Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Peter Sellers in Never Let Go

Peter Sellers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lionel Meadows in Never Let Go.

Never Let Go is crime film about a man, John (Richard Todd), who intends to prove his measure as a man by getting his stolen car back himself. The film has potentially interesting ideas along with a certain bit of style, but most aspects of the film are underwhelming in some way.

This film is one of the few strictly dramatic roles for Peter Sellers, and the only one I've ever seen anyways. Though there is a certain undercurrent of drama in both of his Stanley Kubrick collaborations, and Being There is firmly a dramedy. In those three films though there are plenty of moments where he is playing for laughs, there's not a single laugh to be had from him here, and that's not a knock against his performance. Sellers plays a career criminal Lionel Meadows who runs a garage that specializes in stealing the rebuilding cars. We briefly see Sellers in a silent moment early in the film as he's just going about this business, we do not see him again for a good twenty minutes before he reenters the film, after John has made considerable trouble for Lionel's business by refusing to let the theft of his stolen car go. Sellers shows up with a smile to talk to one his associates but he's not there to tell jokes.

Sellers's approach to the part with some adjustment the other way could easily be comedic performance, after all he gave a rather enjoyable turn as a similair type of criminal in The Ladykillers. Sellers though utilizes his approach, in creating a distinct accent and mannerisms, but uses them for an entirely alternative purpose here. Sellers plays Lionel almost as proper car salesman on the immediate outer surface. He seems to almost as brimming with a certain jovial quality, all the while keeping the proper posture of someone who is ready to sell you something special. Lionel though isn't there to give or even sell though, as he is in the taking business. His voice always attempting to be reassuring about something, the problem being that something is entirely unknown to both the person Lionel is talking to and Lionel himself. Now Sellers isn't portraying exactly quite facade, but is very intriguing in the way he more of presents this behavior as Lionel's attempt to exist as person in decent society at all.

The real Lionel is always right there too clawing to be set free, and Sellers suggests the whole act as the man trying to balance himself. The problem being is just being the razor thin surface is the criminal. Sellers though portrays Lionel as barely functioning criminal, presenting a man absolutely gripped with so much hate for everyone around him. Sellers is volcanic as he depicts the violence as something Lionel almost needs to come out, even though he has his thin attempt to hold it in check in some way. Sellers utilizes this brilliantly to create a real menace with his performance. He does not try to make Lionel as some sort of cunning mastermind. He rather bluntly instead makes him a man who just wants to continue to live as he currently does, and will lash out at anyone he thinks is getting in that way. Sellers is surprisingly intimidating in the part as he goes about attempting to plug the leaks in his organization, not as some refined hitman, but rather as a caged animal lashing out in rage. I'll admit there is something a little extra chilling about these scenes, as it is so unexpected to see Sellers not only commit the act but be convincing in the act.

One of the aspects of the film that is underwhelming is in the arc of the main character as he tries to find some personal pride through retrieving his car, but in doing so becomes involved in sordid elements. Todd tries but isn't able to overcome the limits of the writing. Sellers on the other hand, which almost seems like it wasn't written this way, gives a matching and more effective portrayal of Lionel attempting to hold onto his own pride, though that means a very different thing for him. Sellers even as he goes violently assaulting and accosting everyone who he thinks will implicate him in the crime, brings a real desperation in the act. He conveys this underlying fear of sorts in Lionel as he attempts to control the situation, though he is trying very hard to live up to be the man he thinks he should be. Sellers through this makes Lionel more than a one note hood, as he makes it rather fascinating as he reveals Lionel essentially going through the same thing as John just through a different perspective. In the final showdown between the two men you really feel what the moment means to Lionel because of Sellers's performance. In the fight Sellers shows exactly what Lionel is fighting for, in every wretched attack of his. I only wish the film itself, and Todd had managed to match Sellers's own work, since Seller's portrait of Lionel is rather special. It's such a shame that the film's tepid reception apparently made Sellers swear off taking dramatic roles, since this is a great performance that suggests we never got to truly see everything Sellers was capable of as an actor.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Martin Stephens in The Village of the Damned

Martin Stephens did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Zellaby in The Village of the Damned.

The Village of the Damned is a fairly effective horror film about a group of strange children "miraculously" born in an English village all at the same time.

