Between the last two nights, I have watched 5 films that to some degree, starred Claire Bloom. From naive, communist librarian to intriguing vaporous lesbian (marvelously downplayed), loyal nurse and brave wife, a proud citizen and meticulously manipulative widow. Lady Bloom knows range and from how deep a depth to dive and what is more, how much to exhibit, how much to reserve.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold -
(1965) Directed by Martin Ritt
Starring Richard Burton, Claire Bloom,
and Oskar Werner
Due to its title and an overdramatized trailer, I half-expected a comedy. Richard Burton as a british Derek Flint, super spy, who through a sexy sixties soundtrack tangles and disentangles himself across a varied amount of perils. He'd have encounters with beautiful femme fatales whom are used by Burton as much as he is used by them, of which the cat's claw would be Claire Bloom. Burton would address the audience like a King Richard III and keep us most informed of his thorough english cunning.
Shame on me, I should've known better.
What I got in the stead of my ridiculous expectation was a subtle, intelligent story and film about disinformation espionage.
The Haunting - (1963) Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom,
Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn
The Haunting is the first classic horror film I've seen. Besides being frightening, it was richly textured. The furniture design, wallpaper, architecture, lighting and shadows made for such a thickly dense environment through which, most of the film moves, as a fish through ocean. One is easily lost in the background, the house itself seems an actor.
The sounds in this film are certainly eerie and director, Wise, has a great way of turning the quiet respites after each haunting into the truly scary moments on screen. A shot of a wall, silent, after it had just been banged on, chilled me to worst degrees than the sudden face of one of the characters jumping onto the screen after a build up of tension. A scene where Julie Harris' Eleanor walked away from the other characters while she voiced-over her thoughts of dejection as the background and all in it, are swallowed by darkness, this scene gave me goosebumps.
I'm not into horror films, mostly because they have a tendency to just throw sudden images on screen mixed with loud sound effects, which effectively scares me but does nothing for me during the rest of the film. The Haunting had very little of this. It was also a psychological thriller that became creepier through the increasing tension of atmosphere and tone. The camera worked well in adding to the element of discomfort, lots of angles and the spiral staircase scene was magnificently shot.
80,000 Suspects - (1963) Directed by Val Guest
Starring Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson
Yolande Donlan, and Cyril Cusack
About an outbreak of smallpox in a town and what is done to contain the contamination. Documentary style 60's film. It reminds me of Albert Camus' The Plague for obvious reasons. I enjoyed both. Though the film didn't have a sense of solidarity and the situation didn't seem as grave as Camus' novel, however this is unfair of me as the film isn't an adaptation of The Plague but rather a novel by Trevor Dudley-Smith.
Alexander the Great - (1956) Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom
How possible is it for me to watch a film starring Richard Burton and keep myself from trying to impersonate that thunderous voice of his after the film ends? Well today I needed a nap after watching Alexander the Great. Not that the film exhausted me, not at all, I was merely tired from being awakened too early. This film feels like a prequel to Cleopatra, here Burton is the ever ambitious Alexander the Great instead of the ever ambitious and jealous Mark Anthony. I almost wish this film were longer. One would expect two and a half hours should be good enough; but still I felt much was left out to deny an impression upon me, as to why Alexander was so Great.
The Outrage - (1964) Directed by Martin Ritt
Starring Paul Newman, Laurence Harvey,
Claire Bloom, Edward G. Robinson,
and William Shatner
Screenplay by Akira Kurasawa or some portion of it. Claire Bloom in a southern belle accent and appearance. Also directed by Martin Ritt. Paul Newman as a mexican bandido (he's good in the accent but the spanish words sound like they're spoken by a gringo sometimes). I want to own this film. It gives me an idea that any ill deed perceived is only viewed from it surfacing apex, the submerged portion is what inspired and drove the deed, all its factors and intentions. No one can truly, morally judge only the apex.