Tag Archives: Terry Thomas

Alive And Well And Swinging In Copenhagen…

After making “Valley Of The Dolls” in 1967, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski married in London during January 1968 leading Tate to take a short break from work. However, by the summer of that year she had started work on what would be her last film to be released (January 1969 in the UK) before her death – “The Wrecking Crew”.

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HELM2copyDirected by Phil Karlson (“The Silencers”, “Kid Galahad”), “The Wrecking Crew” was the fourth, and ultimately final, movie to feature the character of Matt Helm and was loosely based on the 1960 novel of the same name by author Donald Hamilton.

Nigel Green
Nigel Green

As the film opens we are witnessing the robbery of a billion dollars worth of gold from a train in Denmark by a gang working for Count Massimo Contini (Nigel Green – “Deadlier Than The Male”, “The Ipcress File”), who watches the action unfold on monitors in his château and is intent on causing financial chaos throughout the Western world.

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Contini is aided in his quest by his glamorous sidekick  and lover Linka Karensky (Elke Sommer – “A Shot In The Dark”, “Lisa And The Devil”), who makes her appearance in a quite show stopping dress.

Dean Martin
Dean Martin

Womanising professional photographer and wisecracking agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin – “Ocean’s 11”, “Bandolero!”) is dispatched by his organisation ICE, under direction from the US President, to Copenhagen with 48 hours to retrieve the gold and save the American economy.

Tina Louise
Tina Louise

Arriving at his hotel Matt is invited to the room of Lola Medina (Tina Louise – “The Stepford Wives”, “The Warrior Empress”), a dancer who was Contini’s lover until Karensky arrived on the scene, who claims to have useful information about the robbery of the gold that will help him, but Medina is killed in an explosion.

Sharon Tate & Dean Martin
Sharon Tate & Dean Martin

Freya Carlson (Sharon Tate – “Don’t Make Waves”, “Valley Of The Dolls”) , a seemingly inept worker from the Danish tourist bureau, is provided to Matt to help him by arranging a photographic shoot at Contini’s château as cover for his investigations. Freya wears glasses and thus Matt fails to see her beauty despite his fondness for chasing the fairer sex.

Nancy Kwan
Nancy Kwan

At the château it becomes apparent that Contini is on to them so Matt and Freya make a hasty exit and find themselves pursued by a variety of characters, including Yu-Rang (Nancy Kwan – “The Peking Medallion”, “Wonder Women”), and others of Contini’s hired hands.

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Karensky then invites Matt to her room, claiming that she wants to enter into a partnership with him and get out away from Contini. Their head-to-head is interrupted by Freya’s arrival leading to Matt leaving Karensky with the promise that she has a deal and should call him.

Sharon Tate  Dean Martin
Sharon Tate & Dean Martin

Returning to his hotel, Matt finds Freya has shed her glasses and slipped into a slinky white mini-dress for what is, for me, the best scene of the whole movie as Freya dances slowly around the room whilst handing Matt and cigarette and drink – all for no apparent reason!

John Larch
John Larch

Matt’s boss MacDonald (John Larch – “Dirty Harry”, “The Amityville Horror”) arrives at the hotel and informs a disbelieving Matt that Freya is actually a highly trained British agent.

Sharon Tate & Nancy Kwan
Sharon Tate & Nancy Kwan

From there on in Matt and Freya contend with a number of scenarios involving Yu-Rang, Karensky and Contini in his quest to retrieve the gold for ICE…

Dean Martin
Dean Martin

There was supposed to have been a fifth Matt Helm movie, indeed as with the James Bond films this one ends with the announcement of the title of the next film (“The Ravagers”) during the end credits, but it was cancelled after Dean Martin pulled out.

thirteen-chairs-posterSharon Tate, meanwhile, went on to film “The Thirteen Chairs” (otherwise known as “12 + 1”) with Orson Welles and Terry-Thomas in early 1969, shortly after becoming pregnant. That film is seemingly more or less impossible to find these days, with the exception of an Italian language version on YouTube, unfortunately. Tate was murdered, only weeks before she was due to give birth, before that film’s release.

