“We need to get Liam Neeson on side, we need to increase the number of swordfights and we need to make absolutely sure that Death loses”
OK, Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film, a key work in the cinema of gloom, does seem to end with Max Von Sydow’s Knight being led to oblivion in the company of Death himself. But isn’t this scene something of a supernatural vision? The sequence could, surely, be reasonably compared to Bobby Ewing’s more prosaic, less allegorically driven death in the TV series Dallas. We’ve got past all that postwar existential rot now. So, the Knight is still alive and, having been messed around something rotten, is as mad as hell. Look, Bergman had the makings of an excellent sword-and-sorcery picture on his hands before he mucked it up with unnecessary wittering and too much focus on board games. We need to get Liam Neeson on side – the new, kick-ass Liam; we need to increase the number of swordfights; and, most importantly, this time round we need to make absolutely sure that Death loses. What sort of message did The Seventh Seal have for viewers? Where’s the redemption? Yes, we understand that Orson Welles pioneered absurdly deep focus, sets with visible ceilings and all sorts of other baloney that nobody really cares about. But the film seems insanely confused about the greatness of its own protagonist. He founded an empire, for Pete’s sake.
Anyway, it seems that the cacophonous opera singer played by Dorothy Comingore gave birth some months after leaving Kane and tendered the child for adoption. Somehow, he ended up in Australia and founded a media empire that ultimately took over all the world’s newspapers, most of its satellite TV and a good portion of the international movie business. Unlike Welles, Joel Schumacher, director of Batman & Robin, will bring out the warmth of his protagonist. It will have a happy ending with the hero being celebrated at an official UK enquiry convened to celebrate the integrity of the press. Alfred Hitchcock finally got it right with Dial M for Murder. In that film, he demonstrated that the key to a fine thriller is not the careful maintenance of tension or the withholding of vital plot points; it is, rather, the promiscuous use of 3D. Forget the shower scene in Psycho. Remember that bit in Dial M when Grace Kelly stuck her hand right down the camera lens. That’s proper film-making.
Undoubtedly, the greatest error in Hitchcock’s career was his decision not to use 3D for Vertigo. It’s made for the process. Weird things are forever flying madly at the lucky, confused viewer. The good news is that Scottie, the hero of the piece, doesn’t die at the end. So, he can happily spend Part Two dangling from cranes, grasping the undercarriage of helicopters and evading giant robots from the centre of the Earth. To appeal to the younger demographic, we may have to drag the detective back from retirement age. Channing Tatum sounds about right. Now, here’s an idea that really sits up and demands attention. It’s about time the industry made a serious attempt to unite the highbrow and the mainstream. Sergei Eisenstein’s silent “classic” has a great deal going for it. There are quite a few action sequences. The Russian had clearly learned from Brian de Palma and knew to employ lots of tricksy montage shots. But, like so many supposed great films, Battleship Potemkin is really missing out on the alien factor. What about a combined sequel: a film that blends the best of Peter Berg’s 2012 entertainment and that 1925 exercise in leftist propaganda? Now we’re talking. Rather than depressing the audience by mutinying, the crew of the Russian vessel band together to repel an invasion by snake people from Alpha Centauri. Aside from anything else, it will make life easier for film students. Forget rotting food and smashed spectacles. That tutorial can now discuss massive explosions and computer-generated flying saucers. Terrence Malick really missed a trick when he made his contemplative 1978 film about miserable people harvesting wheat in the dark. We’re not just talking about the disappointingly drab attack by blood-thirsty locusts (though Roland Emmerich would surely have made something tasty of that sequence). The original featured two of the great shag-happy stars of the era: Richard Gere (priapic in An Officer an a Gentleman) and Brooke Adams (at the rumpy pumpy in Lace). And they play lovers who, for most of the picture, make like brother and sister. Saucy! Days of Heaven should have had more moisture than Waterworld and more grunting than Quest for Fire. We need the Brooke Adams character to get involved in some proper, undiluted incest action. And, of course, we need the gunfights to start a great deal earlier. Malick can only direct if, after only peppering Tree of Life with dinosaurs, he promises to introduce the giant lizards into every second scene. Serious cinema offers so many possibilities for outrageous, unnecessary sequels. What about a follow-up to 2001: A Space Odyssey involving a search for the missing spaceship? How about a sequel to Chinatown involving, erm, oil instead of water? We could maybe engineer a musical reworking of Fellini’s 8½ called, maybe, Nine. The notion of The Godfather Part III is, perhaps, too silly to contemplate. Hang on. Apparently, all these things have actually come to pass. This smartass feature really has no reason to exist.
Knight moves: The Eighth