Category Archives: movie

Aldrich’s Desert Plane Crash Suvival Picture

[Rating:4/5]

Pros: cast, desert

Cons: musical overkill

I saw Robert Aldrich’s 1965 plane crash in the (Tunisian) desert movie “The Flight of the Phoenix” when it was newish and I was fifteen. Since then, my attention span has lessened and watching it again, I thought its 149-minute running-time excessive and the makeup (blistered faces) risible, BUT the conflicts among its all male characters and, in some cases grudging their co-operation to build an airplane from the wreckage as envisioned by an arrogant German (played by Hardy Krüger (who was so diffident in “Sundays and Cybèle”) remains absorbing. The captain (James Stewart in his flawed and bitter tough guy persona rather than the aw-shucks Jimmy Stewart) blames himself for flying into a sandstorm in a plane without a functioning radio. That defect relates to his alcoholic navigator/steward, played by Richard Attenborough. Their relationship seems lifted from a Howard Hawks movie with Attenborough playing something like the part Walter Brennan played in “To Have and Have Not” (or Thomas Mitchell back further in “Only Angels Have Wings” and Stewart more fallible than Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant in those two Hawks movies.

Of course, Aldrich made a number of movies focused on male-male rivalries mixed with ambivalent co-operation, including “Vera Cruz,” “Attack!,”,” “The Longest Yard,” “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” and “The Dirty Dozen” (which would be his next movie, released in 1967, with an overlap of three actors who were in “Phoenix”: Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, and Gabriele Tinti; Borgnine was more memorable as the extremely nasty scourge in Aldrich’s great but underrated “Emperor of the North Pole” in 1973, and had also returned (with Peter Finch and Gabriele Tinti) in Aldrich’s (1968) “The Legend of Lylah Clare”).

In addition to the flight crew (Stewart and Attenborough) chafing against the self-confident expert (Kruger), there is an insubordinate sergeant (Ronald Fraser) attached to an oblivious, hidebound officer, Captain Harris (Peter Finch), a wacked-out Ernest Borgnine eager to follow Harris “marching” across the Sahara (even while Sgt. Watson fakes being unable to walk), a cast-against-type milquetoast Dan Duryea, a heroic physician (Christian Marquand), and a badly wounded handsome Latin martyr (Gabriele Tinti). Inexplicably to me, the one who garnered an Oscar nomination was Ian Bannen (whom I thought was better in “The Hill”). (Krüger or Attenborough would have been better choices IMO. Krüger refused a Golden Glob nomination and the Academy voters probably took the hint.)

 

The estimable Joseph F. BIroc (who had lensed Stewart’s most beloved movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and would do more memorable desert work in “Blazing Saddles” (1974) (not to mention “Airplane!”, “Towering Inferno,” and Aldrich’s “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” and “The Longest Yard”, “Ulzana’s Raid,” etc.) shot the Arizona and California desert locations and the motley cast. Frank DeVol provided too much overwrought music (musical minimalism had not been invented yet, though Robert Bresson for one made movies with minimal musical underlinings). Aldirch’s usual (15-time) editor Michael Luciano (Oscar nominated for this and three other Aldrich movies, for two of which he won his own guild’s award) was deft with the action sequences, but could have cut more IMO.

 

©2019, Stephen O/ Murray

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Juvenile delinquents of yore

The movies that launched a wave of 1950s dramas about rowdy urban kids/ violent juvenile delinquents were Richard Brooks’s “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) with future directors Sidney Poitier and Paul Mazursky as juvenile leads, and the “chicken” drag racers and switchblade-wielders with whom James Dean competed in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), which also starred Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo (the latter receiving an Oscar nomination as the needy Plato). Perhaps someone in Hollywood had seen Luis Buñuel’s gritty Mexican slum kid drama “Los olvidados” (1950), which certainly broke with the sentimental Dead End Kids and Bowery Boy movies of the late-1930s.

