Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The second Harry Potter, film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was, as the first, a self contained film which can be enjoyed in isolation from the first and subsequent films by is also an integral part of the master story as well as a chronicle of growing up feeling different from the majority of  humanity, an  experience with which I can  identity although unlike Harry I missed out to a significant extent on sharing my experience with those in a similar situation. True I did have some Muggle friends for a time during my adolescent years, but it was only as  a young adult that i enjoyed the regular company of those with a similar interest, traditional jazz and then as part of the non violent direct action movement against weapons of mass destruction. For Harry Potter the world was also divided between good and evil and a fight to avoid domination and potential total destruction,

As with the first  film we find Harry at home with his Muggle relatives, the Dursley’s  isolated all summer as he has had no contact with either Ron or Hermione or others from the school, not even one letter.

He then finds a number of unexplained happenings which he learns are caused by a House Elf Dobby intent on stopping Harry returning  to Hogwarts school because he knows an attempt will be made to kill him. House elves are to be found the  homes of the established households of Wizards and Witches and in effect House slaves who much obey every command from their masters and can only become independent if their master present them with clothing. Their lives in service is monitored by a special branch of the Ministry of Magic which has issued guidelines on  their treatment and has a unit which allocates elves to individual homes and will organise their reallocation.

In this instance it is only later in the film that we lean that Dobby is the House  elf to the Malfoys and therefore his behaviour is not only unusual but dangerous for him risking the severe rest punishment for disloyalty and disobedience. The film does not explain why Dobby is acting in this way, something which may happen in the book. The impact of Dobby’s well intentioned but misdirected behaviour  has the impact of making Harry’s life at the Dursley’s even more difficult than usual, especially when his uncle is entertaining a potential business client. The consequence is that Vernon takes decisive action to prevent Harry leaving their home for Hogwarts, locking  him in his room and placing bars on the windows.

It is Ron who drives up across London in the flying car  with his elders brothers to rescue Harry attaching  the car to the bars at the window to pull them  off and to load Harry and his trunk and then takes Harry to the family home, the Burrows. This is an extraordinary creation on several floors in a countryside setting which I understand to be Devon, effectively run my the matriarch figure of Molly played by Julie Walters with her adventurous husband, an unassuming man played by  Mark Williams. The Burrows becomes Harry’s second home where he establishes a friendship with Ron’s younger sister Ginny who is to commence in her first year at the school as Harry Ron and Hermione commence their second.

During  the stay they visit Diagon Alley to re stock on supplies using Floo powder which looks like fire ash and which involves entering the fireplace below the chimney but because Harry is nervous his flight is slightly off course and is separated from others and ends up in a store selling black magic products and spots the father of Draco Malfoy there who boasts his support for Voldemort. Harry also attends the book signing of the famous Gilderoy Lockhart played by Kenneth Branagh who appears  as something of self interested showman and who is to become the new Professor of Defence against the Black Arts at Hogwarts.

When Harry accompanies the Weasley’s to Kings Cross Station for Platform 9 ¾ they find they cannot enter so Ron uses the flying car to try and catch up the train  arriving at the school they land on to one of the Whomping Willows, an aggressive tree which attacks anyone coming within its orbit and their arrival is witnessed by Snape to declares they should be expelled for using the vehicle and being late. Profession McGonagall supported by Dumbledore argues that as head of the House she is responsible for discipline and the punishment will be detention.

In this second film the opportunity is taken to present more the schools activities. However before this Ron receives a Howler from his mother. A feature of letters in the series usually delivered by an owl is that they contain oral and visual messages in this instance a hologram of Molly berating her son for taking and wrecking the car with the missive delivered in front of all the students at Breakfast.

The first lesson involves Herbology(Professor Sprout!)  where in  a green house they learn  how to transplant the Mandrake plant, a plant which is not only living  but with human aspects and a personality, The plant has important properties when mature and which has a crucial role later.. The second class concerns Transfiguration  beginning with changing the shape of objects although the process also applies to humans (Shape Shifting was a feature of Star trek and other fantasy books and films.  Ron has problems because his wand was broken in the car crash and it is repaired with magic tape with good and bad consequences The third class is with Lockhart who seizes the opportunity to increase his publicity by attaching himself  to Harry. Ginny Weasley who has a crush on Harry  is also a member of his fan club.

The next development is Quiddich practice for Griffindor but they find that Slitherin has also been sent out to practice with Draco now a leading member after his father has equipped the team with the very latest competition  broomsticks. Draco insults Hermione calling her a Mudblod and Ron tries to put a curse on Draco but because of his damaged wand it misfires and it he who starts to vomit in uncontrolled fashion  slugs. (Because of the wet summer it has been an extraordinary good year for slugs who have flourished). Ron is taken to Hagrid for the spell undone.

These are all preliminaries to when during detention  Harry becomes aware of a voice,  threatening, and ice cold and Hermione finds  a message  on a wall announcing that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. The legend is that when Salazar Slitherin graduated he provided the Chamber as a gift which when opened would release a creature capable of destroying students who were of Muggleblood to which he and the those in the House became opposed.

Caretaker Filch’s cat has also been petrified, a dark form of transfiguration and Filch finding Harry with the animal blames him. McGonagall and Dumbledore intervene and we learn that only an heir to the founder of the House of Slitherin has power to open the chamber, and Harry is convinced that this is Draco. The teaching staff emphasise that this is only a legend and that they have searched the school many times and no trace of he Chamber has been found. Soon as the attacks continue everyone changes their minds

The Trio believe that there is a Chamber and that Draco is responsible for the opening because of his hostility towards Hermione and those like her. To try and  prove this Hermione, the brains of the trio, especially in relation to potions, suggests they create  a Polyjuice potion which enables them to transform themselves temporarily into someone else and to trick Malfoy and his associates to revealing their secrets. The potion will take a month to prepare and some of the ingredients have to be taken from Snape’s controlled store.

During the month a Quiddich match between Gryffindor and Slitherin takes place with Harry and Draco fighting it out to catch the snitch. During games all the players have to avoid another flying object called the Bludger but in this instance it attacks only Harry suggesting someone has intervened. Harry triumphs again. However his arm  is damaged and Professor Lockhart offers to fix it but manages to remove all the bones from the arm. This is treatable but Harry finds himself in the school hospital again. The skill of Lockhart is first questioned.

A new feature in the school this year is the establishment of a duelling involving the use of wands and spells,  under the auspices of Lockhart and Snape and where the key match is between Harry and Draco. Draco conjures a snake and Harry uses his ability to communicate with snakes to pacify. Hermione discloses that this was something applicable to the founder off Slitherin which has the unintended consequence that the rest of the school believe Harry is the Heir and responsible for the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. The trio get their opportunity to use the Polyjuice potion during the Christmas holidays when they find that Draco and his henchmen are staying in school so Harry and his friends also sign up to stay. The plan misfires because they find that Draco is not the Heir involved in creating the opening.

In order to make the potion the trio had used one of the girl’s toilets which is not entered by anyone because it is also the location of a young ghost, Moaning Myrtle who screams and rants about her lot. She was killed by Slitherin‘s creature  on orders of Voldemort, why I  not certain although I assume because like Hermione she was born of two Muggles. Myrtle had also become isolated and teased at he school because of her appearance which included the wearing of spectacles. It is in the lavatory that Harry discovers a book, an enchanted book, from fifty years before belonging to one Tom Riddle and it is this book which  appears to  incriminate Hagrid as the true Heir and therefore responsible for the opening of the Chamber some fifty years before and it is assumed more recently.. Shortly after this development the Minister of Magic arrives accompanied by Draco Malfoy’s father  who is a leading member of the school Board to announce that Professor Dumbledore is being suspended and that Hagrid is to be arrested and taken to the prison centre of Azkaban, an Island in the North Sea where those  imprisoned are guarded by black spirit creatures called Dementors who cause suffering and drain their victims of all happiness. By this time other school members have become petrified with the last person Hermione which understandably causes Harry and Ron great distress. The school is threatened with closure.

Before Dumbledore leaves he tells Harry to follow the spiders to discover the truth. Harry has noted spiders leaving the school every time there has been an attack which leaves someone or thing petrified. Given that Ron hates spiders that he agrees to accompany Harry, this is a measure of his growing attachment to Hermione.  First Ron and then Harry enters the underworld of the Forest where they encounter a giant spider creature which fifty years before had been involved with Hagrid in incidents which led him to be accused of Opening the Chamber of Secrets. The creatures declares that Hagrid was not in fact responsible and that although the Credit was taken by Tom Riddle for naming Hagrid this was false.
However far from enabling the boys to leave and make use of this knowledge, the creatures decides that they will  become food for all its offspring and their families, The boys are only able to escape by using Ron’s car which has survived the  confrontation with the Whomping Tree.

