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April 19, 2016

File of the Golden Goose

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Sam Wanamaker - 1969
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

The attempt was made to update T-Men, Anthony Mann's 1947 film to a (then) contemporary setting. The classic film noir filmed in and around the dark streets of Los Angeles was transposed primarily to "swinging" London. What the two films share is the same producer, with File of the Golden Goose as the second to last film from Edward Small. Seeing the two films back to back, it is the older film that remains entertaining, while the newer film looks painfully dated.

The story of two U.S. treasury agents going undercover to infiltrate a counterfeit ring now has Yul Brynner as a U.S. agent joining with an undercover detective from Scotland Yard, working to get the goods on a British gang known as The Golden Goose. Starting in New York City, Brynner's character is introduced as a prig who is too upright to spend the night with his very young looking girlfriend. It's a date night that ends badly when a car with some gunmen shoot the girlfriend and miss Brynner. Then it's off to London, based on some clues, where Brynner is teamed up with the still relatively unknown Edward Woodward, as his partner from Scotland Yard. A side trip to Liverpool directs the pair to a character known as "the Owl", played by future Bond villain Charles Gray. The Owl is described as a "queer queer", yet the only thing we see that some might find objectionable is that he hosts very loud parties attended by this film's idea of hippies.

The new version repeats the use of off-screen narration from the original, and some of the bridging footage between scenes has a vague cinema verite feel. Longtime Edward Small collaborator, Robert Kent, credited here with his pseudonym of James B. Gordon, gets screenplay credit with John Higgins, who wrote the screenplay for T-Men. Those who have seen both films will recognize the variations on the original film. Considering the new screen freedom allowed when the new version was made, very little is taken advantage of considering how much of the first version takes place in bath houses. The one element that works in the new film is the character of a hired killer, played by Graham Crowden, tall, with red hair sticking out from under his bowler hat.

File of the Golden Goose was the first of four theatrical films as a director for hire by Sam Wanamaker. The Globe Theater was Wanamaker's passion project, and the directorial gigs were a way to secure funding. I've seen Wanamaker's other films, and while none of his films are visually distinguished, he did improve his handling of action. Yul Brynner must have been pleased with Wanamaker as a director as the two worked together on the western, Catlow, two years later. The professional relationship between Wanamaker and Brynner dates back at least seven years earlier, when Wanamaker played a significant supporting role in Taras Bulba, starring Brynner.

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Posted by peter at April 19, 2016 05:45 AM