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate

In truth, Martin was getting a little long in the tooth for the role of Matt Helm by this point, but plays things with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Tate, however, was great, showed promise on the comedy front and managed to upstage Sommer completely (despite the latter’s variety of plunging dresses) with her performance in the second half of the movie.

Explosion
Explosion

Ultimately this film is a light-hearted spy caper. It’s full of gentle humour, action, hip and swinging 60s music, gadgets, explosions and hot chicks.

Highly recommended!

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Bring The Little Woman… Maybe She’ll Die Laughing!

Today I watched a fabulous film from 1965, written by George Axelrod (“Bus Stop”, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”). Directed by Richard Quine (“Bell Book And Candle”, “The Prisoner Of Zenda”) the movie is called “How To Murder Your Wife”.

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Terry-Thomas
Terry-Thomas

The film begins with a piece to camera from Charles Firbank (Terry-Thomas – “School For Scoundrels”, “The Vault Of Horror”) who introduces himself as Mr. Ford’s manservant and takes the viewer on a tour of Mr. Ford’s New York townhouse, all the while explaining how Mr. Ford enjoys a happy and successful life as a result of not making the mistake of getting married!

Jack Lemmon
Jack Lemmon

Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon – “Some Like It Hot”, “The April Fools”) is a cartoonist who produces the very popular Bash Brannigan secret agent comic strip. He acts out the storylines, using actors and various gadgets, playing the lead role himself and using Charles to photograph the action for him to use as the basis of his drawings. This he does for realism as he “wouldn’t ask Bash to do anything that (he) hadn’t done first”.

Tobey Rawlins
Tobey Rawlins

Stanley goes to a bachelor party for his friend Tobey Rawlins (Max Showalter – “Niagara”, “10”). The downbeat affair comes to life when Tobey announces, to load cheering from all the men present, that his fiancée has decided not to marry him after all. Cue lots of drink flowing and a beautiful blonde woman appearing from inside a massive cake.

Virna Lisi
Virna Lisi

Stanley wakes the next morning with a hangover and discovers the girl from the cake asleep naked in his bed. When she wakes he finds that, on the plus side she is happy and very affectionate, but also that she is Italian and cannot speak English and, worst of all, that she is now his wife, Mrs. Ford (Virna Lisi – “Arabella”, “The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No”).

Eddie Mayehoff
Eddie Mayehoff

Charles is horrified but placated when Stanley assures him that Mrs. Ford (who is never actually given a first name!) will be on a plane to Las Vegas by the afternoon. Having met with his friend and lawyer Harold Lampson (Eddie Mayehoff – “Artists And Models”, “That’s My Boy”) he realises that he is unable to divorce his new bride.

Virna Lisi & Claire Trevor
Virna Lisi & Claire Trevor

Harold’s overbearing wife Edna (Claire Trevor – “Farewell My Lovely”, “Key Largo”), who speaks Italian, takes Mrs. Ford under her wing and before he knows what’s going on Charles finds himself accepting deliveries of clothes and groceries purchased by Mrs. Ford who also takes over the kitchen.

Jack Lemmon & Terry-Thomas
Jack Lemmon & Terry-Thomas

Charles quits and goes to work for Stanley’s friend Tobey, and Stanley changes his comic strip to be about the domestic life of The Brannigans – which is even more successful than Bash had been.

Jack Lemmon & Virna Lisi
Jack Lemmon & Virna Lisi

However, it’s not long before Stanley finds his home being overrun with his wife’s cosmetics, drying stockings, etc., Mrs. Ford sleeping in her pyjamas with curlers in her hair, the TV on when he’s trying to sleep so she can learn English, and her checking up on him when he’s at “the club” – resulting in his expulsion. Frustrated, he decides that she has to go – at least as far as Bash Brannigan and the comic strip is concerned.

