Thursday, February 28, 2008


Okay, what’s all the rave?
Sorry, I mean, if you have a pre-teen daughter, what’s all the rave?
High School Musical 2.
We’d just got over the sensation of version one when version two was announced. And even while that was in the works (it came out just before we went to England last year) HSM1 was turning itself into an onstage show, an onstage ice show and who knows what else. And was doing the world tour. (We came across it in Italy, for example.)
The marketers have gone mad, of course, and everything and its brother is covered with HSM guff, from bedding to cellphones, from shoes to schoolbags, from rubbish to more rubbish. As it always goes, since Walt Disney found that he could make more money out of his Mouse out of the movies than in.
Now don’t get me wrong: I actually enjoy the two musicals. Let me qualify that. I think the songs are twee and fluffy, some of the acting isn’t above the level of the script, but the dancing is topnotch. HSM1 and 2 (and Hairspray, as I mentioned the other day) have restored dancing to the big screen. Good on them!

Stephen de Pledge Pieces

Stephen de Pledge premiered a NZ piano ‘work’ at his concert in the 2008 New Zealand International Arts Festival. The work consists of 12 piano pieces by New Zealand composers, including Ross Harris, Michael Norris, Samuel Holloway, Jenny McLeod, Dylan Lardelli, Eve de Castro Robinson, John Psathas, Jack Body and Gareth Farr. Half of the pieces had been played before in other circumstances; for the rest it was a true premiere. For the work as a whole it was a world premiere.
Each piece is in response to ‘landscape’ and of course the responses vary enormously. They sound like the sorts of pieces I’d like to get my fingers on (literally) but I know that they’ll have virtuoso difficulties which I don’t think I’ve got the energy any more to tackle.
There’s a good and detailed review of the concert by Robbie Ellis on scoop, though we could probably have done without the rather snide comments at the end about someone unwrapping a lozenge at a snail’s pace during the concert. That sort of addition to a review does nothing for the reviewer; rather it makes him sound pompous.
Robbie is least satisfied with Jack Body’s piece, which, with its accompanying track of Body himself chauntering on, seemed out of place with the rest of the purely piano items. Robbie allows Body his humour – “an utterly charming and piquant jaunt of whimsy” – but you get the impression he didn’t feel it worked as well as the other pices.
On the SOUNZ site they say about Body’s piece: ‘Jack Body's The Street Where I Live, was sublimely humorous. A fellow composer was heard to affectionately remark afterwards that he thought "Jack had out-Satied Satie!"”
I doubt that, but then I’m not a Body fan. (He’s in the same category, as far as I’m concerned, as my old nemesis, Lilburn: the much over-rated category.) ‘Sublimely humorous?’ Sublimely overstated.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Homeless Family blog

Here’s the link to the blog about the ladder rack and the missing father. You may make more sense of it than I did!
I’ve just checked the last post on the blog – last as in finished. The blog was written for a certain time and is now done with. It ended in January this year.
The homeless family aspect wasn’t a joke; the blogger writes in his last post:
My name is John,
2004 homeless with family
2005 diagnosed Bipolar and began treatment, still in shelter
2006 got out of shelter
2007 continued stability. Started professional blogging. Kept advocating through some hard harassment locally by the 'Downtown Vigilante' and his 'posse'.
2008 elected to the Board of Directors of the Lead Agency in Jacksonville that spreads the money to the homeless service providers.

It goes to show you can write about anything – and it can be of value – in the great wide world of Blog. Furthermore, there are a heap more comments on this blog than I ever get on any of mine!

Ladder racks and chess

It’s not every day you’d find a blog that claims the lack of a ladder rack was what lost the writer his father.
It’s a bit of a confusing post, but somehow in it there’s something deep – as its sole commentator notes. Apparently the blogger had tracked down his long-lost father after some time only to discover that he carried all his work gear in the back of his red pickemup (an interesting word I haven’t come across before, although when you break it down into its component parts – pick em up – it makes perfect sense) and this caused scratching and damage to the truck bed.
Quite how he got from there to losing his father again, I’m not clear. But it seems it all hinges on the ladder rack.
My loss of my father hinged on the game called chess. (Bit of a far cry from ladder racks, but there you go; each to his own.) If chess hadn’t been his master, instead of him being its master, he and I might have had a number of good years together. But some obsessions take hold of you, and chess came before family, in my father’s case. I haven’t seen him for sixty years – admittedly he died back in the early sixties, so I wouldn’t have seen him for all those years anyway, but that’s not the point.
Ladder racks and chess. Life is always made up of little choices.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The troubles of life

