Jack MacGowran

Age of Consent (1969, Michael Powell)

With Age of Consent, Powell bewilders. His approach to James Mason and Helen Mirren’s dramatic arcs is excellent, but then he includes this terrible comedy material. He’s got a bunch of slapstick in an otherwise very gentle drama.

Mason is a successful artist who feels like a sellout so he runs off to isolate himself and try to figure out why he started painting in the first place. There is a Gauguin mention but it soon becomes clear Powell and Mason aren’t going down that road.

Instead, Mason finds teenager Mirren—living a miserable life on an island paradise—and she inspires him to start caring about his work again.

Both Mason and Mirren are fantastic. Mirren looks youngish but not the age she’s playing (she was twenty-four), which might contribute to Mason not coming off like a dirty old man. But it’s clear he’s excited about the work. Powell fills the art creation with wonderment. It’s amazing.

In those scenes, Peter Sculthorpe’s score adds another layer. Mirren’s never been good at anything until Mason comes along; the music conveys her newfound pride.

Unfortunately, when it’s the comedy stuff involving the idiotic character played by Jack MacGowran, who’s a pest annoying Mason, Age of Consent flops. Then there’s Neva Carr-Glynn as Mirren’s evil grandmother. Carr-Glynn plays it like she’s the Wicked Witch, which hurts the film.

But those elements can’t do too much damage; Powell, Mason and Mirren are too strong.

They even survive the theme song.



Directed by Michael Powell; screenplay by Peter Yeldham, based on the novel by Norman Lindsay; director of photography, Hannes Staudinger; edited by Anthony Buckley; music by Peter Sculthorpe; produced by Powell and James Mason; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring James Mason (Bradley Morahan), Helen Mirren (Cora Ryan), Jack MacGowran (Nat Kelly), Neva Carr-Glynn (Ma Ryan), Andonia Katsaros (Isabel Marley), Michael Boddy (Hendricks), Harold Hopkins (Ted Farrell), Slim DeGrey (Cooley), Frank Thring (Godfrey, the Art Dealer) and Clarissa Kaye-Mason (Meg).

Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959, Eugène Lourié)

I’m not sure the British are really suited for giant monster movies. No offense to the Brits, but watching a bunch of folks stand around and keep the stiff upper lip while radioactive monsters from the deep attack London isn’t too much fun. Behemoth might be unique in the giant monster genre in that respect–it’s more interesting before the giant monster shows up. Once the monster shows up, the film slows down to a crawl–the last ten minutes are grueling. Before, during the investigation, Behemoth at least entertains and the director, Eugène Lourié, has some good composition in the British seaside town and particularly during exposition scenes.

Besides starring Gene Evans, more on him in a second, Behemoth has the distinction of being a complete rip-off of the original Godzilla. I didn’t think the British ripped it off until Gorgo, a few years later, but I stand corrected. Behemoth, the monster, comes from the sea, is a dinosaur, has been effected by radiation, and has fire-breath. Even the fishermen angle resembles Godzilla (Godzilla, however, got that aspect of the story from an actual incident). Behemoth doesn’t follow Godzilla’s story structure, nor does it stick with the one it has in the beginning, following two or three characters, characters who disappear as the monster starts showing up.

Gene Evans was a favorite of Sam Fuller and seeing him play a marine biologist would be fun enough, but seeing him play a marine biologist who’s sure of a giant radioactive monster is even better. André Morell plays Evans’s British counterpart–and, if one wants to read enough into a scene, his lover–and Morell gives Behemoth a certain bit of credibility, but it might just be the accent.

I watched Behemoth because it’s one of King Kong special effects producer Willis H. O’Brien’s last films. The stop-motion work isn’t too good, however, and the best special effects in Behemoth are a couple of the rear screen projection shots. They perfectly mix the foreground and background. Maybe it’s the black and white. The film doesn’t handle the special effects well in its structure either. After it ended, I realized Evans never even sees the monster. At least it’s got me curious again about O’Brien’s work, because it certainly hasn’t gotten me wanting to see anymore of Lourié’s.



Directed by Eugène Lourié; screenplay by Lourie and Daniel James, from a story by Robert Abel and Alan J. Adler; directors of photography, Desmond Davis and Ken Hodges; edited by Lee Doig; music by Edwin Astley; production designer, Lourie; produced by David Diamond and Ted Lloyd; released by Eros Films Ltd.

Starring Gene Evans (Steve Karnes), André Morell (Professor James Bickford), John Turner (John), Leigh Madison (Jean Trevethan) and Jack MacGowran (Dr. Sampson).

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