Hopscotch (1980)

US / 105 minutes / color / International Film Investors, Sham, Connelly, AVCO Embassy Dir: Ronald Neame Pr: Edie Landau, Ely Landau Scr: Brian Garfield, Bryan Forbes Story: Hopscotch (1975) by Brian Garfield Cine: Arthur Ibbetson Cast: Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston, Herbert Lom, Ned Beatty, David Matthau, George Baker, Ivor Roberts, Lucy Saroyan, Severn Darden, George Pravda, Jacquelyn Hyde, Mike Gwilym, Douglas Dirkson, Allan Cuthbertson, Ann Haney.

Hopscotch (1975) is widely regarded as one of the best novels by the incredibly talented Brian Garfield, who died at the end of December 2018, aged 79. The screen adaptation of that novel, even though co-written by Garfield, is a rather more light-hearted affair than its print original, although it shares very much the same plot (a notable difference is that the character of Isobel von Schönenburg is new) and the same fascination for the way one man’s twisted ingenuity can outwit the efforts of powerful but unimaginative institutions, no matter the resources they can bring to bear against him. It is, in short, a Trickster story, to use the terminology created by my old friend and colleague John Clute for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Walter Matthau as Kendig.

After a successful operation in Munich, CIA veteran Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) is berated by his self-important, blustering pig of a boss G.P. Myerson (Beatty) for not having taken the chance to bring in or eliminate Mikhail Yaskov (Lom), head of the KGB in Western Europe. Ignoring the valid reasons for Kendig having decided as he did, Myerson demotes him to a desk job.

Glenda Jackson as Isobel.

So Kendig walks away from the agency, without so much as a goodbye, to join his old flame Isobel von Schönenburg (Jackson) in Salzburg. There, following a jokey suggestion of hers, he begins to write his tell-all memoirs, mailing the manuscript one chapter at a time to Continue reading

snapshot: The Net (1953)

vt Project M7
UK / 82 minutes / bw / Two Cities, Rank Dir: Anthony Asquith Pr: Antony Darnborough Scr: William Fairchild Story: The Net (1952) by John Pudney Cine: Desmond Dickinson Cast: Phyllis Calvert, James Donald, Robert Beatty, Herbert Lom, Muriel Pavlow, Noel Willman, Walter Fitzgerald, Patric Doonan, Maurice Denham, Marjorie Fielding, Cavan Watson, Herbert Lomas, Cyril Chamberlain.

Behind the net—the wire fencing—of secret UK research establishment Port Amberley, the team led by Michael Heathley (Donald) has finished developing the experimental supersonic nuclear-augmented jet aircraft code-named M7. All that remains is to test-fly the prototype, something Michael wants to do immediately, in conjunction with pilot Brian Jackson (Doonan). But the site’s boss, Professor Carrington (Denham) is cautious, and insists it’s too early to risk human lives, that there should be remote-controlled test flights first.


Maurice Denham as Carrington.

But then Carrington dies as a result of a mysterious accident and Michael decides, over the objections of several of his colleagues, to Continue reading

Return from the Ashes (1965)

After her return from the death camps, does her unscrupulous husband want to love her . . . or kill her?

UK, US / 107 minutes / bw / Mirisch, UA Dir & Pr: J. Lee Thompson Scr: Julius Epstein Story: Le Retour des Cendres (1961) by Hubert Monteilhet Cine: Christopher Challis Cast: Maximilian Schell, Samantha Eggar, Ingrid Thulin, Herbert Lom, Talitha Pol, Vladek Sheybal, Jacques Cey, Jacques Brunius, Eugene Keeley.

Return from the Ashes - 0a

Occupying the same sort of territory as The THIRD MAN (1949), this is the first of—to date—three screen adaptations of Monteilhet’s novel. The other two are:

The latter is covered here.

Return from the Ashes - 0b

It’s the winter of the liberation of France from the loathed Nazi occupation. Aboard a train bound for Paris, a disobedient small boy, Robert (Keeley), opens the door and falls out into the night and presumably his doom. All of the passengers in the compartment are distraught, save one. The woman in the corner (Thulin) seems completely unmoved by events. The others are prepared to be critical of her until they notice the numbers tattooed on her forearm; she’s a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps, and her seeming imperturbability is born not from heartlessness but from traumatic alienation and the crude reconstructive surgery that’s been done on her face.

Arriving in Paris, she books herself into a cheap hotel under the name Julia Robert, even though, as the desk clerk (Cey) points out, according to her papers her name is Michele Wolff-Pilgrin. She tells him she wishes to hide under an assumed name for a while . . .

Return from the Ashes - 1 The Michele we first meet bears the scars of her ordeals

 The Michele we first meet (Ingrid Thulin) bears the scars of her ordeals.

Soon, in a prolonged flashback, we learn her story—and that the face she now bears is not the one she had a few years ago, before the torment of the camps and a clumsy reconstruction job after injury.

A widow, by the latter half of the 1930s she was working as a successful X-ray clinician in a Paris hospital. From her late husband she inherited a stepdaughter, Fabienne, whom she rarely saw, just shuffling her around from one English boarding school to another.

