9 July 2015 | russellalancampbell
Manuela - a sailor's dream.
This is one of those films that you see on an oldies station that plays some of those forgotten British black and white gems in amongst potboilers such as the "Carry On" series. "Manuela" is pure character study with a cast that brings depth and humanity to each portrait. At its center is Trevor Howard as the captain of an antiquated steamboat and a crew of disparate misfits. His façade as a crusty, cynical, misanthropic, disciplinarian is shattered by the arrival of Manuela, a young female disguised as a new crew member. The cast includes acting luminaries such as the ever enigmatic oddball and slightly sinister, Donald Pleasance, the life force that was Pedro Armendariz (Best remembered as James Bond's Turkish contact, Kerim Bey, in "From Russia With Love") and even Warren Mitchell before he became the abusive curmudgeon, Alf Garnett, in "From Death Do Us Part".
The center of attention is Elsa Martinelli as Manuela. She is luminous. She is childlike and wildly passionate. Her figure is willowy and her face elfin. In short, she is irresistible, especially when you have been condemned to working on a steam ship running between seamy sailing ports of South America and England.
There is a real sense of the heat, sweat, steam and coal dust and the dangers and hardships experienced by sailors on some of the old steam tubs. The black and white photography highlights the dank, dark recesses of the ship and the sweat and grime on the faces of the crew.
This is a tough film about tough men and that is what makes captain Prothero's love for Manuela so genuinely felt. Something unexpectedly beautiful has come into his life and he knows it. Trevor Howard expressed this depth of feeling without sentimentality.
I highly recommend "Manuela" to those who enjoy those old films that were made with such integrity and skill.