Don Siegel, fresh from the profitable low-budget sci-fi classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” directed “ Crime in the Streets (1956), based on a television drama by Reginald Rose (“12 Angry Men,” “Man of the West,” and the Sal Mineo vehicle “Dino”) in a few weeks on a single studio set of a street corner with a candy/soda shop owned by Italian immigrant Mr. Gioia (Will Kiluva), father of the 15-year-old Angelo ‘Baby’ Gioia on one side and the walk-up tenement in which the leader of the pack (a gang with jackets emblazoned “Hornets”), eighteen-year-old layabout Frankie Dane (future cinema vérité director John Cassaveates in his big-screen debut) lives with his adoring if intimidated younger brother Richie (Peter J. Votrian).

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The movie begins with a “rumble’ which the Hornets win and the beating and humiliation of a boy from the rival gang they capture. Mr. McAllister (Malcolm Atterbury) who lives above the Danes brings in the police who arrest Chuck (Doyle Baker) for having a pistol.

Social worker Ben Wagner (big-eyebrowed James Whitmore) tries to smooth things over and makes repeated attempts to engage Frankie and his exhausted mother (Virgina Gregg) in earnest conversation before Frankie commits some felony or another.

Frankie has enlisted “Baby,” who is (as in Sal Mineo’s character in “Rebel Without a Cause”) desperate for acceptance from the older hoodlum who shows some interest in him, and the psychopathic, dim-witted Lou Macklin (played by future director Mark Rydell, whose most memorable work before the camera is as Terry Augustine in Robert Alman’s “The Long Goodbye”) in a fantasy of slaying Mr. McAllister when he comes back late from bowling.

Siegel seems to have reveled in portraying very nasty criminals (Lee Marvin in the remake of “The Killers” with Cassavetaes as the one targeted, the scum skimmed by Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry,” “Charley Varrick”). The movie plays well on smaller screens with extended close-ups of Cassaveates and Mineo (especially a tow-shot in which Mineo is in the foreground, nonverbally reacting to his father’s pleas from over his shoulder to be a good boy).

”Crime in the Streets” (1956) was a very tough for the 1950s melodrama about white slum gangs. It is available in the fifth volume of Warner Brothers “Film Noir Classic Collection,” released earlier this month, with Harold Clurman’s “Deadline at Dawn,” Phil Karlson’s “Phenix City Story” and five others. All had to adhere to the Production Code, and either punish criminals or save them somehow. “Crime in the Streets” is not as campy as the 1958 “High School Confidential! (1958) with pre-“West Side Story” Russ Tamblyn, and pre-“Bonanza” Michael Landon (and drugs, the staple of movies about young slum-dwelling gangstas now).

 

What surprised me most about “Crime in the Streets” was that its jazzy music score was written by Franz Waxman, whose scores were generally for A-pictures and neo-romantic (Rebecca, Suspicion, the Oscar-winning ones for Sunset Blvd. and A Place in the Sun). Of course, there is also rock’n’roll for dancing in the street, which involves some rough handling of a few girls by the more numerous boys hanging outside the Gioia store.

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I knew that Robert Altman directed industrial documentaries and many television dramas, including “Bonanza” and “Combat!” before the gritty junkie movie “That Cold Day in the Park” (1969) and his break-out (1970) “M*A*S*H, but did not realize he had made a documentary “The James Dean Story,” in 1957, and in the same year a low-budget black-and-white movie title “The Delinquents.” It has a very heavy-handed voice-over frame, imploring parents to supervise their teenagers so they don’t become hoodlums (and gangster molls if female). ”The story you are about to see is about violence and immorality — teenage violence and immorality, children trapped in the half-world between adolescence and maturity…”

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As Scotty, the future Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) is miffed that the parents of his girlfriend Janice Wilson (Rosemary Howard) forbade her to go out with him any more (let alone “go steady”). A devious but presentable gang leader Cholly (Peter Miller) volunteers to pick Janice up and deliver her to Scotty. She does not want to go to a party (with beer and “Dirty Rock Boogie.” in an abandoned house, but Scotty feels obligated.

I won’t reveal how Scotty and Cholly meet, since that is the best part of the movie. The movie has some interest for showing 1950s conceptions. The last third, a “woman imperiled by a psychopath captor” is not bad. Altman was able to borrow cops from the Kansas City, MO to appear in the movie, his first feature-length (well, at 75 minutes, B-picture) fictional movie.

There is no overlapping dialogue, and the cast is small.

