Cool Double-Bills No.1
An occasional series in which I pair two little-seen films together to make a neat double-bill. It’s an idea I developed years ago, after seeing one of the rarer double bills at my local cinema; â€˜The Strange Vengeance Of Rosalieâ€™ and â€˜To Kill A Clownâ€™. In the former, psychotic Bonnie Bedelia lured a businessman to her shack for sex then kept him tied up there. In the latter, Alan Alda and Blythe Danner were hippies in the next beachfront shack to a fascist militiaman armed with attack dogs. This was a rare â€˜Nutters In Shedsâ€™ double bill. Suddenly I could see how distributorsâ€™ minds worked.
Here’s my first offering:
Not the killer-doll movie but a dark thriller made in 1972 starring James Mason and Robert Preston, in which a rogue teacher at a high-end Roman Catholic school has encouraged such hero worship on behalf of his pupils that they will do whatever he says. Part whodunnit, part psychodrama, there’s also a hint of the supernatural at work. It’s a neat little exploration of power and adolescence that becomes increasingly more unnerving as you realise who really has the upper hand. It’s directed by Sidney Lumet.
‘Unman, Wittering & Zigo’
They’re the last three names on the school register, but Zigo is always missing. And when the new master David Hemmings arrives, he’s in for a shock. His predecessor blundered off a cliff in the fog, but the pupils cheerfully tell Hemmings that they killed him, and they have a plan for how the master-pupil relationship will work in the future. They seem to have thought of everything…including their master’s wife. The film ends with a nightmarish sequence in a darkened squash court. Lensed by the legendary Geoffrey Unsworth and directed by John (‘The Long Good Friday’) Mackenzie, it’s a forgotten gem of a movie, an uncomfortable mirror-image of the film above. Both films catch the dangerous hothouse claustrophobia of enclosed worlds.