Thursday, 24 January 2013

Secrets of an Undercover Wife

I will not spend too much time on the implausible Secrets of an Undercover wife, On her wedding day the husband is arrest, charged and convicted of fraud and murder. The wife is convinced he is innocent and despite the protestations of her best friend a lawyer and her husband she decides to go it alone to uncover the truth, She learns that the FBI know he was innocent of the particular crimes as the firm he had set up was taken over by the Mob for the  purposes of money laundering and they had hoped his arrest would lead to catching the bigger fish.   She gets a low level job at a  firm where the mob are thought to have a major interest and she meets the Deputy CEO a single man who takes an immediate shine. Ignoring the advice of and  potential help of the FBI but with the help of her friend  she sets out to get the evidence on tape of the deputy CEO where she has become his personal assistant  to admit his involvement on tape as the employer of the partner of her husband who was responsible for the dirty deeds.. She is found out and instead of being killed on the spot is taken by his private jet to the Cayman island where also is  his father a wanted head of a Mafia family a very sick man has been hiding out. Fortunately before she is killed her friend arrives as does the FBI and because they are outside of jurisdiction the friend is able to take back the Deputy CEO his father to the Sates where they can claim the $1 million reward for the wanted man.  The husband is released for the jail for happy ever afters. Ridiculous.

The Guns of Fort Petticoat

At one level The Guns of Fort Petticoat  where a group of Southern women organised by war hero Audie Murphy fend off a large war party of Indians will appear unpromising afternoon viewing fare  even given the winter weather and a night when I felt so tired I went to bed and slept around 8,30 and then could not sleep for about four hours getting  up and going back to bed in the early hours.

I have written before that Audie Murphy, the star of the film was a genuine super hero, the most decorated individual soldier  in the Second World War. He died at the age of 47 in a plane crash in 1971 having made over forty films. His book and first film To Hell and Back  remains a classic,

The film uses  an actual event as yhe backcloth, The Sand Creek Massacre or the Chivington Massacre. On November 29th, 1864 a 700 man force of the Colorado Territory Militia committed one of the most infamous acts of genocide in US History against its indigenous people when they murdered between 73 and 166 friendly Cheyenne  over half women and children and destroyed their village  in the process.

About a decade after a  peace treaty had been signed with a number of Indian Tribes, the finding of gold led he US government to renege and reduce the land area available to less than tenth and which although many agreed to accept others, understandably did not The Colorado Unit had helped defeat the Texas Confederate army in the Civil War in 1862 and returned home to where they mounted a home guard under Colonel Chivington. The State Governor using Chivington and his men adopted a hard line towards the Indians who some  settler  i.e. trespassers and land stealers, accused  the Indians of stealing their cattle. Understandably the massacre led to a war of retaliation. About a thousand Indians set about revenge killing many women and children. It needs to be stressed that the Americans had not just slaughters the Indians  but brutally tortured and mutilated many of the defenceless women and children.   
In the film Texan Lt. Frank Hewitt (Murphy) is serving with the U.S. Cavalry under Colonel John Chivington. On patrol, Hewitt meets a group of Indians who are unarmed and returning to the Sand Creek reservation which they were not supposed to leave. While briefing Col. Chivington, the Colonel orders the Sand Creek Massacre. Hewitt not only disagrees with the punishment of the Indians, but realizes they will use the attack as an excuse to unite and spread terror throughout the Southwest, including his own hometown in Texas which has been emptied of the majority of its menfolk who are fighting for the Confederacy. Colonel Chivington sees Indian attacks on Texas as a bonus to create havoc in the Confederacy. Violently objecting, Hewitt is placed under arrest and confined to quarters.

He deserts to warn his neighbours but meets  a hostility because of the side he joined and considered a traitor.  This includes a woman he had hoped to marry and who had married another man in protest  on the rebound to his departure and now manages  the farm with the help of the husbands younger adolescent brother.

No one believes him about the threat until he brings home the dead body of a woman murdered by Comanche’s who have joined the uprising. Hewitt organizes the woman  hence the petticoat brigade of women training them in marksmanship and combat tactics. Armed and given military ranks, Hewitt and the ladies seize the day and hold onto the only safety they have in an abandoned mission. This includes a pacifist bible quoting lady and a couple of itinerant saloon women.

There is also one man who wants to get away in apart from the woman who he has got pregnant and wants  him to marry her. He is forced to stay but persuades the woman to get for him the only horse left  Reaching a  stage post he encounters three desperadoes and persuades them to let him live by telling of the women and alleging they have gold and jewels at the Mission. The men kill him  anyway.  The desperadoes  are then run off  from the mission and they run into the Indian War Party and  use the same approach telling of the women. Vastly outnumbered  Murphy gets everyone on the roof out of sight and this convinces the Indians  that if the women were there they have gone and they kill the desperadoes. Just as they are about to ride away a gun used by the adolescent brother goes off accidentally and there is no alternative but to stay and fight, Two of the women  are killed and others wounded but the Audie hits on the idea of  killing  the Indian medicine man, and showing him off back at the Fort and this convinces the Indians that the omens are bad and they ride off.

Murphy announces that he is returning to face the music  at  his unit and a court marshal and found guilty as his story is not believed. However before sentence is given  the Commanding Officer arrives as do a group of the Petticoat brigade to confirm his account fo what happened, Chivington is arrested for the Massacre and Murphy freed, The woman says she will lave her husband when he gets back and  join her first  and still love.


Cleanskin with Sean Bean is a very different kind of film which could have been so much better if did not attempt to mix a portrait of how an intelligent young British Muslim becomes a terrorist with a confusing conspiracy about the extent to which the secret service and its political masters caused deaths through bombings. A series of time shifts in the film  does not also help. I have tried to disentangle the two story lines, Ash (Abhin Galeya) is a university law student who begins to question what is right and what is wrong about the British role in the middle East when he comes under the influence of a British Cleric who grooms him and other young men to become terrorists. Under his influence Ash turns on his English University  fellow student who drinks heavily and enjoys passionate sex with him and others.  They break up but meet again years later and have sex  again. This makes him question what he has become

In the meantime Ash asks to be given work and is put to the test helping a comrade imported from the middle East to assassinate a retired British soldier who now runs horse stables. Ash recruits a friend  as requested and the trio set off with the intention to capture the  soldier and then execute him on camera. The soldier realises something is happening and is able to fight and kill the recruited man. Ash is able to knock out the soldier but pretends that he has not discovered the man’s sister and her baby child hiding in a room upstairs. He then films as the terrorist cuts of the man‘s head. He later learns that the man  had killed he woman and the baby and is criticised by the assassin and the Cleric for his soft heart at the inevitability of collateral damage in a war. He is sent  somewhere for training and on return he is prepared for a suicide mission. He is to kill by blowing himself up an American  Senator  active in the War on Terror who has come to England for the marriage of his daughter. The reception happens to be at a hotel where Sean Bean is staying and is able to  stop by killing Ash just before he detonates the bomb.

However all this is something of a sub plot .Sean Bean is a creative recruited to becoming an undercover licence to kill operative for the UK after being a professional soldier. He is 100% loyal to his country and the Service although with a tendency to act first when confronted with   bomber after his wife, unconnected with his work was killed in a bombing incident.

When on a mission to flush out terrorists he and a colleague pose as Semtex sellers with the same group involving Ash however the plan goes horrible wrong and  his colleague is killed and Bean wounded because the colleague’s gun had his clip of bullets removed. Sean follows this up with a new colleague specially assigned by his immediate chief and discovers the prostitute used by his colleagues was also having a regular relationship with an Arab who persuaded her to remove the bullets, he forces her to lead him to the address she has used but Ash is too clever and not only gets away but kills the prostitute. (This is one of many improbable aspects of the story),

Unfortunately the failure of the first mission where Semtex gets into the hands of the terrorists and leads to a bomb and significant casualties, something which in effect Bean and the Service unintentionally caused. With a General Election looming with would be political dynamite  if the media got to know and the Minister puts pressure on Bean‘s immediate boss, Charlotte Rampling, to get the matter quickly sorted by any means and she appears to delegate this to Bean. He and  his new colleague are sent to capture an Arab believed to have intelligence. When captured the man says he is like Bean and misunderstanding the situation Bean sets the man on fire and kills him. He finds nothing incriminating in the man’s coat or elsewhere and is riddled with guilt at having killed an innocent man. He is told to lie  low with the new colleague in  as it happens the same London hotel as Ash is aiming to kill the American Senator. He becomes suspicious of his colleague, they fight and he kills the colleague having the impression he was being set up to be got rid off  as a cover for the failed missions and the killing of the innocent man. He finds a safe deposit key and number written on a piece of paper in the actual jacket coat of the innocent man previously killed (in the bag of his colleague) ( Why he has this wirth him is also odd). 