Since shrinking shirts (as opposed to shrinking violets) keeps coming up on my HitTail search results all the time, I thought I’d have another look at what’s out there on the topic.
Google picked up a site called Threadless Nude No More (Google seems to have a bit of a thing about nudity and nakedness) and coincidentally, when I checked out what a threadless t-shirt was, I came across one that had been sold recently on Trade Me, a site I’d spent a good deal of the afternoon on (between sorting out the house still). They sell t-shirts too, and advertise them thus: Don't trade naked, buy a Trade Me t-shirt!
See what I mean about nakedness? You can't get away from it.
The Trade Me seller wrote: This is one of the collection of threadless t shirts. Threadless is an organisation where artists submit their artwork to be printed on t shirts. Each t shirt has its own name and an idea behind it. this one is called "in the event of a playground" and is printed on a blue t shirt. T shirts made in USA
Anyway, the original TNMM site is also a social site, where people discuss things (mostly related to their threadless tees, I think). Under the heading, Shrinking Shirt, Alex Tong, whose user name is secondfate, asked: “I want a Threadless shirt, but they only have it in Men's Large.
If I put it through the wash @ warm, and dry it, would it be feasible for it to shrink to a Mens Small?
Advisable? no? yes?”
Not surprisingly, Alex got some very odd responses, but the general consensus seemed to be that it would better for him to tone up his body for three months and then he’d fit the shirt. Seems a rather drastic approach, and Alex was of the same opinion. Firstly, being Asian he was naturally small, and secondly, if he did build up his body in order to fit this particular Threadless, he’d then be too big for his billion other shirts.
Ah, the troubles of life.

That's Alex in the photo - he actually seems to be a bit of a shrinking violet, if the picture is anything to go by.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Vantage Point

There’s something really annoying about downloading a YouTube video, at least as far as doing it on my computer is concerned. The initial download stops and starts, the sound is often just behind the action, and in general you have to go off and make a cup of tea while it gets its act together.
It’s taken me three attempts to download it, and I get about half a second at a time. So I’m writing this while I’m waiting for it to finish the job. Then maybe I’ll be able to watch it as it ought to be watched. Instead of in bits.
Anyway, the trailer I’m trying to get at is for Vantage Point, a film that’s been mentioned twice today in emails that arrived in my inbox, and which is obviously one of those action-packed pieces that barely stops long enough for you to get your breath.
James Berardinelli (whom I regard, in general, as being an astute critic) said the film ‘fails the “reality test”, but maintains a certain intensity for its entire running length.” Someone else compares it to watching the tv show 24. (That’s always a bit of an endurance test, especially if you’ve missed an episode!)
Anyway, I’ve now picked up the full trailer and it goes like a bat out of hell. Dennis Quaid, an actor I like to see in movies (he always comes across with integrity) is in the lead, by the look of things, and the premise is pretty basic: eight people see eight different aspects of the assassination of the President, and the pieces have to be joined together. Looks fast and furious, with car chases, crashes and lots of explosions. Bet it’s noisy too!
Forest Whitaker is also in it, and the lead actor from that very strange series, Lost (the one in which the scriptwriters appear to be the most lost people of all). Bruce McGill, who used to be MacGyver’s occasional offsider many moons ago, turns up again in a McGill-type role (they’re thick on the ground), and William Hurt plays William Hurt with his usual elegance.

Update on Gareth Farr

Some updates on Gareth Farr (whom I’m listening to at present on my CD player).

1. He’s currently the resident composer of the Auckland Philharmonia, which is kind of being like the Poet Laureate of a country, but on a smaller scale. As a result of being RC for the AP, he wrote a fanfare for their annual al fresco concert, the Mazda Summer Matinee. (Not sure how the Mazda people got in there, but no doubt they have a good reason.) The orchestra’s chief executive, Barbara Glaser, said the fanfare is ‘”so bright and vibrant. Gareth understands just what the spirit of a fanfare is. It has all the excitement and rhythmic touches that we love about him.”
Sounds like Gareth all right. Excitement and rhythm are second nature to him.

