Permission to Kill (1975)

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Alpine scheming!
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vt Kickback; vt The Executioner
UK, Austria, US / 97 minutes / color with occasional brief bw / Sascha–Film, Jungbluth & Lazek, Warner, Columbia–Warner, Embassy Dir: Cyril Frankel Pr: Paul Mills Scr: Robin Estridge Story: W.I.L One to Curtis (1967) by Robin Estridge Cine: Freddie Young Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Ava Gardner, Bekim Fehmiu, Timothy Dalton, Nicole Calfan, Frederic Forrest, Klaus Wildbolz, Anthony Dutton, Peggy Sinclair, Dennis Blanch, John Levene, Alf Joint, Vladimir Popovic, Ratislav Plamenac, Oliver Schott, Erna Riedl-Tichy.

Released at the height of the Bond era—this came out between The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), a time when the Bond franchise was for legal reasons undergoing a (very) brief hiatus—Permission to Kill could hardly, despite its title, be more distanced from the technical hijinx, passionate encounters, shootemups and protracted action scenes that characterized its glitzy counterpart. Perhaps aspiring to the gravitas of Le Carre, it focuses on intrigue and the interplay between characters. It’s not entirely successful in this, but it does have a fair amount of appeal in its own right.

Alexander “Alex” Diakim (Fehmiu), a charismatic populist leader in exile from his Middle European homeland because of the repressive government there, has halfway decided to go back to lead the struggle for liberation, even at the likely cost of his life.

Dirk Bogarde as Curtis.

For reasons unstated—perhaps just a fear of rocking the boat—the British secret services don’t want him to do so. A controller who calls himself Alan Curtis (Bogarde) is put in charge of the effort to persuade Alex to delay his plans or, if he proves intractable, to kill him.

Curtis, using various means of blackmail and claiming to be working for the nonexistent Western Intelligence Liaison, assembles a disparate group of people important for some or other reason in Alex’s life and Continue reading

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Chambre Bleue, La (2014)

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An illicit affair leads to murder!
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vt The Blue Room
France / 76 minutes / color / Alfama, Arte France Cinéma, Centre National du Cinéma et de L’Image Animée, Canal+, Ciné+, Cofinova 10, La Région des Pays-de-la-Loire, Le CNC Dir: Mathieu Amalric Pr: Paulo Branco Scr: Stéphanie Cléau, Mathieu Amalric Story: La Chambre Bleue (1964; vt The Blue Room) by Georges Simenon Cine: Christophe Beaucarne Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Léa Drucker, Stéphanie Cléau, Laurent Poitrenaux, Serge Bozon, Blutch, Mona Jaffart, Véronique Alain, Paul Kramer, Alain Fraitag, Christelle Pichon, Olivier Mauvezin, Joseph Ancel, Marie-Agnès Renard.

In the small French town of St. Justin, farm-machinery merchant Julien Gahyde (Amalric) has been having an affair for the past eleven months with pharmacist’s assistant Esther Despierre (Cléau); the pair might have been childhood sweethearts had Julien’s family not moved out of the area. In the interval before his return, both of them got married, Julien to Delphine (Drucker), now mother of his child Suzanne (Jaffart), and Esther to the rich but sickly Nicolas Despierre (Mauvezin). The illicit couple meet clandestinely on occasional afternoons in the Blue Room (so-named because of the color its walls are painted) of the Hôtel de la Gare.

Esther (Stéphanie Cléau).

Julien (Mathieu Amalric).

One day, between bouts, Julien sees from the Blue Room’s window Esther’s husband Nicolas, apparently making his way intently toward the hotel. This sparks both of the lovers into a rethink of Continue reading

Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

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“My name is Wong. James Lee Wong.”
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US / 62 minutes / bw / Monarch Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Paul Malvern Scr: Joseph West Story: Ralph Bettinson Based on: characters created by Hugh Wiley in 12 stories published 1934–38 in Collier’s Magazine Cine: Fred Jackman Jr Cast: Keye Luke, Lotus Long, Grant Withers, Charles Miller, Huntley Gordon, Virginia Carpenter, John H. Dilson, Paul McVey, John Holland, Dick Terry, Robert Kellard, William Castello, Lee Tung Foo.

Not long after his return from a field trip to Mongolia, Dr. John Benton (Miller)—clearly labeled “Cyrus Benton” in a newspaper that we see—is giving a lecture at San Francisco’s Southern University about his expedition and the discovery he made in the Gobi Desert of the long-lost tomb of a powerful Ming emperor. He illustrates the lecture with the movie footage taken during the trip by photographer Charlie Frasier (Dilson), the very same guy as who’s now operating the projector for the lecture. Sitting in the front row are two further members of the expedition, Benton’s daughter Louise (Carpenter) and the pilot Tommy Dean (Kellard); the two are evidently sweet on each other. Helping the archaeologist is his secretary, Win Len (Long).

Tommy (Robert Kellard) and Louise (Virginia Carpenter), so much in love.

But one member of the expedition didn’t return, Benton explains to his audience. The backup pilot, Mason (Holland), was lost during a wild dust-storm and, although the party hunted for him, in the end they had to abandon the search.

Frasier (John H. Dilson) films everything.

Suddenly Benton grabs his throat and collapses. Soon the homicide cop Captain Sam Street (Withers) and his sidekick Detective Grady (McVey) are on the scene, but it looks as if Continue reading