He leaves the hotel before the authorities arrive after he has killed Ash and stopped the bomb. As he leaves the hotel he spots the suspicious adding of a suitcase to a luggage trolley  and the suitcase explodes destroying the front of the hotel where he was staying,

He escapes without injury and we see him open the safe deposit box and finds a file and a tape which reveals that man was  an undercover Secret Service agent with incriminating  evidence  about the duplicitous role of the service. Rampling had employed  the new colleague to get the  evidence and frame and then kill Bean blaming him for all the deaths and mistakes and thus protecting her own position.  He visits Rampling at her home, kills her making it look like suicide with a  copy of a report he has drawn up with the other evidence on the failings of the service.

Now I think this is the position leaving open who placed the second bomb and why because with flashbacks and the interaction of the two stories  it may  be intended to add up top something very different. Do I care? No.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Midnight in Paris

People tend to love or hate the films of Woody Allen and  his 2011 contribution Midnight in Paris is no exception. It is a piece of fantastical nonsense which  I enjoyed. The hero, or anti hero in this instance is a Hollywood screen writer with ambitions to create something meaningful and artistic while vacationing with his attractive conventional and culturally uneducated fiancée and her even more conventional conservative Republican parents. It is evident that if he was half the man he is supposed to be he would not have become involved the  woman and her family within a thousand miles.

He loves to walks the streets, even in the rain ( hints of gene Kelly here). After getting drunk and wondering about when at the midnight hour a 1920’s vehicle and passengers drives up and invites  him to join them in a party, for Jean Cocteau. He meets Alice B Toklas, Cole Porter. Josephine Baker. Zelda and F Scott z and Hemingway whop all treat him as one of them. Hemingway agrees to show the prospective great novel to Gertrude Stein who he then meets and gives him good  advice. Stein introduces him to Picasso and come of is current women Adrianna ( Marianne Cotillard)  with whom he is attracted. He shares with her the opening lines of the book about his fascination with the past which she admits she also has,

On subsequent nights Adrianna nights  leaves Picasso for Hemingway and become more attracted to her. He also meets T S Elliot and then Dali Man Ray and Louis Brunel with whom he reveals his conflict of being in love with two women at the same time but being surrealists they see nothing strange in this and his interest in two women normal. The joke here is that he tells Brunel the plot of  the film he is yet to make The Exterminating Angel which Brunel initially dismisses and continues to question. While out during the day with his fiancée looking at very expensive antiques he comes across the published diary of Adrianna who has written that she loves him and  wishes he would give her a pair earrings as a token of his affection after which they would make love. He then attempts to steal the earrings of his fiancée but is thwarted so has to buys a pair but when he goes to meet her hey are invited  back into the Belle Epoch of the 1890’s at Maxims and the Moulin Rouge where he encounters Degas, Lautrec and Gauguin and these three argue that the era which they would have preferred to have lived was the Renaissance . As this is Adrianna’s era of choice she elects to stay but he returns to the present.

Meanwhile his fiancée frustrated by his lack of  attention and absorption in his literary work and wonderings is spending more time with a  male friend who is something of a know it all  and where our hero is able to put him in his place together with impressing an official guide  because of his authoritative first hand knowledge of what  the artists said to him about their work, intentions and relationships. However it is Stein who tells him that Hemingway makes the point that he needs to polish his portrait of the relationship between the fiancée in the novel and the friend because rationally the two are having an affair behind the back of its hero.  When  he confronts his fiancée with this insight at first she dismisses but then admits claiming it was a mere dalliance and something which should not affect their relationship,

The break up confirms  the dislike the parents where the father reveals that  he has had him followed by a detective who has disappeared, In fact the man has been transported  back to 18th century Paris and decides to remain there.

Our hero decides to remain in Paris to finish his book and remeets a young woman previously met who declares that like him she loves just wondering the streets, including in the rain. The pair are made for each other. The film won an Oscar for its Screen play written by Allen and was also nominated as  best Film, best Director and for Art Direction. Woody Allen also won a Golden Globe for the screen play and was  nominated for a BAFTA as other awards and countless nominations. It was all great fun and witty and I wish.


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a film based on a book but with  a new twist. `According to information on line the book concentrates on the relationship between two women, the eldest is 80 and looks back on her life under four Chinese Emperor  commencing when she was eight years of age and first formed a relationship with the other. They come from different classes of society but their paths take different courses after the age when their feet acre bound at a time when the size of the foot in later life could become a major factor when a marriage is arranged. The one from the lower social home marries into the best family in area because she is regarded as having perfect small feet although to achieve this she had to endure great pain.

Her husband is sent by his father away on business when they have been married a short while and she is pregnant. Both the parents die from a typhus epidemic so that after his return his becomes the local Lord of the manor and she the Lady, For many years she is prevented from going to visit her friend and when she does she finds that although her friend was socially higher she lives in comparative poverty without servants as her husband is a butcher and a common man.

According to the film they are all forced to quickly leave when a rebellion occurs (The Taiping revolution when an estimate 20 million people died) and the husband leaves them to retrieves their cow only to find that in the snow and low temperature that one of his children has died and in his grief he blames his wife for not taking better care, strikes her and then buries the child without telling the wife where this is. The lady tries to persuade her friend to leave with her children and  live with  her so she can have a better life but the friend explains that she is passionately loved by her husband and she him something which she rightly suspects has not happened in the relationship with her friend despite her wealth and position.

This is a challenge to basic premise of the novel about laotang relationship which can be chosen between two girls or women which is about lifelong emotional closeness and fidelity whereas for most women, the marriage is arranged for the purpose  of providing sons and where to this day the majority of the population regard bearing a female child first as a failure especially during the decades where China restricted couples to one child unless  they obtained special permission.  The Lady regards this as  betrayal of their  relationship which she  then  also betrays by revealing their relationship to her friends. She is reconciled when the friend prematurely dies but spends many years alone after her husband and her children also die.

The film develops the story interposing the historical relationship with that between two female descendents who also sign the laotang but also find keeping its intentions difficult as they become adolescents and they are also prevented by a relative who sees the girl being led astray by the other, One is then struck by a taxi and is in a coma and the other finds that her friend has written up the story of their ancestors. She decides that this will not happen to them and stays with the friend who in this instance does not die and they are united.

The fan of the title is significant because it was used to communicate messages in the historical situation and is now an heirloom part of a collection which is being shown in an art gallery with the one exception and which is  brought to the hospital and becomes a symbolic binding artefact which not only unites the two again but appears  to cause the awakening from the coma. The film can be interpreted at many levels from a commentary on the history and social changes of China to issues of the nature of the marital heterosexual marriage, arranged  or by choice and which given the growth of professional match making organisations in European and USA society is fascinating. The film is beautifully and tenderly shot despite the grim harshness of some scenes. While there is also a hint of physicality at one moment in the historical era, it is primarily about unconditional friendship and loyalty.


Passport op Pimlico revisited

I watched for the umpteenth time Passport to Pimlico  the highly enjoyable but preposterous 1949 film which I first saw as a 10 year old in theatre with the “aunties”. This Michael Balcon film can be now regarded as attempt to bolster the flagging wartime spirit of Joe public in the face of the continuing austerity of rationing and large chunks of remaining blitzed London, although it was based on a true incident when during World War 2 the child of Princess Juliana of the Netherlands would not have been able to claim the throne if born outside her home land so that the Canadian Government passed a special law making her room in the maternity hospital part of the Netherlands. The film stars Stanley Holloway and Margaret Rutherford and the young Barbara Murray together with a young Charles Haughtry of subsequent Carry On fame, Raymond Huntley as the creative Bank Manager and that fine actor John Slater, also with James Hayter, Arthur Denton, Michael Horden Sydney Tafler, Sam Kidd and Hermoine Baddeley.

The people living in heavily bombed Pimlico close to Victoria Station struggle to cope with  the prolonged summer heat wave and the rationing surrounded by bombed buildings in the middle of which there is an unexploded bomb to be made safe. However the unit  announces is has been told to move to another site and that the bomb will be detonated via a small explosion advising everyone to take precautions.  Before this a group of young lads messing about with a large tyre fail to take proper control and it runs into the mine  trench hole and detonates fortunately without injury to anyone, Stanley Holloway goes to investigate, falls down and thinks he sees treasure, which is laughed at by his wife but not by his daughter, Barbara Murray, when she realises that he has brought up a gold coin. They investigate and find a huge  haul of coin and silver plate which is removed to the safe keeping of  the Bank where the manager, a local man, is under fire from  his headquarters because of his policy of granting loans to help out local shopkeepers and businesses. He is to be moved.