On return there is a further turn for the worse in that they find that Ron sister Ginny Weasley has disappeared, presumed  into the Chamber while a piece of paper clutched in Hermione’s hand reveals that the Chamber is guarded by  a snake like creature, a basilisk, Professor Lockhart, responsible for the Defence against the Dark Arts is expected to deal with the situation but he says he needs to first return to his room.

When Harry go to provide the information found in the possession of Hermione  they find the man packing to make a quick get away as he is forced to admit he is a fraud having used memory erasing charms to pinch the ideas of other Wizards and Witches to form the basis of his published writings.

Harry had previously commented to Moaning Myrtle that the first incident of the petrified  cat  had taken place outside the lavatory and Tom Riddle’s memoir had also been found  there, the scene also of her death by the creature subsequently. From this Harry concludes the entrance to the Chamber is in this area and force Lockhart to accompany them who loses his memory after using Ron‘s broken wand in attempt to use the spell on them.

The truth emerges that Tom Riddle exists  as a memory in the book and is in fact  the young Voldemort who now in the Chamber summons his creature to attack Harry but when all looks lost Dumbledore’s  familiar arrives, a Phoenix, and gives Harry the Sorting Hat under which is the sword of  the former founder of Gryffindor which Harry uses to kill the creature  but who before this manages to get a fang into Harry’s arm and poison him. Harry takes the embedded fang which he sticks into Riddle’s Memory diary, an act which destroys its creator, and Ginny regains consciousness to witness the dying Harry being rescued by the curative tears of the Phoenix. The Phoenix is able to also rescue Harry and Ginny from the Chamber where they join Ron and Lockhart whose memory loss has become permanent.

With this development the immediate threat of school closure is averted and Dumbledore is reinstated in a coup against Malfoy senior with the assistance of the other governors. This  because they that Malfoy senior had  given the diary to Ginny via his son as a means of opening the Chamber as part of his plan to get rid of the head and Hagrid, and close the school. Ginny was unaware of all this until regaining awareness.

Dumbledore  arranges for Hagrid to be released and while this is cause for everyone to celebrate, Harry growing concern about his  position dominates and he queries with Dumbledore if he should be in Slitherin  and not Griffindor. The Professor explains that only a true son of the Gryffindor would have the power to summon and use the sword.

When Malfoy seniors plans are thwarted Dobby, the Elf is at his side and Harry understand why the creature was so intend on stopping him returning to Hogwarts. Realising that the creature had the best intentions and is now in deep trouble he tricks Malfoy into giving Dobby a small item of clothing which is all that is needed to free him from servitude thus Harry gaining his eternal gratitude which is to have an important consequence later.

Hagrid arrives back at the end of year Feast and embraces Harry meanwhile back in Diagon Alley Lockhart’s latest book ins on sale with the title  Who am I? Featuring  the man in a strait jacket suffering from total memory loss. As with the first film, it ends on a high note, making the audience feel hood despite the black deeds, sounding alarms and information about what is to come that ahs been introduced,

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Jenifer 8

The Police Cops and thriller film of the week is Jenifer 8. Arriving in small town rural California for a new  job recommended by a friend and  police colleague, John Berlin ( Andy Garcia) works out that there is a relationship between  the body part of young woman in a garbage can, a severed hand, and an unidentified murdered girl which remained unsolved despite a six month investigation. Berlin notices that marks on the hand indicate that the girl used Braille and could be assumed to have been blind. He discovers there were also other unsolved cases which convinces him they are looking for a serial killer. Under pressure from a long standing colleagues who was passed over for promotion to make way for Berlin the local police chief refuses to accept there is any connection between the new and previous cases.

It has become a cliché that once the police  on both sides of the Atlantic have a suspect who they believe is guilty they do not explore other possibilities.  In total there were eight girls within a radius of 300 miles who were killed or disappeared and had sight problems. He names the unsolved case Jennifer 7 and the latest Jenifer 8, hence the title of the film. He then meets a blind young woman (Una Thurman) and is convinced that her room mate is Jennifer 8 and because she has knowledge of the voice of the person with whom the girl came to associate she is also at risk. Because the girl resembles his ex wife Berlin becomes attached to her.

There is then one of those situations which is not uncommon, Berlin arranges for the wife of the friend, who arranged the transfer to look after the girl while they keep watch on her accommodation believing an attempt will be made on her life. When investigating what looks like  movement in the girl’s room Berlin is knocked unconscious and his gun taken and used to kill his colleague and friend. He is then accused of the murder and questioned by the FBI special agent, John Malkovich in a brilliant cameo performance, egged on by the colleague who was passed over for promotion.

Berlin becomes convinced this is this is situation and gets into an understandable panic after being freed because the passed over colleague is on his way to the home of the widow to take the witness  back to the residential centre the blind to go over what happened in relation to her friend Jennifer 8. We the audience are not immediately aware that the widow has switched positions with  the witness and  accompanies the killer who is under the impression she is blind. When he attempts to kill her, she turns round with a gun and shoots him dead thus bringing the story to its successful conclusion.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Woman in Green

The Private Eye film of the week is The Woman in Green  involves Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr Watson. When several young women are murdered in different parts of  London apparently for no reason as robbery or sex is ruled out as motives  but the same forefinger is surgically removed Holmes is contacted by the yard in desperation

This is the third Sherlock Holmes film with Rathbone and Bruce where the adversary proved to be Professor Moriarty who IN each film falls to death but is later proved to have survived.

In this film Moriarty arranges for Watson to be out on a fake call for help while he visits Holmes to taunt him and gain information on the set up inside the flat. He then hypnotises an ex solder to kill Holmes from an opposite window. Holmes sends Watson across the way to apprehend the potential killer but Watson appears to arrive too late but on returning to their flat he finds that Holmes has used a bust  similar to his frame to give the killer the false idea he has been successful. Later the service man is also killed when he goes to see Holmes to reveal who is behind  the situation,

In what is the only credulity stretch of the film Holmes accompanies the Inspector to a drinking club in the West End when they spot a well known figure, Sir George Fenwick.  entertaining a much younger women dressed green We know that the woman invites Sir George to her home for a nightcap  but not what  happens immediately next. In the following days when Holmes and the Inspector fail to find any leads  Holmes  and Watson note another young women approaching their rsidence with a handbag that Holmes tells Watson must be containing something she is bringing to him because it does not go with fashionable other clothes she is wearing.

This young woman explains that she found her father going out in the middle of the night after having stayed out one night and she then digs what he has buried which she now hands to Holmes and he opens the box to reveal a severed finger. Homes notices that the girl was being followed so he insists on making his way with her immediately to the home of the father, contacting Scotland Yard to  join them. Unfortunately when they  go to talk to the father, they find that he has been murdered evidently to stop him revealing what happened to him.

Clutching in one hand is the pocket matches from the drinking club where Holmes had seen him before Sir George Fenwick with The Woman in Green. Holmes suspects that the woman with him  plays a  significant role and sets out to trap her suspecting that she is lured to get wealthy men to her rooms where they are hypnotised to believe that they are the killers of the women after they find a finger in their possession. They are then blackmailed by the woman and Moriarty and Sir George had withdrawn all the savings from the bank account shortly before his death,

Holmes then befriends the woman in green who takes him back to her flat and appears to hypnotise him and one of her men  uses a knife to cut Holmes to check he her is her under control, after which  she then orders him to write a suicide note,  and go out on the window ledge and jump to his death,

Watson and the police arrive and it is revealed that Holmes had taken a pain killing substance so he could give the impression of being hypnotised, Moriarty who is in  the building escapes from the police and appears to fall to his death as he jumps from the building to another.

Tall Man Riding

The Western of the Week is Tall Man Riding made  1955 when Scott was 57  although he  continued to make films for another seven years as a younger sharp shooting bare knuckle fighting trail and ranch hand. The story has echoes in  the  Big Country and Giant, the TV series Dallas where powerful cattle men attempt not just to control  their  areas and who may or may not share some of the land but also who their daughter may and may not marry.

In this saga Scott was badly bullwhipped by the father of the girl he is courting when riding for the owner who had heard rumours that the couple have become lovers and who does not accept the man as good enough for the daughter. Scott goes off for several years in order to earn the money to pay for a lawyer to help him to gain revenge. This is achieved by finding out that the rancher did not properly stake his original claim and the lawyer obtains a Presidential decree dispossessing the owner and arrange for his  land to be part of a land grab in the rest of the valley in an open competitive race  organised by an agent of the Secretary of Sate and controlled by the Army.