2. As well as writing a fanfare, Farr arranged a couple of songs written by the NZ pop group, Evermore. Evermore performed these with full orchestral backing. Gareth was quoted as saying, “Orchestras are such dramatically wonderful ensembles.” He should know; that’s certainly how he writes for them. The orchestra was also playing some of its more regular repertoire: Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. Wonder how those three would feel being alongside Evermore? And I wonder which of the four will be heard evermore?

3. In a report from, someone wrote about the Te Papa Museum’s 10th birthday: “Other highlights throughout the day include the reprisal [sic] of Gareth Farr's composition Te Papa performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.”
Now some listeners might think Gareth’s music is a reprisal for their view that he’s too modern, or too loud, or too everything, but I suspect that the writer actually meant ‘reprise,’ which means that the piece is being played again, in this instance in the same place where it was first performed, and by the same orchestra that played on that occasion.

Rudyard Kipling

C S Lewis discussing Rudyard Kipling and his writing, makes this observation:

If all men stood talking of their rights before they went up a mast or down a sewer or stoked a furnace or joined an army, we should all perish; nor while they talked of their rights would they learn to do these things. And I think we must agree with Kipling that the man preoccupied with his own rights is not only a disastrous, but a very unlovely object; indeed, one of the worst mischiefs we do by treating a man unjustly is that we force him to be thus preoccupied.
But if so, then it is all the more important that men should in fact be treated with justice. If we all need ‘licking into shape’ and if, while undergoing the process, we must not guard our rights, then it is all the more important that someone else should guard them for us.

From They Asked for a Paper, a collection of various papers produced by Lewis over the years. This address was given to the English Association.

As always, Lewis discusses the subject with intensity and ease, with insight and detail, and, as always, he manages to produce some clear statements of his own that stand outside the subject.


In a rather oddly titled article from the Telegraph online, Opera loosens its Corsets, (the article's a couple of years old), I was intrigued to discover that the Carl Rosa company was back in existence. Carl Rosa would have been delighted, I’m sure.
I have tenuous links with the Carl Rosa company – second or third-hand, some might say. When I was at the London Opera Centre, the director was James Robertson, and he’d had real links with the company; he’d conducted for them for some time. It had obviously been an enjoyable time of his life, and he would mention Carl Rosa (by which he meant the company rather than the person) with warmth and enthusiasm.
The revived Carl Rosa is the brainchild (lovechild, you might almost say) of Peter Molloy, who delights in operetta, and has offered excellent and fresh productions of some of the G & S repertoire (they’re just about to take The Mikado off to the States) as well as other light opera pieces.
The company, in its original form, was the first to produce England or in the English tongue the following list of top operatic works: Lohengrin, Aida, Carmen, La Boheme, Cavalleria Rusticana, Hansel and Gretel, Mignon, Manon, Tannhauser, Rienzi, Andrea Chenier, Othello and The Flying Dutchman. Quite an achievement.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hail the Conquering Hero

I remember reading one of Preston Sturges’ scripts when I was in my teens. Even though in those days films were much more talky than they are now, I was struck by the long dialogue scenes that pervaded the script.
This was just one of the features of Sturges’ movies. There was never anything much in the way of camera trickery – the camera caught what it needed to and that was that. There was little innovation in cinematic terms. There was often little ‘action’, by which I mean people driving around in cars or on riding horses.
But there was always plenty of dialogue, witty, smart dialogue that was often an inch or two ahead of your ear, and that you only caught up on as the next witticism was arriving. It was always played in an off-hand manner, as though to be witty and articulate was the norm for everyone. And then there were the characters: Sturges never provided a basic few characters. He wrote his screenplays for dozens of sharply edged individuals, from the leads to the tiniest bit-players. No one in his films can be said to be uninteresting; there are so many interesting people that you have a job keeping up with them all, and you almost wonder why some of them are made interesting!
Take the homecoming scene in Hail the Conquering Hero, a film I’ve just caught up with some sixty years after it was made. We have a ‘hero’ who’s far less handsome than his rival; a self-centred mayor whose wife isn’t in the least put down by his rudeness, and his laconic campaign manager; we have someone who’s only role seems to be to organise things – and they invariably get way beyond his capabilities; we have an opera singer wanting to sing in seven flats, a key the band can’t play in; we have at least three adult bandleaders and a confident youthful one (and four bands); we have a little girl who presents the flowers; we have the mayors’ rivals, each one an individual; we have six Marines, from the bombastic sergeant to the mother-loving Bugsy, and the four between. Each person is drawn full of life, even though some only appear in a single scene.
In the opening sequence, four waiters sing behind a woman in a bar; each one of them is a person, one of them forever being just a bit hidden, and another, the smallest one, having to catch up with the others every time they move. And then there’s the maitre d’, who has a short sequence of lines with the sergeant. He’s as funny as anything in the movie, but this is the only time he appears. Three characters who appear in the last part of the movie – the ticket lady, the train conductor and the telegraph man – maybe have a minute of screen time between them, yet they’re just as memorable as the rest of the cast.
It’s partly to do with the actors Sturges cast in his movies, and with his ability to rouse them to life in a fraction of screen time. The actors plainly enjoy their roles and their dialogue; it’s the sort of dialogue most actors would die for these days.
As for the film itself, well, it’s apparently not top of the list in terms of Sturges’ small output (he only directed twelve movies), but there’s plenty to enjoy about the script and story. Yes, it has two or three patriotic moments, but it was made during the war, and real people were out there dying. I don’t think the patriotic moments are badly handled anyway, and Eddie Bracken’s (he of the mishapen face) final speech is both dramatic and patriotic at the same time – and moving.
Perhaps the weakest link – if there is one – is Ella Raines. She acts in the style of the heroine of that time, and that’s okay. But I don’t think she has much more than surface to give anyway. And she doesn’t exactly light up the screen.
Dear Miss Raines apart, this is a great movie, a wonderful palliative to the often vapid movies made these days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


