NR, 91 min.
Director: Basil Deardon
Writers: Nel King, Peter Achilles, William Shakespeare (play “Othello”)
Starring: Patrick McGoohan, Keith Michell, Marti Stevens, Paul Harris, Betsy Blair, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Braden, Harry Towb, María Velasco, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth, Charles Mingus, Bert Courtley, Keith Christie, Ray Dempsey
So for a few days now, I’ve been searching for a way to remember actor/director Richard Attenborough, who passed away earlier this week. Attenborough was a renowned actor and director.
As an actor he was best known in his early career as a military man in such pictures as “The Great Escape” (1963), “Guns at Batasi” (1964), “The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965), and “The Sand Pebbles” (1967). He also appeared in “Doctor Doolittle” (1968), “10 Rellington Place” (1971), Satyajit Ray’s “The Chess Players” (1977), and Otto Preminger’s “The Human Factor” (1979). He was perhaps best known to modern audiences, however, for his late career rolls as John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” (1997), and as Kris Kringle in the 1994 holiday remake “Miracle on 34th Street”.
Although his roles were often met with acclaim, it was as a director that Attenborough made he greatest cinematic impact. His directorial debut was the 1969 musical “Oh! What a Lovely War”. He also directed the Hollywood adaptation of “A Chorus Line” (1985), biographies on Steven Biko “Cry Freedom” (1987), Charlie Chaplin “Chaplin” (1992), and C.S. Lewis “Shadowlands” (1993). His biggest triumphs were a series of epic films starting with “Young Winston” (1972), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977), and the Oscar-winning “Gandhi” (1982).
But what I discovered as I searched for a film to review of his was a little known modernization of Shakespeare’s “Othello”, which takes place in the jazz scene of the early 60s. Oh, this concept appealed to me greatly. I’m a huge music follower and a scholar of Shakespeare. The picture is a little claustrophobic piece of cinema that sees Shakespeare tragedy of Iago’s manipulation transferred to a jazz ensemble celebrating their bandleader’s first anniversary of his marriage to a former siren. The drummer is the Iago character, who has designs of starting off on his own with a new band, in which he plans to include his friend’s wife as a singer despite the fact that she retired after the marriage. The deliciously evil Patrick McGoohan plays this slick manipulator.
It isn’t the boldest adaptation of Shakespeare, but it’s nice to see all the real jazz names, like Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus, on screen providing an incredible soundtrack. Attenborough plays the guy with the digs for this all night anniversary party. He’s kind of an usher to the events, much like his role as John Hammond in “Jurassic Park”. He facilitates the proceedings. He has no idea they will go so wrong.