Darby O’Gill and the Little People – 1959

May 31, 2012

Much like Action of the Tiger, Darby O’Gill and the Little People was to be a huge influence on Connery’s future career albeit in a rather indirect way. To the young Scot it must have seemed like an incredibly big deal to be snapped up by Disney  and offered a leading role next to an equally aspiring actress after the mediocrity of his recent productions. He could show off his acting skills, sex appeal and even singing voice to a mass market that Disney were surely going to pull in. Unfortunately, Darby O’Gill was not the springboard that Connery had perhaps hoped, his next three films having no significant impact on popular culture; unless of course you are a Tarzan buff (and if that’s the case, you have bigger problems my friend).

But, I’m digressing; Darby O’Gill was influential because of one person, out of millions, that saw the film and, in Connery, saw something special.  Her name was Dana Broccoli.

As Gabriel Byrne states in an interview given sometime between late May and early June 2011 for the documentary ‘The Quiet Man: Ireland on Film’: Ireland has “never had great artists, great painters, great sculptors, but we’ve always had great storytelling”.[1] This is what comes across in the film: a great, mythical story about Ireland and all the things we associate with that old country. It’s an old fashioned story that you could imagine a medieval tavern drunk telling to his friends and family around a fire.  Good ol’ classic family fun; something right up Walt Disney’s alley.

The film tells the story of Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) who is a caretaker of a big estate in Rathcullen, County Kerry. He lives with his daughter played by Janet Munro and tells all his mates down the pub about his attempts to catch leprechauns and, in particular, the king of the leprechauns (portrayed in miniature, with some very inventive use of split screen, by Brian Connors). Connery appears as Michael McBride, a young buck, pretty much in the film for his Celtic good looks and strong physique, who will be taking over Darby’s duties on the estate he has worked his whole life on.

Michael’s character is perhaps mainly just in the film to be a love interest for Munro’s Katie O’Gill, as their sub-plot proves to be no way near as interesting as the mental skirmishes that betwixt Darby and his leprechaun adversary.  In all, Connery and Munro are just there to add young blood to the picture, a background story that links in loosely to Darby’s exploits.

However, as with many Disney films we can see that amidst the traditional story adds a newer more contemporary message which Uncle Walt decided to pop in.  Just as Aladdin promoted the notion that its best not to lie, and Snow White taught you to stay away from fruit, Darby O’Gill is filled with enough hidden meanings to overly excite a first year English Literature student.  Below are the four main areas tackled amidst the fiddling[2] and singing;

  1. We should admire Ireland and its ‘oldy worldy’ mystical qualities.
  2. We should accept old age, and respect the elderly.
  3. We should be prepared to let go of our children into the big wide world.
  4. We should appreciate the power of sacrifice.

This last point is not fully dealt with as this is, after all, a Disney film.  Luckily for us, the picture is all the better for it. Without the slightly unrealistic happy ending we wouldn’t have the three main characters riding off into the sunset singing their jolly heads off.

This singing is what sticks in the mind when we think of Connery in this film. He doesn’t stand out for his acting (the Irish accent is once again not great and as Christopher Bray points out, he rushes through his lines far too quickly[3]), his monobrow still doesn’t seem to have been sorted and his fist-fighting is as rough as it was in Action of the Tiger (and in that film he was supposed to be drunk). No, the one thing that makes Connery stand out in this picture is his voice and his wonderful rendition of ‘Pretty Irish Girl’. This scene always makes us smile and makes us remember that Connery has a joyful soul deep down; below the intense patriotism.

Perhaps it is this singing, coupled with his lustful embracing of Munro that made Dana Brocolli swoon in the cinema and thus persuade her husband Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli to test him for the role of 007. As with Action of the Tiger, Connery probably only saw this role as experience, a way to just about keep his foot inside the door of Hollywood, but, inadvertently, and quite fortunately, he had now collected two major influences that would shape the whole future of his life. Without really knowing, he had caught the eye of an up and coming director Terence Young and a successful producer’s wife. Connery was on the right track; even if he himself didn’t yet know it.

7.5/10


[2] One of the best parts of the film comes when Darby plays his fiddle to manage his escape from the Leprechauns.  There was some good fiddling.