Meanwhile the girl has married a nice man to give her father a son to take over the estate( the boy doe not appear in the film) and father son in law appears to have been willing to fit in with the father in law’s situation, Dallas style. In addition the local saloon owner of Pearls Palace wears smart suits and use a heavy Cologne as well as running Saloon girl and songstress Reva  (Peggy Castle). She is a surprising riding friend of the Scott’s former girl friend played by Dorothy Malone  and who shares the background about Scott.

Scott comes to the rescue of the husband who is being attacked in effect on behalf of his father in law who has not been seen off the ranch for several years, the reason, unknown to the town is that he has become almost blind. The husband had been defending the rights of the new settlers who had flocked into the town for the new land grab (arranged before the dispossession order is announced) and where the saloon owner hopes to extend his control of the town by taking control of all the best new sections of land and where he has the deputy, the judge etc all in his pocket and the only threat to his potential complete power is the  ranch owner and his son in law, He employs the sharp shooter, the Peso Kid to  lead his dirty dealings.

When the husband is framed for a murder he did not commit his wife  begs Scott to intervene which he reluctantly agrees before being bushwhacked by the Kid and another of the Saloon owners men to prevent him giving evidence at the Inquest. Scott is saved by the intervention of Reva who is out riding but he is in no fit state to ride on and by the time he recovers the inquest is over and her husband is beings sent under escort with the deputy Sheriff to the County Jail. Scott sees the Kid leaving town shortly after this and follows in pursuit but not quick enough for the Deputy and the Kid to stop the stage, kill the driver and the husband and  then blame the killings on Scott.

He has meanwhile confronted the Ranch owner and had a shoot out in a back room without windows to even the odds.  Fortunately he  only wings the rancher and is shocked to learn the man  is blind and begins to feel guilty about his stance especially when the man and daughter are required to leave the ranch and take lodgings in town before the land grab race.

When Reva learns that her man is going to use the Kid to kill the rancher when he makes a bid to regain his land as well as use his men to stop the others and Scott she attempts to reach him with a note via a third party. Her man already suspicious when  three of the bullets from her  side riffle were found to be fired the same day that she thwarted  the bush whacking of Scott he beats her up severely.

Scott has a shoot out with the Peso Kid and then beats up the deputy until he admits to the townspeople that it  was the Kid who killed the husband and he also is made  to tell the truth to the rancher and his daughter, The saloon owner is not the only one double dealing on race day as Scott has punched and sacked the lawyer for posting the news of the land grab and the dispossession before Scott is ready, The lawyer then throws his lot with the Saloon owner and goes early be a quiet route to take possession of the ranch for the saloon owner by avoiding the military. When Scott sees one of the Saloon owners men knock the daughter of her horse he goes to her rescue and then stakes out the ranch in the name  her father in an attempt to undo the damage. He kills the lawyer and then the saloon owner in shoot outs and the father regrets his decision to horse whip Scott and offers him the job of running the property. The daughter also says yes and  everyone is happy with the town rid of the baddies. This  is therefore a classic B movie Western where the only problem is the incongruity of Scott playing a much young man, although in opera such incongruities are forgiven and  he plays his roles well. I saw many such  films on Saturday morning movies session at teh local Odeon in Wallington.

The Enemy Below

The War Film of the week was The Enemy Below with Robert Mitcham the star of the Winds of War my bedtime reading and Curt Jurgans. In both films Mitcham plays USA Naval captain and in The Enemy Below he has lost his wife but his response is professional and not personals. Jurgans plays the commander of a German U Boat determined to get his crew back home after a along and successful series of missions at sea. The two men become engaged in a protracted  cat and mouse battle in white the strains tell on both crews. As the tension mounts Jurgans works out the tactics and in a final desperate attempt to get away launches all four torpedoes in a read pattern knowing that failure will to lead to being sunk or surrendering. His ploy works and one torpedo strikes the destroyer midriff which leads Mitcham to make his own final ploy pretending the ship is more badly damaged and sinking quicker than it is, and which enables him to drive his ship onto the deck of the submarine which has come to the surface for the kill.

Mitcham is about to leave after all his crew are in life crafts when he notes that the German Captain is trying to get a wounded colleague to safety knowing that he has set the detonator for the submarine to self destruct. He goes to the aid of the captain and their respective men in a lifeboat seeing those go back to help the to escape. The final scene is on board a USA rescue craft that answered the help call as the Germans bury at sea their one  dead.

The film can be described as part of he War Reconciliation genre. The film is not sentimental about war with the crew of the German Submarine singing a Nazi brotherhood  to keep up their morale and defy the Americans. Mitcham is prepared not just to risk his men and craft but send the submarine to the bottom irrespective if this kills all its crew, The film recognises and applauds the respect which professional fighting men had for each other. In the book on which the film is loosely based the destroyer is British and the reconciliation \nd respect aspect is not present.

Journeys to the Mysterious Island and to the Centre of earth

The Family Film of the week is Journey to Mysterious Island 2)  which I watched in 3D at home. I was interested in seeing the film because Journey to the Centre of the earth was the first 3D film I ever experienced  back in 2008 on a visit to London at the Millennium Dome’. There are key aspects of this first film which helps to understand the casting of Josh Hutchinson in the same role four years later as Sean Anderson,  as well as the hostile, resentful and insubordinate relationship with his mother and step father. At the age of 3 Josh’s father disappeared, a Vernian, that is someone who knows everything there is to know about the writing of Jules Verne and a believer in the concepts created by the writer. 

His mother deposits Josh with her husbands brother,  a volcanologist for ten days who then takes John with him to investigate a development  reported in Alaska. Josh who is already a rebellious uncompressing teenager takes an interest in his uncle in order to learn more about his father and is fascinated by a copy of Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Centre of the earth and his fathers obsession with the writer’s works. The two go to find another Vernian who worked with the  missing brother and find that he has died but his daughter is familiar with his work and activities and shows them the radar station at the top of the top of the volcano  which has suddenly given off a special signal, only for a collapse of the cave into mine working after taking shelter because of a storm This results in them falling into a tube down to the centre of the earth and into a lake where they discover a world within a  world. After coming ashore they find evidence of a character mentioned in the original book and then the remains of Josh’s father who  they then bury. They find the journal of his father which reveals how much he cared for his son and regretted  being unable to get back to the surface to be with him.

The  uncle works out that if they cross the underground ocean they could be able to reach the  surface again using a geyser before it evaporates which gives them only 48 hours and during this  perilous journey in a makeshift raft with sail they encounter prehistoric creatures and John becomes separated from the adults. The  adults encounter carnivorous plants and  the Uncle has to rescue the young woman, After this he leaves her to search for his nephew while she prepares to escape on her own if the other two do not return.

There is a further adventure invoving a dinosaur  before they are able to escape asrising from a set of extraordinary events which stretch  any remaining credulity and which shoots them up through Mount Vesuvius where they manage to destroy a vineyard and use one of the diamonds they have brought back to compensate the vineyard owner. Later Josh visits the now  couple who have married, establ;ished a laboratory after the brother and a new home from the other diaomnds brought back and Josh  notes the book Atlantic The Antediluvian World by Ignatious L Donnelly, signalling the subject for the next  adventure and which surprisingly took three more years to complete.

Before explaining the links and problems  created by attempting continuity with the second  work in the series I will break one of golden rules about not making reference to situations involving real people where publication  could lead to an identification which has not been agreed in advance and where one or more of the individual involved could still be alive. However when it comes to credulity the mention of Vesuvius reminds me of an  event which still 50 years  later I find difficult  to believe happened as just as it was  amazing at the time.

Fifty years ago I undertook a round Europe adventure with a work colleague by car visiting Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France and on our way to visit the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius from our hillside campsite near Sorrento overlooking the Isle of Capri and we gave a lift to two hitching Wrens going  to Brindisi and Malta where they where stationed having failed to meet up with the parents of one in Sorrento. Pompeii is now a huge tourist centre which thousands of visitors each day whereas then we had the site to ourselves.  My companion found out from a local that it was possible to reach the top of the volcano by a back road which  avoided paying tolls and while again we found ourselves eventually  at the top on our own we had encountered one vehicle on the back road travelling in the oppsoite direction, ,a Jaguar car, compared to my Mini traveller and by amazing coincidence the car was being driven by the parents of one of the Wrens. I turned the car round, chased and caught up with the Jaguar, no mean feat and with flashing lights persuaded it to stop where the girls were greeted with delight and amazement and my companion and I were invited to have lunch at their hotel the following day.