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The feature-film debut of writer-director Jim Jarmusch (born in Akron, Ohio), “Permanent Vacation” (1980; also running 75 minutes) includes a car-jacking, and a young slacker who knows where to offload a stolen car, but no gangs.

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The voiceover is not The Voice of Authority clucking at those darn kids, but the would-be artiste Aloysius ‘Allie’ Parker (giraffe-necked Chris Parker with a greasy pompadour) who reads Lautreamont’s Maldoror (in the Penguin Classic edition, not in French) and wanders around having sort of encounters with various spaced-out New Yorkers, including his mother in a mental hospital, a rep cinema popcorn vendor who pays even less attention to him than the girlfriend of sorts on whose floor he sometimes crashes, Leila (Leila Gastil). That allows an homage in the form of the movie poster of Nicholas Ray’s The Savage Innocents.” There’s also a Latina madwoman, a black man who talks to himself, and a paranoid schizophrenic white man: New York human wreckage of the early 1980s as paraded by a pretentious recent film-school student who had seen too many Godard movies, and perhaps the Beat “Pull My Daisy”?

To my total lack of surprise, Jarmusch’s first movie showed no narrative gift, but the tedium was relieved by occasional eccentricities, as “Dead Man,” and other later Jarmusch films are. (There are more parts of “Mystery Train” (1989) that I like, and I like most of” Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999).)

“Permanent Vacation” is available currently as a bonus disc of the new Criterion edition of “Stranger Than Paradise” (1984), the odd black-and-white movie of visiting Hungarians in Cleveland unable to see Lake Erie through the snowfall when they go to the lakeside. John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards plays the slacker whose teenage Hungarian female cousin descends to disrupt his life in NYC in “Stranger.” Lurie is the saxophonist acting out the Doppler Effect in “Permanent Vacation,” though it is Allie Parker who quotes saxophonist Charlie Parker about living fast and dying young… (Lurie was also in “Downtown 81,” the documentary about a day in the life of graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat that has also recently become available on DVD.)

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The Criterion DVD of “Stranger in Paradise” includes a booklet by Gary Indiana praising the verisimilitude of “Permanent Vacation.” No one is going to praise the pacing or tightness of construction, I’m sure!

Allie is just passing through, next stop Paris (quel surprise!)

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None of these three movies has much interest beyond the talents they introduced to movie screens (Altman, Cassaveates, Jarmusch, Rydell) or were otherwise newish (Mineo, Siegel). Plus some as time capsules of alienated mid-1950s and early-1980s youth. (Altman’s “Delinquents” were middle-class and I infer that Allie’s pre-Manhattan background was middle-class Middle America.)

©2019, Stephen O.  Murray

 

Jennifer Jones at her slinkiest

The IMDB Jennifer Jones pages opens: “One of the world’s most underrated Academy Award-winning actresses” World’s? And woudn’t that be Cher? Jones was nominated for her performances in four movies in addition to “Song of Bernadette” for which she won (in 1943): Since You Went Away (1944), Love Letters (1945), Duel in the Sun (1946), and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955). I saw a part of the last of these last week and though (again) that Jones was terrible as the Eurasian physician who enraptured William Holden. I also remember has pretty ludicrous in “Duel in the Sun” and nothing special in “Since You Went Away,” but I remember her being compelling as “[Sister] Carrie”, and as the ethereal Jenny of “Portrait of Jenny,” amusing as “Cluny Brown” and in “Beat the Devil,” touching in “Towering Inferno” (for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress), “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” and “The Barretts of Wimpole Street,” better than OK in “Indiscretion of an American Wife” and “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” unimpressive in the prestige pictures “A Farewell to Arms” (1957) and “Tender Is the Night” (1962), though far better than fellow 1940s Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine in “Tender.”

 

As “Ruby Gentry” (1952) she undergoes two major changes. At the start (the farthest back flashback) Jones was unconvincing as a woman of about 20 who hunts and fishes with the good old boys of some North Carolina tidewater town whose Great Love (the ever-wooden and often seething with resentment Charlton Heston with the strange name of Boake) has just returned from South America. She is eager to pick up where they left off in high school, but he wants to revive the Tackman estate that was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean, for which he needs money. Plus, he is the scion of an of elite family, which though it has lost its economic base, still has a judgeship.

