In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½ d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]
KILLER INTENT (2018) **½
by Tony Kent
Published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd., 2018, 530pp
Blurb: When an attempted assassination sparks a chain reaction of explosive events across London, Britain’s elite security forces seem powerless to stop the chaos threatening to overwhelm the government. As the dark and deadly conspiracy unfolds, three strangers find their fates entwined: Joe Dempsey, a deadly military intelligence officer; Sarah Truman, a CNN reporter determined to get her headline; and Michael Devlin, a Belfast-born criminal barrister with a secret past. As the circle of those they can trust grows ever smaller, Dempsey, Devlin and Truman are forced to work in the shadows, caught in a life-or-death race against the clock, before the terrible plot can consume them all.
Enjoyment of this book will depend pretty much on your willingness to buy into the increasingly implausible plot presented. The story has its twists and turns, but none of these came as a surprise and the motivation and actions of the chief villain of the piece increasingly defied logic. Kent has two strong heroes in Dempsey and Devlin and a gutsy heroine in Truman. However, the latter character takes an increasingly back-seat role, having been the conduit for the early action. The book then descends into a stereotypical chase with a hostage/shootout climax that is somehow unfulfilling.
The book could have been more tightly edited. There is not enough in terms of plot progression and characterisation to warrant a 530-page count. The motivations of the characters are drawn out and repeated through long monologues. The book is essentially pulp-fiction and in that genre quantity does not necessarily directly correlate with quality. Here, readers have too much time to think and absorb and that enables them to dwell on the plot’s incredulities. That said, there are moments of promise and Kent may well go on to refine his skills as the series progresses – there is a swift set-up for follow-up stories in this tale’s closing pages. He has a good handle on action scenes, which will ensure his writing remains popular with a like-minded readership.
Unfortunately, the moments of promise are undermined by its preposterous plot resulting in a book that both pleases and frustrates at the same time.
Circus World (1964; USA; Technicolor; 135m) *** d. Henry Hathaway; w. Ben Hecht, Julian Halevy, James Edward Grant, Philip Yordan, Nicholas Ray; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, John Smith, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Wanda Rotha, Kay Walsh. A circus owner is beset by disasters as he attempts a European tour of his circus. At the same time, he is caught in an emotional bind between his adopted daughter and her mother. Spectacular circus action makes up for lack of plot and two-dimensional characters. High production values and an exciting finale built around a devastating fire are also pluses. Wayne and Nolan give strong performances, but the rest of the cast are swamped by a script that gives them little to get their teeth into. Aka: THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN. [U]
McLintock! (1963; USA; Technicolor; 127m) *** d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Frank De Vol. Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Yvonne De Carlo, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Chill Wills, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Strother Martin, Aissa Wayne, Jack Kruschen, Bruce Cabot, Perry Lopez, Robert Lowery, Hank Worden. A cattle baron fights his wife, his daughter, and political land-grabbers, finally “taming” them all in this Western comedy with “Taming of the Shrew” overtones. High-spirited, if rather empty, Western-comedy is carried by the performances of its leads, with Wayne and O’Hara sparring off each other as they trade insults. The movie’s two big set-pieces – a slapstick fight in a mud pool and Wayne’s pursuit of O’Hara through the town in the climax are the most memorable sequences in this big, brawling and politically incorrect entertainment. [U]
Longest Day, The (1962; USA; B&W; 178m) ****½ d. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki; w. Cornelius Ryan, Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon; ph. Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz; m. Maurice Jarre. Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Richard Todd, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Edmond O’Brien, Gert Frobe, Kenneth More, Red Buttons, Steve Forrest, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Leslie Phillips, George Segal, Peter van Eyck, Stuart Whitman, Frank Finlay, Jack Hedley. The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Like the event itself this is a triumph of logistics in its attempt to recreate the seminal invasion of 6 June 1944. Crisply photographed in black and white this may have its fair share of genre cliches, but its strive for authenticity is admirable. It proved to be the inspiration for a number of similar WWII recreations during the 1960s and 1970s., but none bettered this efficiently marshalled all-star movie. Won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects (Robert MacDonald, Jacques Maumont). Todd was himself in Normandy on D-Day Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. There is also a digitally remastered colourised version of the film. [PG]
Hatari! (1962; USA; Technicolor; 157m) **** d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Henry Mancini. Cast: John Wayne, Hardy Kruger, Elsa Martinelli, Gerard Blain, Red Buttons, Bruce Cabot, Eduard Franz, Michele Girardon, Queenie Leonard, Major Sam Harris. A group of men trap wild animals in Africa and sell them to zoos. Will the arrival of a female wildlife photographer change their ways? Vastly entertaining adventure has no plot and instead asks you to spend two-and-a-half hours in the company of likeable characters doing dangerous work in an exciting location. Hawks taps into his trademark themes of group camaraderie. Whilst the performances are mixed – some of the younger cast are a little wooden – there is much to enjoy in the central performances of Wayne, Martinelli and Buttons. Mancini contributes a catchy score – notably during the “Elephant Walk”. Based on a story by Harry Kurnitz. [U]
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962; USA; B&W; 123m) ****½ d. John Ford; w. James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Cyril J. Mockridge. Cast: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Jeanette Nolan, John Carradine, John Qualen, Ken Murray, Willis Bouchey, Carleton Young, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle. A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed. Ford’s last great Western is dominated by three strong central performances. Wayne represents the old-west values, whilst Stewart stands for the civilisation of law and order. Marvin’s outlaw stands in the middle as the evil which must be dealt with. Meanwhile, Miles must decide whether her heart lies with Wayne or Stewart. Rich in detail with a strong script and boisterous performances from a quality supporting cast and sumptuously shot in black and white by veteran cinematographer Clothier. In 2007, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Based on the story by Dorothy M. Johnson. [U]
Comancheros, The (1961; USA; DeLuxe; 107m) *** d. Michael Curtiz; w. James Edward Grant, Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, Lee Marvin, Bruce Cabot, Nehemiah Persoff, Ina Balin, Michael Ansara, Patrick Wayne, Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Joan O’Brien, Henry Daniell, Richard Devon, Bob Steele, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret, but soon finds himself teamed with his prisoner in an undercover effort to defeat a band of renegade arms merchants and thieves known as Comancheros. Interplay between Wayne and Whitman drives this otherwise routine story. Curtiz adds directorial style and the action scenes are well shot, but other aspects of the story never really get off the ground. Rousing score by Bernstein. The final film directed by Curtiz. On the days when Curtiz was too ill to work, Wayne took over direction of the film. Based on the novel by Paul Wellman. [PG]
North to Alaska (1960; USA; DeLuxe; 122m) *** d. Henry Hathaway; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin, Claude Binyon; ph. Leon Shamroy; m. Lionel Newman. Cast: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Fabian, Ernie Kovacs, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen, Stanley Adams, Frank Faylen, Kermit Maynard, Roy Jenson, Alan Carney. When Wayne and Granger strike gold in Alaska. Granger sends Wayne to Seattle to bring Granger’s fiancé back to Alaska. Very broad Western, driven by high-spirited performances and helped by strong production values and use of locations. Lacks any real depth and its main purpose is as a time filler. Based on the play “Birthday Gift” by Ladislas Fodor and an idea by John H. Kafka. [U]
Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) **** d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]