The find is reported to the government who seek to take control when the question of ownership is determined at  an Inquest. Margaret Rutherford plays the expert who  upon examining  a document found in casket by Holloway as well as portrait of a nobleman reveals  that not only is the treasure of the French House of Burgundy who lived in the area when exiled but the document grants ownership of the land to the Duke and his descendents and as it is understood he died without an heir the Treasure  belongs to the those born  in the area  covered by the Royal Warrant who technically are Burgundians with the implications that British laws and taxes do not apply. This leads to the locals to tear up their ration books and identity cards, keep the pub open all hours and plan how they will spend the money on a lido for the children on the bomb site. Huntley declares UDI for his bank.

The area becomes besieged by out of area traders in what has becomes free zone leading the residents having a change of mind about  their impendence when the police explain they cannot intervene. However the position changes again when it is revealed that the Duke had a son and his descendent arrives to claim treasure and his Dukedom, or at least to support the local people when the government tightens the screws and impose a customs post. The local retaliate by stopping the passing Underground trains which in turns leads to the water being cut off. The children are evacuated but residents manage to turn the water back on illicitly however the problem is that the basement is flooded where the food was being stored for the communal meals and it appears they have no alternative but to surrender and leave the area or give up the treasure. The children on seeing a newsreel use their pocket money to buy bread rolls which they pass over the barrier to their families which leads to other passers by doing the same and when the word spreads by radio and press everyone joins in to provide the community with  more than sufficient supplies to keep them going Naughton Wayne and Basil Rathbone on behalf of the government are forced to negotiate a settlement in which the money is given to the Treasury as capital but the community benefits from the interest which gets them their Lido. The Duke and Barbara Murray fall in love

The classic line in the film is We’ve always been English, and we’ll always be English and its precisely because we are English that we’re sticking for the right to be Burgundians.”


Encore (1951)

Encore (1951) included The Ant and Grasshopper in which Nigel Patrick also featured scroungers from his hard work brother (Roland Culver) When Culver attempts to turn off the tap he is approached by a car dealer who says that eh brother has stolen one of his cars and to protect the man and the family he makes good the loss although in reality it is a fraud and the  car dealer and the brother have split the money between them. While staying at seaside hotel living it up he meets a woman claiming to be very rich and fed up with men lying about their positions to gain her favour. The brother admits he has been a scoundrel but this has the effect of drawing him closer to the woman and they become engaged. This enables him to pay back his brother who bemoans the fact that he is having to sell of the family estate  to live while his brother is now able to lead the good life. The brother discloses that his wife is going to but up the family estate,

In the Winter Cruise Kay Walsh plays  a woman who will not stop chattering to the  frustration and boredom of the ship’s crew and other passengers. John Laurie has  a part in the film but it is Ronald Squire,, the ship’s doctor who  hits on the plan for a steward to have an affair with Walsh to keep her quiet on the way home from Caribbean.  Walsh admits  that she knows it is a scheme but is happy to go along and enjoys the affair.

Terence Morgan and Glynis Johns are the stars of Gigolo and Gigollette with a dangerous night club act which involves  diving into a water tank . In order to avoid  having to continue with  the act after learning  of the misfortunes of others she gamblers and loses their savings to the anger of her husband. Despite her fear she decides to undertake the second and more dangerous  dive of the night as a consequence and her husband rushes to stop her, but too late. Fortunately the dive is successful and her fear is conquered.

Trio (1950)

Quartet was a very successful film while the follow up Trio, two years lawyer did not please the critics as much although I recollect it was looked forward to by the aunties. Whereas on checking available film notes I remembered all four stories of Quartet I struggled with Trio which I now associate with an interdepartmental magazine with Social  Services, Health and Education which I co edited for Cheshire County Council some forty years ago.

In the Verger  the  new  vicar played by Michael Horden sacks his Verger (James Hayter because he cannot to read. Together with his landlady who he marries (Kathleen Harrison) he opens the first tobacconist in the area which si a great success and he is so successful that with his wife’s help he opens a chain depositing  the profits  at the local bank. The bank manager, Felix Aylmer  suggests that Hayter moves some of the money into more profitable investments and is shocked to find that the man refuses because he cannot read the relevant documentation. The bank manager poses the question what could Hayter have been done if he had  been able to read to which Hayter makes the point, “ back as the verger;” an important point to be remembered by all those who believe a university education is end and be all.

Wilfred Hyde-White plays Mr Gray in Mr Know It All who finds himself sharing a cabin on an ocean liner with Nigel Patrick at the Know All gem dealer, a nick name given to him by other passengers.

The previously work separated husband (Naughton Wayne) of a woman who wears great looking pearls bets Patrick that the Pearls are fake.  Patrick admits he was wrong and pays up but later the money is returned and W H Whyte learns that in fact the Pearls were real but Patrick lied in order for the couple to save face, with the implication that the woman had been given the jewels while having an affair while the husband was away.

Roland Culver plays a writer in the Sanatorium which contains others, including Jean Simmons, new arrival Michael Rennie a pair of longer stay residents John Laurie and Finlay Currie who are at loggerheads and a man Raymond Huntley who is getting away from his wife, unsuccessfully. The new arrival a major falls in love with Simmonds but the couple are warned that the relationship could prematurely end the life of the major who has  a scandalous background. They  decide  to leave together regardless and given  the death of one of the patients, this has the impact of reconciling Huntley with his wife.

Quartet 1948

I have seen Quartet before in my childhood in 1948 when RC Sherriff collaborated with Somerset Maugham to bring four  of his short stories to the screen, later extend in Trio and Encore. The stories were portrayed by an extraordinary array of  stars, many in  the making/

In the Fats of Life Jack Watling is a teenage Tennis player who goes on his own to a Tennis tournament in Monte Carlo with his  parents (Angela Badderly and Basil) Radford warn him against women, gambling and lending money to strangers which he does when he meets Mai Zetterling at the casino where he wins substantially and take a sofa  at her flat when it is too late to return to the hotel. She takes his money  thinking he is asleep  placing in a vase which he takes back only to find that there is significantly more than his own. And the moral is? James Robertson Justice, Naughton Wayne and the creator of Bond Ian Fleming also have parts.

In The Alien Corn  Dirk Bogarde plays a  young man of a good family who shocks his parents on his birthday announcing he wants to become a professional pianist. His cousin played by Honor Blackman proposes an acceptable compromise in which Bogarde goes to study in Paris for two years at the end of which an independent expert will say if he is good enough to become a soloist. The man congratulates on his technical abilities but declares he lacks virtuoso talent. He kills himself while cleaning a revolver. The Inquest concludes  the death was accidental. Was it?

George  Cole, Hermoine Badderly, Susan Shaw, Mervin Johns and Bernard Lee star in the Kite. George and his father have spent their free time flying kites, a hobby which he continues when he marries much to the dismay of his bride. When his wife destroys his latest kite he not only moves back home to the delight of his mother in particular who dislikes he wife, but refuses maintenance which leads to his imprisonment. A prison visitor on learning the story takes upon himself to resolve the situation so that when Cole leaves the prison he finds that his wife, Susan Shaw, is on the common flying a kite.

In the fourth story, The Colonel’s Lady Cecil Parker as the Colonel discovers via a copy provided by his mistress that his wife has written an audacious and successful book of poems about a passionate relationship with a younger man He learns that the poems must have been based on a real affair in which according to the book, the young man dies. Reluctant to raise the subject with his wife at first he eventually learns that the poem about himself as the death is that of their love.  Others in the piece are Nora Swinburne, Felix Aylmer and Wilfred Howard White.

Quartet (2012)

The best film of the year so far is Quartet. I am yet to see Lincoln  or the film about the capture of Osama bin Laden by the director who made The Hurt Locker.

Quartet is a lovely film where five major actors front an ensemble cast of former musicians and other stage performers, directors and artists who live in an expensive country house with grounds retirement home facing closure because of its escalating costs. It is managed by a  qualified doctor and has  a range of activities which add to the challenge of balancing the books.

Residents at the home are three off the former opera singers who performance in the Rigoletto quartet remains highly regarded, Tom Courtney was an outstanding tenor of his day and his performance in the annual concert to raise funds on the anniversary of the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi is regarded as one of the highlights. He also gives talks to local school teenagers on the Opera and this leads to a demonstration that rap is a contemporary form of expressing emotions.