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So, he marries money (Phyllis Avery, who has very little screentime as Tracy McAuliffe). Ruby is unwilling to be his backstreet (backcountry) mistress. Besides being very stacked (emphasized in the first part) she has couth thanks to quasi-adoption by the long-invalid Letitia Gentry (Josephine Hutchinson) a lady of genteel background who married beneath her to the rough-edged Jim Gentry (in a role Karl Malden would reprise in/with “Baby Doll,” a far more entertaining movie…).

When Lettie dies, Jim proposes to Ruby. The misalliance is accepted by none of the local snobs (there is an outsider physician narrator played by Bernard Phillips who was keen on Ruby but respects Jim’s property rights). After a scene at the country club, Jim and Ruby go sailing, and only she returns. The good people of the town are certain she murdered him. They don’t realize that it is not a good idea to be nasty to the person who more or less owns the town now.

Jones is great as the coldly vindictive widow. In addition to class snobbery, she must contend with a Christianist fanatic brother Jewel (! played by James Anderson) and there is a very melodramatic chase through the swamp (which was surely a studio set; Morro Bay, CA stood in for the NC town).

The movie directed by King Vidor (who had directed Jones in the over-the-top western soap opera “Duel in the Sun” to an Oscar nomination and also directed the way over-the-top “The Fountainhead”) had a top-rate cinematographer in Russell Harlan (Red River, Rio Bravo, Run Silent Run Deep, (and most germanely) To Kill a Mockingbird) who shot the town crisply and the swamp fog-enshrouded (but mostly shot Jones, who is in every scene and almost in every frame of the 82-minute movie).

The cast tried for Southern accents in the first part, but then dropped them. The intolerant Bible-thumping hypocrisy might seem laid on thick, but consider the successful champion of “family values” the next state South this weekend (six decades after the movie was made)!

 

The musical theme was a hit and a mainstay of movie music programs for more than a decade. I have never heard the lyrics (they are not sung in the movie).

 

©2012,  2019 Stephen O. Murray

Alan Arkin terrorizing a blind but resourceful Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn was very, very good in two 1967 movies. She received an Oscar nomination for the more popular one, “Wait Until Dark.” As a frightened by resourceful blind woman, she was menaced by the seemingly trustworthy, soothing Richard Crenna (in a sort of Cary Grant turn, see “Charade,” a corrupt former cop (Jack Weston) and a psychopath in dark glasses (in one of his three disguises) played by Alan Arkin. Arkin also had a very good year, being nominated for the best actor Oscar as a Russian submarine commander run aground on Long Island in “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.”

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“Dark” is obviously based on a stage play (in marked contrast to the traveling around the south of France in “Two for the Road.” Initially, it seems to share having a mean, spoiled young girl, though Gloria (June Herrod) turns out to be useful rather than horrid.

There have been so many sadistic criminals on screens since 1967, that Arkin is less shocking that he was to 1967 audiences, with the exception of one scene.

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There is little opening out from the apartment—really, only to a VW van across the street parked in front of a phone booth that gets a lot of use from the plotters. (As in “Charade,” Hepburn does not know what she has and what she has does not belong to her husband or the three conspirators to get the prize.) The play that was filmed was written by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the frightened woman “Dial M for Murder” that Alfred Hitchcock adapted to the screen.

Hepburn was often paired on screen with much older men (Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire). Her husband here was played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who was a mere eleven years her senior. And her ostensible romantic interest through much of the film, Crenna, was only two years her senior.

Nasty as her psychological (and, eventually, physical) assailants are, it is difficult to understand why Hepburn does not lock/bar the door while they are out. For that matter, I don’t understand why she is so determined to hold onto the doll, knowing that the woman for whom her husband held it is dead. Or why she does not remove their advantage of lighting sooner. But, if one can suppress such questions and go with the flow, the movie is frightening and perhaps inspiring.

If the Oscar went to a Hepburn that year (it did), it went to the wrong one (Katharine for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”). Much as I adore Audrey Hepburn (a lot!) and knowing that she was going to stop making movies, if I had an Oscar ballot, I’d have to mark it for Edith Evans’s harrowing performance in “The Whisperer,” however. And I’d have nominated Arkin for a supporting actor award.

