Royal Scandals

A Royal Scandal/Margin for Error

Otto Preminger, director/BFI

In person, the man may have been a hectoring dictator, but Otto Preminger was one of the greatest talents of the cinema, working in a wider variety of genres than almost any other director. These are two of his most intriguing films, and have been unseeable for many years — a fact that makes this excellent BFI double bill all the more welcome. Margin for Error has Milton Berle as a sardonic Jewish cop given the job of guarding New York’s proto-Nazi German Embassy and coming up against a sinister egomaniac consular type (director Preminger himself, reminding us just how good he was in the sort of role). But most cineastes will want to see the inimitable Tallulah Bankhead in the deliciously bawdy Russian comedy A Royal Scandal. Bankhead herself encouraged the notion that she was quite a sexually voracious as Catherine the Great was reputed to be — and seizes on a role here with great gusto.

 

Princess

Anders Morgenthaler, director/Tartan

A remarkable (and very adult) feast of stylish animation, with a narrative clearly inspired by Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The visuals are stunning, but the film in some ways tried to have its cake and eat it, portraying the porno industry as irredeemably sleazy and corrupt, but nevertheless utilising its imagery knowingly. Nevertheless, more proof that animation is not content with the juvenile market.

 

Ugetsu Monogatari/Oyu-Sama

Kenji Mizoguchi, director/Eureka

Not, perhaps, to everyone’s taste, but these two stately-paced pieces of cinema are cogent reminders of just why Mizoguchi is held in such high esteem.  Based on a pair of 18th-century ghost stories, the appeal of these two remarkable films reaches out from the period in which they were made and the historical period in which they are set.

 

Eyes Without a Face

Georges Franju, director/Second Sight

Franju’s controversial masterpiece (which brilliantly combines poetry and horror – notably so in this uncut print) is, of course, adapted from Jean Redon’s novel by the redoubtable team of Boileau and Narcejac. And while the writers of Vertigo (D’Entre les Morts) and Les Diaboliques suffer from a degree of neglect, this is a reminder of their sheer professionalism (usually overlooked here in favour of Franju’s coruscating talent).

 

My Dear Killer

Tonino Valerii, director/Shameless

Cult Italian director Tonino Valerii is celebrated for his work in the western field, but his sole Giallo — the lurid and colourful Italian crime genre – is a truly bizarre and disturbing piece. The company have also issued another cult movie, Piero Schivazappa’s The Frightened Woman; erotic, demented and stylish.