February 22, 2006

MUST SEES; THE IMAGE (A.K.A THE PUNISHMENT OF ANNE) (1975) REVIEW 5


This was a complex review to write as it was difficult to identify such words of praise for this underrated masterpiece; I have only felt similar passion for ‘The Wicker Man’. I first came across this feature film round a movie enthusiasts shop and thought it looked interesting but didn’t buy it. After reading further review and about the challenging subject matter it sounded too intriguing to deprive a look.

I purchased the DVD on recommendation and review and it was the one of the most powerfully erotic viewing experiences I had seen since The Wicker Mans’ birthday suit jig and some of the Guccione sequences in the uncut version of ‘Caligula’ which, is possibly the nearest thing we get to witnessing the real Roman events no matter how crudely executed.


THE PLOT


Based on the renowned literary classic ‘L’image’ by Jean De Berg ( male non de plume for female Catherine Robbe-Grillett) ‘The Image’ is a psychological , emotional odyssey of sadomasochism.

Exquisitely crafted and breathtakingly shot the film focuses on a trio of characters who meet at a party for the first time. Author Carl finds himself initiated into the world of dominatrix Clair and her willing cohort Anne.


The film is sumptuously photographed featuring some of Paris’ finest features whilst juxtaposing this with the darker side of sexuality and no holds barred carnal study.

CRITIC

Radley Metzgers' 'The Image' (a.k.a Punishment of Anne) has direction, plot and cinematography so well orchestrated it will leave you breathless.

This very-faithful celluloid adaptation, focuses on three main characters Anne (Mary Mendum - in her debut movie role, jumping from stage to screen as she had appeared in the controversial ‘nude hippy’ musical 'Hair'). Anne has an angelic like innocence but as we venture further along the duration we discover this is a mere façade to her true character.

Clair (Marilyn Roberts) - is Anne’s older lover/sparring partner/ dominatrix, she appears the dominant one in the relationship. Clair is superbly played with grace, sophistication and pure unbridled sexual dominance. In some of the movies 'erotically charged' moments, the looks she gives the two others is worth a thousand words. This proved to me that an excellent actress doesn't always need to be vocal to communicate with the audience, and her fellow thesps in the movie. There is a unique connectivity between all three leads; this makes the voyeur, feel so privileged to be allowed into their alien-psychological domain.

Jean (Carl Parker) - is the handsome outsider novelist who is drawn to Anne’s beauty and also the 'alien' world of Sado-Masochist etiquette. Despite a small bit of misogyny we witness an intriguing performance by Parker who can also be spotted in Metzgers other take-on-taboo 'Score' (1972). Score was one of the first films to deal, openly and adultly, with bisexuality another ‘alien’ world to most cinema goers at the time. As achieved with ‘The Image’ good taste is never thrown in the bin for cheap mucky sensation.

The three protagonists embark on an odyssey of sexual awakening and we are privy to this, we witness this powerful transformation and how the three become so entwined and involved with their 'games' that the rest of the world shifts out of focus. As the minutes tick by so we near the superb twist at the end of the film, a twist of desperation and changing personas of the weak becoming the strongest and vice-versa.

I feel a lot to do with this is the chemistry between the three leads, the intensity shared can only be glimpsed in the film world on rare occasion, when you realise the actors are not just portraying a role, they are in fact living that role. Definite praise should be given to the person used to cast the leads; they accomplished a result with distinction.

It seemed as though whilst the film progresses you never lose the 'hooked' sensation due to the movie unfolding at an ideal tempo. What Metzger has achieved; is taking something often thought, by some, as a dark, repellent act of sexuality into a thoroughly rewarding exercise displaying the brutality of beauty. By witnessing this lifestyle we become more 'educated', providing a better understanding of the subject matter. Roughies (name used for a type of ‘rape porn’ popular in the early to mid 1970’s) were available for over a decade before this film was made.

They often sublimated sexual impulse amid gore, rape and claustrophobic dread; Metzger refrains from such crudities. Here we are in the world of the Nouveau Rich, the educated, the sophisticated and the bohemian liberal, surrounded with finery from modern Europe.

Although ‘The Image’ will not supply all the answers of S & M comprehension, it covers a great deal of common ground, without confusing the novice nor patronising the initiated.

For those of us who still have the outdated 1950's attitude of sex and sexuality, I would avoid this movie and perhaps your time could better be used going to church or therapy?

It would be a total injustice to this film to class it anywhere in the 'Pornography' bracket, yes it is graphic in detail but this is a necessity that only current French directors have utilised. If the action calls for hardcore segments - why should it not feature such? Is it better sometimes to show things as they really are than fluffing it up in order to pamper the bleeding heart brigade that offer ignorance and Victorian naivety as reason for fuss? Why should a minority be pandered to so realism and cinema verite is sweetened to almost saccharin moralism? You be the judge learned reader.


What we can see on display is psychological drama, ravishing visuals; impeccable witticism and the fundamental coupling of some of the most erotically charged pieces of sensualism ever committed to the screen. Beautifully weaved around our central characters, the web is an ingeniously accomplished piece of storytelling clashing cymbals of brutalism and beauty together without off balancing.

