by Freda Bruce Lockhart
A YEAR is open-ended and looks different from either end. For film critics it is the season for completing a list of the ten or other arbitrary or convenient number of outstanding movies.
Coming to the end of 1966. I had an impression of looking back on a pretty depressing year of fewer and nastier pictures. Take it from the beginning, chronologically, and it seems a year of quite remarkable riches to judge from my first quick tally of as many as 20 pictures worth remembering or catching if missed.
At the end of this article I shall give my list of the dozen or so I feel must not be forgotten. But first there is a surprise end-of-the-year package in the Hayley Mills-John Mills Christmas attraction which can probably claim to be the only family film to rate an "X" certificate.
Written by Bill Naughton from his own play, "All in Good Time" and produced and directed by John and Roy Boulting, The Family Way (-X", Warner) has many of the proven flavours of British popular success.
The background and setting have a distinct air of "Coronation Street''. though in a soft, pink brick Bolton. The working-class home in the industrial North which was so fashionable in 1965 makes a revival with a number of old favourite performers, the housing shortage as a topical problem, and —a fairly new subject in the British cinema at least—the difficulties of a young marriage trying to start off in the parental home.
The young couple are Arthur (Hywel Bennett) and Jenny (Hayley Mills). The parents of the groom, the Fittons, are stock enough types, but John Mills and Marjorie Rhodes make them ring true. And there's a not-to-be-forgotten brother of the groom played by Murray Head with all the easy young charm the groom is at such desperate efforts to unchain in himself.
Besides all the terrible embarrassments of over-proximity. neighbourly curiosity and paternal male vanity, the young couple are frustrated from the start when their honeymoon travel agency lets them down and lands them
back in the bed next door to Dad's snores.
It takes a little time for the bride's mother (Avril Angers) to learn that the marriage has not been consummated; then none at all for the whole neighbourhood to become passionately involved in the outconic
Of course there are moments of strain, over-emphasis and of embarrassment over the par. ticular British coyness over sex which causes half the trouble. But there is a great deal more of the basic. unmistakable heart of gold on which we so pride ourselves, and which should ensure this touching, funny. beautifully acted family film a comfortably rapturous reception. Now for the outstanding pictures of a year too often thought of as far gone in the cinema's decadence. I apologise for the number of "X's" even here.
Balthazar "A": Robert Bresson's grave and beautiful film about a donkey.
The Quiller Memorandum "A": Ivan Foxwell's classical spy thriller which came late in a year sated with spies and finished first.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold "A": Best of the rest of the espionage films.
Where the Spies Are "A": Most enjoyable of the spoofspy-stuff, thanks to David Niven.
Lady L "A": Almost top romantic nonsense with snob appeal, immensely to be enjoyed for stylish performances of David Niven again and Sophia Loren.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf "X": Notably successful screen version of the sensational stage success.
I Was Happy Here "A": Soft, sad Irish charm by the Edna O'Brien, Desmond Davis writer-director partnership.
Khartoum "U": Splendid British epic with fine performance by Charlton Heston as Gordon.
La Guerre est Fink "X": Alain Resnais' characteristically complex, fascinating reflection on recollections of the Spanish Civil War from 29 years after.
Torn Curtain "A": Hitchcock's sally into East Berlin. The Wrong Box "U": Bryan Forbes' black comedy in colour, after Stevenson. Not my picture but too clever to be missed.
The Round-Up "X": Brilliant though forbidding Hungarian picture of prison methods in nineteenth century Hungary.
For best performances I suggest: Sophia Loren in "Lady L", Elizabeth Taylor in "Virginia Woolf", Lynn Redgrave in "Georgy Girl", Sally Miles in "I Was Happy Here".
And for the men: George Segal in "The Quiller Memorandum" and "King Rat", Richard Burton in "Virginia Woolf" and "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold", Charlton Heston in "Khartoum", David Niven in "Lady I "