Jack Lemmon & Shop Dummy
Jack Lemmon & Shop Dummy

Seeking advice from a doctor and various others, Stanley concocts a plan for Bash to drug his wife and bury her in the neighbouring construction site so that he can resume his life as a secret agent. Stanley puts the plan into action during a party at his home, using his wife and a shop dummy as part of the action that he has again enlisted Charles to photograph.

Bash Brannigan Comic Strip
Bash Brannigan Comic Strip

When Mrs. Ford finds Stanley asleep at his drawing board and sees what he has drawn she realises that she isn’t wanted and disappears without a trace. When the comic strip showing Bash killing his wife appears people believe that Stanley must have killed Mrs. Ford in that way because he always does first what he then draws Bash doing…

I found this to be a very funny movie. Yes, it’s not remotely politically correct (PC) in this day and age and doesn’t portray any of the women in the film in a very positive light. However, I for one think that society has become too PC these days and that there’s nothing wrong with the humour in this film – especially when taking into account the very end of the story…

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Below The Crypt Lies Death’s Waiting Room…

Yesterday I caught another in the series of horror anthology films from Amicus Productions. Released in 1973, “The Vault Of Horror” was directed by Roy Ward Baker (“Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde”, “Asylum”.

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Unlike other films in the series, such as “The House That Dripped Blood” or “From Beyond The Grave”, there is no separate character linking the individual stories presented here.

The Lift
The Lift

As the film starts we watch five men entering a lift one by one, on different floors, as it descends through a block of flats in London. They find themselves in the sub-basement which is furnished and appears to be some kind of gentlemen’s club. When they discover that there are no buttons to summon the lift back and no other exit the five decide to sit down and have a drink. The conversation turns to dreams, with each taking their turn to describe the others a recurring nightmare that they suffer from.

Daniel Massey
Daniel Massey

The first, titled “Midnight Mess”, is described by Harold (Daniel Massey – “The Cat And The Canary”, “Scandal”) who dreams of himself hiring a private detective to track down his estranged sister Donna (Anna Massey – “Peeping Tom”, “Frenzy”) following their father’s death.

Anna Massey
Anna Massey

When he arrives at the town in which she lives a local warns him to get inside before it gets dark as that’s when “they come out”. Getting no reply at Donna’s house, he goes to a nearby restaurant for dinner only to find it closing as it’s starting to get dark.

Returning to Donna’s, Harold murders her because their father’s inheritance had been left solely to her. Finding that the restaurant has re-opened, even though it’s now dark, he returns there for a meal to find it full of “them”…

The second story, “The Neat Job”, is told by Arthur (Terry-Thomas – “School For Scoundrels”, “How To Murder Your Wife”) who is obsessively neat and organised. There is a place for everything in his home and everything in its place. Now, I am sometimes accused of having OCD when it comes to organising things but Arthur puts things into perspective!

Glynis Johns Terry-Thomas
Glynis Johns & Terry-Thomas

When he marries young trophy wife Eleanor (Glynis Johns – “Under Milk Wood”, “Mary Poppins”) he is exasperated when she rearranges things and fails to follow his exacting instructions.

Matters come to a head, literally, when Arthur loses his temper and shouts “can’t you do anything neatly? can’t you?” repeatedly at Eleanor – leading her to take drastic action…

Curd Jürgens
Curd Jürgens

“This Trick’ll Kill You” is the third tale. Sebastian (Curd Jürgens – “The Spy Who Loved Me”, “Goldengirl”) is a professional magician holidaying in India with his wife and on the lookout for new tricks to add to their routine.

Jasmina Hilton
Jasmina Hilton

He happens to see a girl (Jasmina Hilton – “Emmerdale”) performing a rope trick but is unable to persuade her to tell him how it works. He invites her to his hotel room to show the trick to his wife Inez (Dawn Addams – “The Vampire Lovers”) by pretending his wife is ill, but once there the couple murder the girl to steal the rope. However, they find that the rope isn’t about to co-operate…

Michael Craig
Michael Craig

Story four is “Bargain In Death”. Horror story writer Maitland (Michael Craig – “Lola”, “Payroll”) and a friend have devised an insurance scam that will see Maitland taking a drug that makes him appear to be dead. All that will then remain is for his friend to dig him out of his grave and they can claim the insurance payout.