The film very much depends upon the potential creepiness of children through its monsters being a group of blond haired, light skinned, kids. Now their very image is off putting, particularly when they are all together, but a little more is needed that little more being Martin Stephens. Stephens plays the only one of the odd children who speaks. Stephens's speaks with an excessively articulation that is most off putting. Although it should be noted that they rerecorded Stephens's lines which makes his voice all the more disturbing since it seems partially detached from the image. Stephens's voice is incredibly creepy though since he does not make anything specifically monstrous about it. He instead delivers his lines as a proper English schoolboy, a too proper English schoolboy for sure, and the sophistication of his voice makes him seem truly alien.

Stephens's work goes beyond merely being the only one of the children who speaks. There is more tasked from Stephens as David also acts as the child who explains a bit of their intent, and philosophy of sorts to his "father" Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders). The philosophy being a maniacal lack of emotion, and Stephens is terrific in realizing this in his hollow expressions. He adds a bit more there within that as there is always an eerie contentment in his description as though the lack of concern is the better way to exist. The film never allows their exact intentions to be explained other than general survival. There is a sense of dread created though and Stephens contributes greatly to this. The soulless quality in David that Stephens brings so effectively suggests a terrible intent since there is such a clear lack of empathy for what surrounds them.

This is technically a one note performance for the most part, but that is exactly the point. Stephens is not playing a real boy but rather a creature in boy form. Stephens though makes the most out of that one note as he is absolutely menacing despite his rather unassuming frame. Stephens brings the demonic presence  to the part, and manages to make the eye glow scenes far more chilling than they would be otherwise. Now I wrote one note for the most part because at the very end of his performance there is a bit of emotion. It's just a brief second but Stephens's portrayal of David realizing he's made a terrible mistake is extremely satisfying due to his oh so consistent portrayal of David's contentment beforehand. This is a striking turn by Martin Stephens but I will say in the end this feels like a warmup. The warmup for his masterful turn as a "creepy kid" in the Innocents.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Altenate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Robert Mitchum in Home From The Hill

Robert Mitchum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Capt. Wade Hunnicutt in Home From the Hill.

Home From the Hill is a decent melodrama about a young man Theron (George Hamilton) who attempts to make something of himself but in doing so discovers the dark secrets his family holds.

Robert Mitchum plays the central figure that all the other characters revolve around in this film but he is not the lead. His lack of screentime and perspective make him a supporting character, though the story could not exist without Captain Wade Hunnicutt. The reason being everyone in his home, and the town around seems affected by the man in some way, usually in the negative sense. This is made clear in the film's opening scene where the Captain is shot by a man for having an affair with his wife. The Captain scoffs off both the man and the wound as though it happens all the time. The film builds up the character, mostly through exposition of both just how great the man is at first, then soon followed by how terrible he is. They make him into as though he is some sort of living legend and it is easy to see how this character would've wholly fallen flat with the wrong actor in the role. Luckily they cast Robert Mitchum.

Robert Mitchum is perfect for the part and he absolutely knows it through his ease onscreen throughout the film. Mitchum makes the reputation of the character earned since he seems rather larger than life himself. Mitchum just exudes the confidence of Hunnicutt as he should, as he suggests a man who has always gotten what has wanted but also always has taken what he has wanted. Mitchum though is able to do something essential for the part which is to create the idolization of the man that we see in his son. Mitchum effortlessly brings an undisputed charm about the man that actually comes in part in that confidence as he shows a man who is truly comfortable with himself. He even makes the opening scene work where he scoffs getting shot, as Mitchum successfully makes sense out of the moment by portraying him as a man completely comfortable with who he is to the point that he also wholly accepts the violent consequences of his actions.

A pivotal relationship in the film is the Captain's relationship with his wife (Eleanor Parker) who is bitter over his lecherous ways, and basically wants to keep her son away from the man's influence. Mitchum is excellent in the way he maneuvers scenes between the two of them. In the confrontational scenes Mitchum technically presents a very sleazy man as the Captain wears his transgressions with pride, however again the sheer power of his presence overrides this in a most curious way that only few actors could possibly get away with. Mitchum though also utilizes this approach to actually earn the other side of the relationship that we see a few times where the Captain attempts to win back his wife. The warmth that Mitchum brings suggests a genuine love for his wife and is convincing that he could ease any of her bitterness. What's so interesting about this is that Mitchum does not define these moments as lying, but still the Captain being a man who, for better or worse, is himself no matter what.