We had found our campsite  from by two Enlish roses, the boot of whose car we had mended at a campsite in Rome. Although they and come from the site to spend a week in Rome, they said they would return if we took them to see Capri which they had not manage visit. Both girls were engaged  one to married on her their return.

By coincidence they returned after the Wrens left and during the Sorrento Film festival with the gable evening to be held on the Saturday evening and my friend  impressed me and them by  announcing that he had obtained four tickets. The girls then amazed us by appearing  with full make up looking glamorous in evening dresses while I had at last a jacket and tie which my friend did not. On arrival the official from whom he have blagged four free tickets claiming to be President of the Oxford Film Society/Festival was horrified by his appearance, and to less  extent my own  because  everyone else was in dinner jackets and I suspect it was  only appearance of our “wives” who looked starlets got us our seats in the front row of the circle, although I did break into  a cold sweat when in the interval before the main feature Von Ryan Express dubbed in German with Italian Sub titles the principal guests including from the Venice and Cannes film festival were called  to take a bow and say a few word on stage.

A couple of days later he had to be loaned a  jacket and tie  when staying with a college friend of mine in Geneva who  boss  took us out for drink where a round used up most of my spare cash and hen drove us across the border to a  casino in France ( we had been warned to bring our passports with us) and where I watched  an Asian man win and lose £4000 pounds at roulette with minutes giving away £100 tips to the croupier and to his “daughter” which I reckon would be worth at least ten times as much today and this all happened within ten days of our thirty.  The rest for another time.

For me stories and acting have to be credible giving the amazing reality of  my real experiences throughout life. This is where  Journey to the Mysterious Island fails. The problem is with the acting especially the decision to bring in a known personality, the former professional Wrestler, The Rock, as the legal step father of Sean Anderson who is played by the same actor who played the original 13 year old now meant to be a  student  I would guess seventeen eighteen years of age about to or already at university college

Emotionally he  plays the part of a child brought up without his biological father  who he had buried at the centre of the earth and resentful of his step father despite being provided with a large wealthy middle class home, unlimited technology and books, including first/library editions and whatever else he wants.

The Rock is wooden as a character actor, and as unlikely a pairing with the young widow as any I have seen in all my film going, The other problem is that although Joseph Hutchinson did well playing an adolescent teenager in the first film he looks out of his depths in the  second episode of what appears to be at least a  trilogy with a Voyage to the Moon promised as next.

Having said this I thought there was an excellent use of 3D giving depth with a good and clever use of coming out of the screen moments were which timely and  not always expected, While the film is based on the Jules Verne book and features Jules Verne fanaticism, the film argues that Maps provides by Verne, Gulliver’s Travels by Swift ( and which is still on my list of books to reread having seen the awful film adaptation, also in 3D), and the perennial Treasure when combined by overlaying locate the real Mysterious Island. The Volcano on the Island vents not ash but gold to be become the Treasure of Treasure Island, and in a homage to Shangri-la when the adventurers get of the cold, storm laden rocky beach they find a beautiful inner world although the golden city which the uncle takes them to visit  turns out to be a derelict Atlantis

In terms of the acting the film is rescued to a degree by  Michael Caine as the Grandfather and  an attractive young female lead played convincingly by Venessa Hudgens as the daughter of a Palauian who own a dilapidated helicopter for flying tourists between  the  two hundred and fifty islands which makes up this previously unknown to me real Pacific community with a  population smaller than Gibraltar. Her father is played by Luis Guzmán the Puerto Rican actor as the funny side kick devoted to the welfare of  his daughter but  not as convincing as she as a Palauian, although admittedly the locals are a polyglot people from bordering Asian countries.

Sean gets a feint coded radio message which he assumes is from his adventuring grandfather who has not been heard of for over two years. The film opens as the boy is running away from the authorities after breaking into a local Satellite reach centre in order to try and boost the signal of the coded message. Fortunately among the various talents of the step father is code breaking which he recognises as Morse code and it is also the step father who works out from the translated message that combining the three maps will reveal the shape and the coordinates of the location of the  island with the nearest habitation the Palau Islands. Faced with the boy taking off on his own he persuades  his wife to let him take the boy and  to bring him back. His wife is clearly as irresponsible as everyone else for having lost her first husband, and placing the boy  in the care of the brother and with father in law who is just as mad and irresponsible, she agrees.

On the capital of Palau they cannot find anyone willing to take them by ship to the location because it is notorious for weather and loss of ships (Bermuda triangle properties) despite the offer of a  thousand dollars and it is this fact which the helicopter owner hears that prompts him to accept despite the opposition of the daughter and  getting the fee doubled and then trebled. He wants the money to enable her to go  college although he does not insist that she remain behind on what is known to be a dangerous journey.

It is his desire to enable the daughter  to go to college that  leads them to drive into the eye of a hurricane which appears to destroy the helicopter in mid air although somehow they managed to land on the beach rather than  the sea and survive. The contribution of Swift’s book to  the film is that what is big in reality becomes small and vice versa commencing with a good joke moment as the loud trumpeting of what appears to be a normal size elephant turns out to be a tiny creatures the size of a small dog.

The party then quickly find themselves walking on top of the huge eggs of a lizard who they wake and who gives chase and are rescued by the Grandfather who amazingly is on hand and has available  a number of  swinging pieces of wood to disable such a creature. He has been on the island for two years having been ship wrecked and taken three months to create the radio which connects to the Satellite every two weeks although he does not explain why it has taken so long to try and communicate with his grand son except one can only assume he wanted the boy to grow up a little more and because he works out the island is due to sink below the waves.

The Grand Father lives in a tree house and takes them to see Atlantis  which he argues  was pushed to the surface  in a Volcanic explosion in century and half  cycles which he calculates will again occur shortly and was the precipitating cause of wanting his  grandson to see the place before it disappeared again. rather than send out a general emergency signal, or contact his other son, who one can assume the actor was unwilling  to  participate in this second commercial venture, The first film made close to £180 million and the second close to £250 million.

The problem is that the step father explains that shortly becomes a matter of days as surface water has become salty. The only way for them to escape is to locate the Nautilus which the grandfather hopes is mentioned in the Journal of Captain Nemo Twenty Thousand Leagues below the sea whose Tomb is nearby but where he cannot get through the available aperture which fortunately Klani, the daughter is able  to do and to recover the journal. Fortunately also the grandfather can read Hindu as Nemo came from India and also knows the location, a  cave on the coast  on the other side of Island.

The decision is to go along the coast or the short route across the island  avoiding predators and getting across a mountain chain. The way across the mountains is to fly on the backs of large bubble bees which proves a great success until they are attacked by insect eating birds. The grand son plays a crucial part in saving the daughter from certain death and then in getting rid of the last of the birds. The party  find a place to sleep only to find that the speed of change to the next phase has dramatically increased and they only have hours. They find another problem in that the girl’s father has gone off to find some gold to provide for the future of his daughter. The grandfather elects to go with the daughter to persuade her father to return while the step and father and his step son to find and make ready the submarine.

Unfortunately they arrive to find that the island has sunk 100 metre with the only solution to use makeshift breathing apparatus for a once only dive, locate the vessel and open an entry hatch while evading the advance of a large electric eel. Unfortunately despite a little juice in the batteries the energy cuts  immediately  out and  the step father hits own the idea of a harpoon with an electric lead to attach to the eel and jump start the batteries,

Meanwhile the island is breaking up including the large piece of cliff rock on which the others are looking out to sea in vain for the submarine. Miraculous the Nautilus gets going at the right time and they are able to rescue the others. There is then a knife edge move to get to free water away from the exploding island and which involves using a torpedo to break up a rock about to crush them.

The films  ends six months later on the birthday of Sean with his girl friend and presumably fellow college student with his mother and step father and where the big surprise is the arrival of his grandfather who had sent a postcard from across the globe.  Meanwhile back on Palau the girl’s father is successfully and profitably using the Nautilus  to take visitors on  underwater sea trips.  There is reference to a journey to the Moon. I cannot wait!

Scary Movie 1 and 2

The spoof films of the Week was the first and second of the Scary Movie Franchise. Scar Movies  1  and which came out in 2000 and 2001 and where number 5 is to be released next year. The  first film boasted that that it was a one off and unlike the genre it parodied there would be no sequel. The opening of the second admits that the team which includes two actors who were/are also the writers, lied. The films  are intended for the weekend teenage audience which adores films about teenagers experimenting with sex, making jokes about masturbation,  lavatory humour and lots of gore a well as those who are appalled at the genre and welcome a film which  attempts to ridicule.

The basics of the first story makes constant references the film “I know what you did last Summer.” with in this instance the killer phoning  the group of college students (I know what you did last Halloween).