Edward Judd
Edward Judd

Maitland’s friend Alex (Edward Judd – “The Day The Earth Caught Fire”, “First Men In The Moon”) decides to double cross him and leave him to his fate in his coffin, claiming the cash all for himself.

Geoffrey Davies & Robin Nedwell
Geoffrey Davies & Robin Nedwell

However, two trainee doctors – Tom (Robin Nedwell – “Doctor In Charge”) and Jerry (Geoffrey Davies – “Doctor In Charge”) are on the lookout for recently deceased bodies to practice on and pay the gravedigger to dig up Maitland’s grave. They all get more than they bargained on…

Tom Baker
Tom Baker

The final tale is called “Drawn And Quartered”. An artist, Moore (Tom Baker “Dr. Who”, “The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad”) is living in poverty in Haiti when he discovers that some of his work – that he was told was worthless – has been sold in London for high prices.

Moore visits a local voodoo priest and pays the priest to give him voodoo powers through his painting.

Terence Alexander
Terence Alexander

Returning to London, Moore visits the dealer, art critic and agent who he feels cheated by – Gaskill (John Witty – “Voodoo Blood Death”), Breedley (Terence Alexander – “Bergerac”, “The Day Of The Jackal”) and Diltant (Denholm Elliott – “Trading Places”, “The House That Dripped Blood”) – and tells them that he will have his revenge.

Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott

Moore paints portraits of the three and then damages the paintings in such a way as the subject will suffer the same fate. However, when he starts to lose his breath he realises that he must take his self-portrait from within the safe he stored it in. Having done so he suddenly remembers he left his watch in the Diltant’s office and sets off to retrieve it, leaving his self-portrait seemingly safe in his studio…

I particularly enjoyed stories two and five. Terry-Thomas is fabulous as the uptight and exasperated neat freak, whilst Tom Baker, complete with wild hair and beard, is great fun as the wronged artist.

Overall I felt that this was one of the better films in the Amicus anthology series…

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How To Win Without Actually Cheating!

Caught an old black and white film on the BBC this weekend that I hadn’t seen before – the 1960 comedy “School For Scoundrels” which was directed by Robert Hamer (“Kind Hearts And Coronets”).

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Potter
Stephen Potter – The Theory And Practice…

The film was based on the humorous 1947 book “The Theory And Practice Of Gamesmanship : The Art Of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating”, showing how poor players would be able to beat better ones through the use of subtle psychological ploys. It was the first of a series of such books written by Stephen Potter, and  seems to have given the term “gamesmanship” to the world at large.

Ian Carmichael
Ian Carmichael

In the film, which in its innocence and gentleness is more in tune with British comedies of the 1950s than would become the norm in the 1960s, we find nice guy Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael – “The Lady Vanishes”, “From Beyond The Grave”) having a hard time.

Edward Chapman & Ian Carmichael
Edward Chapman & Ian Carmichael

Palfrey isn’t a natural winner in life or love. In business, he runs a business that he has inherited from his uncle but is dominated by one of his employees, long-serving clerk Gloatbridge (Edward Chapman – “A Stitch In Time”, “The Bulldog Breed”).

Janette Scott & Terry-Thomas
Janette Scott & Terry-Thomas

In love he struggles to impress April Smith (Janette Scott – “The Day Of The Triffids”, “Paranoiac”) and finds himself being overshadowed by a fellow member of his tennis club Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas – “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”, “Danger : Diabolik”) with his smooth ways and fancy sports car.

Dennis Price & Peter Jones
Dennis Price & Peter Jones

Attempting to compete with Delauney, Palfrey finds himself taken for a ride by car salesmen Dunstan (Dennis Price – “Twins Of Evil”, “What A Carve Up!”) and Dudley (Peter Jones – “Carry On England”, “Blue Murder At St. Trinian’s”).

