Heaven Forbid: Rage in Heaven

DATELINE:  Koo-Koo Bird Special

 Two-faced Sanders

Note the two faces of George Sanders in the publicity still!

If you think you have seen Rage in Heaven, you may be mistaken. Around the same time came other movies called Leave Her to Heaven and Heaven Can Wait. Worse yet, the latter film also starred Robert Montgomery.

In this movie, Mr. Montgomery may not be above suspicion (after all, he carried an old lady’s head in a hatbox in Night Must Fall). Here too Ingrid Bergman is fresh off being driven mad by her husband in Gaslight, and everyone’s favorite reprobate, George Sanders, is never trustworthy!

This is the sort of movie where we have to trust the psychiatrist (Oscar Homolka) who let the dangerous psycho escape and looks kind of fishy in every scene.

You may begin to think this movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock or perhaps Mel Brooks. A mysterious inmate of a Parisian insane asylum has escaped—and shows up in Merry Olde England.

So, your usual nuthouse quotient is higher than normal.

As for us, we never did like the way Robert Montgomery looked at Fluffy the cat, and George Sanders was simply too too nice hereabouts. As for Bergman, she looks like she wants to catch the next plane to Casablanca.

This period piece of fluffy nutter came from a novella by James Hilton who had given us Lost Horizon, Random Harvest, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Lightning did not strike twice, or thrice, even with notable Christopher Isherwood doing the screenplay.

However, this is an MGM movie with a pedigree, and is first-class all the way to the nuthouse.





Unloved One, Disrespected Then and Now


 John Gielgud played a dead man twice in 1965, here with his dedicated mortician, Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger) in a scene that has to be seen in The Loved One.

Back in 1965, on the heels of Dr. Strangelove, dark comedy was all the rage.

So, Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One came to be produced. It was a scandalous tale about the funeral industry. And, it billed its tagline as the movie to offend everyone.

The first offense came with Robert Morse, a kind of all-American nerd who played a British national moving to Hollywood. He had so much trouble with his English accent that they had to record his lines and sync them in later.

The rest of the cast is brilliant—from Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy, an effeminate mortician, to Liberace as the coffin salesman. The roles seem reversed with those two.

John Gielgud played a dead body for the second time that year (first being in Woman of Straw). He proved to be a pliable and expressive dead man.

The end result resembles the end of Von Aschenbach in Death in Venice.


Other notables dot the entire production, making it fun to see the stars doing a cameo turn. Yet, the overall effect is neither offensive, nor witty. As written by Christopher Isherwood and Terry Southern, the tale seems full of sound and fury, written by the cottage industry scripters of the age.

Tony Richardson directed right off his highly entertaining and Oscar winning Tom Jones. He should have quit while he was ahead. But, to see Jonathan Winters in his young prime wanting to shoot the stiffs into outer space is worth every moment. He plays dual roles, becoming an American Peter Sellers here.

When an elderly British artist hangs himself as the studio fires him, his nephew has a Fellini 8&aHalf trip to make the funeral arrangements. Actually the scenes in the Forest Lawn mockup look like Last Year at Marienbad.

The tour of Whispering Glades cemetery takes up a goodly amount of time to the strains of Wagner’s Tristan & Iseult in a Disneyland for the Dead.

Black and white and black comedy all over, it won’t make you laugh, but it will drop your jaw now and then. Whether you like it or not, or whether it is fine cinema or not, you should see it.

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