 A college girl is brutally murdered and the following day another college girl is warned that she will be next after which there follows an increasing number of murders of her friends. She survives at the end of the film  which also reveals that the murderer is the someone who has been the goofy moron allowed to go around with the police because he is a goofy moron who uses the tube of a vacuum cleaner to masturbate and poops in his pants. The girls are frequently seen in their bras and pants, there are intimations of oral sex and the spoof horror includes a decapitation of a girl who continues to talk and the removal of a breast implant which occurs at the immediate opening of the film.

The point of the film is the parody, The opening follows Scream I and is quickly followed by a  reference to  I know what you did last Summer as  previously mentioned. There is also a  replica scene where the whole cinema audience takes it turn to kill a girl who has spent the opening part of the film watching giving a loud running commentary and which was the enjoyable moment of wishful thinking on my part given my hostility to those who insist on having a conversation during the main feature. Other references are to the Blair Witch Project,  a film which I did not  get or found engaging at any level and, to The Sixth Sense, which I did; the Shining and the line from Psycho, “We all go a little Crazy sometime.” The cinematic tricks of slowing down fast moving action is taken from the Matrix and the final scene is from The Usual Suspects while the sex scene is from American Pie.

 I agree with the parents who complained that the film should have been rated 18 and not available for 14 years olds although there is only nudity is the back view of a male together with shots of an obviously fake penis, going in one ear and out of the other and none of the killings appear real or scary. My complaint is that provides a false impression of how college students behave.

Having got away with the first the second concentrates on packing in as many references as possible including The Haunting, The Exorcist, Hollow Men, The House on Haunted Hill. Hannibal, Save the Last dance, Mission Impossible II The Amtyville Horror, Dawn of the Dead Twister, Scanners, The Rock Horror Show, Poltergeist, What Lies beneath (a great film), Rocky, Wishmaster and several others.

The main story line involves the students being selected by a researcher and his assistant because of their previous involvement in mass killings in a stay  at a House for the weekend where there have been murders and known ghosts. They have been promised A grades for participating. Before this there is an opening scene at the  House from  Hell in which a girl pees  on the floor for several minutes and another scene of an exorcism the Exorcist priest, the local Priest and the possessed girl explode vomit at each other with increasing ferocity. The Lavatory humour, the swearing and the fake sex is notched up or down depending on viewpoint with increased vulgarity

The first film made around $250million more than costs while the second only £100 million.

Love with a Proper Stranger

I have seen Love with a Proper Stranger before the latest viewing. Seeing film about a  jazz musician always interests and it was only after the opening frames that I remembered the story but decided to view again, a decision I did not regret, even though there is no jazz  music even as background,

Steve McQeen was 36 when he made the film with Natalie Wood who was 24. He plays an family Italian background jazz musician looking his age, and experience, dependent on work through the union, out of touch with his parents and living hand to mouth when Natalie, part of another Italian family approaches to ask for his help with information about an abortionist having conceived his child in a one night encounter which he does immediately remember.

I have considered if a character such as that played by Natalie would go with a jazz musician  she had just heard play all the way, to use the language of the sixties, and if McQueen given his character would not have remembered such a recent the experience. I conclude  yes to the former but have reservations about the latter because McQueen had a regular girl friend and the impression is given that he spent most days out of work. Leaving these issues aside the film deals with what happened when girls from Catholic homes become pregnant and the dodgy nature of  the back street abortion at that time.

Until the sixties it remained common for a teenage girl to be played by a mature actress and I assume this was the case here with the girl living with her mother and brothers who attempted to keep a 24 hour watch on her behaviour when she was not working as a sales assistant in a departmental store.  The girl character is credible as a sixteen to 21 year old in that environment but would have been  otherwise married and nto on the shelf at 24!

In fact the difficulties faced by young people from  active tribal traditional Mediterranean cultures living in communities in other countries was and I suspect  has become even more intense than those now back home. I am not surprised that Natalie’s performance earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. She communicates  in subtle and understated ways the mixtures of emotions so although she approaches he man for practical help[  it is also evident  she hopes he will remember the experience with great affection and want to marry her  not because it is the right thing to do but because he wants to. She communicates her horror and desperation at the predicament, especially with the abortionist but also her continuing hope for a the kind of resolution she has dreamed about.

I also thought the performance of McQueen was outstanding as a mature agent where the thought of a family life is furtherest from his mind but finding that she is both attractive and able to communicate with him he falls in love and the film has the expected happy ending. Before this there are somewhat stock scenes when the girl agrees to have dinner at home  with a  suitor who is being pushed by her brothers and the man gets money from both parents for the abortion and meets up with a former girl friend now married to a former close friend.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Great Expectations

to the Cinema at Bolden for the latest production of the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations.

Last January the BBC produced an excellent three part serial of the book over three consecutive nights and which had followed a showing of the 1946 film and the later films. Although I wrote of these experiences at the time and which I am reproducing  I included these under literature rather than film which I shall now remedy. I wrote

“As part of my Christmas viewing I reported on a three part BBC adaptation of the three part book by Charles Dickens Great Expectations. In my limited viewpoint in respect of the cinematic and stage adaptations there had been nothing until now to compare with 1946 film which had John Mills as Pip the young man and Alec Guinness as his friend Pocket. Jean Simmons played Estella the younger and Valerie Hobson as Miss Haversham with Finlay Curry and Bernard Miles also featuring. However although I saw the 1946 film soon after its release while still at preparatory school and it made a lasting impression, it is at least decade since seeing the film again on Television. It is also a long time since reading the text, if I ever have, although along the way I had acquired a Heron edition of the work. Over the weekend the 1946 film was shown on television and this precipitated to jump my reading, albeit fast reading, of the text to this week.

In all three of the works we commence with Pip as a young boy in the care of his married elder sister who husband Joe a blacksmith treats the child more as a young brother than a substitute father. The 1946 version has a much softer version of Mrs Gargery, called Mrs Joe in the text, than the portrait of her painted by Dickens which has her as an unattractive bossy woman who attempts to keep the menfolk around her under her thumb. The setting is Christmas Eve as Pip encounters an escaped convict in the marshes around his home who first frightens the boy and then engages his sympathy so that in addition to bringing the man a file to free him from the chains he also brings food, including a pork pie and brandy. On his way back with the supplies he encounters another escaped convict, a man with a scar on the side of his face. When Pip tells Magwitch of this encounter on the assumption the food is to be shared the impact is for Magwitch to react with anger, not at Pip but the news that a great enemy is to hand.

The Text covers the Christmas dinner and the horror of Pip when Mrs Joe announces to the company that as a treat they are to finish a full meal with a slice of the pork pie given to them by Pip’s uncle. She is just about to discover the theft when the troops arrive seeking the assistance of the Blacksmith, and soon he and Pip are joining the chase to find the convicts who appear to have escaped off the convict ship on its way or moored in the Thames. Magwitch is caught because he remained on the marshes to find and try and kill the other man. Both are now captured and taken on board the convict ship bound for the antipodes.  Before departing he absolves Pip saying he broke into the forge and its house for the file and for the food. In all versions kindly Joe says he does not begrudge the man the food. This signals to the reader that Joe is far from the average working man who excitedly joins in the throngs in their tens of thousands who watch and cheer the constant hangings of men women and children in the capital for the most minor of offences.

The reason why Magwitch stays to try and kill the other convict is not explained in the 1946 film which is a much simplified version. In the 2012 series Pip has an uncle who delivers supplies as a trader to the local great house where it’s eccentric and considered mad Lady is looking for a local young boy to keep her adopted daughter company. Pip is suggested and while his sister sees this as a great opportunity for family advancement her husband is unsure.  In the 2012 film Pip enjoys the visits despite the strangeness of Miss Haversham, a comparatively young woman who lives as a recluse on the first floor of the house where the windows are shuttered and the drapes closed where the dinning room is laid out for a wedding breakfast from years before. In the 1946 film Miss Haversham is a much older woman who appears to have been fixed in her situation for at least two decades and to have adopted Estella long after she had become hardened and set in her ways and with the plan to train the girl to become her weapon against men in society.

The young adopted girl Estella, brilliantly played by a 17 year old Jean Simmonds in 1946, is unkind to Pip who she regards as inferior until an event which changes their relationship. In the recent adaptation relatives of Miss Haversham call with their son but are refused access to Miss Haversham. They are incensed when they find Pip is allowed into the house and upper floors. He is told to immediately leave by Miss Haversham who cannot cope with his visit because of the situation with the relatives and when he leaves he encounters the son of the visitors who behaves like Estella, but in this instance Pip defends himself and strikes the young man down. This delights Estella because he has made something happen and in the book she allows Pip to kiss her. The fight is more prolonged in the text and more of a sporting than a bullying event. The difference is that the family are named as the Pockets and the elderly Miss Pocket appears to be a frequent visitor to the house. It is also made plain in text and film that the girl is being brought up to regard all men as enemies and that her primary function in life will be to break their hearts. Neither the adoption nor the visiting would be allowed today, or at last I hope this would be the situation.

