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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England • Page 23
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England • Page 23

The Guardiani
London, Greater London, England
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Thursday September 19 1985 23 'if Dennis Doros, who put Queen Kelly together again from missing footage and von Giroheim's script, talks to Tim Pulleine Gloria in excelsis Swanson as Queen Kelly Lost and found Analia Castro. Hector Alterio and Norma AVandro. above, in The OfficialVersion. Derek Malcolm reviews the week's releases, including Body Double, von Stroheim's unfinished Queen Kelly and The Official Version, whose Argentine star meets Tim Pulleine, below right seemi tonjpjjpnmig Erich von Stroheim, a bit of a shocker in his day too, was also railed against for pornography. He was a cinematic genius who Hollywood could never accommodate and who in the end retired a disappointed and embittered man to France.

Almost all his films were ruined in one way or another, but Queen Kelly (Everyman, PG) was never completed Gloria Swanson. 9 ERICH von Stroheim's Queen Kelly, the film which proved to be his last and which some historians believe would have been his finest, was aborted when only partly shot in early 1929. It has existed only in a version little more than an hour long, contrived by its star and producer. Gloria Swanson: This version, which concludes in highly un-Strohei-mian fashion in the manner of Romeo and Juliet, represents little more than the Rurita-nian prologue to a work which, on the basis of Stro-hiem's 500-page shooting script, would have run some five hours. But a small amount of subsequent material had been shot, and in 1965, eight years after the director's death, two reels of edited footage for a later part of the film, set in an African brothel, came to light and pretty extraordinary they were.

Now, following Swanson's death three years ago and negotiations with her estate, a reconstituted Queen Kelly is being released to mark its director's centenary. The restoration was not grant-aided, but a commercial undertaking by the' specialised US distributor. Kino International. The. man who volunteered for the job, then worked at it day and night for nearly a year scouring archives and poring- over research documents is Dennis Doros.

He explains: "We started with Swanson's own immaculate print of the existing version. Then we found the invited to appear in an anodyne film. Then, following the fall of the junta in 1983, he receivedsundry offers, from which he selected Camila and The Official Version "not so much for the parts as for the content of the scripts. Official Version speaks for itself; Camila addresses the historical. role of the Church in Argentina." Both films have proved very popular in the home market, though he says that of the 15 or so movies now being produced there annually, only a handful evince any ambition combination of Freud and Balzac.

It was Stroheim's ultimate undoing that he knew all about lust can you readily imagine an early 1930s audience watching a scene almost complete here, but not quite where Wolfram rides by the orphans, watches with glee when Kelly loses her panties curtseying, catches them when she furiously throws them at him and then presses them to his nose? Shades of John Betjeman and that bicycle seat! Stroheim, were he alive today, would still be getting into severe trouble. But I doubt if, like De Palma, he'd be cutting up women. It is said that Luis Puenzo's The Official Version (Curzon West End, 15) is a brave film to. come out of Argentina because it talks openly about the children of those who disappeared during the "dirty war" of the seventies. Some of these were murdered, some given to members of the security forces who couldn't have children and.some, like the girl in this story, 'illegally adopted by middle-class couples willing to remain ignorant of their antecedents.

If the film is brave, its is clothed in the safe raiment ofj, a women's magazine problem story, admittedly acted more than capably by Norma Aleandro as the wife who discovers the guilty secret and Hector Alterio as the husband who knew all along. The film is also directed in a rather clod-hopping manner Still, it is there and it is interesting, and ultimately quite moving, which is more than can be said for either John Frankenheimer's The Holcroft Covenant (ABC, Edgware Road, etc, 15) or the latest Chuck Norris epic, Code of Silence (Classic Haymarket, etc, 18). Of the two, Code of Silence is the better, being at least crisply made by Andrew Davis and filled in with genuinely good stunts, like our hero and his adversary of the moment jumping off a moving train going over Chicago's main river bridge. Frankenheimer'a film is a real mess, being both mechanical and almost incomprehensible. Any resemblance this conspiracy thriller has to something like The Manchu-rian Candidate is purely fortuitous.

