Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Nicky Smith
The Queen's Guards (1960)
From an unidentified publication, dated October 13th 1961.
Mr Michael Powell's Latest Film
Mr Michael Powell is a brilliant technician who is apt to give pyrotechnic displays in the cinema, more, it would seem for the sake of the general flare-up than for the illumination they throw on the particular subject that was the film's inspiration. Ever since The Edge of the World, which was made in 1937, he has been unpredictable, and that is by no means necessarily a bad thing. To have an individualist running riot in an art/industry inclined to imitation conformity is, indeed, refreshing, but Mr Powell has never quite fulfilled his tantalizing promise.
His latest film, The Queen's Guards, which he produces and directs and which is now to be seen at the Carlton cinema, sound straightforward enough. It would have been more successful had it been more so and had Mr Powell not sometimes given the impression that he was attempting to fit together pieces that did not belong to the same jigsaw puzzle. The beginning is outstanding; here the camera, tracing the preliminaries to the Trooping of the Colour, turns out picture after picture that has the snap, jungle and authority of Kipling's rhymes plus a sense of discipline that is part of the Guards' tradition.
As the clock draws near to the hour of 11 on the Queen's birthday it is apparent that Mr Powell is going to make a liberal use of the device of the flashback and also what his purpose is. He is concerned first to take one or two young officers, John Fellowes (Mr Daniel Massey) and Mr Henry Wynne-Walton (Mr Robert Stephens), for instance, strip them of their uniforms [is this literal ?] and show them as individual human beings, and then substitute khaki for scarlet and illustrate a unit in action somewhere in the desert.
In both fields of activity the film falters. Poor John Fellowes is shown as perpetually hangdog in the presence of his crippled father (Mr Raymon Massey), who cannot forgive him for being too young to be killed in the war in place of the adored eldest son David, while the desert sequences are conceived in the spirit of the old Boy's Own Paper - the photography, however, which is splendid and adventurous throughout, does much to redeem them.
The Queen's Guards is, at any rate, a bold and vidid film, charged to the brim with colour and spirit when it is working even on a broad canvas, even it is uncertain when it descends from the general to the particular. Miss Ursula Jeans miraculously turns a tiny sketch into a full-length portrait; Miss Judith Stott is pleasantly sympathetic and Mr Ian Hunter is bold enough to take up a resolutely anti-Guards attitude.