Honor Blackman

Suspended Alibi (1956, Alfred Shaughnessy)

Seeing as how I’ve actually written a scholarly paper on the British film industry (not of Suspended Alibi‘s era, but the early silents… and the observations, unfortunately, still hold), it’s sort of nice to be able to put some of the experience to use. As a country, Britain has produced a wealth of fine actors and–in modernity, some great filmmakers–but it’s a shock how awful the British can make films. It’s a question of competence in Alibi‘s case and the utter lack of it in some essential areas.

First, the director. Shaughnessy holds his shots forever, cuts (badly) to atrocious one shots, and makes bad camera moves through the terrible sets. The set decoration, something I almost never notice failing, is terrible. The wallpaper design does not film well on one of the main sets and, as for some of the less used ones, it’s even worse. One of the apartments looks like a hospital room. Amusingly, when they leave the room, there’s a jarring cut as the camera moves to what appears to be a real apartment building hallway. Shaughnessy can’t frame over the shoulder shots and his actors tend to stand around waiting for something to happen–but nothing ever does.

Second, the actor. Patrick Holt has to be one of the worst leading men I can think of (he’s not one of the wealth of British actors). Even though he’s playing an unlikable adulterer, Holt takes it to the next level–the film would have been far better if he’d been murdered instead of his false alibi. The rest of the cast, with some exception, is generally fine. Honor Blackman, as the ludicrously supportive wife, is actually quite good.

The movie opens with a neat trick–Holt’s creeping through the opening credits with a gun drawn only for a curtain to pull and reveal he’s playing cowboy and Indian with his son (in England?)–and I hope a better film stole it because it’s a reasonably deft move. But as far as film noir goes–bad film noir–the incompetent direction disqualifies Suspended Alibi. Even from the label.



Directed by Alfred Shaughnessy; written by Kenneth R. Hayles; director of photography, Peter Hennessy; produced by Robert Dunbar; released by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors.

Starring Patrick Holt (Paul Pearson), Honor Blackman (Lynn Pearson), Valentine Dyall (Inspector Kayes), Naomi Chance (Diana), Lloyd Lamble (Waller), Andrew Keir (Sandy Thorpe), Frederick Piper (Mr. Beamster), Viola Lyel (Mrs. Beamster) and Bryan Coleman (Bill Forrest).

Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)

How can a film, with such a beautiful, awe-inspiring fight scene (Bond and Oddjob), have such terrible editing overall? In fact, how can the technical side be so contradictory… terrible direction from Guy Hamilton on most scenes, but fine or excellent when he’s on set. Terrible editing for most of it, but then the rest of the time, perfect editing. Or the rear screen projection. All the rear screen projection is atrocious, but the second unit photography is inspired. The only non-contradictory production element is the music. John Barry’s score is a masterpiece of effectiveness. The sequences where it overpowers the scenic audio are… they’re amazing. It’s like watching a scored sequence the way it should be.

Oddly, I have nothing but good things to say about Sean Connery too. He plays his role with a smile and a great deal of athleticism. He’s just a lot of fun to watch and he does great with his co-stars, particularly Gert Fröbe and Cec Linder. Fröbe and Linder, besides Harold Sakata’s fantastic performance as Oddjob, are the two best in the supporting cast. Problematically, the romantic interests in the cast leave a lot to be desired… Shirley Eaton is probably the best, with Honor Blackman not doing particularly well, but much better than Tania Mallet, who is awful.

Unfortunately, the movie is unaware of its own silliness (in terms of plot)… but once Bond is done using all his gadgets, it gets real good… starting with a great scene between Connery and Fröbe. That scene, though too short, comes after one of the film’s worst… when Fröbe meets with all the American gangsters (they aren’t called them the Mafia, of course, which makes it both dated and hilarious). That one good scene kicks off the last part of the film, which does very, very well….

And even though the last scene is poorly paced, Goldfinger comes off fine (thanks to Sean Connery of all people, which I find… given his work post-1970, rather amusing).



Directed by Guy Hamilton; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Ted Moore; edited by Peter R. Hunt; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger), Shirley Eaton (Jill Masterson), Tania Mallet (Tilly Masterson), Harold Sakata (Oddjob), Bernard Lee (M), Martin Benson (Martin Solo), Cec Linder (Felix Leiter), Austin Willis (Simmons), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Bill Nagy (Midnight), Michael Mellinger (Kisch), Peter Cranwell (Johnny), Nadja Regin (Bonita), Richard Vernon (Colonel Smithers), Burt Kwouk (Mr. Ling), Desmond Llewelyn (Q) and Mai Ling (Mei-Lei).

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