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

Too Late for Tears (1949)

Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!

vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.

I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.

And it felt like coming home.

Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading