Saturday, August 6, 2011
Studio: A Universal Picture
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer
Source Material: A novel entitled Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur Le Bern
Running Time: 111 minutes
Saturday 6th August, 2:30pm
The penultimate film! Isn't this exciting!?
This morning, I finally got around to writing up Topaz. It was even harder because it had been a week since I had watched it and it's not particularly memorable, so I did cut some corners a bit. Frankly, who cares? It's not like students worldwide are using this blog as a study guide or anything.
While I am thinking about it, I must mention that I have checked the statistics to see who reads this blog, where they are from and how they search for it. It seems a lot of visitors are from the U.S.A. and one of the most read pages is for Juno and the Paycock. Are people just Googling rude words and stumbling across my page? I hope not...
Anyway, back to today.
I had been out this morning shopping with a friend; I bought some birthday presents for another friend and ordered some decent footwear in preparation for my trip to the U.K. at the end of the year (I needed something smart yet durable) and had a lovely time. However, I was actually eager to get home to watch this movie in the afternoon as it is a favourite of mine. So very Seventies, but so wonderfully brilliant.
It was a little bitter-sweet to watch after the recent passing of the wonderful Anna Massey. She was a superb actress.
I had a large mug of Yorkshire Gold tea and a small bar of Dairy Milk chocolate. Lovely... lovely...
Richard "Dickie" Blaney - Jon Finch
Robert "Bob" Rusk - Barry Foster
Brenda Blaney - Barbara Leigh-Hunt
Babs Milligan - Anna Massey
Chief Inspector Tim Oxford - Alec McCowen
Hetty Porter - Billie Whitelaw
Johnny Porter - Clive Swift
Felix Forsythe - Bernard Cribbins
Sergeant Spearman - Michael Bates
An M.P. named Sir George is speaking his rhetoric to a fascinated crowd alongside the Thames. He is talking about the abolition of industrial waste into London's rivers and how he'll bring an end to pollution. His speech is interrupted by the sight of a naked female corpse floating down the river with only a tie around her neck.
It's another necktie murder...
Richard "Dickie" Blaney works at The Globe pub in Covent Garden with his girlfriend Babs. He is an ex RAF squadron leader who has found it difficult to find decent work. His boss, Felix Forsythe catches him supping the brandy once too often and is about to fire him. Blaney quits instead and says he'll pick up his belongings later.
Dickie goes to see his mate Bob Rusk at the Covent Garden market who offers him so money, but Dickie refuses. Instead, Bob gives him a tip on the afternoon's horse-race. He can't afford to bet on it and, sadly, it wins - twenty to one. This exacerbates Dickie's already tense mood.
He then goes to see his ex wife at her office. She runs a dating agency, helping lonely people find companionship. Her secretary, Monica Baring, is not particularly welcoming to Dickie as she can sense his aggression.
Brenda agrees to see Dickie but due to his rather terse temper, she suggests Monica takes off early. Brenda offers to take Dickie to her club for dinner - on her!
He agrees but his frustrations flare up once again and he makes rather a scene at dinner. He seems to think the world has something against him.
That night, he has to sleep at the Salvation Army, but he discovers that his ex-wife has sneakily left £50 in his pockets.
The next day, at lunch, a "Mr Robinson" turns up at the bureau whilst Monica is on lunch. It is really Bob Rusk. He is complaining that her bureau won't find him a girl for his perverted ways. She tries to call the police when he gets aggressive.
He tackles her and rapes her, uttering the word 'lovely' over and over again as she recite s prayer to herself. Then he removes his monogrammed tie-pin from his tie, places it into his lapel and uses his tie to strangle the life out of her.
He leaves casually. Seconds later, Dickie arrives to thank Brenda for the cash. The office door is locked on the latch, so he turns and leaves. Monica returns from lunch and sees Dickie leave. She goes upstairs to the office and discovers the lifeless body of her employer.
Dickie calls Babs at the Globe pub and tells her to meet him at Leicester Square at 4pm. Meanwhile, Monica is giving the police a very detailed description of Mr Blaney.
The police find no money in her purse, but some face powder loose - they think it is possible that any stolen money would have traces of the powder on it.
Babs picks up Dickie and they go to the Coburg Hotel. She is surprised he can afford it, but accepts he has somehow got this money and they book into 'The Cupid Room', paying in advance for the night - Dickie asks the porter to get his suit cleaned as it smells from the night he spent at the Salvation Army.
The nest morning, the papers are full of articles about the latest murder. The porter recognises the description of the suit he cleaned and calls the police. However, Babs and Dickie have also seen the newspapers that morning and have fled.
In a nearby park, Dickie professes his innocence to Babs and she believes him. An old RAF buddy named Johnny Porter finds them in the park and tells them both to come up to his apartment. His wife, Hetty, is up in arms as she believes Dickie is guilty and has fears about him staying with them. Hetty and Johnny are planning on opening a pub in Paris called The Bulldog and suggests they both come and work for him. They plan to travel the following day.
Meanwhile, at New Scotland Yard, they have discovered that the ten pound note that Dickie paid the hotel with had traces of the face powder from Brenda's purse.