Despite the way he is treated Pip is influenced by the lifestyle, knowledge and interests of those with money and education and he is disappointed when Miss Haversham decides to end the visits by announcing that she is to bring forward his wish to be apprenticed to Joe and will pay the family a Premium as a reward for his attendance at the house. The condition is that he does not return. This is not intended as a kindly act on her part. In the recent series Mrs Joe has the expectation that the whole family is to be socially improved by summons for her husband to visit with Joe and she rejects the offer of some rabbits by the hired help Orlick a young man who is known as old Orlick in the book. He is so incenses that off screen he batters the woman senseless. There is no reference to Orlick and his subsequent role in the 1946 film. In the recent series, shown on three consecutive nights the lawyers Jaggers is present with the papers of indenture whereas in the book Joe brings the papers and we first meet the lawyer four years later. Similarly we are yet to meet the assistant Orlick until later in the book. On return from the Hall Joe teases his wife suggesting at first a payment of ten pounds has been made, then twenty and only then twenty five, which are substantial amounts even for someone operating their own business as blacksmith

In the book the battering of Pip’s sister by Orlick occurs when later during the apprenticeship he gets time off to make a visit to Miss Haversham to report progress and to see Estella. He is disappointed to find that she is away in Paris at school being trained to become an eligible young Lady in London society. He meets Orlick on the way home and Joe has been out at a local Inn for the evening. The crime is investigated by the police but their inquiries come to nothing except that Pip is suspicious of Orlick who knew his way around the house and forge and of their movements.

It is after his sister becomes disabled and in need of care that there arrives into the household Biddy, a young woman whose origin I am confused about thinking first that she was a relative.  Biddy quickly commands the respect of Pip and of Joe, and indeed also manages to establish the confidence and affection of the sister. The sister scrawls the letter T on a slate which after a while it is Biddy who works out that this is intended to represent a hammer from the forge and that the attacked was Orlick who continues as if nothing has happened. While Biddy appears towards the end of the 1946 film there is no reference to the crucial point in the text about a third of the way through the volume when Pip confides in Biddy that he no longer wishes to become a Blacksmith but would like to be a gentleman. In fairness this is touched on in the 2012 series when Pip expresses disappointment at the decision to become apprenticed and stop his visits to the great House. However Biddy does not appear in the recent series which is odd.

Biddy possesses insight and wisdom as well as the capacity to act as the boy’s teacher and it is not surprising that Pip appreciates her superiority over Estella. He also becomes watchful when Orlick begins to take an interest in Biddy.

It is in the fourth year of the apprenticeship that Mr Dickens has Mr Jaggers, the lawyer, making an appearance, played in the latest series by the excellent David Suchet. In both film and series there is close adherence the text except that in the text despite the insistence that there are no inquiries and or disclosure as to the benefactor who is offering to educate and maintain Pip as a Gentleman of Great Expectations who will come into wealth on or after reaching his majority, Pip immediately expresses the belief that it is Miss Haversham who is the provider of his good fortune. Mr Jaggers provides twenty guineas for the purchase of appropriate clothing and for the journey to London and the excitement is shared in the household during the subsequent week before the requested departure.

It is also evidence that  even before reaching London Pip understood he was changing one life for another and could not wait to get away, believing that he would not return to his former ways and life style. He is also determined to show Miss Haversham his new set of clothes before departure. On this visit she gives the impression of confirming she is the benefactor mentioning that she has heard of his change of fortune from Mr Jaggers.

There is one other important difference between the text and the 1946 film and 2012 series. In these Pip only discovers that he is to share accommodation and be tutored as a gentleman by the former adversary, Master Pocket who he encountered at the home of Miss Haversham when he arrives at the lodgings. In fact he is made aware of the arrangement by Mr Jaggers on his first visit and indeed the elderly Miss Pocket is at the Hall when Pip visits.

Before leaving the story as Pip makes his way excitedly to London and the first part of the book formally I will mention one incongruity about the 1946 film. This is that Pip and Master Pocket are played by established actors more than twice the age of their characters, with John Mills in his late thirties 30’s as Pip and Alec Guinness  also in his thirties as Master Pocket. I also feel that the Black and White of 1946 is more effect in conveying the events on the marshes and the sinister nature of the Hall and Miss Haversham and Dickensian London and Society than the colour versions. It is also fiat comment to say that Joe, Biddy and indeed Pip himself does show ambivalence as the departure approaches but for Pip the driving force is that by becoming a gentleman he will also become an acceptable suitor for Estella.

In the second part of the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Pip sets off to London with some apprehension but  also enthusiastic  for his new life in the belief that it is part of the plan of Miss Haversham to one day enable him to marry her adopted daughter Estella.  The second part covers the years to his 21st birthday and  then to when in his twenty third year his actual benefactor declares himself.

I have been given further reflection to the character of Pip an ordinary working class young man who espouses middle class pretensions through the misguided and untreatable rather than Machiavellian actions of Miss Haversham who herself is the victim of cruel confidence trick in which she had  given money to a rogue who had proposed marriage and then left her alone with her guest and the weeding breakfast arranged.

Both the 1946 film and the 2012 BBC TV adaptation in three episodes corresponding to the divisions in the book are loyal to the text sometimes in detail, sometimes with dramatic licence but always in the spirit of the book.. Both the film and series fail to give appropriate recognition to the role of Biddy and the development of her  relationship with Joe as well as the influence she exerted on the development of Pip prior to his departure to London. The 1946 film excludes a number of characters while the recent series alters their role and involvements to varying degrees.

The visit of Joe to London, his older brother in role rather than father substitute, is covered and Pips realization that he has little in common with Joe and would have preferred not to be reminded of his past until realizing that the purpose is to advise that he is summoned to Miss Haversham as Estella has returned from Paris. Instead of staying at  his former home he takes a room at the hotel in the closest town used by the gentry.

When Miss Haversham tells Pip to love Estella he believes that his dream is to become true and has no idea that her intention is for her adopted daughter to break his heart and that of as many as she can encourage to fall in love with her. She is to be Miss Faversham’s weapon in the world.

Pip also returns home after he is informed that his sister has died and he reacts angrily when Biddy criticises him for failing to keep in touch. Joe in his gentle manner, played brilliantly by Bernard Miles in the 1946 film mentions as if in passing that he and Biddy talk of Pip and what is happening to him every evening  when sitting in the kitchen after their meal. Joe understands that Pip now lives in a  different world, he has no expectation but hopes

There is great excitement when Estella writes to say she is coming to live in London and that Miss Haversham has decreed that Pip should meet her off the coach and then escort her to Richmond where she is live and participate in London society with a view to becoming engaged and married. Pip cannot wait for the arrival and spends the greater part of the day exploring the area around the coach station, They take tea before he escorts her to Richmond with Estella insisting that she pays for the coach after this is required by Miss Haversham. It takes time for Estella to begin to challenge the control of her adopted parent.

Pip also accompanies Estella on one visit to Miss Haversham when Estella has been summoned back as the frustrated and angry parent has found that behaviour of her daughter towards her does not meet her expectations. The daughter explains that she has been brought up to have a cold and cruel heart and this she applies to everyone, without exception including her mother. What else should her mother expect? Happiness? A sense of  justice? Vindication? Estella also warns Pip.

Previously I incorrectly suggested that because Pip was told he was to  share accommodation with one Herbert Pocket this meant he knew in advance that this was the same  individual  who when a boy they had fought at the home of Miss Haversham. The text confirms that it is only on their meeting again at the rooms that Pip appreciated who Mr Pocket is. Mr Pocket had been to the market for fruit and was out when Pip arrives at the accommodation

This accommodation is close to the office of Jaggers who hires the furniture which Pip subsequently says he wishes to buy and also expand.

Pip then spend much time at the family home of  the Pockets of  Hammersmith, in part because it is on the way to Richmond  further along the Thames where Estella is lodged. It here he makes the acquaintance with Mr Drummle and another young man lodging with the Pockets and their many children. In the recent series he encounter Drummle at a gentleman’s club. In the films he learns to dance, to fence and box and other gentleman pursuits  but not to ride which was still considered an essential accomplishment for a gentleman of the period. In the book there is reference to  being educated as gentleman but  no detailed description of activities.

