by FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART
ON the day of writing, I heard "Twenty Questions" discuss the revitalising of the British film industry. After some debate on whether an increase in quality or quantity was the main need, Edward di Cann called for an increase in the number of films to which it is possible for a man to take his wife and family without embarrassment.
Because I am sure this is what the majority of people want, I find it depressing once more to reproach the year's new films with a continuance of so-called permissiveness.
One of the new pictures, Rancho Deluxe ("X", Continentale) is a highly entertaining Western of the contemporary "send-up" school (of "Blazing Saddles" or "Westworld"). But its "X" certificate excludes the non-grown-up members of the family, In my opinion the film need never have incurred its "X" if it had exercised a little discretion.
Instead, one or two scenes of excessively lusty sex are introduced with no apparent purpose other than to invite the supposed attraction of an "X" certificate, but with the undoubted effect of putting the picture beyond the pale of ordinary family filmgoers who would otherwise enjoy it.
Basically it is a satire of familiar Montana "Big Sky" country, where two rustlers (Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston) provoke the vengeance of a rich and hearty local ranchowner, John Brown (Clifton James) by shooting a steer. The rustlers barter the steer's carcase for rent and a gun, but battle is joined between rancher Brown's pursuit of rustlers on the one hand, and on the other, the rustlers' pursuit of girls and kidnapping of Brown's prize hull in order to ransom it hack to him.
Rustlers_scour the country in expensive cars and the mood is that of quainter American rusticana. For those who don't mind leaving the family behind it is undoubtedly very funny indeed. But what a pity! Spaghetti Westerns have become a byword for the crudest of imitations. Now a Spanish-Italian film, The Counsellor ("X", Warner 3), suggests a spaghetti-paella remote offspring of "The Godfather".
This godson, Thomas Accardo (Tomas Milian) operates in San Francisco where he is released from gaol after serving two years. His efforts to leave
"The Family" are temporarily condoned by his "godfather", Don Antonio (Martin Balsam), but eventually expose both to the internecine warfare of the Mafia and force both back to Sicily for the sort-out.
The Press is being given a foretaste of what I hoped would prove a refreshingly original season. This is a series of "Seven Keys" productions from "The American Film Theatre", to be called here "The British Film Theatre". The change is fair enough, since the first seven of these modern theatre classics have British casts and will be shown in March at a London cinema (not yet named).
We have seen occasionally such film records of great stage performances, such as that of Katharine Ilepburn and Laurence Olivier in "Love Among the Ruins" shown at last year's London Film Festival. They tend to be film records, rather than film versions of the stage productions. Even so, they could be valuable assets, especially for audiences outside London.
Unfortunately to judge by the first two of the seven, these films too are liable to invite "X– certificates, and to overlook the family audience.
Essentially, they are photographed stage plays and the photographed stage play has a had name in the cinema, principally because of the different pacing of theatre and cinema.
This series, however, is very specially photographed. Peter Hall who directed the film of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming" (as he did the National Theatre production) and Harold Pinter, who directed Simon Gray's "Butley," both have wide experience of each medium.
The brilliant casts of both will give people who, like myself, did not see the stage originals, opportunity to judge them at their best.
Just what the public outside London will make of these metropolitan triumphs I cannot tell. Personally I found Pinter's "The Homecoming" too detestable to enjoy the performances even of Cyril Cusack, Ian Holm, Paul Rogers and Vivien Merchante; but Simon Gray's "Butley," though largely objectionable, altogether brilliant, especially as played by Alan Bates and Jessica Tandy,
I still hope some of the other Seven Keys pictures — including "Luther", "Galileo", "A Delicate Balance" — may he as clever and less embarrassing,