19 July 2005 | silverscreen888
Imaginative Premise Carried Out Very Well; A Fine Adventure
The one quality missing from many films I claim, especially those made since 1972/3, has been genuine imagination. Call the quality honesty, surprise, wisdom, edge-of-the-seat interest, real difference--I claim it has been omitted from many otherwise worthwhile projects; death, half an hour into thousands of films, by script illogic is not pretty to watch. "Mister Moses", another situational thriller or adventure from Max Catto I claim is always fun to watch. Consider the story-line's premise. An entire village of African folk has to be relocated from one place to another; the excuse is a dam being built that will flood their land. Whatever. The point is they do not wish to leave their ancestors, the bones of their people, their gods. The authorities find a man to lead them out of the wilderness to the promised land; he is a genial con man played by Robert Mitchum, but they think he is Moses, not Joe Moses--never mind why. And he takes his job seriously, and they follow him. But that does not mean the trek will be an easy one. Especially not with a disgruntled, educated power-seeking type going after him with a flame-thrower. Yes, the villain traps himself in his own fire, but the other difficulties along the journey are also quite real. Enough so to make the adventure quite moving in its own understated and very realistic way. And did I mention the elephant the hero rides? And Carroll Baker as a pretty nurse who believes in Joe Moses? The credit for the good script, which is very faithful to the original novel by the way, was written by sci fi author Charles Beaumont and Monja Danischewsky. Director Ronald Neame achieved a quite dusty and atmospheric look that is kept remarkably consistent throughout the film's length. Other is the small cast include Ian Bannen, Raymond St. Jacques as the villain, fine veteran Alexander Knox, Reginald Beckwith and Orlando Martins as the village's chief. Cinematography was by Oswald Morris and art direction by Syd Cain. The music was quite good, and provided by John Barry of "007" films' fame. There is not much more to say about this intelligent and delightfully convincing film except to say that it could have been a great deal worse, and could hardly have been improved over what its caring creators gave it. Mitchum is very good as the reluctant savior on elephantback, Baker properly sympathetic; and everyone else consistently good. I find it a fascinating "B" film, helped by its color and made memorable by its straightforward story-line and fundamentally-sound premise. Of course like the earlier Moses, this one could not go to the Promised Land either. See the film for the ending. It's a fine entertainment by anyone's standards, and by mine it never drags, and never preaches either. Which is even better.