We watched Hairspray last night as a change from moving the furniture around the house in preparation for the carpet-layers - who came today.
I’d heard that Hairspray wasn’t up to much and that people didn’t like Travolta in drag. I’m not sure that I was overstruck by his performance in this movie, but he carries it off pretty well, and gets some enjoyment out of sending himself up in the role.
The rest of the cast have an equally enjoyable time in what is a very upbeat movie. And there’s dancing, dancing of the calibre you don’t often see in a Hollywood musical these days. Actually you don’t see too many Hollywood musicals anymore, if it comes to that.
I miss musicals. They were the mainstay of my cinema-going in my childhood. It was the peak of the film musical period, and I’ve been saddened by the fact that so few musicals have been produced since the 70s. Why this should be, I have no idea. Someone in the marketing department got the idea that young people wouldn’t go to musicals, and that was that. Out they went.
Anyway, back to Hairspray, which apparently has been filmed before. Can’t say it passed my way, but in 1988 I may not have been going to too many movies, having a bunch of kids at home.
The film has a bunch of stars at its centre, from Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken to Queen Latifah and Zac Efron (better known as Mr High School Musical. But it’s Nikki Blonsky, who comes way down the cast list on IMDB, who carries the film. There can’t be many roles for short and solid girls, especially leads in a musical. But here she is, and she gives it everything she’s got. The rest of the cast orbit round her, but just when you think one of them is going to take over, up pops Nikki again. She’s a delight.
Zac Efron plays a bit of a wimpy role, which is a pity, because he’s got talent coming out of his ears, and needs a role with a bit more bite. It can’t be said that either of his High School Musical parts have given him much to do – apart from the singing and dancing.
The cast apart, the film is full of visual delights: not an opportunity is lost to play up the fun of crazy hairstyles and clothes, garish colours and skinny women. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and can see me sitting with my granddaughter watching it over and over.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lilburn and Delius

Landfall in Unknown Seas, by Douglas Lilburn, has just been played on the radio yet again – this time with Sir Edmund Hillary doing the reciting of the poem (and not very well either, it must be admitted).
In spite of its ‘popularity’ this is an unexciting piece of music. The format doesn’t help much, with a person reading the poetry of Allen Curnow interspersed with string ‘interpretations’ of what’s just been read. Somehow it never takes off. The poetry is fine enough, but Lilburn’s music never rises to the occasion. In fact, it tends to flatten things out. As always, Lilburn fails to come up with anything except his usual chordal movement stuff, and after a while that gets tedious. It reminds me of Delius’ music, whose wandering compositions wax and wane in popularity. They never seem to have any purpose; they’re reflective, which is fine in music, but that’s all. Delius seems to have no other mood.
Lilburn has occasional moments in his compositions, moments when he finally seems to break out of the mode of the mind and into emotion. But he seems to hold back far more often than he lets loose, and in a composer that’s not a good trait, I don’t feel. Without some sense of passion, even if it’s only below the surface, music becomes a mere mood, and in Lilburn’s case it’s not a very interesting mood.