No this is not a bump n’ grind robotic show that dear pornography has evolved into or a collage of hirsute bodies writhing on technicoloured mattresses that we fondly remember. It is fathoms above anything so blandly orchestrated in contemporary pornography and less earthily vulgar from pornographies infancy til the end of its golden age. Therefore I conclude this to be way ahead of it’s time.

Attention to detail is never spared, the sophisticated culture of
Paris, my personal favourite city, adds to the sheer decadence, which one can simply revel in. I recently went to Paris and as well as feeling part of a city not just a tourist, I felt ‘the vibe’ that Metzger immortalised in his film. Even in the interior of Clare’s apartment we can see the usage of S & M colour (predominantly black and red) that strikes such a chord visually without venturing into anything tacky or vulgar.

I feel it is only the notoriety of this film that has kept this movie from being solicited out to the masses (a good thing or bad thing. I am undecided?).

The soundtrack is another feature worth noting, a classic 'porn wha-wha' sound fused with funk and classical grooves attend to every changing action. I was fortunate to obtain the DVD so as well as an absolutely pristine print there is an audio only option. To comprehend how the composer utilised this score for the varied situations and understand the way they enhance the mise-en-scene is a real revelation as well as being a joy to listen too.

I would imagine that there would have been such a fine line to tread whilst making such a movie between taste and down right smut. Not once did I feel the accomplished director step over this line, or if he ever did, due to the films stunning cinematography I guess I failed to notice.

I would urge anyone who is interested in film to give this a once over, whether your penchant for S & M is strong or not. It provides a visual delicacy for all audiences (with a liberal mind!) and a fascination from the very first minute to the very last frame.

TWO OUTSTANDING MOMENTS FOR ME ( OUT OF SEVERAL)

1. The food sequence in the restaurant . Very witty, very ‘Ai No Corrida’, classic stuff .

2. The flower gardens at Bagatelle; stunning piece of filming – inspirational and extremely daring.



The Film; The Image (a.k.a The Punishment of Anne / The Mistress and the Slave)

The Year; 1975

Directed by; Radley Metzger

The Country; USA (locational exterior shooting in Paris, Interior shot New York and Long Island)

The Music; Stock Music (Unknown)

Available on DVD from ‘Synapse Films’. Region 1 only,




February 19, 2006

THE QUATERMASS EVOLUTION

It wasn’t exclusively down to the 1960’s and 70’s that produced all the genre gems. There can be some real gems previously, as far back as the 1950’s.

The first popular appeal programme first reached British Shores as far back as 1953 with ‘The Quatermass Experiment’. It was penned by the highly talented Nigel Kneale.

Kneale scripted some absolute gems for the BBC, ‘The Stone Tapes’ and ‘The Road’ could be classed as exemplary examples of their time. What Kneale was well skilled at achieving without confusement and general mess was blending portions of the occult ‘ghost story’ with science – fiction which often lead to a jaw dropping twist.

I always seem to be pleased overall with Nigel Kneale adaptations and very rarely if never seem short changed.

Unfortunately some of Kneales stories for the seminal science fiction anthology series ‘Out of the Unknown’ (1965 – 1971), have mercilessly been wiped due to the purge and junking of important television milestones in the 1970’s. From various recollection accounts and television historian reports there seemed to have been a few corkers that no longer exist some were penned by Kneale.

Quatermass was the first craze to sweep Britain over a decade before Dalekmania, week by week they tuned in to witness what thrill would happen next as Professor Bernard Quatermass, played by Reginald Tate, thwarted Martian threat and cold war paranoia.

Quatermass and His Frantic Beginnings

Kneale began working at the BBC in the early 1950’s. Due to a gap in the schedules Kneale was recommended and asked if he could pen a quick-fix. This fortunate error enabled Kneale to pen the very first Quatermass instalment ‘The Quatermass Experiment’. Kneale professes to have found the wonderfully ‘powerful/unearthly’ surname from a London telephone book.


The series steamed ahead in popularity as well as production as Kneale was penning the concluding two episodes whilst 1-4 were being broadcast.

In the first tale, Professor Bernard Quatermass has to oversee the welfare of an astronaut recently returned to Earth. The astronaut is mutating into ‘something’ and whatever it is it isn't remotely humanoid. The climatic ending had the poor astronaut turn into a mammoth organic life form that gets its come-uppance at Westminster Abbey.


The creature itself was nothing more than a pair of gloves covered in all sorts of twig and twines that when seen works effectively well. The ending was a little bit of a let down as I expected something much more elaborate but hey it’s 1953 BBC , so considering the limitations of the studio I think all involved done very , very well.

Quatermass Goes From Living Room to National Stardom

So thought the public as knock-out audience share consequently guaranteed two follow up tales in the 1950’s, Quatermass II (1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1957) John Robinson headlined in the former whilst Andre Morrell headlined the latter. In the late 1970’s Quatermass IV; the Final Conclusion with John Mills rounded off this superb quartet rather messily I recall with Prof. Q being atomised or blown up or something. So much so he will never return in fresh adventure.

