Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Miraculous (Part 1)

AndressFest is over for another year, and as usual it was a wonderful, even mystical experience. Mystical, you say? Well, there was a full bottle of vodka on the kitchen bench at the beginning of the evening, and by the end it was an empty bottle of vodka. Just one of the many Miracles of AndressFest!

Our first movie for AndressFest '08 was 1966's 'The Blue Max'. In World War I, a young man of common birth rises up through the ranks to become an officer and a fighter pilot, back in the days when a fighter plane was slower than a Trabant and made out of the same materials as the average umbrella. He becomes obsessed with winning Germany's most coveted military medal for aviators, known as the Blue Max. Nothing – not family, not friendship, not honour, not Ursula Andress clad in nothing but a pair of small towels – will deter him.

What an idiot.

So, let's have a look at the sort of people we're dealing with here.

George Peppard as Bruno Stachel. Before cheesing it up in the ridiculous but seminal 80s TV show 'The A Team', George Peppard made a good living in Hollywood playing sleek, amoral young men. His eerily smooth skin and chiseled good looks made him perfect for playing slick, insincere adventurers.

War is hell. Mind you so is driving around in a silly van with a bunch of idiots solving mysteries…

James Mason as General Count von Klugermann. James had a long and lucrative career basically playing one of two people: the Good James Mason and the Evil James Mason. He was always James Mason, but sometimes he was chivalrous, brave and upstanding, and sometimes he was manipulative, venal and corrupt. In The Blue Max he’d set the acting switch in his back to “evil” in order to play a ruthless General willing to jettison all moral law and decency to further his career and the war effort.

Hmmm… we're going to need smaller pilots.

Jeremy Kemp as Willi von Klugermann. Jeremy played Stachel's rival for both air supremacy and the attentions of Ursula, but he was an unusual choice for the role, given that he looks like a Ken doll that's been chewed by a dog and then run through the dishwasher. Willi is both Ursula's nephew and her lover, a partnership which is in questionable taste even for Germans. Still, if that's the most inappropriate relationship one of Ursula's characters ever had, I'll change my name to Helga and take up clog dancing.

"Gentlemen; To Evil!"

And then there’s Ursula as Countess Kaeti von Klugermann. She's as lovely as ever, gadding about in a number of snappy ensembles, from her pink housedress…

It's Homewrecker Barbie!

to her brown traveling outfit…

"My chocolate soufflé fell, darling, but think I've found a way to salvage it."

to the luckiest towels on the planet.

The towels later sold on eBay for 3.1 million dollars.

As usual, Ursula was at her most effective when she just played herself: a feisty seductress brimming with steamy passion. When she's required to show any other emotion – remorse, grief, guilt, reverence, wistfulness – she crashes and burns faster than a Chinese airliner.

That said, it still wasn’t a bad movie, and one may well wonder why it isn't more famous. While very long, it's well-paced and beautifully filmed. The vast, complicated battle scenes are exquisitely choreographed, with hundreds of running soldiers, explosions and low-flying aircraft all flawlessly timed to be caught by panning cameras. Today we'd just do it with CGI, but this was all real; real extras, real explosives and real biplanes.

Perhaps 'The Blue Max' has been forgotten for the same reason that all AndressFest movies have been forgotten: the Curse of Ursula. With the exception of 'Dr No', she seems to have had that effect on the cultural destiny of every movie she ever made.

This was certainly the case in our second AndressFest '08 movie, 'Red Sun', to be reviewed tomorrow.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again for hosting, Most Bland One.

I must say I find George's circa-60s looks more 'dough rising' than 'chiseled' but perhaps it was just a quirk of the film stock.

10:06 AM  

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