He is also man who never recovered from finding out on his wedding day that his common law wife, an exceptional soprano of the day played by Maggie Smith had been unfaithful with another tenor. He had subsequently refused to appear in productions in which she performed. He is upset and disturbed when he finds  that Maggie, the fourth member of the famous quartet is to become the latest resident in the home when she has to give up her  independent life in fine surroundings.

Her` arrival is greeted with great enthusiasm particular by Michael Gambon who plays an aging director who experiences giddy spells from his ongoing health condition and who organises the annual concert with a small committee which includes Pauline Collins, She plays someone in the early stages of memory forgetfulness, the fourth member of the Quartet, a kindly soul who admires Maggie as well as the other two. She gives a very fine performance which may well be overlooked against that of Maggie Smith and Tom Courtney. Billy Connolly plays the other member of the Quartet, a  close friend  and confident of Courtney since the  marriage break up.

Maggie attempts to  become friends with Tom who finds the situation intolerable at first but becomes reconciled to the need to persuade Maggie to perform with him and the others the Quartet in order to attract the audience and funds to keep the home going for another year or more. The three arrange to take Maggie out to a fine restaurant in order to talk her into the concert but she reacts with dismay and anger having revealed her fear of  singing again and the feeling of betrayal that she hoped the others, especially Tom genuinely wanted to become friends again.

She is persuaded to participate and the latter part of the film  concentrates on the build up to the great day as old wounds are healed and rivalries set aside. There are cameo performances from the various artists a couple performing in a cross between Naughton Wayne and  Basil radford and Flanagan and Allen. Unlike Mama Mia for example there is no attempt by the four non singing actors to pretend they can relying on their original recording and clever cut always from the start and  end of the performance  as they are greeted and rewarded with applause for their appearance and performance.

This is a tender film which  should well reap some rewards at the Bafta’s and Oscars although we none outstanding so far I believe the honours will be shared including Skyfall in the UK and perhaps a special Oscar in USA show with Les Misérables, Lincoln, Pi and the Biggalo film on Bin Laden.

Quartet has been compared  to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which also starred Maggie Smith together with Judy Dench, Penelope Wilton, Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel. With  the exception of Wilkinson who dies the other have  indicated a willingness to return for a sequel where a script is said to have been delivered. I saw the Exotic Marigold Hotel in Theatre and again yesterday evening on the TV and  regard the film as superior because of the significant interlocking a number of important stores whereas Quartet concentrates on the saving of the home, the coming back together of the four singes and  the relationship between Tom and Maggie, who agree to remarry at the end.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

American Guerrilla, The book and the film

I recently wrote of the 1950’s film American Guerrilla in the Philippines that it was based on the Second World War experience of Lliff David Richardson  born in 1918 and who died in 2002  aged 82. I was sufficiently interested in the story that I investigated further and found that the book of the same name by Ira Wolfert  was available and acquired a copy of the original 1946 Victor Gollancz London edition from Kennys Books/ Able Book Sale for £7.35 including postage and  where the recent  US price was $38. My interest as usual was on the extent  to which the film was a fair cover of the true story of the book, given that the film had a fictitious character in the lead and because I was disappointed with aspects of the information about Richardson  found on line.

I received the book quicker than anticipated and once I read the opening pages I could not put it down staying up until 2am on Sunday morning January 20th 2013. I regard this slim in the sense of thickness 184 page book one of the more important accounts of what it was like to work and fight in the  Philippines during the second world war which also applies to the guerrilla activities in Borneo and other Pacific countries and island in which the battle was taken to the Japanese. This is because of the surprising amount of detail provided on how Richardson, and the men associated with him and the supporting population of the Philippines created an effective resistance movement able to provide a civilian government so quickly after the country was freed from the Japanese,  The important point to make and to be taken into account throughout the reading and understanding of his story is that he enlisted as a Navy man and therefore had no military training or experience before thrust into the role pf guerrilla organiser and fighter.

My admiration for Richardson increased with one notable exception where mystery still remains over the woman with whom he had an important relationship as stated  by him but who he appears to have abandoned  immediately on returning to the USA as the War in the Pacific was drawing to its end..

It is important to emphasise that the book only covers Richardson’s experience in the Philippines and was created from the oral accounts given to the is author Ira Wolfert whose life and writing also merits recording. Ira was born in 1908 ten years before the subject of book, growing up in New York and became Journalism Graduate of Columbia University. Working for the North American Newspaper Alliance in the 1930’s and throughout the Second World War. His reporting on the Battle for Guadalcanal won him a Pulitzer  prize in 1942 and in 1943 he published  the Battle for the Solomon Islands.

in 1944 he co wrote with Captain Don Gentle One Man Air force, about the exploits of the fighter ace and with “Rich” as he was known, Richardson,  American Guerrilla. 

He had publish a novel in 1943 about a  New York based Gangsters Tucker’s People. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1948 released film Force of Evil which is based on his novel and which is regarded as a film meriting inclusion in the Library of Congress because of its merits. His novel Act of Love was also highly regarded, and is available second hand for £121!

Ira was subsequently branded a Communist (by Association) by the infamous Un-American Activities Committee and this may account for my having no information that he published other fictions or non fiction writings subsequently. He went on to live until the age 89  in 1997 and was married to the same person, a poet  Helen, for 57 years until the death of his wife in in 1985. They had a son and a daughter and four grand children.  Now back to the book and the film.

I understand that Rich was  the son of a Methodist Minister who died when he was 3  and according to the Forward to the book, his mother moved around a great deal gaining work as a teacher of Latin English, History and Music wherever she could, this resulted in Rich learning to live alone without being lonely and to create his own environment. This is an important point to appreciate what subsequently happened and is also something that I am able to identify with from my childhood and subsequent experience.

 It was only when he was about fourteen that his mother was able to move and settle in Los Angeles as following  the death of her cattle ranch owning father (near Springview Nebraska) there was sufficient  funds to enable her to give up going to where the next job was offered.  According to an interview given after the War to Chuck Hlava of the Houston Texas Community Newspaper,  he left Compton Junior College using the money allocated for his last two years to go to Europe, the Middle and near East before returning just before the fall of France in World War I.  Why he dropped out of college and left the USA is not known and it is of interest that he never wrote an autobiography as such or authorised a biography, given, the book about his exploits, the film and that when General MacArthur made a  visit to Houston where Rich was living with his wife, he rode McArthur’s car and sat with him at the official dinner. It is unusual that there are several  blanks about a life that appears adventurous and creative until his return to the USA and marriage.

The explanation may be his wife Coma (Noel) who according to Houston Paper interview they while students at the University of Chicago in 1940 and that on their first date they went to see a performance of AIDA although I am puzzled by this report as I will explain in a moment. After his enlistment the two kept in contact by letter until he “ disappeared into the jungle”. They were married on his return and they remained together until his death in 2001.

Coma came from Virginia, born June 1922 and graduated from the University of Houston where the  couple settled  upon their marriage. so I how both came to be at or in Chicago is a mystery.  Coma is reported as a strong practicing Presbyterian and my understanding is that she “stayed home” to raise their four children until they  grew up when her interest in Art led to joining the Southwest Art Magazine and to organise the Southwest Art Foundation and the Museum of Art of the American West. She survived Rich for another ten years dying in December 2011 knowing the pleasures of grand children and one great grand child.

The TV Director Darryl F Zanuck who planned to make the film of the book soon after it was published is reported as saying it was the most honest war memoir of the period he had read, due to the combined approach of Ira Wolfert and the openness of Rich which included his having a passionate affair with a Spanish refugee from Civil war in that the husband of her aunt, a colonel in the Spanish Army had been killed fighting against Franco and the Fascists.  There is also mention of  a married cousin but otherwise no information on how or why they made the Philippines their home and why given the frequent references to the young woman in the book and the importance given to her by Wolfert he did not return or made arrangements for her to join him in the USA,

In the film the affair does not begin until the  American wife of a Filipino businessman and guerrilla organiser is brutally murdered by the Japanese. In describing the character of Richardson Ira mentions “Then there is a considerable affair of love involved. Richardson became attached to a very splendid girl and as opportunity after opportunity arose for him to escape from his dangerous guerrilla work, her thought up reason after reason for remaining with it and near her.”  Yet as he  memoir ends  the actual final words.  “ I did not even get to see Curly again. I had to leave in a rush to catch my ship and I sent her a message by Joe Rifareal. The message consisted.... Well it said mostly the word Darling). So what happened  to Curly? Why did  he not go back for her? T is one of the thousands of question  during my life I have asked and continue to ask, that I will never know the answers. I have assumed that Curly is his nickname for her. It is extraordinary that she did not become the subject of media interest  when  the book was published and then following the film!