[3] C. Bray, Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man, p. 59-60

Please watch our review on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgKlSS0XATk

Witness Connery’s singing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTwmjOySDjA&feature=related

For your own copy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darby-OGill-The-Little-People/dp/B0001IMCAM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338491644&sr=8-1

Another Time, Another Place – 1958

May 2, 2012

Whilst  Another Time, Another Place cannot claim to be Sean’s breakthrough hit (nothing but Dr. No could claim that honour) it is perhaps the first film which would have put him on the map.  Not in the centre of the map (to drag out a tedious metaphor) but somewhere near the edge, visible – but only if you were looking.  

To Connery, it must have been a great step forward, after a year of Fox pushing him into small roles in nothing B-movie flops, he was finally appearing alongside the legendary Lana Turner (who although not as well-known now was a guaranteed box office draw in 1958).  Connery was third billing in the credits behind Turner and Glynnis Johns (another popular actress you may remember as the suffragette mum in Mary Poppins) in a film which also featured Carry On stalwarts Terence Longdon and Sid “Hyak hyak hyak” James.

To begin with a brief plot summary: Turner is having a tempestuous relationship with war time reporter Connery (he dramatically narrates the disarming of a bomb at the start of the film), which becomes more complicated when firstly he reveals that he has a wife and child, and secondly (rather inconsiderately) he dies.  We see all the dramatic emotional turmoil of Lana Turner as she struggles to deal with the revelations and the fact that she stupidly goes to visit the home town of Mark (Connery), has a dizzy spell and ends up living with his ex-wife for a few days.  Yeah.  That’s the plot.  

What could have been a dramatic denouement between a woman scorned and the woman scorner, complete with sizzling dialogue and catty asides, ends up being a lot of moaning.  It’s interesting that as soon as Connery is written out of the story (after the first half an hour) the whole film becomes drab and though the other actors try, they cannot bring the film out of its funk.

Turner is well remembered as a consummate actress, but none of her considerable skills are on display; she merely comes across as either pathetic or mildly irritating.  Connery is really demonstrating his potential as a leading man, however; especially in the scenes he shares with Turner.  It’s hard to look at this film without the shadow of Bond hanging over it, but it really does feel that Connery is honing his seductive skills, which would come to the forefront later on.  We can see perhaps the seduction of Ms. Taro from Dr No. in the way he drapes Turner across a sofa.  

Sadly, George and I found that the most interesting part of Connery’s performance was his dramatically massive eyebrows.  Before he became Bond and someone (probably Broccoli) tamed them, Connery’s eyebrows are like a pair of radioactively enhanced caterpillars fighting for control of his face. Maybe they are more noticeable because this was one of the few early Connery films which you can obtain a decent DVD for, but they are still extremely notable and added greatly to our enjoyment of the film.  Yes, this may sound juvenile, and can you, dear reader, really trust this review if the two reviewers spent a large amount of time laughing hysterically over the leading man’s eyebrows? Quite possibly not.  But on the other hand the film is so boring in parts that we’re reduced to watching facial hair movements; that’s more a damning indictment of the film rather than us.  Or maybe it’s us as well. The film receives it five rating mainly for Connery and its coherence but you’re watching thinking this could be so much better.

However, looking at this film in terms of Connery’s career we can really credit it with putting him on the map, and giving him a little exposure to the directors and producers of the film world.  The film, though not a critical hit, was surrounded by enough drama to guarantee enough people saw it, and by extension Connery.  Connery can owe some of this new found fame to his leading lady as Turner was still a bit star, perhaps as much for her films as for her relationship with notable American gangster Johnny Stompanato.  The story goes that he burst onto the film set pointed a gun at Connery and told him to stay away from his woman.  The young Scot apparently casually grabbed the gun out of Stompanato’s hand, twisted his wrist, causing the gangster to exit the set with his tail tucked between his legs.  Indeed, the rumours of a relationship between Connery and Turner, turned out to be more interesting than the film itself.  But it is from this point that Connery would stop appearing in bit parts, in sub-standard B-movies.  Not to say that every film between this and Dr No. was a resounding success, or a visible step up, but we can really see the stepping stones which would set up one of the sixties biggest film stars.  