One night at her local chess club Michele ran into the impoverished would-be professional chess player Stanislas “Stan” Pilgrin (Schell), who took her for three games of chess to the tune of ninety francs. Later that night, even though she recognized he was a scoundrel, she Continue reading

Dark Tower, The (1943)

Herbert Lom stars as the malicious mesmerist in the Big Top!

UK / 93 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: John Harlow Pr: Max Milder Scr: Brock Williams, Reginald Purdell Story: The Dark Tower (1933 play) by George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott Cine: Otto Heller Cast: Ben Lyon, Anne Crawford, David Farrar, Herbert Lom, Frederick Burtwell, Bill Hartnell (i.e., William Hartnell), Josephine Wilson, Elsie Wagstaffe (i.e., Elsie Wagstaff), J.H. Roberts, Aubrey Mallalieu, Reco Brothers’ Circus.

The Dark Tower - 0aThe Dark Tower - 0b

Phil Danton (Lyon) of Danton’s Empire Circus is in the process of announcing to the circus’s personnel that he can no longer afford to pay them when news arrives that Pasha the lion has escaped from his cage.

The Dark Tower - 3 The lion is loose!

In trying to control the beast, the lion tamer (uncredited) collapses. Luckily, though, a sinister young man, Stephen Torg (Lom), who’d been trying to find a job at the circus, steps forward and, using his mesmeric abilities, cows Pasha. Naturally Phil offers him a job (unpaid) on the spot.

The Dark Tower - 1 Drifter Torg introduces himself to 'Colonel' Wainwright

Drifter Torg (Herbert Lom) introduces himself to “Colonel” Wainwright (Frederick Burtwell).

The Dark Tower - 2 Torg immediately impresses

Torg (Herbert Lom) immediately impresses.

Phil gathers around him his trusted colleagues: his brother Tom (Farrar), who’s his partner in the circus and also the star of the flying trapeze; Miss Mary (Crawford), Tom’s partner on the trapeze and soon to be in life; and Jimmy Powers (Hartnell), the circus’s publicist. Could they perhaps employ Torg as the new lion tamer? But Phil has a far more radical idea:

Phil: What I’m trying to explain is I believe it might be possible for Torg to control Mary’s balance in the act through hypnotism.”

At the end of her act with Tom on the trapeze, Mary slides backward down a sloping wire to the ground. To keep her balance she uses Continue reading

Night Boat to Dublin (1946)

UK / 96 minutes / bw / Trans-World, Pathe Dir: Lawrence Huntington Pr: Hamilton G. Inglis Scr: Lawrence Huntington, Robert Hall Cine: Otto Heller Cast: Robert Newton, Raymond Lovell, Guy Middleton, Muriel Pavlow, Herbert Lom, John Ruddock, Martin Miller, Brenda Bruce, Gerald Case, Julian Dallas (i.e., Scott Forbes), Leslie Dwyer, Valentine Dyall, Bruce Gordon, Marius Goring, Olga Lindo, Stuart Lindsell, Gordon McLeod, Joan Maude, Lawrence O’Madden, Hay Petrie, Wilfrid Hyde White.

Night Boat to Dublin - 0 openerIn the opening moments of this noirish spy tale we see Frederick Jannings (Goring), held prisoner in the Tower of London as a suspected Nazi spy and facing death by firing squad, being given one last chance to tell British Military Intelligence what has happened to missing Swedish scientist Dr. Hansen (Miller), whose researches into atomic weapons are making their way to the Nazis. Jannings believes Hansen is dead, which is taken by his captors as a refusal to talk; he’s Continue reading

Ringer, The (1952)

UK / 73 minutes / bw / London, British Lion Dir: Guy Hamilton Scr: Val Valentine, Lesley Storm Story: The Gaunt Stranger (1925; vt Police Work; revised vt The Ringer 1926) by Edgar Wallace Cine: Ted Scaife, John Wilcox Cast: Herbert Lom, Donald Wolfit, Mai Zetterling, Greta Gynt, William Hartnell, Dora Bryan, Norman Wooland, Denholm Elliott, Charles Victor, Walter Fitzgerald, Campbell Singer, John Stuart.

The Ringer 1952 - 4 Lom is suitably creepy as Meister

Herbert Lom, in supreme form.

Feared internationally, the crook Henry Arthur Milton, better known as The Ringer—because he could ring the changes with his disguises—finally met his end in Australia. Or did he? According to his wife Cora Ann (Gynt) he somehow escaped and has now made his way to London. That’s what the cops think too, and the slightly sinister Chief Inspector Bliss (Wooland), recently returned to Scotland Yard from a somewhat mysterious secondment in New York, is put in charge of the case. He liaises with Inspector Wembury (Victor) of the Met, whose Deptford territory includes the home of powerful criminal lawyer Maurice Meister (Lom). It’s thought that the reason The Ringer has come back to London is to seek vengeance on Meister, whom he blames for the suicide some years ago of his (The Ringer’s) sister Gwenda.

The Ringer 1952 - 2 Zetterling as Lisa Gruber

Mai Zetterling as Meister’s secretary Lisa Gruber.

Wembury enlists the aid of cheery Cockney burglar Samuel “Sam” Cuthbert Hackitt (Hartnell), who has just been released from prison; although too terrified to Continue reading