When Rich enlisted in the Navy  he asked for a posting in the Asiatic squadron, because of his experience of the area and which would have been regarded as an asset by the Navy. He went to the Philippines aboard a minesweeper and was involved in actions around Bataan Coriggedor. Cebu and Mindanao. According to the interview with the Houston paper it was after the attack on Pearl Harbour that in 1941 he was given the opportunity to transfer to the PT boats when one of the boats came alongside the Minesweeper, asked if he was onboard and said there was a position for him as the Executive Officer. He is reported as not hesitating to accept the offer.

He joined the third squadron of PT’s and was directly involved in the evacuation of “I shall return General MacArthur and his staff. He saw MacArthur on the deck of PT 41, acting as  the lead boat on the journey to Mindanao some 500  miles away. Another PT boat mistook the 41 for an enemy vessel, got rid of fuel in order to attack, fortunately what could proved a disastrous error was realised but by then the fuel was lost and the craft had to be abandoned with the consequence that its crew and evacuated staff were reallocated among the three  remaining PT’s making life on board difficult on the rest.

It is of interest that the Character Rusty Ryan played by John Wayne in the film They were Expendable which features the role of the PT’s in the Philippines is said  to be partly based on Rich Richardson who it is presumed was an adviser for the film.

The book provides a vivid account of the destruction of his PT boat,  where he was the Executive officer, by Japanese planes when in harbour at a time and when he was ashore and could only watch from the Quayside in horror. He was put in charge of the funerals of those shipmates killed in the attack.

After his boat  was sunk he assisted the army in setting off demolition charges in Cebu City where he meets and is immediately attracted to “Curly,” the Spanish niece of the refugee widowed Spanish army officer. It is not accurate to say that in every instance Rich chose the girl over  leaving his involvement in the guerrilla campaign because once the order to surrender the forces came, he was set on  getting to Australia and get another naval posting. He recounts that the girl was strongly opposed to the trip because of the danger and the odds against reaching Australia. Nevertheless he was set on the escape.

The problem he faced in addition to working out what was needed for the voyage in a comparatively small 12 handed  boat, was his lack of experience is operating a sailing craft. They nearly did not make it out of the harbour and then disaster struck in the form of bad weather when the had progressed only some two hundred miles and the boat was turned upside down. He estimated that they were some 8 miles from the coast of Mindanao and the decision was taken to attempt to swim ashore rather than stay with sail boat and risk being picked up by the Japanese.

The  film and book recount the swim he had to make with lasting some 24 hours. One of the others who had stripped down reached the island in eight hours but suffered greatly from sunburn but managed to explain about his companions in the water  and the coastal villagers had set out in two craft with one finding them stranded, their bodies seizing up and unable to move despite being able to stand up in the water. The book provides a good  account of just how lucky they were and the long and painful process of recovery when they were forced to swallow a little soup at regular intervals because without doing do they would have been no recovery.  In fact all the men were recovered from the sea although one died and was  buried, faithfully recorded in he film as was the bravery of the villagers who knew the penalty for harbouring American soldiers was death.

It is after they had recovered that the film and book are different. In the film Rich and the others remained determined to try and get to Australia rather than surrender  and after an unstated long period of hide and seek in the jungle they make their way to a city where they discover that groups of Americans are raising money  and goods from local communities on the pretext of providing guerrilla bands but are in effect  tricking people into  giving of the little they possessed enabling them to  live well in their hideouts. In he film he meets a genuine patriot and guerrilla organiser whose American wife he has previously encountered and been attracted to believing her to be a single woman. This man persuades the film character to undertake a long sea and jungle trek to reach an American officer known to be wanting to organise the locals  into an underground in preparation for the return of MacArthur. The carrot is that on reaching the American, he would be in a position to arrange  a boat for an attempt to get to Australia. In the book while Rich continues to want to return to the Navy via Australia, the others  do not and rather than surrender as ordered they determine to  survive on their own.

They remained on the loose for six months through the summer helped by  families with whom they stayed, fishing and swimming. Rich commenced to write down his experiences in the PT boats. He notes that the schools were closed by the government who did not want their children to be indoctrinated by the Japanese although this cause  the teachers to starve.

It is at this point important to emphasise the nature of the Philippines because while there is a large Island Luzon to the North  with the capital Manila, and Mindanao to the South there in fact over 7000 islands of which  some 2000 are inhabited. This would have made control by any invading force difficult. Rich spent his time in the central group the Visayes and Cebu (155 by 45 miles) present population  under 4 millions  and Leyte Island  group with 300 square miles and a present population of around 2 million. The present day democratic and unitary  nation has over 50% greater population than the UK with over 100 million citizens with a population jump over the past twenty years by almost a third increase and with around 10% living outside the islands which cover 186000 square miles, twice the area of the UK.

In the film after surviving on the island for an unspecified time he  remeets the  American wife of a local business man and patriot who he helped previously under the impression she was single, The husband suggests that he should make his way by sea to where an American is known to be organising resistance in preparation for the return of General MacArthur. The carrot is the suggestion that the American Colonel will  provide the means for him to get to Australia. After a perilous journey he finds the Colonel who persuades him that his best role is to stay and organise the radio services. After the husband of the woman is killed by the Japanese for his work for the resistance, the woman also takes to the jungle and on a Christmas Day they become lovers.

In the book Rich explains that because of the behaviour of the American led soldier guerrilla groups he kept separate He reports on the experiences of others while he admits he  stayed in what he describes as his Lotus world. He explains that the Filipinos like to party, more than  most populations but relations with the Filipino young women was different to that of young Americans back home. The boys and girls sit separately with  the girls guarded by their chaperones. When the music stopped the girls went back to their area so there was no opportunity to engage in chat. The way to establish direct contact was to find as a friend of the father of the girl and use him as  in between man.  In effect the in between man is used to bribe the father to allow an association  between an American and his daughter as this works as long as she does not object. Although there is a strong catholic predominance in the county then as now there was also an open minded  attitude towards sex and to children born out of wedlock including those of mixed races. Whereas in the USA and Western Europe the tendency has been to regarded anyone with non white blood and non white the reverse was true for the Philippines in that anyone with a drop of white blood was regarded as white

This was he context when Rich decided to and try and find Curly  who was part of the family which occupied the Casa a thirty room property party of what is described as a  beautiful estate with commanding view of the local Bay. A property of this nature is used in  the film as the home of  the Filipino and his American wife. However Rich found that the girl and her family was on another island which had a Japanese garrison of 5000. Rich writes to her in attempt to persuade her to visit her cousins at the Casa but she replied that her father did not want her to travel to Leyte  at that time. The letter said she would come with her father on his next visit and he had sent some cigarettes and a bottle of whisky. This overture coincided with Rich become involved  in the real guerrilla movement for the first time ( page 81 of the book) Colonel Kangleon  was a Filipino army man with 27 years experience and as he first Filipino made a divisional commander by MacArthur. He had surrendered as required but escaped to form the guerrilla movement, he impressed Rich because to fund enterprises and support his wife and five children he had built a crude soap factory  rather than  levy the local population. My impression that the Colonel represents the husband of the American wife in the film for
he asks Rich to try and find a known American colonel guerrilla organiser. With the Japanese having left the southern part of Leyte Kangleon  said it was  good time to organise resistance  but  the problem was that without the presence of the Japanese there could not raid for weapons and other military supplies thus they needed help from the Americans to become effective. Kangleon said  Rich would then work for him which suited him because it meant he would be able to see Curly rather than  remain on Mindanao.

As in the film finding the Colonel (Fertig) proved a challenge but the effort proved worthwhile because first he was put in contact with a Colonel McLish who had with him two Majors and other officers and were professionally organised. He took Rich  using a captured Japanese launch to see Fertig at what was termed the General Headquarters. The man and his HQ  was then hidden in holes in the ground. They had made radio contact with San Francisco and kept abreast with news about he war development as well as having contact with General McArthur. Rich met with a representative of McArthur on the island who persuaded him to work for the Navy setting up a radio station to report monitored movements of the Japanese Navy observed `from Leyte and other nearby islands.

With Colonel McLish and ten soldiers they had to walk 500 miles, averaging 25 a day before it was considered safe to cross back to Leyte he lost over two stone on the journey, he was in such a deteriorated condition that Colonel Kangleon  did not immediately recognise him especially as he was reported to have died. He was pleased because it meant that contact had been made with Fertig.

