Movie Diary 8/19/2018

Albert R.N. (aka Break to Freedom, Lewis Gilbert, 1953). POW film, based on a true story, about British officers devising an escape plan during WWII. The stunt involves the creation of a lifelike dummy, who will “march” back from the washroom (a building outside the prison grounds) thus being included in a head-count upon return at the camp; meanwhile, one officer can remain at the washroom and slip away later. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Well-managed POW stuff, with the added touch that the film’s dummy was made by one of the POWs who actually created the real-life mannequin during the war. Cast includes Anthony Steel, Anton Diffring (as a Nazi commandant named Schultz), and William Sylvester – the future Dr. Heywood Floyd in 2001: A Space Odyssey – as an American named Texas.

Who Goes Next? (Maurice Elvey, 1938). Another POW film, but during the First World War. A very unusual structure here: the opening introduces us to the barracks housing a group of British officers, led by the excellent Barry K. Barnes, who pines for his wife back home in London. The men are digging a tunnel. An interesting opening act, at which point the movie shifts its focus for a full half-hour to follow an unrelated officer (Jack Hawkins) as he goes on a fortnight’s leave in London, where he meets and romances the wife (Sophie Stewart) of prisoner Barnes. It may come as no surprise that after his return to the trenches Hawkins is captured and sent to the same POW camp. Where they continue to dig. The movie’s compelling despite the broke-backed shape of the thing. Hawkins is fine as the sort of relentless romantic pursuer we’re supposed to find charming rather than tiresome. Barnes is blithe and amusing (he’d played the title role in the 1937 Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel) but also convincingly forceful when facing down the German captors. His promising career was interrupted for six years during World War II, where he contracted a mysterious illness that affected his later work, and he died in his fifties.

Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski, 2018). A funny and empathetic look at life at a Hooters-style bar, beautifully anchored by Regina Hall’s central performance (but with splendid work by Shayna McHayle [aka the hip hop entity Junglepussy], Haley Lu Richardson, and James LeGros). More than a hint of the Handle with Care-era Jonathan Demme here. (full review 8/24)

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