Eventually the Captain's son learns that one of their workers, Rafe (George Peppard), is in fact the Captain's bastard son, which leads to central conflict of the film, as the son's image of his father is shattered. The film is directed by Vincent Minnelli who in a few of his other efforts in similair stories does not exactly avoid over the top melodrama. Now it is easy to see where that could have come most strongly with the character of Captain Hunnicutt, but is avoided through Mitchum's work. As this point comes as his son demands answers, and the Captain still stands by his choices no matter what, Mitchum holds his ground. He stays in a measured work that's true to the way he set up the character. There is a moment where the Captain explains the refusal, as basically he gets to do what he wants, Mitchum is great in the moment because his portrayal makes it so the Captain simply stays with his personal resolve. This is a very strong performance from Robert Mitchum as his low key approach not only earns the two perspectives of the character but also successfully merges them as one man.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: John Mills in Tunes of Glory

John Mills did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a BAFTA nomination and winning the Volpi Cup, for portraying Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow in Tunes of Glory.

John Mills's place in this film has a bit in common with his character in the film. In that as Colonel Basil Barrow, who is taking over command from Major Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness), he should be the lead of the film and the man in charge. Unfortunately old Jock and Guinness insist on being the center of attention, and poor Colonel Barrow can't even quite make it as a co-lead since all his actions in the end relate to the way they effect Sinclair. That's in no way to dismiss Mills's performance though, as he has quite the challenge and thankless job to fulfill, much like the Barrow as he tries to clean up the rowdy unit he has taken on. I will admit that Mills is an actor, though more than reliable, often is overshadowed by his co-stars. That is technically the point of Barrow in the film as he's suppose to be overshadowed by Jock, but in a weird way Mills isn't actually overshadowed here. In fact he very much plays his part quite cleverly in the restricted margins.

In the early scenes of the film Mills effectively puts up the front of the proper leader who wants to get his regiment into shape, in a normal fashion. Mills does well to actually play into the thinness of this prospect as he does not portray a direct passion, rather he emphasizes just a man who wants things in order as they should be in a professional fashion. This earns the man little respect from most of the men, particularly not Jock who worked his way up to command after starting out as a boy in the regiment. Mills again is good in portraying the internalized exasperation of the man as he conveys the active effort of Barrow to stay on good terms with everyone, while attempting to lay down the law as a proper commander. The problems only continue as Jock's behavior only gets more out of control and the insubordination continues. Mills's performance works wonders as he reveals technically the man's fault as he does not press issues, but also a real earnestness as he shows only a man with the utmost respect for the regiment itself.

In the scene where Barrow reveals his own connection to the regiment, having been part of it the same year Jock was in prison for his usual drunken behavior, Mills reveals such a genuine passion in the man's words as he attempts to explain how important the regiment truly is. Mills is painful to watch, in a good way, in the moment because he has Barrow only reveal the truth as though he is talking to a trusted friend, yet Jock only continues to mock him when he learns Barrow was a POW in the war. Now this aspect of Barrow's past is especially well handled by Mills's performance. Mills never emphasizes in order to wholly reveal what his terrible prison time has done. Instead Mills wears it within Barrow as a man which again is a brilliant approach. Mills in doing so quietly reveals the trauma in his more intimate moments yet the wear the rest of the time seems to paint the man as though he does not quite have the needed confidence for a proper leader. Mills allows us to see the man while at the same time he presents the "coward" to Jock.

Jock forces a direct power struggle by hitting an enlisted man, an action that should lead to court martial but it is up to Barrow to initiate the charges. Again what's great about Mills's work is that he gives us everything while having Barrow only exude an indecisiveness towards the rest of the men. Mills gives us a man conflicted by his belief in the regiment and desire to hold true to the old guard, but again it only appears as weakness at a glance. Eventually Barrow decides to try to make truce with Jock, and again Mills is incredibly moving by bringing such honesty in the warmth he brings as man who only wants best for regiment. Jock claims to agree to support him but such support never materializes. This unfortunately also leads to any potential support to dry up since he did not court martial Jock when he should have. Mills is heartbreaking in the scene as he watches this betrayal, as the men mock his authority right in front of him. Mills wears the terrible anger and despair so effectively, that he makes Barrow's final actions merely seem an inevitability. It is the best performance I have seen by John Mills, as he matches Guinness's work not trying to go against him, but rather by working around him to craft a tragic portrait of soldier broken by his own men.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960

And the Nominees Were Not:

Peter Sellers in Never Let Go

Robert Mitchum in Home From the Hill

John Mills in Tunes of Glory

Martin Stephens in Village of the Damned

Renato Salvatori in Rocco and His Brothers

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Results

5. Pierre Brasseur in Eyes Without a Face - Brasseur gives an unorthodox and effective portrayal of a mad scientist, by emphasizing a subdued professionalism that is rather chilling.