Michael Caine comes out of it with honours even, but the rest, having had two penalties scored against them in the shape of the script and the characterisations, seem to give up the uneven battle. Among them are Anthony Andrews, Victoria Tennant and Lilli Palmer. best available copy of the African footage the original print had decomposed by this time. I heard there were two reels of out-takes floating around. We eventually traced them to the Eastman House museum in New York, and they included two missing scenes.

We had Stroheim's final script to work from, dated only 10 days before he was fired. "The music and effects track, commissioned by Swanson for the brief European release in 1931, was also at Eastman House thev didn't know they had it. I had considered editing down the first part of the film Stroheim's complaint was that the scenes lasted too long but it was wedded to the soundtrack, and after all it was cut by Stroheim's editor Viola Lawrence. Who was I to second-guess her? The thing I'm proudest of is getting rid of the phoney ending to the short version." Of course, some two-thirds of the intended work is still absent, and the Doros version uses captions to fill in the gaps. "I think it's highly unlikely that any more footage will be found, though I do keep on looking." His next task as restorer is to contrive a "finished" version of another Swanson movie, Raoul Walsh's Sadie Thompson (1928).

of which the last several minutes are missing. He jokes: "The question of a suitable score is a vexed one. I don't think we'll be asking Giorgio Moroder (of rock-Metropolis fame) and Stravinsky's dead Alterio is enthusiastic about the present climate of feeling in his native land. "There is a sense now of total freedom, no danger of a new coup, but of course the economic situation is very At the moment, he says, his professional life is active but his personal future is uncertain. "I feel totally Argentinian, but my home is in Madrid.

My children (now 11 and 15) have grown up there. I can't uproot them in the way I had to uproot myself. Maybe in a few years' time Xhe ootmi Melante Griffith and Craig Wasson in' Body Pgtitile Be sttai? (Hhiey waimtfeafl -to Interviewer: "Are you amazed that people go to your films?" Brian De Palma: "I certainly wouldn't go see them. But then, there's difference between being the marionette and the puppet master." De Palma's Body Double (Classic, Chelsea etc, 18) Arrives rather sneakily this week, without the benefit of a proper press show, and going straight on video at the same The puppet master is well in evidence. The story has a man take an electric drill to a woman, and pin her to the floor with it.

Jt isn't so' surprising. In Sissy Spacek gets half drowned in pig blood. And in Dressed To Kill Angie Dickinson is very nastily cut up with a razor. The longer De Palma goes on making films or perhaps- the older he gets the less he seems to like He is, however, a stylish, 'eloquent and occasionally innovative director, which is why we are so disturbed by his assorted frissons. But, in fact, Body Double is not a particularly good example of his art anymore than was Scarface, which started brilliantly and ended in elemental absurdity.

Body Double does not even start like a pistol, and- thereafter pursues a relentless, discursive course to nowhere very much. Set in Los Angeles, it has a struggling and claustrophobic actor (Craig Wesson) unable to hold down a job in horror movies, arid further worried by blundering in when his gilfriend is bedding someone else. He leaves home and is offered the chance by another actor to look after a luxurious penthouse apartment. The perk is that there's a powerful telescope there, through which you can see a beautiful woman (Deborah Shelton) doing an erotic strip every night. He follows her, chases a pickpocket who grabs her bag on the beach and finally watches her murder through his eyepiece.

Later, he meets a cheerful porn star (Melaine Griffith), watches the strip she does and notices it is exactly the same as his erstwhile neighbour's. Something, very peculiar is going on. The film has been accused of all sorts of things, including being pornographic, though the sex scenes are much the same as you can see at your local Jacey any day of the week. But it is desperately uneven, rather flashy and disappointingly incoherent. Somehow De Palma seems to have lost his way, so that even his bravura set-pieces seem thrown off as if they were mere conjuring tricks.