My attitude to rain has changed since I moved to Suffolk. Certainly, I used to understand rain as a good thing. I didn’t have the townees’ hatred of rain: a thing expressed time and again by the great Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, for whom rain is final proof of the indifference of God to his own suffering. MacGowan has written of Rain Street, that it’s just another bloody rainy day, and that it was raining worse than anything that he had ever seen.
But me, I used to see the rain and say, well, I accept that it is a Good Thing. A pity it’s doing it now, but I accept it. But I left all that behind when I reached Suffolk. My water is pumped up from a well; I have a bit of river on my few acres; I have pasture. I need the grass, I need the rain, or my horses will suffer. And so when it rains, I respond not with my mind but my guts: rain, how truly fabulous. It is an extraordinary adjustment, a new way of seeing the world. Water doesn’t come from a tap: it comes from the sky. My water is wild.

From chapter 42 of How to be Wild, by Simon Barnes.

I'm reading this book at the moment, on and off. It's the sort of book that keeps coming back to the same refrain, and there's no 'plot' so picking it up when you feel like it isn't going to lose you anything. But it is a wondrous refrain to the wonder of the wild world around us - not the wilds of Africa (although that's here too) but the wilds of Suffolk or your back yard.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Artist's Room

I’ve just found that The Artist’s Room, the gallery on the corner of Dowling St, in Dunedin, has its own website. Of course, that’s just as you’d expect these days, but it hadn’t occurred to me to check it out before. The only thing I don’t like about the site is that a lot of the background is black with white print. Hard on the eyes, I say.
However, the quality of the art displayed on the Artists’ page (one artist in the title, plenty of artists on the page) is superb. I went in there the other day and found that the owner, Michelle (don’t know her other name) was beginning to set up the next exhibition. It’s works by Neil Driver, whose realism is a delight to the eye. I happened to say to Michelle that his work reminded me of Steve Harris, who’d long ago gone to Australia to make his fortune (and has). She enthusiastically agreed – enthusiastically, because she happened to be emailing him there and then! Very serendipitical.
Steve Harris’ work has a dark quality to it, whereas Driver’s seems more full of light. You always feel with Harris as though something odd is just out of sight.
His work is great. I got to know it when he used to bring his young daughter to the daycare centre I was running, back in the late seventies. Harris had an unassuming quality about him, but is an artist of terrific strength.
No doubt his daughter is now getting on for thirty, which seems strange, since I last saw her when she was just a nipper.
Michelle has sold some of Harris’ work from The Artist’s Room, even though most of his painting gets snapped up in Oz. She has some more of it coming for a realismo exhibition that’s happening in late March. I’ll definitely be going down to see it.

I almost forgot to mention: the bookshop I used to run was formerly situated beside the gallery’s premises. In fact, I used to climb the stairs that now lead to the gallery to go to the loo (!) [Sometime I must write about that building. It had character.] The door you can just see in the photo with the round window above it was where the shop was. It now has a restaurant in it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Goin' Dancin'

Another article I’ve published recently on the Net relates to my dancing experiences – when I say ‘my’ dancing experiences, I mean dancing with my wife. We went to a course in what we thought was ballroom dancing several years ago and discovered that they not only taught ballroom dancing but square dancing. And both forms of dancing were the ‘called’ type, where someone calls out the next move as you go. It’s very common in fact, but we’d never come across it before. We actually enjoyed it a lot, until it just became too time-consuming. It was great exercise, and both of us got quite fit doing it. We even travelled to a few other centres to join in square dancing conventions with other people.
However, those who were really into it would travel to Australia and the States and Canada and all sorts of places to join others who danced. And people would come to us too. That sort of thing was rather beyond our pocket and our amount of annual leave.
It’s time we got back into something along those lines again, as we’re both feeling distinctly unfit (in spite of all the work we’ve done on the house recently in terms of getting ready for carpet laying) and need something that gets us up and running.

Nope, that's not us in the photo: though we occasionally came close to such finesse. The photo's by catface3.