Best Scene: The Doctor encourages his daughter to enjoy her new face.
4. Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom- Böhm's work is unsettling as he allows the viewer to understand his killer's mind.

Best Scene: The studio murder.
3. Alain Delon in Purple Noon- Delon gives a very strong performance as he manages to capture the peculiar nature of Tom Ripley.

Best Scene: Tom tells Phillipe his plan.
2. Alec Guinness in Tunes of Glory- Guinness gives a compelling performance capturing a peculiar sort of bully who struggles to understand his own wrongdoing.

Best Scene: The final speech.
1. Richard Attenborough in The Angry Silence- Attenborough gives a moving and very effective portrayal of a modest man being slowly pushed to the edge.

Best Scene: "Shut up"
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1960 Supporting

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom

Karlheinz Böhm did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom.

Peeping Tom is rather effective film that follows a serial killer who kills and captures his victims' final expressions with his special camera.

Peeping Tom was an extremely controversial film upon its initial release to the point that it severely damaged director Michael Powell's reputation, and the film itself was almost lost to obscurity due to this reaction. It is interesting to compare the reaction of this film to that of Psycho which came out the very same year. Although the film developed from similair pedigree in terms of filmmakers, and both did incur some controversy, Psycho though still found mainstream success while Peeping Tom did not. Both films are about psychotic killers, we see the murder scenes with detail, but there is one major difference with Peeping Tom. In Psycho we are not made aware of who the killer is until the end in addition there are pseudo alternative protagonists to follow. In Peeping Tom the killer is the protagonist and we know this from the opening scene where we watch him slowly murder a prostitute. Powell ensures we are part of the murder so to speak as we view the murder directly through the killer's camera.

Karlheinz Böhm plays the psychotic killer Mark who curiously we are not meant to fear exactly, at least not in the normal way. Böhm's performance has the qualities you might expect from such a character. He is chilling in the murder scenes where he portrays the method in which Mark goes about his murder. Böhm's approach though is rather disturbing by showing a specific fascination in Mark in these moments. He's detached yet he's also not. Böhm portrays that Mark is captivated in the moment, yet he still goes about the murder itself without any hesitation. Böhm is chilling by realizing this curious mindset in Mark, which is that he is almost too deeply entranced in the act of observation which leads him to commit these murders in such a peculiar way. The nature of the murder scenes though are not from a thriller, and Böhm's performance is not that of a villain in a thriller. There are policemen after him, who we occasionally see, yet the intention of the film is to examine the voyeur as a man rather than examine how he is caught.

This intent in the film likely encouraged the controversy since the film does not desire that you hate Mark. Powell's direction along with Böhm's performance, even though we know from his first scene that he is a coldblooded killer, does challenge the viewer to sympathize with Mark throughout the film. Now this is not in the sense of seeing how he gets away with acts of violence, but rather sympathize with his mindset. Böhm plays Mark as a shy introvert and conveys almost this degree of naivety to the man. There is an earnestness that Böhm brings to his behavior, even though he is hiding a much darker side, somehow elicits this certain element of likability to Mark. In the scenes where Mark interacts with his neighbor Helen (Anna Massey) Böhm brings a charm almost in his awkwardness, as Mark struggles to make a good impression. Böhm does not play this as a serial killer who is trying to hide himself, but rather actually as a normal man attempting to honestly communicate best he can.

It is revealed that Mark's world view was indirectly encouraged by his own father who used him as for his own scientific studies, which he always documented with a camera. Böhm utilizes the backstory in his performance as he manages to give understanding to Mark's motivation as twisted as it may be. The damaged nature of Mark is made to be a constant in Böhm's work. In the moments where he speaks of his past Böhm reveals this off-putting attachment to it. Böhm speaks as though Mark is unable to escape what exactly the treatment had done to him, and leaves him in the painful state he is in. Böhm once again never brings a viciousness to Mark as the killer, he rather portrays his murders as a side effect of his affliction. Böhm shows there to be an irresistible urge in Mark as he goes about his behavior, never revealing a real pleasure in it. In fact when the urge begins to reveal itself around Helen, Böhm effectively reveals a real distress in Mark as he attempts to fight against that urge. Now the portrayal of the urge in itself is the most unnerving element in the film, because Böhm creates this fascination in Mark in the act of observing itself, not unlike someone watching a captivating film of any sort. Böhm's work captures the idea of that emphasizing with what he is watching though twisted into the depraved act of killing. It's a striking performance as Böhm allows one to understand Mark's demented mind and through that, along with Michael Powell's imagery forces the viewer to become invested in a most questionable man.