 81st birthday today. The sister of occasional co-star Catherine Deneuve, their mother, the actress Renee Dorleac died just 2 years ago, 2 months short of her own 110th birthday. What an amazing family and what a terrible loss to them and the world of cinema because Francoise Dorleac was really something. So today’s post both celebrates her birthday and mourns her. Watch out for young Susan George as a Latvian schoolgirl on a train, Donald Sutherland as a computer technician, Caine’s brother Stanley is a postman and Reed De Rouen has a rather tasty supporting role. Caine had narrated some of Russell’s TV films and they became friends. It was he who recommended him to producer Harry Saltzman for this. Russell made probably his best film here: his later over the top visuals and instincts are reined in and everything is in service to the compelling narrative and vivid characters yet it is clear a master filmmaker is at work and the penultimate sequence on ice is an homage to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky. This is striking, smart, funny and true to Deighton’s book. The score by Richard Rodney Bennett owes some of its runs to Stravinsky. This is absolutely wonderful in every way. We’re working out plans for every country dominated by commies