Sir Carol Reed takes on a movie about insurance coverage fraud in sunny Spain — with an ideal trio of actors for 1963. Laurence Harvey scams an insurance firm and appears ahead to persevering with to beat the system in a cheerful lifetime of chicanery; Lee Remick finds her affections turning to Alan Bates, an insurance man who may additionally be on vacation, or may need come to uncover Harvey’s crime. How does Harvey cover out while waiting for the large payoff in Málaga? He buys a huge white convertible too massive to fit via the streets!
The Operating Man
1963 / Shade / 1:85 widescreen / 103 min. / Road Date June 18, 2019 / 39.95
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick, Alan Bates, Felix Aylmer, Allan Cuthbertson, Noel Purcell, Ramsay Ames, Fernando Rey, Eddie Byrne, John Meillon, Roger Delgado.
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Movie Editor: Bert Bates
Unique Music: William Alwyn
Continuity: Angela Allen
Written by John Mortimer from the novel by Shelley Smith
Produced and Directed by Carol Reed
The Operating Man seems to have been a bounce-back movie for the honored Carol Reed, who was made depressing on the set of the ’62 Mutiny on the Bounty by Marlon Brando, and fired by MGM in a ‘who’s in cost here?’ squeeze play. Though less than the identical high quality degree as Reed’s long term of spectacular, private productions, the performances and path in this Columbia image are high quality. It’s the screenplay by John Mortimer (Bunny Lake is Missing) that tries too onerous to be intelligent. How obscure was this show turn out to be, before the DVD age? When an Arnold Schwarzenegger film came out with the same title in 1987, no one even remembered that it had been used before.
The story begins in Croyden and shortly shifts to sunny Spain. Rex (Laurence Harvey) owns a small air transport firm, but loses the whole lot in a crash not coated by insurance coverage, and vow to have the last chuckle. With the help of his wife Stella (Lee Remick), Rex fakes his own demise in a glider accident. He sneaks off to Málaga, the place she joins him a while later with the insurance coverage payout. His hair dyed and a new mustache, Rex affects an Australian accent to match that of one Jim Jerome, whose passport he has stolen. Stella has accepted this ruse thus far, but she finds Rex a modified man — boastful and boastful, filled with himself for having fooled the insurance company that ‘cheated him’ before. But his plans stall when Stephen (Alan Bates), the insurance coverage investigator that interviewed Stella on the day of Rex’s funeral, exhibits up. He simply occurs to be right here in Spain on holiday and in search of company. Rex insists on befriending the lonely intruder, to determine if he’s telling the reality, or is basically there to show Rex’s fraud. Rex urges Stella to get closer to Stephen too, to see in the event that they’re being investigated.
With this stellar forged one may anticipate something exceptional, however The Operating Man is a diverting, intelligent thriller that relies a bit an excessive amount of on some tough plotting. One doesn’t must be Edward G. Robinson at Pacific All-Danger to see by way of Rex’s slick trick. With no physique recovered the insurers would definitely be following the cash, with people who might acknowledge him even when he had plastic surgery. Rex succumbs to megalomania right off, turning into convinced that he’s too sensible to be caught. He makes huge plans to collect extra life insurance on an id he’s assumed by way of a stolen passport. Does he anticipate Stella to play the widow again? They don’t say, I feel, what id he used to fly to Paris — did he danger using his personal personal?
Laurence Harvey tried to carve out a stellar career by enjoying good-looking but unlikeable characters, and in this present he succeeds in creating a crook we simply don’t like very a lot. Harvey’s disguise, particularly the blond hair, isn’t engaging either. Everyone mentions it — like individuals don’t appear to like Robert Stack’s dyed blonde hair in The Bullfighter and the Woman. It no less than helps us accept the fact that Stella isn’t sleeping together with her personal husband on this ‘trip.’
The tale of a wrongdoer outsmarting himself has some nice turns. Lee Remick is superb as the wife who can’t handle the modifications she sees in her criminal husband. Apart from the hair, Rex is morphing into a very despicable man. Stella’s upset by that, saying she simply needs issues to get back to normal. But, ought to we assume she’s a nice lady that just can’t image how a lot hassle she’s in, and how this nice man Stephen could also be there to help ship her to prison?
