Sunday, 17 June 2012

Kidding Mr Hitler

An eye-patched Burt Lancaster leads his weary squad to make a stand in a sumptuous, art stuffed medieval castle in the slightly surreal, almost mythical Castle Keep. With the Germans approaching their position the soldiers try to make the most of the brief hiatus by luxuriating in their new found home and the local town's well stocked brothel while their Captain finds himself in bed with the Count's young wife. There's plenty of comedy in the script but it's subsumed in a pathos, a melancholy not just from the war but a semideranged sorrow for the passage of time so when the inevitable conflict arrives the violence and death seems almost welcomed. A fine looking film with some excellent performances, presumably neglected for it's more ambitious intentions.

The Passage, on the other hand, uses it's WW2 setting & talented cast to unfurl a lurid, action packed chase film with little more ambition than popcorn entertainment. Anthony Quinn stars a grumpy Basque shepherd who agrees to escort a scientist, played by James Mason, and his family over the Pyrenees while being chased by a thoroughly insane SS officer. In fact it's Malcolm McDowell's hyperbolic, super camp portrayal of the Nazi antagonist that makes the film, the other performances are fine but with a mediocre script & formulaic plot without McDowell romping about in a swastika jockstrap or a chef's hat this wouldn't be worth a second glance.

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