Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Some film projects seem to have been conceived in hell, this one looks like it was dreamed up in Hellzapoppin!Directed by the usually sane Roy Ward Baker, THE SINGER NOT THE SONG is, at first glance one of those pseudo-westerns that the English used to occasionally have the urge to make back in the Fifties and early Sixties whenever otherwise respectable British thespians wanted to dress up and play cowboys. They are pseudo-westerns inasmuch as they were set usually in Australia (ROBBERY UNDER ARMS) or South Africa (THE HELLIONS). I'm not quite sure whether THE SINGER NOT THE SONG is set in Mexico or Spain or some fantasy Spaghetti Western Land. Whatever, the result is a scream with John Mills as a Catholic priest assigned to a rural village that is terrorized by bandit Dirk Bogarde. A strange role, you might think, for Bogarde, a closet queen who publically denied his sexuality who plays, the bandit in tight black leather pants, carries a whip and is obviously attracted to the priest. But Bogarde did not shy away from roles like those in VICTIM or DEATH IN VENICE. Here, however, it is hard to know quite what to make of his performance - a perfect English accent and the general demeanor of his Simon Sparrow character in the DOCTOR series. The film is probably not helped by knowing that John Mills disliked working with Bogarde who (whatever his considerable skills as an actor) always came over as a bit of a spiteful old Queen) and that Bogarde felt that Mills was miscast and not "pretty" enough for the part. Of course this was 1961 and the gay sub-text is played down by a "beard" in the delightful form of Mylene Demongeot as the girl who seemingly loves both bandit and priest. Despite being played absolutely straight (if you'll pardon the expression in this context) it is great fun when viewed today. The supporting cast is a collection of wonderful British character actors chosen, obviously, for their swarthy complexions and ability to sweat, and includes Erich Pohlmann, Roger Delagardo, Laurence Payne. John Bentley seems somewhat miscast as the police chief with a flawless English accent. Best of all though is the usually so-respectable Laurence Naismith (a specialist in playing Lords, Judges, Politicians etc and fondly remembered as THE AMAZING MR.BLUNDEN) going totally over the top as a feelthy cheroot chomping, sombrero wearing, sweating Mexican bandito), The final lust in the dust shootout is a hoot. Rating ***

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