He reporting to as meeting with twenty five officers on the island that they under the unified command of Fertig they were no longer regarded as deserters and would be paid  IOU against their military pay books. The decision had also been taken to print money and thirdly they were to form a civil government. Colonel Kangleon was delighted with the news because it meant  he had  his army back. A deal had been struck with McLish who provided 3000 empty cartridge cases which Rich undertook to fill, returning a  third to McLish as payment or the remainder. He put sixty soldiers to work on the ordinance plants mainly using powder from Japanese sea mines. It is at this point in the book we begin to learn something of the extent of Rich’s creative energy, leadership and organising abilities.  The new government levied a tax to pay for the as yet undeclared war on the Japanese in the bid to free the islands.

Rich was responsible for the first government proclamation which created a rift between him and  Kangleon as similar to what I know happened in the UK it became essential for the military effort to get hold of various supplies, paper and ink for example to print money, and everything from  the obvious of guns and ammunitions to chemicals, radios batteries, vehicle engines, thread and buttons to make uniforms from sacks. It has to be remembered that Rich had been recruited as Executive officer to the PE. In order to counter what Kangleon regarded as confiscation Rich arranged for USA army receipts.

Having been appointed Chief of Staff Rich’s next task was to appointed the staff including medical, transportation, signals and paymaster as well as legal (Judge Advocate for Court Marshals) and  the primary function Warfare. He took a special interest in signals and describes how they set up a communications system around the island. The structure led to the creation of a proper army with exercises, night manoeuvres, forced marches and target practice( without using the bullets)!. Companies were organised on a regular army basis with barracks, guardhouse, mess etc,

He was also seeing Curly who had returned to live at the Casa although he became concerned when it was suggested that the assumption was being made he wanted to marry the young woman having mentioned  the thought of settling in the Philippines after the war. Rich pretended to himself that she was visiting to see his cousins  until it was made clear she was visiting to see him in the expectation of marriage. He records that he came to love the woman.

They received a summons to get to Colonel Fertig before November 1st when a submarine was due which he presumed meant that he was being recalled to Australia to rejoin the naval service. He took a launch from the Japanese to  reach Fertig where he was told off for not undertaking the task  that had been set for him in terms of the Naval intelligence about the Japanese navy. The arrival of the submarine  provided the opportunity to make contact with other naval officers, to  be provided with  American food, especially ice cream and books.  Fertig came on board with the guerrilla leaders including Kangleon  who pressed for supplies on the next trip, They were promised regular submarine calls from then on  but for Rich he was  leaned on the undertake the naval intelligence operation that had been promised to MacArthur.

When he returned he found that Curley had moved because the Japanese were returning  would take the Casa after the 18000 pounds of fibre used to make rope. Knowing this the fibre had been set on fire taking two days to burn. When the Japanese arrived back in  the south of the island  they found the guerrillas had moved north. It was not time to engage the enemy.

He records that the Japanese question the owner of the Casa Don Lorenzo, one of sixteen children all fop whom had children and one of his  sisters, Curley’s mother also had sixteen children. This large   family was closely knit and involved in various commercial a background of Castilian Judaism. The Japanese wanted detailed information about the commercial interests. It is said that he defended accusations supplying and supporting the guerrillas, but prisoners were taken and tortured. On learning their identity they commenced to kill. Rich learned that Curly was safe with relatives and concentrated one establishing a radio system on the island

In the book he travelled to see Curly in time for Christmas whereas in the film it is the now widowed wife of the owner of the Casa who arrives where Rich is located to celebrate Christmas with him signalling that they become lovers. Once the New Year was celebrated, the decision was taken by Kangleon for the guerrillas to go on the offensive. In the town of Anhawan the Mayor invited the 12 man Japanese garrison to a  breakfast with him on February 1st It was a trap

The Japanese retaliated with planes and then with heavy weapon patrols but this only enable the guerrillas into greater action when their casualties commenced to  run in the hundreds compared to limited loses by the guerrillas. The Japanese were driven from the countryside to the coastal towns leaving the guerrillas controlling the hinterland.

Although the Japanese used the Casa as its headquarters for South Leyte members of the family commenced to attack from the outskirts. The Japanese retaliated, and found a woman prepared to identify those in the community who were members or supporters of the guerrillas. They rounded up the whole family making prisoners of those identified who then disappeared presumed killed. When one member escaped to join the guerrillas the Japanese rounded up the whole family again and threaten to  kill all its male members. Because of all this activity Curly came to Rich for protection.  There is a similar situation involving the American widow in the film who joins Rich in guerrilla activities. They would be  together sitting out in the jungle every evening after she had  helped with preparing food, They would talk a lot before he walked her back to where she was staying, about their respective past and their previous experiences together,

He set up a radio station  in the North on the  coast going through Japanese occupied territory fulfilling his commitment to Fertig. He records that they were the only Island to be in contact with the headquarters of Macarthur on a  daily basis. Then another submarine came in loaded with supplies. He expresses mixed feelings about the development assuming that with his job done, so to speak, he would be asked to leave. He said goodbye to Curly. It si not clear if this was the order  but he elected to stay.

He rounded up sixty people to take the four tons of supplies back  HQ and then to see Curly. However he was then asked to set up another radio station in the south and plot a minefield which meant that General MacArthur was returning as promised. Cigarettes, chocolate and other goods now all had I shall return  MacArthur on their wrappers. He waited to he last minute  to leave Curly before setting off knowing the danger of the mission.

The opportunity is taken  to mention the treatment of a fifth columnist mentioned in the film in a different context. The man was given and made  to eat a whole roasted chicken on the principal that the condemned man is given a hearty meal. Despite his protestations he is executed. He also explains relationship with the civilian police including what happens in relation to the police chief when MacArthur planes began their bombardment. The pleas  of  loyalty fell on deaf ears given the knowledge of the extent of collusion with the Japanese. There is also recording of an incident  also in the film where a guerrilla  ( in the film a close associate of the main character) gets back with half his guts hanging out from a  bayonet. Rich agrees to trying and put the intestines back and sew him up, the young man  having  given consent, but the man dies. In the film  the Rich character wants to give up but the widow presses him on.

The film concentrates on communicating the movement of Japanese naval moments and that they had to quickly move to avoid  the fire from one of the vessels, also recorded in the book

In the film the Rich character, plus the widow and other guerrillas are surrounded by passing Japanese troops hiding in a church and here is a battle which they appear destined to lose because of the superior numbers. However the Japanese pull out with the arrival of the planes. The couple are seen joining other crowds MacArthur comes by in convoy.  This is fiction.

Rich begins the penultimate last short chapter of the book with his waking dream of the arrival of General MacArthur.. He receives his first mail from home, finding later that the FBI had delivered the mail he had sent with the warning that she had not to reveal to anyone she was having the contact, He then gets an official message to stay where he was while MacArthur was landing forty miles away.

He then resorts to the age old way around orders in that as the commanding officer with a situation where everything is organised and in good order, he gave himself a few days for rest and relaxation having felt under the weather. He celebrates with the locals and insists they fly their own flag along with that of the Americans and he presented with two warm bottles of Coca Cola saved for him for this occasion. This is also included in the film. The is a meal of monkey and rice and he mentions that monkey is an acquired taste.

He then sets off to greet the General without an American flag to wave on the craft Understandably he has great difficult convincing the guard  on the ship that he is who he claims he is, especially when they think his instructions to the outriggers in the local dialect are in Japanese.  On establishing his identity he is taken to the Wardroom and given food which he finds  difficult to eat given the local diet but a large bowl of ice cream provide  a different challenged so he is given another. He and those accompanying him were kitted out in uniforms and he was taken to the cruiser Nashville when he was taken to see MacArthur for a ten minute chat.

Until recalled home he worked with the army air corps. There was a guerrilla reunion after which he acted as  a liaison officer between the army and the guerrillas and hen  as mentioned earlier he doe snot get to say goodbye to Curly and as I say the evidence is there was no further communication between them.

Given that he had spent over a decade adventuring away from home it is difficult to believe he was ever able to settle down, and certainly I am not surprised that he found life as an insurance executive dissatisfying or that he set up a company manufacturing inexpensive  guns based on his Philippine experiences or that it failed.  It was no surprise that on return states sides he found himself court marshalled for drawing pay from both the Navy and the Army until  what he had. done was communicated to  the authorities and all charges dropped and the money paid in full.