BRIEFING Best films Dim Sum (Screen on the Hill): Wayne Wang's highly sympathetic and skilled study of a Chinese American family in San Francisco. Funny too. Crimes of Passion (Odeon, Haymarket): Ken Russell on the American way of sex. Brilliant performance from Kathleen Turner as businesswoman by day, whore by night. Shockingly entertaining.

Subway (Lumiere, Chelsea, etc): Luc Besson's flashily fashionable successor to The Last Combat, with Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani mostly in the Metro. Diva without the music. Desperately Seeking Susan (Screen on the Green, Gate Bloomsbury, etc): Susan Seidelman's surprise hit with Madonna acting rather than singing a streetwise, cheeky slice of urban Americana. The Shooting Party (Curzon Mayfair): Alan Bridges upper crust Edwardian houseparty finally reaching the end of its run. Very well acted, particularly by James Mason.

Best on TV A Matter Of life and Death (Saturday, BBC-1, 1140): Powell and Pressburger's 1946 wartime fantasy with Niven as bailed-out bomber pilot hallucinating into another world. Official and season coming up soon on BBC-2. THE experience of making The Official Version was not, despite the subject matter, a harrowing one, says Hector Alterio, one of its stars. "Rather, we all felt a sense of release. It felt like a breath of fresh air to bring these secrets out into the open." Alterio, who also plays a leading role in the Argentinian costume drama Camila, which opens in London next week, is probably the most prominent Argentinian screen actor today yet his reputation has been achieved in exile.

He began to act in films in 1970 after a long apprenticeship in an independent theatre company in Buenos Aires: "Nobody got paid, so I earned my living as a door-to-door salesman a good way to keep in touch with reality." His first screen role was in Knight of the Sword, directed scratch, acting with touring companies. Quite rapidly, though, he established a new position and began to play prominent roles in Spanish films (the movie he considers his most rewarding. To An Unknown God, is included in next month's Spanish season at the' NFT) ana in European co-productions one of his less likely parts was as Einstein's uncle in a TV series filmed in Budapest. He harbours the ambition of acting in a film by Fellini. Alterio says: "In a way, exile has been an enriching experience.

Undeniably my career has prospered as a result. But I would never have chosen to leave Argentina and I sometimes feel a terrible loss of identity." He was able to return briefly to Argentina in 1981, and as a "foreign" star was even done observed "A BRILLIANT FILM" BBC Kaleidoscope A GEOFF REEVE PRODUCTION JAMES MASON EDWARD FOX Honours even Michael Caine. asurmvor.ofFrankenheimer's i fTheHblctoft Ctwenarit its star and producer, giving up in disgust after about one third of the original scenario had been shot. What remains has now been restored, or at least the version of the story rounded oil- by Swanson in 1931, which converted the first part of the script into a self-contained piece. The result is rather magnificent, but it is still only the shell of the masterpiece it might have been.

Even that, however, is very much worth seeing as a wonderful testament to one of the real giants of the cinema. Briefly, wilful Queen Regina of Coburg-Nassau (Seena Owen) wishes to marry licentious Price Wolfram (Walter Byron) although he's fallen for convent orphan Kitty Kelly (Swanson). After discovering him in flagrante, the girl is sent by the Queen to Africa where her dying aunt makes her marry Tully Marshall's deformed and libidinous plantation boss. If you think that sounds like incredible melodrama, you would be right. But von Stroheim also invests it with his special brand of erotic fantasy complemented by utter realism that grips like a vice.

Above all, the film looks superb in detail so that it seems to sum up a world that never was, as if it was really accurately remembered by a Isabelle Adjani in The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Saturday, C4, 11.30): Robert Wiene's 1919 Expressionist classic with Conrad Veidt as sinister somnabulist. But the London Festival in November unveils a brand-new and tinted print. Giant and East of Eden (Sunday, 1.55 and 10.35, both BBC-2): George Stevens made the first in 1956, Elia Kazan the second a year earlier. Dean, who died 30 years ago this month, was lucky in his If SB. L9 am very funny." 'by Leopoldo Torro Nilson, the 'one internationally known film-maker Argentina has produced.