Flying Boats

I’ve just posted an article on about flying boats. To be honest, it’s an article I’ve had on my files for a long time. Several years ago I did a lot of research on the subject and was keen to get the thing published, but could never quite find the right home for it. Anyway, this version of it now has a home and that’s satisfying enough for the moment.
My mother had a lot of interest in flying boats. If my memory serves me right, she flew to Australia in one, around 1939. One of her old scrapbooks has pictures from the local newspaper showing flying boats landing here in Dunedin harbour, something that’s rather hard to imagine now.
I always liked the idea of those great ships of the air and their luxurious, roomy cabins; the fact that you could sleep onboard if you wanted to, in proper beds, and that you’d be waited on by proper stewards, and fed at real tables.
Having been in a few planes over the last six months or more, most of which were unutterably cramped and unpleasant, it’s nice to dream of what it would be like in a classy flying boat.
I see that you can get a DVD of British RAF seaplanes and flying boats on one of the NZ sites. I’m almost tempted to check it out further!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Back to HitTail

It’s rather a while since I last checked out HitTail, and that means that there’s a swag of searches listed which have connected up to this blog in some way or other. A few of them are downright strange, for example:

Crowls Land Investment (wasn’t aware we had any land to invest)
Money order not it [sic] my name
Coffin maker carpenter twentieth century Russian Chinese
Loss of little toe evolution
Eat cheese itch on fingers (urrgh)
Slouching towards serfdom
Don’t use Triond cause it is an Israeli company (scary - who finds that a problem?)
Country line dance water man Crowl (obscure)
How the Indians use to right in leather (use to what?)
I was in an Oxycise infomercial

A number of keywords turn up in some form over and over:

Couples San Souci
Men’s engagement rings
Insects in compost
Brother of the More Famous Jack (in one instance, the Less Famous)
Distressed oatmeal
John Foulds’ World Requiem
Alfred Hitchcock
The Marriage quote from Shall We Dance
Singing in the Rain
The movie, Bandidas, (particularly the horses)

Which all rather seems to indicate that I must be writing about some things that other people find interesting!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Double Hitchcock

Amongst all our house renovations, I’ve managed to watch two elderly Hitchcocks, after finding them on DVD in The Warehouse. The first was definitely the better of the two, though it had its hammy moments; the second (which even Hitchcock didn’t regard highly) is so hammy and badly acted that you wonder why he let them get away with it.
Sabotage, the first of the two, is full of wonderful detail and energy, marvellous London characters, and an effective performance from Oskar Homolka. Sylvia Sydney is good in the early part, when she’s lively and bright, but she doesn’t seem to do well in the latter half of the movie, when she’s required to be much more emotional. John Loder was second choice for the male lead, and is adequate, but doesn’t exhibit much charm. Desmond Tester plays the young boy as a person full of beans and liveliness. He was actually 17 at the time the movie was made, but you’re never aware of his being much older than his character. (I don’t know what happened to him as an actor. He made a bunch of movies up until 1940, one more in 1947 and then nothing more until 1874. Seems he might have moved to Australia - he died in Sydney in 2002 at the ripe old age of 83 – because he appears in more than one Aussie movie after that time.)
[Should have checked Wikipedia first: there's a reasonably full bio of Tester there.]
The other movie, Number 17, is low on the list of Hitchcock favourites, perhaps with good reason. It’s either a complete spoof or a ham-fisted piece of rubbish, and since Hitchcock wasn’t much into ham-fisted work, even when he wasn’t enjoying making a particular film, we can only conclude that he plays his producers for suckers and produces a piece of nonsense.
It’s full of shadows playing around on walls, and strange empty rooms and enigmatic characters. Though based on a hugely popular play, Hitchcock has done such a re-treatment of it that little of the original survives. The main actor, Leon Lion, who was completely associated with the role of Ben on stage, reappears here, and it’s well known that Hitchcock detested his constant mugging and overacting. Between him and John Stuart, in the opening scenes, the acting is taken at a snail’s pace, with every gesture and reaction overdone. You have to wonder what Hitchcock thought he was doing.
Things heat up a bit with the addition of more characters, and there is some humour in it, but it’s hard to believe Mr and Mrs Hitchcock and Rodney Ackland really spent several months on the script. It makes no sense, and is full of stuff that couldn’t have been got away with on stage. By the time we get to the end, with its crazy train ride, a bus trailing it all the way, and the enormous crash onto the waiting ferry, things have reached the theatre of the absurd. Admittedly, Hitchcock intercuts models and real action and other special effects in a marvellous way; it’s just a pity it’s all for so little dramatic effect.