When I  left school at the age of sixteen in 1955 I went to work for the Middlesex County Council Local taxation Department ( Motor Vehicle Licences) and was attached to the New registration section of five and hen six men who had served in  the  first or second world war, Including  the head of section a Naval officer, someone who had lost part of his leg in he first, a airman and a man who and fought in North Africa. Now in a job with no transferable skills they struggled to adapt  knowing there was  little prospect of bettering their lot. It was he combination  of hearing about their experience and having read the official reports of the War Crime Trials on  the concentration camps while still at school that affected how  I looked on war since, especially the use of weapons of mass destructions. I suspect that Rich despite having a  loving and loyal wife, the mother of children, and grandchildren never really settled, especially given his adventuring prior to the war.  And then of  course there was Curly.

Monday, 14 January 2013

American Guerillas in the Philippines

The only good other they don’t make films like they used to film(Les Misérables the exception) of Film week January 7th-14th was the 1950 released American Guerrillas in the Philippines, The is based on the second world war experience of Lliff David Richardson  born in 1918 and only died in 2002  aged 82. The son of a Methodist Minister who died when he was  3 his mother moved around a great deal and then after Junior College he left the USA and travelled extensively in Europe, the Middle and near East before returning just before the fall of France in World War I. In 1940 he was commissioned an Ensign in the Royal Navy and assigned to a minesweeper in the Philippines and then became executive officer in boat PT34. After the vessel was sunk he assisted the army in setting off demolition charges in Cebu City and then in  party of a dozen attempted to set sail for Australia but the boat is sunk in a storm and to survive he and a  number of the others swam for 24 hours to reach the island Mindanao.

In the film rescued by islanders who  go out  and bring in other swimmers and those who could not swim and clung to the wreckage of their boat. Shortly after recovering the Japanese arrive and they take to the jungle and team up with the local guerrillas. Because he had been a ham radio operator he was able to set up a communications network on the island and with the Allied forces in Australia. He was promoted to Major by “I shall return” Douglas General McArthur holding Commissions in the army and navy at the same time.

After the liberation of the Philippines he told his story to a Pulitzer prize winner writer who created a book of the month success and a Readers Digest condensed book which was to have been made immediately into a film, shelved and then  released in 1950.  He married in the USA, worked in insurance and  created a company selling a shotgun on the basis of models created and used in the Philippines and which despite the American love of guns did not sell well. He was also an adviser on a number of Hollywood War films.

My impression is that in order to create an interesting and entertaining film  his  story was creatively adapted  and my curiosity is such that I have invested £4.69 in purchasing the original first edition hardback copy of the book including postage,

In the film after surviving on the island for an unspecified time he  remeets the  American wife of a local business man and patriot who he  helped previously under the impression she was single, The husband suggests that he should make his way by sea to where an American is known to be organising resistance in preparation for the return of General MacArthur. The carrot is the suggestion that the American Colonel will  provide the means for him to get to Australia. After a perilous journey he finds the Colonel who persuades him that his best role is to stay and organise the radio services. After the husband of the woman is killed by the Japanese for his work for the resistance, the woman also takes to the jungle and on a Christmas Day they become lovers.

He is required to slip behind enemy lines to observe and report on enemy shipping movements and shortly before the arrival of MacArthur both with other American and local resistance  men( and boys) have a fight with the Japanese in a Christian Church. The Japanese pull out with the invasion commencing.

7th Cavalry

Now for two they do not make films like they used to. The first is 7th Cavalry with an aged Randolph Scott. He appear as old as the father of his bride to be played by Barbara Hale.

He has been ordered by his boss Colonel Custer to go an get his fiancée whose father Colonel Kellogg ( I kid you not) is opposed to the association having discovered that  Scott as Captain Tom Benson commander of a 7th Cavalry was a Jack the lad gambler of no background unlike the usual West Point officer class. He returns to the home fort to find that Custer has taken two units including his own in his misguided attempt to round up the American owners of the land they have occupied and had been defeated and  all killed. Left at the fort and a few riff raff and a little later another badly beaten unit who had engaged another group of American land owners.

The surviving officers and most  of the men have no time for Scott believing he ran out after learning of Custer’s intentions after his chief had been ordered to stay put, His fiancée father is put in charge of the Board of Inquiry investigating what happened, critical of all those who  did not die alongside Custer, a particularly Scott who in charge of the all the worst jobs. Then Washington tells the Colonel they are  to go and bury the men and bring back the officers. This is a suicide mission of the  land owner have already declared the land sacred, believing  that the spirits of the conquered dead have already enhanced the living.

Scot volunteers insisting on taking on other volunteers, the riff raff who he press gangs into volunteering. Scott survives  various rebellions and on reaching the site of massacre they find everyone has been buried which makes the task of bring back the officers difficult with digging up all the remains to find out who is what. Meanwhile they are surrounded by the local landowners who politely tell them to they are trespassing and will be killed if they do not go quietly. Then they have a miracle, Five In fact two in quick succession. First a soldier is able to clear Scott from the likely finds of the Board of Inquiry because he was a witness to Custer ordering Scott to go for his fiancée, Then the man decides to go off on his own  to tell the glad tidings, then he chooses to ride a horse that looks exactly like that ridden and buried of Colonel Custer, then he get within spitting distance of the stand off to be killed by a sole Brave so that the  riderless horse then appears as a sign that the spirit of Custer wants his body to take back with his fellow officers.  Scott returns home the hero and is approved of as a son in law. Ho Ho Hop what fun

Safe House

Now for a film only  released last year. Safe House is a USA production made in South Africa and where a depressing picture of the national Secret Services of the USA, the UK, Israel, Germany and other European countries is painted as riddled with corruption, illegal practices and attempted cover ups.

Matt Watson played by Ryan Reynolds has joined the CIA full of enthusiasm and is trained as a field agent but  for his first assignment sent to South Africa to run a Safe House and communications centre Tobin Frost played by Denzil Washington was a former CIA agent who has been working freelance for ten years and has obtained a file on an electronic device which he injects into his body for safe keeping. What the file contains stretches all credulity in that it includes the details of the corrupt actions of individuals in the various national security services already mentioned. How the information has been collated is not explained, unsurprisingly.  When he is being hunted down he approaches the USA consulate in Cape Town. For some unexplained reason this master spy does not calculate that the men chasing him are from one the security services about whom the file reveals their dark dealings.  Back at CIA headquarters using all the latest gismos they quickly establish who he is and determine to move him with an extraction team from the Consulate to the Safe House for interrogation .

At the Safe House Watson is upset about the use of Water suffocation torture but before he can express any concern about the matter the alarm signals that the security system has been breached and the cameras reveal that about a  dozen heavily armed men are approaching. The extraction Team are all killed, but Watson has removed the prisoner just in time and although untested in the field he is able evade capture  by the top men after them. He goes on the run to a small hotel and makes contact with his employers.

We are introduced to three key member of the National CIA  headquarters. In addition tot eh man overall ion charge, the Deputy Director of the CIA, Brenden Gleeson plays the chief field manager called David Barlow who knows Watson and trusts him and who is responsible for the extraction team now all killed. Caroline Linklater played by Vera Farmiga appears to have Operational Control at the  centre and is concerned about how the assassins were aware of the location of the Safe House and that Tobin would be taken there. She speculates Watson is working with him all along.  Barlow tells Watson to attend  a National Stadium football game and go to a public access locker where there will the information of another Safe House to take the prisoner. Tobin creates a scene and escapes, pursued by Watson  but both men are captured by the stadium police. Tobin escapes  killing/wounding those taking him the stadium First Aid area. Watson also escapes but  kills/wounds a policeman in self defence.

During their time together Tobin attempts to explain how dark, self protective and  disregarding  of international and national laws and regulations the agency has become. He went on the run after attempting to expose the fact that he was ordered to kill an innocent man so the CIA could replace the individual with one of their operatives.  Watson remains distrustful of Robin but nevertheless is concerned about the ability of the enemy to find and enter the Safehouse. He begins to trust no one.

After losing control of Tobin he accesses records from an Internet Cafe on the location of a former CIA contact known for providing false documentation in a shanty town on the outskirt. He is accurate in his assessment that Washington has made for the man, now a family man, for documents to get out of the country, However his arrival coincides with that of the enemy who kill the man and his wife although their children may have been saved. Tobin goes on the run along rooftops with Weston following in an open truck and rescues Washington and they go the  second Safehouse out of town in an isolated farm dwelling where Washington is the prisoner but Reynolds also treats with suspicion the Safehouse keeper, with justification as it transpire.

In exchanges back at eh CIA headquarters the film appeared to indicate that the woman Linklater is the most likely high level traitor  but when she and Barlow are told to go to South Africa and then meet up at Cross roads approaching the Safehouse  Barlow kills Linklater and we known he is the traitor, or is he? It is  only when both Tobin and Weston Reynolds are wounded, Tobin dies that along with Barlow and the Safehouse man that Weston is told the nature of the information on the electronic device. This is high level CIA cover and  mass murder.

