Jack Arnold: Swiss Cheese at Last

DATELINE: Forgotten Co-Star?

John Saxon, d. 2020.

 One of the great 1950s sci-fi directors was Jack Arnold who gave us Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and a western No Name on the Bullet,that were astounding movies.

Alas, not every great director has the freedom to be an auteur. Arnold wound up in TV, directing some of the big TV shows from 1960 to 1990. It was all trash in the end.  Even directors have to eat.

One of his final theatrical movies was from 1976 in which he received a nice vacation to Zurich and Switzerland where he filmed The Swiss Conspiracy.  It has so many plot holes that even literate Jack Arnold could only give the stolen ice an ending on the ice of the Alps He was witty to the end.

The film is about blackmail over Swiss bank accounts. And, the cast is fairly stellar: Ray Milland as president of the bank, Anton Diffring as his vice president, John Ireland and John Saxon as assorted blackmail victims. It also happens to be a rare movie in which both Elke Sommer and Senta Berger appear.

If you have trouble telling them apart, this movie will help.

The star is benighted David Janssen, already looking worn out. He would die a few years later from his profligate living, but he was always busy in a role, mostly TV movies like SOS Titanic as John Jacob Astor.

Here he is some kind of retired federal agent who takes on a job to uncover a conspiracy of Swiss banking fraud. It’s a conspiracy because you will never figure out who was doing it and why everyone is murdered.

Perhaps the ultimate humor was to have as many plot holes as Swiss cheese. Jack Arnold does his best on this movie. He usually wrangles top drawer performances and makes the script literate, but even he had his limits. No wonder he turned to TV after this movie trifle.

As we watched this film, word came to us that John Saxon had passed away at his home at age 83. He was in seminal form for this movie, and gave many supporting performances of high quality. He was one of those patented movie/TV villlains of the 1960s. His death was forgotten, occurring between Olivia De Havilland and Regis Philbin in a 24-hour period.

Low Rent Hitchcock Always Nicer than No Hitchcock

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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Scrumptious Couple

We took in—again—Julien Duvivier’s marvelous little thriller from the late ‘60s that has a freshness about it that seems contemporary.

Diabolically Yours features beauty hiding evil everywhere.

Start with Alain Delon and Senta Berger never more stunning. They are a beautiful husband and wife, or at least they seem to be. They are rich and live on a gorgeous estate in a house decorated with Ming Dynasty treasures. Everything is lovingly filmed. They made two versions, one in French and one in English. Either is fine.

The problem is that gorgeous George Campo has amnesia after a car accident and nothing quite is familiar to him. His wife is a bit standoffish—and his best friend happens to be his doctor. Throw in a Chinese manservant who is inscrutable, but keeps all Madame’s clothes in his room with a lifesize mannequin of her to dress.

Poor George! Even his dog doesn’t like him. But his wife keeps feeding him those sleeping pills and refusing conjugal visits. It’s enough to make you start looking for dead bodies in the garden.

Short and slow until its sudden denouement, this is one of those classic French mysteries that used a Hitchcock template after Hitch stopped making his kind of movies.

This had a style reminiscent of Reflections in a Golden Eye, made around the same time, and also a contemporary flopperoo. But, audiences then are less astute than today when we have to shop in the past since the only fare nowadays is superhero light.

If you want a tantalizing mystery for 90 minutes with a hilarious sudden ending of poetic justice, then you could do worse than spending some time puzzling over this dittie.

 

Delon and Berger were never more beautiful and delicious.