5/10

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Please watch our review on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke0hKG4AXXc

For your own copy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Time-Place-DVD/dp/B000A3DB8U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1335983610&sr=8-3

Released in the UK in the first half of 1958

Action of the Tiger – 1957

April 16, 2012

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“You could have been good, kid. Van Johnson good.” Mickey Rooney, 1995[1]

Time Lock had done nothing for Connery’s career, seemingly the contract he had signed with 20th Century Fox wasn’t paying off straight away.  The rise to fame of Sir Sean Connery could well be traced from the 1957 film Action of the Tiger, though at the time it may not have seemed this way. With Connery being loaned out to MGM, the film flopped[2] and the year ended in a disappointing whimper. We can’t even find a release for the feature in the UK! All Sean could do was take out some positives from the production; even positives that he would not have been aware about at the time.  

Action of the Tiger revolves around a plot that could have probably been exciting but simply just fizzles out, rapidly running out of juice. The story concerns a smuggler named Carson (Van Johnson) who is given a proposition by a French woman (Martine Carol) to help her smuggle her brother out of Albania, where he is being held as a political prisoner. The film screams routine anti-Communist picture and sure enough that is what it is, as the main characters, as well as rescuing the brother, eventually also rescue a bunch of Greek kids from the clutches of the villainous red army.

Where the movie could have been full of intrigue and interesting characters it is merely let down by the poor writing and the underwhelming cast. The biggest culprit from the cast is Van Johnson. Branded as a “basement bucket Bogart”[3] by one critic, his performance turns the picture into a laughing stock. Constantly wearing a ridiculous hat that seems glued to his head while squeezing into some tight fitted tops, Van Johnson hams up the lines he is given and comes across as a closet homosexual trying ever-so-hard to be the manliest man of mankind. This overacting unfortunately seems to have spread to the rest of the cast: Sean in particular.

When we first see our future leading man, he is participating in a bar fight, something his character (Mike) seems to be always involved in due to his alcoholism. This drunkenness leads to a scene that Connery would probably not like to be trudged out from the archives. He tries to attack and rape the film’s leading lady, which comes across as an unintentionally humorous set-piece; perhaps due to Connery’s overacting or the cringe-worthy way Van Johnson’s character seems to condone Mike’s actions, or at least barely condemns them[4].

Connery, fortunately, emerges from the dregs of this film quite well.  Despite his limited screen time, Mike still comes to save the day and you find yourself thanking Mike that at least the film seems about to end. By the time of his return, the sight of his stubbled jaw is a welcome distraction from Van Johnson’s character, who, with hindsight, would have been played a lot better by the young Connery. Martine Carol herself stating: “This boy should be playing the lead instead of Van Johnson. This man has star quality.”[5]

The film is only saved by these little moments and the wonderful scenery that is seen throughout and as the trailer states these were shots of places that had never been seen on screen before. In this case it’s Andalucía, Spain. But, just as you’re enjoying the environment of a barren Granada, you are let down by ridiculous plotting and scenario: one of our favourites being a lonely Communist guard watching over apparently one of the most important bridges in Albania. ONE guard.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Connery could take positives out of this film. It’s his first colour feature and it garnered it him more experience, though this luckily wasn’t from Van Johnson, but, instead, from director Terence Young.  He saw the potential in Connery and promised him, that when his was working on a better film, he would remember the young Scot.  Whether Sean Connery put much faith in this promise from Young we will not know.  We do know however, that the ‘better film’ Young directed would be Dr No. and that it would be the film which would cement Sean Connery as a name to be remembered. 

2/10


[1] The Simpsons, Radioactive Man, 2F17

[2] No surprise when the trailer contains the statement: “Van Johnson discovers dynamite is dangerous!” Well, duh!

[3] L. Pfeiffer, Philip Lisa; The Films of Sean Connery

[4] Men will be men, seems to be the basic justification.