I wish that Arkin, Crenna, and Hepburn had more good roles in subsequent years (I was a fan of Crenna in the TV series“Slattery’s People” in the mid-1960s and in Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1972 “Un flic”, also the 1984 “Flamingo Kid”).

Alan Arkin is fairly interesting recalling feeling bad at having to torture the radiant Hepburn. Her then husband and producer of the movie, Mel Ferrer, had little of interest to say. It did not take this movie to establish that she could act (try “The Nun’s Story,” if not “Two for the Road”!).

©2019, Stephen O. Murray

 

Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Paris

Can there be anyone who is not charmed by Audrey Hepburn? Or who doesn’t like “Charade,” the rom-com/thriller Stanley Donen made with her and Cary Grant with Paris backdrops in 1963? Something of a gender-reversed “North by Northwest,” I’d hope that Alfred Hitchcock regarded it as an homage. There is no cornfield buzzing and the hanging over a precipice is more prosaic than Mount Rushmore. And Martin Landau’s villain is multiplied to include three then-rising stars with Oscars in their futures: James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Walter Matthau. It’s not hard to recognize any of them, but there are the pleasures of looking back to when they were less well-known than they became.

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There is a plot involving a quarter of a million dollars of gold bullion that the four (plus Ned Glass) GIs liberated from the Nazis and did not deliver to their own government at the end of World War II. Hepburn’s husband, who is thrown off a moving train in the first scene seems to have returned first to claim it, and his partners believe Hepburn must have it.

She is befriended under suspicious circumstances by Cary Grant, who was the male star and suspect in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.” before being pursued for reasons unknown to him in “North by Northwet.”  He goes through a series of names and exchanges snappy dialogue with Hepburn and the competitors for the loot. There is a pretty obnoxious child, if not as horrible as the one in Donen’s 1967 “Two for the Road,” —the American girl there may count as someone who did not like Audrey Hepburn.

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Donen, who died 21 Feb at the age of 94, was on a roll, having made the move from musicals (of which “Singing in the Rain” is his most famed) to nonmusical movies with major stars (Surprise Package, The Grass Is Greener, Arqbesque). My favorites both starred Audrey Hepburn: “Charade” and “Two for the Road.” (Donen also directed Hepburn in a musical with another of her many aged costars, Fred Astaire, “Funny Face” in 1957). For uncomplicated enjoyment, “Charade” has to be the choice. Among other things, it has better music from Henry Mancini. Both have attractive French backdrops (18-times-nominated for Oscar cinematographer Charles Lang shot “Charade”; Christopher Challis “2 4” and “Arabesque.”)

 

The Criterion Edition has an entertaining and informative commentary track laid down by Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone.

 

©2019, Stephen O. Murray

 

 

A mature 1967 look at love being ground down by marriage

Producer-director Stanley Donen’s 1967 “Two for the Road” made me glad not to have children, The movie is less shocking a revelation of marriage killing romance than it was at the time, but in a rare instance of the elfin but often emotionally tough Hepburn being paired with younger man, Audrey Hepburn was beautiful and funny as Joanna. As Mark, Albert Finney was already something of a bully (officially 5’9”, perhaps compensating for his lack of height?) but there is chemistry between him and Hepburn. When she says, “I’ll never let you down,” he realistically responds, “I will” —and does, though they are still together (if bickering) at the end of the movie.

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The American couple (Eleanor Bron and William Daniels) with a very spoiled daughter (Ruthie) is horrifying, yet Hepburn accepts Finney’s marriage proposal when it comes, and soon they are estranged with a difficult (if not as monstrous) a daughter. He has casual infidelities, she one (with Georges Descrières) that is open and definitely pains her husband.

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Screenwriter Frederic Raphael (1931-) was no romantic, having already won an Oscar for the screenplay of “Darling” and later to adapt Schnitzler for Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” (he also adapted Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd with a sometimes pragmatic, sometimes passionate Julie Christie and Henry James’s Daisy Miller for Bogdanovich, a film I think much underrated). His screenplay for “Two for the Road” was Oscar-nominated.

I don’t remember films jumping back and forth in time without any date titles back in that day. Hepburn had many, many changes of clothes. I noticed a long list of coutures in the opening credits. There are also multiple cars driving through the south of France on annual summer trips over the course of 10 or 12 years of the relationship.