Alastair Sim
Alastair Sim

Thoroughly fed up, Palfrey enrols at the College of Lifemanship in Yeovil, run by Dr. Potter (Alastair Sim – “The Belles Of St. Trinian’s”, “The Green Man”). Potter aims to help his students become winners instead of losers, and to that aim runs classes in, amongst other such things, “Partymanship”, “Woomanship” and “Gamesmanship”.

Ian Carmichael & Alastair Sim
Ian Carmichael & Alastair Sim

Palfrey passes his course with flying colours and then, with Potter acting as his mentor, sets out to redress the balance in his favour with those at whose hands he suffered in the earlier exchanges – leading ultimately to using his new skills in “woomanship” on April.

Will Delauney be defeated? Will April succumb to Palfrey’s new-found techniques?…

Ian Carmichael, Janette Scott & Terry-Thomas
Ian Carmichael, Janette Scott & Terry-Thomas

I thought this was a great comedy film. There’s little of the innuendo of the original “St. Trinian’s” series and none of the so-called smut to be found in the “Carry On…” series (both of which are series of which I have great affection).

Alastair Sim
Alastair Sim

I also loved the end where Potter breaks the fourth wall to address to viewer directly – and implores the orchestra to “cease that fearful din!”.

The characters are, by and large, stereotypes, and arguably the film is rooted in an era when women were perhaps not allowed, or certainly not expected, to express much of an opinion and were something to be fought over by men and would meekly go along with the outcome – but ultimately it’s a funny and entertaining film and very watchable…

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Get Groomed And Dangerous

“Mortdecai” is a 2015 action comedy film, directed by David Koepp (“Stir Of Echoes”, “Secret Window”.

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Kyril Bonfiglioli
Kyril Bonfiglioli “Don’t Point That Thing At Me”

English author Kyril Bonfiglioli (1928-1985) wrote a trilogy of books around the character of Charlie Mortdecai, beginning with 1973’s “Don’t Point That Thing At Me”, which provides the source material for this movie.

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp – “The Tourist”, “The Rum Diary”) is a somewhat eccentric art dealer who, following in the footsteps of all the previous generations of Mortdecai men, has decided to cultivate a distinctive curly mustache.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp

Unfortunately for him, his wife Lady Johanna Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow – “Iron Man”, “Contagion”) is thoroughly repulsed by his facial adornment and far more concerned by the state of the couple’s finances, as they are heavily in debt to the British Government to the tune of £8 million.

Gwyneth Paltrow & Ewan McGregor
Gwyneth Paltrow & Ewan McGregor

Mortdecai is tasked with tracking down a stolen Goya painting by MI5 man Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor – “Son Of A Gun”, “Perfect Sense”) in exchange for a 10% commission.

Paul Bettany & Johnny Depp
Paul Bettany & Johnny Depp

Together with his manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany – “Transcendence”, “Creation”) Mortdecai sets off around the globe from London to Moscow and then to Los Angeles in pursuit  of the stolen artwork, leaving the love-struck Martland to fawn after Lady Mortdecai.

Along the way there are Russian thugs, Hong Kong gangsters, art smugglers, Nazi gold and Swiss bank accounts and the sale of a precious Rolls-Royce thrown into the mix.

Johnny Depp & Olivia Munn
Johnny Depp & Olivia Munn

The trail leads to the Los Angeles estate of Milton Krampf (Jeff Goldblum – “Jurassic Park”, “Morning Glory”) where Mortdecai encounters Krampf’s seemingly nymphomanic daughter Georgina (Olivia Munn – “Deliver Us From Evil”).

This movie has been absolutely trashed by critics and reviewers alike, but I must say that my family and I very much enjoyed it.

Sure, the acting – particularly from the Terry Thomas-like Depp – is hammy and over the top, and some of the comedy is simple and unreconstructed – but hey, regardless of what the PC brigade may say I still enjoy the old “Carry On…” films, “St. Trinian’s”, Peter Sellers’ “Pink Panther” films etc., so maybe I’m just too common and old fashioned to understand what “should” be funny these days?

For an uncomplicated, entertaining and amusing film you could do much worse than check this one out…

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