[5] L. Pfeiffer, Philip Lisa; The Films of Sean Connery

Time Lock – 1957

March 22, 2012

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Major lauded roles in respectable television productions; a solid supporting role in a British film; and a recently signed contract with 20th Century Fox; Sean Connery must have really felt that his time had come in 1957. Unfortunately, this would not be the case, as Fox would go on to merely lend the eager Scot out to various different studios to fill in minor roles that were needed in minor films. The first of these was to be a little seen British film called Time Lock, where Connery would play the role of Welder Number 2: a role where his face was covered by a mask for most of the hour long runtime and where he was once again supposedly Irish. It must have felt like a step-down for Sir Sean.

Perhaps the most interesting fact about Time Lock was that it saw the early pairing of director Gerald Thomas with producer Peter Rogers, the two men would go on to define British cinema in the sixties with their innumerable Carry On films. However, the film unfortunately has very few redeeming features; it instead relies on over the top acting, an unoriginal story and a fairly predictable end.

The small child of a friendly banker is accidentally locked in the bank vault which is fixed with a “time lock”. This means it cannot be opened for 48 hours by which time the child will have asphyxiated. Various solutions are put forward as to how to rescue the child and the welders are called in to burn through the powerful door to rescue the child; an idea that completely fails.  Connery is one of the two welders; the less important one. Though he is visible for the majority of the film, he does little more than stand with his welding tools in hand and has his face covered.  There is very little tension in the film, we can tell from the start that the child will be rescued at the last moment and be reunited with his loving father and mother (which he is).  

I wouldn’t say that we particularly enjoyed this outing of Sean’s mainly due to its lethargic pace and plotting, but the few lines he has amused us, mainly because of the overacting he is allowed to get away with. The cool, reserved persona of James Bond was at this point still hidden from view. The film did nothing for Sean’s career and it seems no-one took any notice of it during its release.

 This film remains one of the few we don’t actually own, as we found it to buy and watch online for about three pound from http://www.eztakes.com that specialised in rare films. If you have a burning desire to see Sean Connery wielding a flaming torch I would recommend this film, otherwise I would advise to steer clear of a film which wouldn’t even bear the distinction of having an impact on Connery’s future career; unlike the next film on our list: Action of the Tiger. 

1/10

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Pleasr watch our review on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e7VJJA3Mjg&noredirect=1

Link for your own copy: http://www.eztakes.com/store/movie/Time-Lock-Movie-Download.jsp

Released in the UK on 27th August 1957

Hell Drivers – 1957

March 13, 2012

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1957 was a busy year for Sean Connery. Released in the UK on 23rd July, Hell Drivers was his second film of the year and it wouldn’t be his last. Gaining minor recognition from his numerous television appearances, Sir Sean was finally making some money from something he was now putting his heart and soul into: acting.

When it comes to Hell Drivers, we find our Scottish hero still low down on the list of cast members, but at least in a motion picture that stars many British heavyweights of the time: Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, William Hartnell, Patrick McGoohan and Sid James. It is quite ironic that this film contained so many actors that would go on to appear in television shows and films which would have an incredible impact on British culture. We’ve got Doctor Who, The Prisoner, Carry On and obviously James Bond.  It is then further more ironic that an unknown Scotsman (with a raging mono-brow) would be the most significant of them all.

Hell Drivers is the best film that Connery appeared in pre-Bond, most likely owing to its strong British influences. Filmed at Pinewood, the acting in the film is great and the plot is intriguing and tense, though the sped-up shots of the trucks are quite laughable and a crashed party midway through becomes something of a farce. The film is carried by Stanley Baker who stars as Joe ‘Tom’ Yateley, an ex-convict. After leaving prison, he tries to restart his life and takes up work at Hawlett’s Trucking Company, which has to transport gravel to construction sites in record times; hence the name Hell Drivers, referring to their devilishly dangerous driving. Unfortunately for Yateley, he upsets the status quo of the current workers (Connery included) and does not play along to their way of running things. In trying to play things straight, he exposes his boss’s rackets and gets on the wrong side of McGoohan’s character who seems to eat cigarettes rather than smoking them.