Felix Forsythe calls them and says that Babs has not turned up for work and has left her belongings behind - he fears for her life.
Back at The Globe, Bob Rusk is chatting to the potato merchant named Jim. Babs turns up and quits her job, telling Felix where he can stuff it. She storms out and Bob follows her. He offers her a place to stay and they go back to his apartment. As they enter, he says to her; "You're my kind of woman"...
Later that night, he bundles her corpse in a potato sack and tosses it onto one of Jim's lorries destined for a long trip that night. He returns to his flat to relax but suddenly panics when he realises his tie-pin is missing - it must still be on her person. He dashes back down to the truck and climbs aboard, searching for the right sack. The truck is boarded by its driver and starts on its journey with Bob on board. He rips open the right sack and struggles to pull the naked corpse out of the potatoes. He finds the pin stuck in her right fist. Rigor mortis has set in and he has to break her fingers to get it free.
The truck pulls over at a café where Bob gets out and hides in the toilets until the truck leaves again. He returns to the café to freshen up.
The truck is on its journey again, but the police notice the foot of the corpse sticking out the back. They chase the truck and when he brakes suddenly, the body falls into the road.
The next morning, Hetty is desperate for Dickie to leave their apartment now that babs is dead. Dickie is horrified and Johnny realises that his plans to open a new pub will go out of the window if the police know he's harboured a criminal, despite the fact that they could provide an alibi for him. Dickie leaves in frustration and heads to whom he believes is his only friend - Bob Rusk.
Bob offers to help and suggests they go back to his apartment separately. He takes Dickie's bag for him. Once both at the flat, Bob leaves Dickie alone and calls the police who turn up, find Dickie's bag which now have Babs' belongings in and they arrest him.
In court, Dickie is found guilty and is thrown in prison for a minimum of 25 years. As Dickie is sent down he screams that it was Rusk who did it.
Once the commotion is all over, the Chief Inspector is beginning to put the pieces into place.
He gets a photo of Rusk and shows it to Monica Barling who recognises him as "Mr Robinson" and his distasteful needs, wanting women who were sexual masochists.
Oxford also hears from Sergeant Spearman who investigated the café where a waitress also identifies Rusk as a dishevelled man who was there on the night of the murder who used a clothes brush to dust off his jacket. The brush still had traces of potato dust. It seems they sent the wrong man to jail after all.
Meanwhile, Dickie, mad on revenge, throws himself down the stairs in jail and ends up in hospital. He escapes from there and heads to Bob's flat. Armed with a tyre iron, he creeps into the building and beats the body under the bed covers, only to discover another dead woman. Chief Inspector Oxford catches him in the act, but moments later, they both hear Rusk returning to his rooms, lugging a large trunk up the stairs.
Bob enters. He sees Dickie and then he sees the Inspector.
The Inspector simply says; "Mr rusk. You're not wearing your tie!"
So many. Here are a few:
Sir George: (on seeing the naked woman with a tie around her neck) "I say, it's not my club tie, is it?"
Two gentlemen are talking about the murders in a pub, bringing Maisie the barmaid into their conversation:
Man #1: "We were just talking about the murderer, Maisie. You'd better watch out!"
Maisie: "He rapes 'em first, doesn't he?"
Man #1: "Yes, I believe he does."
Man #2: "Well I suppose it's nice to know every cloud has a silver lining."
Man #2: (on murders in London) "They're so good for the tourist trade!"
Chief Inspector Oxford: (to Felix regarding Babs not returning for her belongings) "These days, ladies abandon their honour far more readily than their clothes."
Chief Inspector Oxford: "Sergeant Spearman, you are positively glutinous with self-approbation!"
The screenplay was written by Anthony Shaffer, the playwright behind Sleuth. He's brilliant. His dialogue is deliciously dark and witty.
The rape scene is one of the most horrific scenes in any Hitchcock film ever. It is so intense and it just highlights the vile and putrid act, summing up the aggression of the sick man and the vulnerability of the innocent woman. It's not pleasant to watch, but by god, it's effective. Terrifying.
The shot where Babs is murdered and the camera backs slowly down the stairs away from Bob's flat is lauded as an iconic piece of Hitchcockian direction, and with good reason too. We don't need to see the horror of the rape, but the slow retraction from the crime highlighting our helplessness to prevent the hideous result is gripping to the core. Superb stuff.
As you know, I have watched all of Hitch's films now and there is only one scene in his entire catalogue that I find it extremely difficult to watch and that is the breaking of Babs' fingers in the potato truck. I have to turn away every time. It is gruesome, macabre and I am pathetically squeamish about it. Isn't that odd!?
The inspector and his wife have a couple of amusing scenes where she dishes up a load of "gourmet" meals whilst asking him about the crimes and giving her own thoughts about who may be guilty. These scenes are played for comedy and they are a jovial treat in a darker landscape. Her intuition could rival Miss Marple's... but probably not her cuisine.
Great cast, terrific direction, superb scenes. Hitch's last great film. 10/10