He began to achieve recognition; then in 1974, during the brief relaxation of controls at the start of the second Perohist Administration, Alterio acted in three films with modestly critical overtones. The grim consequence was that with the rapid har; dening of the political climate he was selected as a target for assassination by a right-wing terrorist group a threat made "official" by being published on the front pages of the newspapers. When this happened, Alterio was attending the San Sebastian film festival in Spain, and unsurprisingly he opted not to return home. Instead, he moved to Madrid, where his wife and children joined him, and started from GIORIA SWAHSOM IN ERICH vox STROHEIM'S LOST MASTERWORK fSL 1 based on the novel by hibel Colcgaie lib dorothy tlt1.n john giewl'd cordon jackson cheru Campbell Robert hardy aharon ipaie JONS wilh RUPERT Producer (lEUFTUi ExmUitr Producer JEIEMi hpftMit nnnuilu4 CURZON Curzon Street London Wl 01-4993737 Seals alC4 00 bootable advance lor 8 KALEIDOSCOPE, BBC RADIO THE FROG PRINCE. (NTJUWAMFIMOS tJ mLiAaOHvuxciwwtMi wMnDsmeurofli n5 jvarj MfW WARNER I "IT IS A TRIUMPH! as lovelorn Napoleon.

Made in 1938, and don't you dare laugh Special interest THE National Film Theatre's Cuban season continues tonight with films by Sara Gomez, the very talented film-maker who died early, shown here for the first time. Next Wednesday, Humberto Solas' Cantata of Chile. David Lean's splendid Great Expectations is part of the Penguin season on Friday. The North London Cinema Society has its AGM at the Odeon, Muswell Hill, this Sunday, followed by Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. On the following Sunday, there is a special performance with piano accompaniment of Douglas Fairbanks' 1926 silent swashbuckler, The Black Pirate, presented in conjunction with the Projected Picture Trust.

Non-members welcome. Luc Besson's Subway continues at the Edinburgh Film-house till Saturday, when it is replaced in Cinema One by the rather more significant Insignificance by Nicholas Roeg. Edinburgh's Film Guild opens its 56th season with Mike Radford's 1984 on September 29, Rosi's Hands Over the City on October 6 and Powell's masterpiece The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp on October 13. Eastern European and Russian films are highlighted later on. Derek Malcolm SHOWING WEST END SnUWIlNU UICESTEKSQ4390791 "AREAL TREAT" "THIS IRRESISTIBLE FILM" "ONE OFTHE WORLDS MOST LIKEABLE FILMS" "HERE IS A FILM TO SEE" "AN HOUR LATER YOU'LL BE HUNGRY TO SEE IT AGAIN" ABC CLASSIC FULHAMRD TOTTENHAM COURT RO 3702636 6366148 STUCK REBECCA SAME SARAH HADEL rRAZER Lionel and JIDI B0VKER UEVE Oirrctur AIA.H BUDGES Streem ULNDEK Direct ot of Phutngnprn FRF bin tWnrtli win IiIbUmi MAYFAIR Film at 2 00 (Not Sun) 4 10.

6.20, 8.40 40 psrf daily also 6 20 oerf Sal Sun Guardian 1 SUM Mm by WAYNE WANG S4353366 BelaizePark Tube Sums 68 24 Timos 2254 30 6 50 9 00 QUEER FULL ORCHESTRAL SCORE Subway best films idirectors, but undeniably a great screen presence. Rebel Without A Cause to follow. Major Barbara (Tuesday, C4, 2.30): David Lean among the three directors of this solid version of GBS's classic, made in 1941 with Wendy Hiller and Rex Harrison. Mari Waleweska (Wednesday, BBC-2, 6.0): Clarence Brown's pseudo-historical romance with Garbo as Polish Countess and Charles Boyer DIM An American Inaependani NOW SHOWING EXCLUSIVE PRESENTATION 203HaknlockHIIINW3.

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