Short Takes: Two Anti-War Classics

dirk_bogarde_king__countryKing and Country is a dark, brutal, effective attack on war by the exiled American director, Joseph Losey. A shell shocked soldier, one Private Hamp (Tom Courtenay), is put on trial for desertion after he walks away from the brutality and loss of humanity of war. The young soldier has already served three years at the front, witnessing the violent, senseless, inhuman pointlessness of trench warfare. Living in rat-infested conditions, witnessing one atrocity after another, Hamp, after one particular brutal day of warfare, leaves. He wants to go home. Continue reading

Short Takes: War and Prison -Two Views of Man’s Brutality

At first glance these two films would seem to have very little in common. The first was made by an expatriate arty American filmmaker, the second a former actor turned writer/director of little consequence and barely remembered today.

Joseph Losey established himself as a unique filmmaker to watch with his first feature, “The Boy with Green Hair.” He would make four more films before getting caught up in the HUAC witch hunts and decided to leave the country rather than face Joe McCarthy’s inquisition. His first stop was Italy where he made one film before settling in for good in England where by the early 1960’s he began a cycle of films (The Servant, Accident, The Go-Between) that would cement his reputation, especially with a series of works written by playwright Harold Pinter.

Crane Wilbur began his career as a suave, handsome, silent film actor, most famously as Pearl White’s co-star in “The Perils of Pauline” serial. Wilbur also showed a knack for writing and directing becoming a triple threat. By the time the sound era arrived, Wilbur’s acting career was on its last legs; he would spend the remainder of his career behind the screen. As a screenwriter Wilbur wrote or co-wrote such films as “Crime School,” “Alcatraz Island,” “House of Wax,” “Women’s Prison,” “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima,” “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” “He Walked by Night,” Crime Wave,” and “The Phenix City Story.” As a director, Wilbur spent the bulk  of his career in “B” film alley with most of the films largely forgotten today. Best remembered is arguably his next to last directorial effort, “The Bat” starring Vincent Price. Continue reading