Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Shell Game of Shuffling Coffins

A man returns to his hometown in Bavaria after years spent growing up in England, the years during and after World War II. He identifies as English now and doesn't think he cares that much about his German father until he finds a weirdly tangled mystery around him in 1963's The Man Who Finally Died. Based on a television serial I suspect made a lot more sense than the muddled plot of this film, it's still entertaining with some nice performances and cinematography.

Stanley Baker as the protagonist, Joe, bears a weirdly strong resemblance to Morrissey, a not unpleasant distraction (apparently I'm not the first person to notice this). And he does a decent job as the point of view character, undermined a bit by the soundtrack's tendency to give a big menacing sting for every revelation in this mystery.

Joe thought his father had died years earlier until he received a phone call in England from a man claiming to be his father and claiming to be in need of help. Arriving in the small Bavarian town, he discovers his father had apparently died weeks before the phone call was made and inhabiting the family manor now is a perfectly pleasant, slightly sinister, and quite delightful couple played by Peter Cushing and Mai Zetterling.

No, no, nothing suspicious here. I only wish these two were in the movie more.

Joe uncovers one odd detail after another--his Protestant father was apparently taken to a Catholic church, there's an insurance agent apparently stalking Joe, and there's a grave where the name seems to have been swapped with another. The movie throws out more weird clues, in fact, than are quite supported by the solution given in the climax but there is some fun getting there.

Also in the film are Eric Portman as an irritable police inspector and an adorable Georgina Ward whose dead father may or may not have been swapped with Joe's dead father. It's not really clear why she starts wanting to help Joe, who's a bit of a jerk to her. Maybe it was clearer in the serial.

Twitter Sonnet #1074

Distracting squares arrive to spin the board.
Arranged on kitchen shelves were tiny trees.
A sudden cable stopped the breaking cord.
A face emerged composed of cheddar cheese.
On legs as thin as bars the metal stood.
In webs of ceiling fans the Shadow knows.
In hearts of lacing root and branches wood
The source of cloud and lightning slowly grows.
The moon's mistaken on the line of thugs.
In twisting flame a cherry vine awaits.
The lesser candy's sold for gummy pugs.
The tide of sour hooves at dawn abates.
Forgotten cushions hold a mess of pins.
Confusion tables list bouquets of sins.

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