I don’t like Henry Mancinni’s soundtrack. The movie did not earn back its production costs, btw, even with that pop Midas touch.

Both Finney and Donen died earlier this year. I think that “Two for the Road” has aged better than Donen’s other 1967 movie, which I once liked, “Bedazzled.” (Then he made the really terrible “Staircase”, the mediocre “The Little Prince,” and “Lucky Lady,” which I may be the only person to like, having been at the Mexican location where some of it was filmed).

 

©2018, Stephen O. Murray

 

 

 

Nuns (3): Nasty Habits

Dame Muriel Spark (1918-96 )repeatedly wrote about small casts of character in relatively closed-off social worlds, such as boarding schools (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Finishing School), a boarding house (Girls of Slender Means) ,an old-age home (Memento Mori), shipwrecked on an desert island (Robinson), and the convent in The Abbess of Crewe. That wickedly funny and short 1974 novel was her version of the fall of Richard Nixon in the Watergate cover-up.

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Although the abbesses in the movie are very English (Edith Evans, Glenda Jackson), the abbey has been transplanted to Philadelphia. The old abbess (Evans) dies before naming Sister Alexandra (Jackson) her successor. Sister Alexandra has some of Nixon’s paranoia and the same need he felt to know what his rivals were up to.nasty.jpg

The young free-love nun (who is openly having a sexual relationship with a Jesuit novice), Sister Felicity (Susan Penahaligon) bears no resemblance to Senator George McGovern. Although Sister Alexandra is contemptuous of Sister Felicity and her unconventional attitudes, it seems that she had as little need to sponsor “a third-rate burglary” as Nixon did. Sister Alexandra also has already had her office and much of the rest of the convent bugged. This is known by her henchwomen, the chain-smoking Sister Walburga (Geraldine Page) and Sister Mildred (Anne Jackson) whereas if I recall correctly, the men on whom they are modeled, presidential advisors Bob Haldemann and John Ehrlichman did not knows of the Oval office taping. And certainly John Dean did not, though his stand-in, Sister Winifred (an extra-gawky and toothy Sandy Dennis), does. And in one of the funniest adaptation of Nixon’s teams, Melina Mercouri jets around the world and issues gnomic advice in the manner of Henry Kissinger.

Sister Alexandra lacks Nixon’s self-pity. Glenda Jackson is more confident and regal. Still, she repeats many of his lines as she scapegoats Sister Winifred and eventually sacrifices Sisters Walburga and Mildred, as Nixon eventually sacrificed Haldemann and Ehrlichman. The attention of the press on an obscure convent is not altogether plausible. Sister Alexandra is answerable to Rome. The Monsignor traveling to Philadelphia to investigate (a stand-in for the folksy Senator Sam Ervin?) is played by Eli Wallach. And Anne Mears plays Gerald Ford.

The cast also includes Rip Torn and Jerry Stiller as Jesuit co-conspirators. The production values do not match the quality of the cast (or those of “Brideshead Revisited” which Michael Lindsay-Hogg went on to direct shortly after directing “Nasty Habits”).

Corruption among the pious has not ceased, as the recent failed coverups of DOnald Trump payoffs and the revelations about coverups of serial pedophilia of Catholic priests (and Muslim imams) attests, along with another White House bent on widespread surveillance and proceeding in secrecy reprises Nixon’s.

The pace slackens with two ludicrous money drops in public lavatories. And Susan Penahaligon is so overmatched by Glenda Jackson that it seems silly to enter into such serious strategizing to foil her. I realize that it was similarly insane to do what Nixon did, but he had used dirty tricks every step of the way up, while what Sister Alexandra’s concerns and tactics seem not just unnecessary but out of character (though she is careful to distance herself so that she can simulate plausible deniability of responsibility). Nevertheless, watching Jackson before she retired from acting to run for Parliament is the main pleasure afforded by “Nasty Habits.”

The DVD transfer is not very good and there are no DVD bonus features, but it does give viewers the opportunity to enjoy seeing actresses no longer around to perform (Jackson retired from acting (though recentyly returned to stages as King Lear); Dennis, Evans, Mercouri, Page have been dead for years).

©2006, Stephen O. Murray