The Operating Man is all the time enjoyable, nevertheless it doesn’t absolutely satisfy. I feel the storytelling outsmarts itself too. As soon as Alan Bates’ Stephen attaches himself to the couple, the insurance coverage rip-off practically turns into an open secret. Stephen undoubtedly behaves as if he’s snooping for proof, and the development becomes obvious when he tries to photograph Rex. Stephen’s teasing games by no means let up. His every dialogue trade begins with a passive-aggressive joke about wrongdoing, ‘getting away with it,’ secret identities, and so forth.. Rex and Stella are alleged to be not sure about Stephen’s motives, when his interminable questions ought to erase all doubt. It’s fairly believable that Stella’s affections turn from one man to the opposite, an occasion that’s a surprise to her as properly. Each that, and Stephen’s true motivation for sticking with Rex and Stella, are developments too good to spoil.
After a lazy middle section sightseeing beneath sunny skies, the show winds up with a reasonably good, logical prolonged chase scene. Clichés are principally prevented, and Carol Reed’s course retains no less than a number of of the criss-crossing ironies that in all probability tickled readers of Shelley Smith’s supply e-book.
Planes figure 3 times in the story, but solely in a mechanical means. Making Rex a pilot of transport aircraft and gliders is what I call an ‘upside-down logic’ thriller plot component, in that the writers want him to comply with that career to make the DIY get-rich scheme work. My concept of a homicide thriller that’s solely upside-down is Hammer’s The Snorkel — the killer’s too-clever modus operandi is the only actual inspiration, and the rest of the story is an afterthought.
The Panavision film’s travelogue elements are handled fairly nicely; Carol Reed takes no breaks simply to take a look at surroundings, as in Ray Milland’s Lisbon. It seems loopy for Rex to purchase an ostentatious white convertible Lincoln Continental — Stella ought to have recognized he was off the deep end immediately. The Spaniards should have felt the same means. What’s Rex going to do when that outsized automotive doesn’t match via slender Spanish streets? Cinematographer Robert Krasker makes the undeveloped coastline look nice, and displays Lee Remick at her most lovely. However no one can do much with Laurence Harvey’s odd Australian accent and sharklike grin.
We’re joyful to see acquainted faces Roger Delgado and Eddie Byrne, together with a beard-less Fernando Rey. Rey should have had a ‘go to the front of the line’ move, for casting in English language footage. The identical goes for actor John Meillon, who all the time appeared to be tapped each time an Australian was wanted in an English movie — he was the Australian Bert Kwouk! The oddest little bit of casting is a really temporary look by Ramsay Ames, who was once a Common starlet, tapped for a featured position in The Mummy’s Ghost.
Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray of The Operating Man is a pretty encoding of this ignored entry in the filmography of Carol Reed. As remastered by Sony, the source material isn’t in good form — it has a number of dings here in there, but general it seems to be splendid. The present begins with flashy, very 007- inflected primary titles by Maurice Binder. In my favourite shot, two historic, tiny Spanish ladies dance by a doorway when Rex is on the telephone.
Arrow places additional effort into the added features. The complete background and production story is dealt with in an audio commentary by writer Peter William Evans. Lee Remick is heard in a type of complete Nationwide Movie Theater audio interviews. A brand new video piece presents the reminiscences of 4 crew members, most notably the legendary continuity woman Angela Allen. Assistant Director Kits Browning laughs out loud when asked about Laurence Harvey’s terrible Australian accent. The actor is remembered as a prima donna; and he and Lee Remick reportedly didn’t get along in any respect.
Why is that this lesser Carol Reed? Reed’s films usually thrive on intense moral problems, even the photographs not written by Graham Greene. Rex is an uninflected villain, and a fairly superficial one at that, and the resolution lets the survivors walk away without having to Face the Music. No one expects another masterpiece like The Third Man, however The Operating Man is just too easily forgotten. I find his earlier, similarly-titled The Man Between far more partaking.
I don’t assume this can be a spoiler — for people who have seen the picture . . . Did he know? . . . To me, the only method the show is sensible is if he did.
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
The Operating Man
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: Isolated music and effects monitor; Audio commentary by Peter William Evans, writer of British Film-Makers: Carol Reed; featurette On The Trail Of The Operating Man, with crew members Angela Allen and AD Kits Browning; Lee Remick audio interview on the Nationwide Movie Theatre, 1970; image gallery. Illustrated booklet with a essay by Barry Forshaw.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (function solely)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Hold case
Reviewed: June eight, 2019
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