Despite the first two having whole chunks wiped courtesy of the BBC or simply no recording facilitation was available to preserve the live performance; we can glimpse the missing chunks courtesy of Hammer Films. The trilogy also won over audiences too and provided some genuinely uneasy moments. As part of Hammers publicity the ‘X’ in ‘Experiment’ was enlarged to emphasise the ‘adult nature’ of the movie. This hit the British Screens in 1955, QII 1957 and QPit finished on a Technicolor apocalyptic high in 1967.


Despite Kneale being ousted out of having anything to do with the productions (which is why there is such a long delay tween the second and third movie, Kneale when asked if Hammer could have his consent for ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ to be filmed he told them a flat no!) I feel these abridged preservations are rather nifty little representations of what is now photo, script and memory recollection.


Another Kneale casualty of the mass wiping / non preservation was’ The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas’ in 1955; this was remade into a movie by Hammer in 1957 as just ‘The Abominable Snowman’.

Admittedly we can see that the movies are predominantly aimed at the Yanks. In order to pretty the package stateside Brian Donlevy was requested for the role of Quatermass in the first two. The Quatermass Experiment was re-titled ‘The Creeping Unknown’ and Quatermass II the glib ‘Enemy from Space’. Although his portrayal is watchable one cannot help but noticing how ‘dull’ it was. There was some sort of character but not as memorable as he could have been I feel. Donlevys’ uncaring demeanour can be glimpsed periodically; allegedly Donlevy didn’t really want the part but took it anyway and had a slight drinking problem at the time too.

He did take the second opportunity to play the part in my personal favourite of the trilogy, Quatermass II, this really seems to hype up the menace and it’s quintessentially English pubs and attitudes adds to a wonderfully ‘cosy’ tone; only to be blown right out of the water when we discover that synthetic food is in fact Martian radioactive mud.

There are some startling sequences in both the BBC and the big screen versions, real nightmare inducing stuff too, especially when one of Quatermass’ assistants gets contaminated by the toxic goo-gas and staggers down the industrial steps, steaming. He screams in pain as the mud burns into his flesh as any caustic substance would burn into the skin. Death visits an industrial nightmare. Kneales skill is withholding the gore without ruining the shock. These Armageddon visions, nods to cold war paranoia, are most nightmarish but so chillingly accomplished.

Quatermass Wraps Up

Finally after a decades absence Quatermass returned in ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ this time Kneale wrote the screenplay and took the little screen to huge, polychromatic proportions. The title was changed for U.S export as ‘Five Million Miles to Earth’. This is the first evidence of Kneales well crafted super-sci-fi-natural stories. It deals with alleged poltergeist activities happening on an excavation dig in the London Underground. A powerful spaceship is revealed as the culprit, it is full of mummified inhabitants that fell to Earth many centuries ago from one hell of a distance. The excavation creates an ‘opening’ for the energy to be released that had been pent up for all this time until, quite frankly, all ‘hell breaks loose’. Chuck in some folklore and sightings of Beelzebub and you have quite a uniquely different story mixing contrasting opposites to an understandable whole.

Quatermass’ final cinematic outing was in the capable hands of Andrew Keir who seemed much more humanitarian in his approach. Gone were the obnoxious traits of his predecessor producing a more likeable elder Keir would settle an argument rationally and intellectually whilst the other would just have ignorantly lumped you one.

Kneale went on to produce some classics for the BBC after the success of his Quatermass episodes. Kneale also penned the little known supernatural chiller ‘Beasts’ for British television in 1977. This featured short dramas of the occult all linked to an animal. I have never seen this series so would not be able to comment, I have read somewhere that it was a ‘mediocre’ affair.


1989 saw Kneale produce a ghost story for the BBC ‘Woman in Black’.

Why some of his stories haven’t been re-made by now is beyond me. The script to ‘The Road’ is still in existence, come on BBC 4 you accomplished an update on M.R James why not another treat?

Come to think of it, it was only last year Quatermass was made ‘live’ on BBC 4 although I thought it was awful but a brave attempt couldn’t money used for a failure as this be utilised for re-makes next time ? One day perchance……..

Quatermass in Town

All the aforementioned movies and telly programmes are available on DVD in wonderful prints. The monochrome really has been lovingly touched up (!!!!!). The original BBC TV series, or what’s’ left of it has been unleashed on to the great unwashed who haven’t really raved all too much about it, because of no football, tits or guns I would imagine. Whether brainless or boffin these classics are available for us all to see at a price tag. Fortunately all episodes exist of Quatermass and The Pit so you don’t feel left being too short changed. The movies are available too whether purchased stateside or here in England and will not fail to disappoint.

They really are the ultimate Sunday afternoon film, definite cups of tea, bacon sandwiches some Madeline’s and duvet accompaniment works well when viewing these weenie bits of bravery. Go find for that rainy “not-sure-what-to-do” afternoons you’ll be terribly glad you did.