Posted on Thursday, April 18th, 2019 by Rob Hunter
(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we focus on a director who made nearly forty films over forty years but is best known for only four of them.)
Most filmmakers would be thrilled to have even a single movie resonate with audiences to the point of becoming entrenched in pop culture, but Shanghai-born Englishman Terence Young can claim four such films to his name. Sure three of them belong to the James Bond franchise, but Young is far from being some Johnny-come-lately there as he directed three of the very first entries – Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). He also directed the equally acclaimed and well-respected Wait Until Dark (1967) which remains one hell of an intense and suspenseful thriller.
That’s just ten percent of his output, though, so what about the other thirty-five films? We know they’re not nearly as well regarded, but are they any good? Happily, the answer for some of them at least is yes with an even smaller number reaching the level of pretty great. Keep reading for a look at the best movies of Young’s filmography that don’t feature James Bond or a blind woman terrorized by Alan Arkin… and that you’ve probably never seen.
Woman Hater (1948)
Lord Terence Datchett loves women, but he most certainly doesn’t want to be tied down to just one. He feels so strongly about it that he’s not above encouraging his best friend to abandon his bride to be mere minutes before the ceremony, but his own confidence might be the end of him. Terence engages in a game of sorts after meeting a French star enjoying her own single status, but while he hopes to call out her hypocrisy it’s his own that begins beating in his heart.
Romantic comedies pitting an unlikely couple against each other are nothing new, but the concept is an eternally fun one. Love finds a way, as they say, and while neither character is looking for romance they fall madly in love against their intentions anyway. Stewart Granger is best known for later supporting turns, but he does really good work here as the overly confident Terence who fumbles his way into a relationship. Edwige Feuillère is equally strong as Colette Marley and gradually reveals the mischief and playfulness beneath her calculated celebrity exterior.
The film lacks the star power of the sub-genre’s best – think the fast-talking films of Frank Capra and Howard Hawks – but it’s an entertaining watch all the same. The banter between Granger and Feuillère shifts as each thinks they have the upper hand in their shared deceit, and it’s fun watching the pair play each other. The script is sharp and not above mining physical antics for laughs, and Young and his cast execute it all with both energy and enthusiasm.
Woman Hater is available on DVD.
Serious Charge (1959)
The Rev. Howard Phillips is a good man doing good work as the new vicar of a small town church, but while his heart is in the right place in his outreach towards local youths he underestimates the maliciousness of young ruffian Larry. When the boy’s distraught and pregnant ex is hit and killed by a bus, Howard confronts him – and the teen trashes the room, rips his own shirt, and accuses the man of trying to molest him. With an entire town turned against him Howard struggles to prove his innocence against the hideous charge.
Sexual assault by members of the Catholic church is a sadly familiar topic these days, but it creates a shocking atmosphere in this late 50s small town. The film, of course, is far from explicit on the topic – the accusation is phrased as “he tried to interfere with me!” – but it captures well the weight of it all as the reverend’s daily life becomes a series of disgusted glances, anonymously vile letters, and rocks thrown through windows. The vicar’s also forced to defend himself from a drunken mob at one point, and lucky for him he’s good with his hands.
The film finds suspense in the drama, and Anthony Quayle does great work in the lead role. He shifts easily between Cary Grant-like charm and sincere concern, and his growing troubles are worn in his expressions and building sadness. He’s devastated by the accusation, obviously, but equally crushing is the realization that people could so quickly and easily believe the worst about him. It leaves him with an internal struggle when it comes time to forgive his flock as he finds that he can’t. It’s an unusual approach that makes for a compelling end to an engaging tale. For those who recognize the name, the film also offers the first screen appearance of British rock star Cliff Richard too.
Serious Charge is not currently available.
Triple Cross (1966)
Eddie Chapman is a talented and successful English safecracker who’s finally arrested and imprisoned in the early days of World War II. When the Nazis invade he smooth talks his way into working for them as a double agent, but when he’s back in British hands he twists his loyalties yet again promising to spy for his homeland. Did I mention it’s based on a true story?
The film’s biggest strength, as evidenced by the picture above, is Christopher Plummer. He can’t sing his way out of the Nazi’s grasp this time, but he’s still every bit as charismatic of an impersonator as he was the year prior in The Sound of Music. The character is meant to be smooth as silk both with the various government officials and with the ladies, and Plummer does a brilliant job blending the charm with the smarm. He makes it clear that Eddie’s only real loyalty is to himself, and you really can’t fault the guy thanks to Plummer’s winning turn.
Much of the film’s two hours plus running time is focused on Eddie wooing those around him and wiggling his way out of situations, but there are mild action beats too as he finds himself actually acting out his spy duties. He parachutes into both Germany and England and is tasked with sabotaging a factory, but while these sequences manage minor suspense the film’s most steady drama rests in the character’s twists and turns. It’s ultimately a bit overlong for what it is, but Plummer can do no wrong here.
Triple Cross is available to stream and on DVD.
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