Drummle does not come across as the  important aristo  in the book as he does in the recent series although he is a mirror for Pip to see the difference between the gentleman from birth and the nouveaux arrivé. In the series Herbert explains  his present being disinherited because of his relationship with a young woman disapproved by his family. My understand from the book is that he just has no means and is therefore concerned without a job how he will be able to marry and provide  home and future for his wife and any family. Pip does use his resources to help Herbert get a position. Herbert does also leave to work abroad but this is before and not after the arrival back in England of Magwitch.

There is also some accuracy in the recent series and the film regarding their finances. I did not find reference in the text to Pip being allowed £250 a year until reaching majority where there is reference to the sum being increased to £500 and drawn quarterly. Jaggers does use the occasion of the majority to warn Pip about living well beyond his means and in the book Pip and Herbert have already undertaken an exercise of working out the extent of their unpaid bills with Herbert owing over £150 rounded to £200 and he more than three times as great which is also rounded up for the purpose of continuing to amass debt and to raise the margins if necessary.  This he continues  because of his need to keep up with the life now led by Estella who has become the interest of Drummle.

When I went to work as a clerk in central London in 1957 nearly one hundred years later my initial income was £260 a year and three years later as a result of passing a clerical division examination and other improvements my income had reached £500. Therefore the allowance  given Pip was indeed a handsome one

However Pips life is shattered with the arrival of Magwitch  to his rooms and the former convict is his benefactor. While  to the first time watcher of film or recent series without  prior knowledge of the story this may have come as a surprise, it is not so in the text in the sense that Dickens prepares his reader. There are references to convicts on their way to transportation. Pip while waiting for Estella to arrive in London encounters the chief clerk of Jaggers and undertakes a visit to Newgate where he learns of the high position his guardian holds among the prison staff and the high reputation  in which  the clients hold him. He has already viewed the death masks kept in the office of the firm and the Chief Clerk has told Pip to look out for the housekeeper. Jaggers against the repeated wishes of the housekeeper insists that she displays her wrists to Pip and other dinner guest on one occasion to make the point that the woman wrist stronger than any male. Who this woman is and what other links and relationships remain to be disclosed in the third part. And I come to recount the final part of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens in book form and the 1946 film and BBC 3 part series of 2012. Again as with the second part I must begin with something of a correction although this time I was more accurate than previously in stating that Herbert Pocket was overseas when Abel Magwitch descended upon the amazed and disappointed Pip. Technically Herbert was abroad but travelling back from his long absence, arriving some five days after Pip adjusted to reality of his position.

His visitor had been described to all those who attended to his rooms and as his uncle and on advising Jaggers of the development he immediately took his cue from Jaggers not to imply that that the contact was in person as it would have been the duty of the officer of the courts to report the arrival of someone who had been told they would be executed if returning to land of birth and the sentencing.

It was a few days later Abel told Pip how he had encountered Mr Campeyson. Abel admitted that he had lived as a tramp, begging, sometimes thieving and working when he could. Twenty years ago at the Epsom races he had encountered Campeyson a man who had been to a public school and had learning and dressed and lived as a gentleman but who also lived outside the law, forging, swindling and passing on stolen banknotes and such like. Campeyson lived with his wife and friend, also met at Epson who was dying. Abel and Campeyson formed an association but when they were apprehended and charged with a felon it appears that Campeyson made much of his background and lack of previous conviction, placing all responsibility on Abel where the judge and court were against him so he was convicted and sent away for life but the lead criminal escaped with a little sentence. Thus Abel had determined to escape to smash the man in the face and worse and thus he had been captured after being showed kindness by Pip and determined to repay that kindness.

Pip had set about visiting Estella to explain his new situation but also to declare his love but on reaching Richmond found she had returned to Miss Haversham on her own something she had not done  before or indicated she  would do again soon. He had made his way to the Inn on the excuse of keeping a promise to visit Joe and discovered the presence of Bentley Drummle who was scathing about the location saying he was bored and dismissing Pip’s suggestion that the country was similar to that of Shropshire, the man’s home county.

He then visited Miss Haversham who expressed surprise at his visit and who he reproached for  misleading him by giving the impression she was his benefactor. Then as Estella reminded of her warnings in the past about the true nature of her mother by adoption and they way she been brought up she broke his heart by  announcing it was her intention to marry Drummle with the blessing of her mother, despite Pip declaring that he had always loved her and always would.

He decided he could not face Drummle and made his way back to London arriving at midnight  and arrival he received a note from  a watchman at a Temple  gateway who he knew well, in the hand of Wemmick the chief clerk of Jaggers, saying do not go home. He therefore went to lodgings in Covent Garden which he knew were open all hours and obtained a bed for the night. He had a troubled night after all the disappointments of the day with the words ring in his ears. At least he had managed to make a request to Miss Haversham, a closing of their account so to speak, to cover his expenditure owed on securing the position for his friend Herbert. She promised to give consideration.

At the first opportunity he made his way to Wemmick’s who was toasting sausages with his hot rolls and tea and said he had left a note with all the watchmen at the gates to the Temple area. Wemmick then provides lots of advice indirectly that is to say not return home, but to a place along the Thames that he could recommend. This was in fact the home of a woman who acted as a mother figure the girl friend of Herbert with whom Pip had established good relations and after helping Herbert gain position so he could marry the girl and set home on their own. The girl had no mother of her own or other  kinsfolk. And here too they had secreted Abel under an assumed name.  The plan was that he and Herbert who were already good watermen and enjoyed rowing on the Thames would continue to do so but this time with the purpose that when it was possible to join a ship making its way from the Thames to the continent they would take Abel to join it and get him thus safely out of country. It was at this point he returned to his lodging and set about acquiring a boat to put their plan into operation.

Weeks went by and he began to have problems with his finances having returned Abel’s pocket book of cash unopened because of the circumstances and uncertainty for the future. He made do by selling possessions while waiting to hear of ship from Wemmick. He avoided reading the papers for fear of seeing the announcement of the marriage between Estella and Drummle and he reacquainted himself with Mr Wopsle from his home area who he encountered before in London when the man acted in a performance of Hamlet. The contact was timely because Wopsle was able to tell Pip that he was being followed/watched... And then reminded Pip of the Christmas lunch all those years ago when Pip was still a boy and the soldiers had come and they gone out with them and come across the two convicts fighting in the ditch. It was one of them, and from further questions Pip established it was Campeyson.

Pip arrived back home after midnight and held Counsel with Herbert although there was nothing to be done until he reported the development to Wemmick.

There was then an event which commenced to complete the background picture and which was to achieve a most unexpected illumination for he encountered Jaggers who establishing that he had no plans for his evening meal invited him to his home where also Mr Wemmick would be participating. The meal provide opportunity for his closer study of the woman acting as the maidservant and he suddenly realised why he been so fascinated before because of the eyes and a look which he had come to know so well. Afterwards he questioned Wemmick about the circumstances of the woman that he had saved from the gallows and who he had previously described as a tamed wild beast. The charge had been that of murdering an older, larger and more powerful woman and Wemmick tells the story in such a way as to suggest the woman was guilty but by dressing her differently and in such a way as to disguise her strength she had been acquitted. There was also a child which had disappeared as was believed to have been murdered. There was also reference to both women having been associated with the same tramping men. The child was female.

Pip had also been given a note from Miss Haversham to visit, This was also to have various important consequences. He made his way but this time did not stay at the main Inn but selected another because of the association with Drummle and the information that he was being watched by the enemy of his benefactor. Miss Haversham  was willing to make available to him a sum of £900 payable by Mr Jaggers to settle his debt in arranging employment for Herbert Pocket and this in effect settled his account with Miss Haversham, claiming nothing for himself.

Then there i an exchange in which Pip comes to ask whether Estella has married and in which Miss Haversham admits with great feeling the realization that of the impact of her approach to the raising of Estella  had on the young woman and on their relationship. her approach has had the opposite effect to what had been. She had originally meant to save her from a similar misery to her own.

The opportunity was taken to question Miss Haversham about the parentage of the child but she said that after years of shutting herself  away alone she had intimated her desire and Jaggers had brought her the child possible two or three years of  age, who as asleep at the time and was said to be an orphan. Pip then left an fortunately before departing from the property he looked back and say the room in which he had been with Miss Haversham  was on fire and he returned to rescue her, badly burning his hands but saving the life although the woman was very ill as a consequence.

It was while he also recovered from the experience under the care of Herbert Pocket and the friend had also obtained information from Abel which was to change his understanding of the situation for Magwitch had told Herbert a version of the same tale that Wemmick had stated thus revealing that Magwitch was the father of Estella although that she was alive and married and Pip not only had known her but loved her he remained unaware of this.