Though the film as a whole is enjoyable, the ending of the film is abrupt and unwelcome; though this may be due to the lack of petrol the filmmakers had, as this film was shot during the oil crisis in the Suez Canal. This could further explain why you never really see Connery doing any driving, which is confined to the major characters, but it does seem that the producers had enough money for tomatoes.  One of the unintentional comical moments comes when Sid James throws one solitary tomato from one shot at a window screen and the next screen shows us a truck covered in a multitude of mouldy fruit. 

As said before, this is probably Connery’s best film of the 1950s and very early 1960s and, as with No Road Back, he is trying his utmost to make the most of his role; a desire that would seem to escape him when he reached superstardom. Hell Drivers should not be missed: if only for the fact that this is the first film that he plays an Irishman; something that will continue throughout his career. This film also led to him being signed by 20th Century Fox, which at the time would have been widely celebrated by himself, but would, in fact, lead to roles that were of less importance when compared to those he had gained in his first two films. 

7/10

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Please watch our review on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXdtCBrt-Fg

Link for your own copy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hell-Drivers-DVD/dp/B000MM0XYE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331661049&sr=8-1

Released in the UK on 23rd July 1957

No Road Back – 1957

March 6, 2012

Sean Connery’s debut performance in a feature film was unfortunately not one destined to go down in history.  This unremarkable British B-Movie gave Connery no opportunity other than to show off his impressive physique (a holdover from his bodybuilding days) and a questionable stutter.  Despite the claims of Wikipedia this is indeed Connery’s first film appearance.  He is supposedly a background dancer in the equally forgettable Lilacs in the Spring (1954) but after strenuous rewinding and scouring the entire screen for a confirmation of this rumour we are forced to discard it.

No Road Back regales us with the story of a man who returns home from doctoring in America to discover that his blind and deaf (yes, both) mother is the head of an underworld criminal organisation.  Connery plays the role of Spike, an athletic though verbally challenged henchman who clambers across rooftops to allow the team entrance to buildings where they can obtain priceless diamonds and other such loot.

The film itself is obviously very cheaply made, the action mostly centring around one dull location (the bar and back room from which the criminals operate) which merely adds to the slow pace of the film.  The main actors (Skip Homeier, Margaret Rawlings, Paul Carpenter) do very little to make the lacklustre script anything more than a by-the-dots story of criminals evading and finally being brought to justice.  The only interest in the film for us was seeing an extremely young Connery (his bushy eyebrows as of yet untamed) in his first role.  And to give him credit, he does appear to be trying very hard, the earnest expression on his face, indicating his urgent desire to break into the film industry.  If only he knew that worldwide fame was only five years away.

The DVD itself was extremely hard to get hold of (as many of Connery’s early films are) we found it on an internet site called Armand Movies, and it has obviously been recorded off a late night television showing; judging by the adverts to be from the early nineties.  A film only to be watched if you are a true Connery obsessive.

3.5/10

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Please watch our review on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkL7OdGSazQ

Link for your own copy: http://www.armandmovies.com/cart/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=115

Released in the UK on 4th February 1957

The Quest for Connery

March 6, 2012

Hello there. Morge here.

This blog contains an idea that may not be new to many of you, but then, to some, it may be, so let me explain what my friend Matt and I (George) have/are undertaking.

As a by-product of our love for James Bond and films, we undertook the challenge of watching every single film Sean Connery had appeared in. The task was a lot trickier than we predicted.

In this blog, you will see reviews of each of his films in chronological order, be able to read what we thought about the film and, more significantly, what we thought about Sir Sean himself. At the end of each post, there will be a rating. This rating is based around what we thought about the film as a whole; not just Sean’s performance.

You shall also be made aware of where we found the films and also a brief history on the making of the film itself.

Each blog will contain links to trailers for the films or any other snippets we may find on YouTube. The links will also be of our YouTube reviews of the films; something we did many months and years ago.

I must state that Connery is not the only star we are currently focussing on. After we completed our quest for Connery we moved on to many other challenges. These include Nicolas Cage, Stephen King and Disney animated films. When one list dies another will arise.

We hope that you enjoy what we have to say and that you share in our love for Sir Sean, as it will be him that we are first going to be blogging about. Feel free to leave comments on what we say and add any other insights that we (most likely) have missed out.

So, I announce this quest as: STARTED.

Morge.


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