Although badly wounded we next see Reynolds recovered and the Deputy Director reading his written report. The Deputy explains that sections of the report will have to be edited in the national interest and they eh will expect discretion on the part of Reynolds. He also quizzes Reynolds about the information file but Reynolds denies any knowledge of this. This reveals that the attempt to kill Tobin and recover the incriminating evidence goes all the way to top.

For his good work and agreement over his report Watson accepts promotion as a senior case officer and a posting to Paris. After leaving the CIA headquarters we see him transmitting an electronic file from his phone. There is the newspapers and media coverage about the anonymously circulated file disclosing corruption and illegal practices on the part of several secret services with Parliament and Senate inquiries in the UK and USA noted and the apparent arrest of the CIA Deputy Director.

Before all these events Reynolds was in a loving relationship which a Frenchwoman working in South Africa who was unaware off the nature of his work. As soon as the safe house is  raided and he goes on the run he makes his way to the woman and persuades her to return to France, after admitting his role and that problems had arisen. The film ends with him watching the girl at a street cafe and she looks up and see him. Now which film did IO see the same situation recently? What happens next is ambiguous but as with Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol a sequel is promised.,

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Falcon and the Snowman

Like Casino Jack The Falcon and the Snowman is based von a true story on the extent of the CIA involvement in over throw of a legitimately elected Prime Minister in New Australia accidentally uncovered by a young man appointed a classified communications centre operated by an aerospace company  with spy satellites for  the USA government.

Christopher Boyce  was born in 1953. He was intended for the priesthood but left having reached the conclusion the church was not for him. The Falcon in the title of the film comes from ownership of a Falcon.

He accidentally received internal CIA communications(how this arose is not explained)  on the successful plot to get rid of the elected Prime Minister Gough Whitlem with the help of the British Governor General Sir John Kerr  recruited by the CIA, or  at least regarded as their man. His concern grew when he realised the CIQA was involved in  spying and influencing  government in other democratic  and rejected going to media because nothing appeared to have changed  given the media reporting of the involvement of the CIA in bringing down the elected Chilean Government shortly beforehand. However what he then decided to do  is beyond rational explanation.

He had become friends in High school with a young man adopted into an affluent middle class family- Andrew Daulton Lee. He became a successful drug dealer  known as the Snowman and he agreed to act as a courier to trade the documents obtained by Boyce to the Russians at the their Embassy in Mexico City and  where in the film his contact is played by David (Poirot) Suchet. Boyce eventually also travels to Mexico City to meet the Russians after they press for information on the Satellite codes and Lee becomes a drug user again according to the film.
Lee is arrested outside the Embassy who according to the film were refusing him entry because the police  believed he was the individual who had killed  a police officer. He had a microfilm with USA secrets on him at the time and in order to convince that he was not the cop killer he  admitted he was spying for the Russians and implicated Boyce

In the film he is given the choice of seeking asylum in Russia or returning to the USA to be arrested at the border. He chooses the latter and Boyce is subsequently arrested. Boyce was convicted and sentenced to 40 years, He escaped in 1980 and while on the loose committed 17 bank robberies and attempted to  become a flyer with a view of getting to the Soviet union. He was captured on a tip off from a bank robber. He was released from prison in 2002 having served 34 years, He was released from parole in 2008, having married the woman who has successful gained parole for Lee in 1998. Lee has written two books about his role as a Spy and then as a Bank Robbery.

Setting aside the infamy of the CIA, presumably with political approval, There are no redeeming features  about this traitor and thief. I regret the films attempt to justify action for which I am not clear he has regretted his behaviour. I have not read his books or propose to do so.

I do not know what was worse in the behaviour of Lee. His deadly trade ruining countless lives in selling drugs or national secrets for money. He was given life on sentence because of previous convictions in relation to drug trafficking. He has also attempted to sell the same information to the Chinese.

The interesting aspect about Lee is that he is portrayed the film made in 1985 by the actor Sean Penn who hired Lee as his personal assistant on  his parole in 1998. He had become a recovered drug addict. I have no information on the current position of either men.

Get Carter 2000 remake

One of my favourite films of all time is Get Carter, a dark film set in Tyneside. Until last night I resisted the temptation to view the 2000 USA version of the 1971 film. It was not as bad as I feared because it attempted to retain the main characters and the central plot.

Jack Carter played by Sylvester Stallone returns home for the funeral of his brother with whom he has had  no contact for a number of years. He is father of his brothers daughter. Jack is convinced his brothers death is no accident and his suspicions are fuelled when everyone he meet presses him to go back to where he works as an enforcer from a criminal gang. His boss is also keen for him to return, in part because of information that Jack is having an affair with his bird. Almost by accident Jack discovers the truth. His teenage daughter of around sixteen years was the subject of a filmed sexual seduction which has been shown at one the parties of a local villain. Jack then embarks on a revenge which sees a number of people killed. In the original work a contract on Jack is successful completed to end the film.

The 1971 film pushed the boundaries in several ways revealing on screen phone sex which was later translated into Internet sex, first verbal and then visual and audio. It also revealed he links between London and  North East Crime which became one of the core features of the Film and stage Drama Our Friends in the North which also  involved local political corruption. In the original film there is an important scene when local personalities are involved in a  house party  at the home of the local crime boss which includes   excessive  drinking and drug as well as sex and which was also a featured in the film Oh Lucky man and the book and film Room at the Top although set in other parts of Northern England.  The extent to which personality, including the police “enjoyed” watching pornography  collectively was also a revelation at the time together with the exploitation of vulnerable young women in which in effect was the heyday of the Jimmy Saville, rock and pop sexual cultural revolution brought about by the Pill and swinging sixties. Most of all it portrayed professional criminals  factually in terms of their brutal violence towards each other after which professional criminals and street police were portrayed mainly as morons or to provide comedy such as The Lady killers, The Lavender Hill Mob, In fairness Jack Warner and the Blue Lamp had attempted to redress the imbalance for street police.

This version of Get Carter I was confused by the roles of the villains with the same names as those in the original production. The relationship between Jack and the woman of his boss is different. There are no plans to go off to Brazil for a new life and she backs out of the relationship as soon as the affair is brought to the attention of the boss. The henchman of the boss come for jack as much because of the affair as a request from villains in the home town. There is no contract placed on Jack’s head.

His brother is also still happily married whereas in the original story, the marriage broke up and  the brother has a sexual relationship with a tart who does not carry out the role of a mother and in fact was instrumental in the girl being seduced and appearing in a porn film. In the original the girl appears a willing participant in the film and behaves normally afterwards Whereas here she is  drugged, raped and has no recollection of the specific accept feeling physically abused and full of guilt. Revealing what happens to Jack is cathartic and later  she and her mother comfort each other. In the original film Gloria  now the wife, is taken to the grounds of the local villain leader, undressed and given a  lethal dose of drugs to the incriminate local villain after the police have been called and the  house party raised in the dawn. Gloria is played by Miranda Richardson

There is a similar character to villain’s chief assistant who plays the role of chauffer and general fixer, Cyrus Paice, in this instance played by Mickey Rourke. Both wear dark glasses and the relationships between Jack and this man has a past. The character in both films appears to have carried out the murder of the brother. The man who participates in the porn film is killed but the woman involved Geraldine,  who recruits the local girls appears to commit suicide rather than drowning unintentionally when the villains from London push the woman’s car in the Tyne with the woman locked in the boot by Jack. The  local villain  appears to be replaced by a young drug taking  multi millionaire who has made his money from the Internet, including porn channels. In the  original  he  goes to prison while in this Jack lets him off with a severe warning. Miranda Richardson plays the mother.

The aspect which interests is that Michael Caine , the original Jack Carter also has a role in the film, this time Cliff Brumby the business partner of the brother, a club owner who claims ignorance of  why the killing took place. It emerges that he was responsible for the porn film production and the brother is killed  because he won‘t give up the master DVD given to him by the woman participant when she finds out the girl is his daughter.  Carter kills Brumby when he finds out  the truth. However  Carter does not die at the end but goes off for a new life after gaining revenge.

If made today as an original version the 2000 version ahs some merit with some good acting performance and some insight into contemporary villainy associated with the porn industry. In fairness it is not the remake disaster of another cult film of the past, The Wicker Man. However those to love the original will still find the remake difficult to take and regarded it as  an unnecessary. I enjoyed the Caine performance though.