Recovered sufficiently he had visited Jaggers to present the authority for the payment of funds to settle the position of Herbert and had also given an account of the accident. Mr Jaggers appeared concerned that Pip had not gained financially from the visit. Pip took the opportunity to press Jaggers about the parentage of Estella pretending that the information gained from Wemmick had come from Miss Haversham as well as relayed by Herbert from Magwitch. Jaggers in his fashion as an experienced man of law speculated the reason why it had been best and remained best for none of the parties know the placement and what had subsequently happened. Pip was persuaded that there was no good to be gained from changing decisions made in the past now.

It then time  to pursue the plan to leave England  for the continent  without worrying about the port of destination  of the first ship available to them and which they could join from along the river rather than the official point of embarkation. It was shortly after the arrangements were made that he received a letter requesting him to return to his the area of his childhood for information concerning his uncle under the name that Magwitch had been using.

This led him to meet old Orlick again who disclosed his knowledge of the plan and the events leading to the proposed flight and his resentment of Pip since the boy’s childhood, including getting the man the sack from his position with Miss Haversham. Orlick planned to end the life of Pip revealing that he had been responsible for the injuries to the sister. It was therefore fortunate  that with the help of a local contact of Pip, Herbert and another friend from his arrival in London had decided that Pip should  not venture alone and had kept their distance. Pip had lost consciousness while Orlick struggles with some men who only when he recovered did Pip appreciate they were his friends. Orlick had  gone off  and  although Herbert had wanted the magistrate Pip made the priority  Magwitch who he realised was under even great threat than had was previously appreciated.

The novel is more successful that in either films in conveying the tension experienced by Pip as they got Abel to their rowing boat and proceeded down the Thames to the point when they would meet the vessel that had agreed to pick them up, In the 1946 film there is reference to reaching a point when the authority of the London warrant/ court decision had no effect while the BBC this year added the plan that Magwitch would be dressed as pilot  and board the vessel at the point where such a move was usually made.

The climax comes when as their ship is sighted and they make way another craft approaches and demands the giving up of Abel; The man making the demand is none other than Campeyson his long standing enemy. Then two adversaries get into a fight in which Campeyson dies and Magwitch is captured. Pip and his associates return to the land.  It has also been revealed that Campeyson was he man who cheated and ruined the life of Miss Haversham, and consequentially that of Estella.

This is an important moment for Pip because on one hand he assesses the care and concern which Abel Magwitch had shown to him over many years because of a brief encounter and some kindness and on the other he evaluates his own behaviour over recent years towards Joe.

There followed the process by which evidence against Magwitch was presented and he committed to the assizes and consideration given by his friend to the future of Pip including offer of employment and a home with Herbert. Pip says he needs two to three months to decide on his future. He finds himself  unexpectedly acting as best man Mr Wemmick when he says he is taking his first holiday for 12 years and insists they take a walk in London that morning.

As in the 1946 film Abel is condemned to death with thirty one others, the trial not having been postponed for a session despite the knowledge that because of injuries Abel was unlikely to live until then and was being kept in the prison infirmary. Pip was able to visit him daily and attempt to bring comfort. It is as the life draws to its end that Pip decides to reveal to his benefactor that his child had lived and become a beautiful young woman, who Pip loved and always would, omitting the unhappy aspects of the position.

Following the death Pip struggles to settle his affairs and then became ill with fever at the point it was about to be arrested for debt. He breaks from the fever to find that he is being cared by Joe and this fills him again with guilt at his treatment of the man over recent years. As his health improves he learns that Joe is to marry Biddy  who has become the village school mistress and taught Joe to read and write and that it was she that had insisted Joe took care of Pip as soon as they heard he was so ill and among strangers. He was able to give an account that Miss Haversham had been given varying sums of money to individuals of their acquaintance and that Orlick was in the County Jail after breaking in to the premises of Pip’s real uncle. Pip in turns tells Joe about his benefactor not being Miss Haversham, as he grows in strength and is able to go out of the home. Pip then discovers that it is Joe who settled the debt for which he had been arrested.

Discovering this after Joe had departed he decided to return to the forge first staying at the Blue Boar only to find that being an individual without expectation he was assigned to inferior accommodation. He then discovered that the former home of Miss Haversham and Estella was up for auction for its building materials and demolition. Returning to the coffee shop of the Inn he encounters his uncle who is disturbed at his appearance and circumstances.

Pip then encounters Joe and Biddy as they are married. There is a postscript more than epilogue that Joe accepted the offer of employment with Herbert and accordingly settled all his debt being given due time to discharge them, He resided with Herbert and his wife and several years went by before he also became a partner in the firm as he had purchased for Herbert in secret.

Eleven years were to pass before he visited Joe and Biddy and found they had a boy who they had named Pip. He had then visited with the home of Miss Haversham and Estella had been because this had long since been knocked down and cleared with only the outer walls and fencing remaining. It is here he is said to encounter Estella who like him claims this is the first she has returned since the decades have passed. They agree to be friends but at a distance. It is left to the reader to decide if the chance meeting is real or one of the imagination.

The ending is different from that in the films where they meet and embrace. Estella husband has died in a riding accident in the BBC rendering and she praises the horse for giving her the freedom. It is understandable that in both productions as one of two hours and the other of three, incidents are telescoped such as the number of visits made to see Miss Haversham after Pip becomes an adult and some characters and events are not included. There have been occasion when I have considered that a film is true to a fictional work and even enhanced the original text. In this instance both films do more that provide the essence of the story and portrayal of the period, and some parts are a vivid re-enactment, but in this instance there is much reward in reading the book as it was written one hundred and fifty years ago. That I suggest is a unique achievement for a writer and not an isolated example in relation to his body of work.”

I now come to the treatment of book in the latest film director by Mike Newall and in which three of my favourite actors from the Harry Potter series also appear, Robbie Coltrane is the lawyer Jaggers who has a much softer role that in than the BBC series or previous films although he remains ruthless in showing off the hands of his housekeeper,  Ralph Fiennes is Magwitch adding an intensity of characterization which is new and my star performance of all performances, including that of Jean Simmons goes to Helena Bonham Carter who brings much of the madness of Bellatrix Lestrange to Miss Haversham.

The latest film deletes all reference to Orlick the previous apprentice and assistant to Pips brother in law and the wife dies from natural causes rather than murder. Biddy played by Jessie Cave grown up and Bebe Cave as the young school assistant is the teacher of Pip who educates him following his  experience with the Havershams, falls in love and then establishes a relationship with Joe while Pip is living it up as a Gentleman inn London.

I liked Jason Flemyings role at Joe Gargery and although different he is equal to that of Bernard Miles in the 1948 film. I have always thought that Estelle is a difficult character to play because  there is something unconvincing about  psychological make up and behaviour as created by Dickens which makes the role a great challenge. I though Holliday Grainer did well in a role she is reported to have wanted to undertake since reading the book aged 15 years.  Interestingly young Estelle is played by Grainger’s younger sister and where the young girl appears a more likely  real life character than the adult.

The big change is to make the Gentleman’s club which Jaggers obtains a membership for Pip is portrayed as the Bullingdon Boys Dining club at Oxford and a former haunt of the Prime Minister where the standard is riotous eating and drinking, smashing of crockery and sometimes premises and  a lot of throwing about of good and expensive food, This is a  great addition and the cause of Pip’s descent into great debt which he has no means to pay.
What else was noted. Pip tries to save Miss Haversham when her dress catches fire and burns his hand but otherwise the House remains its already derelict state and before this the relatives who now number four have been taken in by Haversham top serve her.

The other significant aspect already mentioned is the role of Biddy and the invitation of all the young men of the fashionable club to the dinner party at which the the murderess Mrs Magwitch is introduced as a way fo quietening Bentley Drummle. In the final scene Estella makes contact with Pip after the death of Drummle. The film leaves the audience with a  happy ending between Pip and Estella something which Dickens was not prepared to do.

Because of  reading the book with care, and seeing the TV series and two previous films last January, the story was too familiar to become fully engaged in this production but remained an enjoyable and worthwhile experience nevertheless. As with Oliver Twist it is a movie for this era and will introduce a new generation of teenagers (12 A certificate to Dickensian society and London. David Wallians, host of the 100th Royal Variety Performance plays Uncle Punchchook and Tamzin Outhwaite as Molly(Mrs Magwitch). Ewen Bremner  is an excellent Wemmick where the novelty is a drawbridge to his riverside home and a cannon which fires to entertain  his deaf     father as well as his guests.