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Friday, February 21, 2014

THE HIGH BRIGHT SUN (1965)

Ralph Thomas, a house director at British-based Rank Films, made eight featherweight comedies with Dirk Bogarde before switching gears for this final collaboration, a political thriller about a rule-breaking British officer in Cyprus stuck between an uncooperative American archaeologist (Susan Strasberg) and her host family’s involvement with partisan terrorists. The film, also known as McGUIRE, GO HOME! and A DATE WITH DEATH, gets off to a rocky start, but takes on uncommon interest once Bogarde begins investigating a political murder. On the debit side, Strasberg’s brittle presence is a pain and George Chakiris, as the terrorists’ ruthless hothead, needs his WEST SIDE STORY/’61 sharkskin suit to register, but the rest of the cast is very effective. Even the lack of action chops from director Thomas comes off as flatfooted honesty, splitting our sympathies between oppressors & patriots. A state of affairs that suits Bogarde’s natural dramatic inclinations. Especially so when Denholm Elliot shows up as an undercover agent who works with a very free hand. Their few scenes together crackle with a near-erotic tension missing from anything that goes on between Bogarde & Strasberg.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The merely decent DVD transfer from VCI offers only a full frame (1.37:1) picture. But, judging by the opening credits, the print format was always meant to be cropped by the projectionist, probably with aperture plates somewhere between 1.66:1 to 1.85:1. A common practice for the period, the film looks far more dynamic slightly cropped. Try your OverScan or a Zoom-1 setting.

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