Movie News

A Movie A Day: THE HIGH COMMISSIONER (1968)
Tell him it's about Tumbarumba.

Published at: Dec. 27, 2008, 7:52 a.m. CST



Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today is the first of a Christopher Plummer one-two punch we have in the AMAD line-up. We begin with THE HIGH COMMISSIONER, a late ‘60s thriller about a rough and ready Australian detective, used to breaking up drunken barroom fights, who is assigned to head to London and discretely locate and return a political figure who is suspected of murdering his wife a decade before.

Rod Taylor (THE TIME MACHINE) plays the Aussie detective, Scobie Malone and I was shocked at how great his Australian accent was until I looked him up after the movie and saw he was a native Aussie. I guess I never knew that about him. Christopher Plummer is the political figure, in the middle of peace talks that stands more than a fighting chance at stabilizing Europe as well as opening trade to Australia. I’m so used to seeing Plummer play the bad guy in the last 30 or so years that I expected a rather different kind of movie with the set-up, but I can say it was a pleasant surprise that Plummer’s character is actually not a villain. His Sir James Quentin is humble and kind, but strong when it comes to his convictions. Taylor finds him straight away and is upfront with him about his task. Malone is a no bullshit kind of guy, a typical laid back Aussie and Quentin is his British match. Plummer concedes to returning with Taylor, but will not leave until he has a chance to moderate the peace talks. He is the glue keeping fighting factions from breaking down these talks.

Because of the baggage Plummer has from his more recent roles I found myself anticipating all the goodness of the character to be a carefully crafted front, hiding his true face from his current wife and those closest to him. I was anticipating him using this façade to enable his escape, but that never comes. Plummer is the good guy and the suspense of the movie isn’t if he’s going to escape Taylor’s custody at all. Instead it’s Taylor shifting from arresting officer to bodyguard as several attempts are made on Plummer’s life. As usual, peace is bad business and there are certain powers that want to put a stop to it.

It is the dynamic between Taylor and Plummer, the close friendship that develops between the two, that really drives the movie and what made it an extremely enjoyable watch for me. Add on to that dynamic a great supporting cast featuring PINK PANTHER vet Burt Kwouk as well as the Palestinian beauty Daliah Lavi, Leo McKern and, my favorite, Calvin Lockhart playing an American named Jamaica. Constant AMAD readers will remember how much I loved Lockhart as the werewolf-obsessed lead in the Amicus picture THE BEAST MUST DIE, co-starring the great Peter Cushing. He’s so damn suave and funny in this movie that he instantly elevated it even further. I took one of his off-the-cuff remarks to Taylor (referencing his seduction by Lavi) for the subhead.

And Lavi is gorgeous here, playing the mysterious fatale whose alliances can’t really be pinned down. Also of note is Lilli Palmer, who has the most emotional role of Plummer’s current wife. Palmer’s also an AMAD vet… in fact, she followed up this picture with one we covered during the Horror Movie A Day October called THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED. She really steals the last 20 minutes of the film, coming out from the background and holding her own in a cast chock full of charismatic actors. The direction by Ralph Thomas isn’t flashy, but more than competent. He doesn’t really draw attention to his camera placement or movements, instead letting the actors dictate how the story unfolds. That’s not to say the movie is locked off, static and dull, it’s just not full of Welles-like or Hitchcock-like camera movements. Final Thoughts: I greatly enjoyed this film. A lot of that came through have zero expectation, I’m sure, but without any question it’s a great showcase for some huge personalities. And keep an eye out for a great, great fist fight where Rod Taylor kicks some ass with trashcan lids! Trashcan lids!!!

Here’s what we have lined up for the next week: Friday, December 26th: THE SILENT PARTNER (1979)

Saturday, December 27th: PAYDAY (1972)

Sunday, December 28th: A STRANGER IS WATCHING (1982)

Monday, December 29th: THE NEW KIDS (1985)

Tuesday, December 30th: SERIAL (1980)

Wednesday, December 31st: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1970)

Thursday, January 1st: IRMA LA DOUCE (1963)

I'm still a movie behind on the reports, but I'm current on the movie watching. I just need to get my butt in gear over the weekend and catch up on the reports. Next up is another Christopher Plummer flick THE SILENT PARTNER, co-starring Elliot Gould and featuring an early appearance by one Mr. Jonathan Candy Esq. Be back with that one soon! -Quint quint@aintitcool.com



Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets
November 30th: The Hot Rock
December 1st: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
December 2nd: The Day of the Dolphin
December 3rd: Carnal Knowledge
December 4th: The Cincinnati Kid
December 5th: Pocketful of Miracles
December 6th: Mikey & Nicky
December 7th: Two-Minute Warning
December 8th: The Sentinel
December 9th: How To Steal A Million
December 10th: What’s New Pussycat?
December 11th: Being There
December 17th: The Party
December 18th: Casino Royale
December 19th: The StrangerDecember 20th: Brother Orchid
December 21st: The Petrified Forest
December 22nd: Moontide
December 23rd: Notorious
December 24th: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Readers Talkback

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  • Dec. 27, 2008, 7:48 a.m. CST

    SILENT PARTNER will blow your wig off

    by Whtshark

    Can't wait to read your thoughts on that one!

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 10:27 a.m. CST

    I'll have to watch this again because although

    by dogrobber

    I've read a few books in the series (a long mystery series about Scobie Malone written by Jon Cleary), the cast is first rate, the story, direction, etc., are good, at the end of the day I just found the movie to be not good or bad, just sort of 'there'. Which is unfortunate for me because I really wanted to like it. But I'll pull it out of my stack and give it another shot. Thank you for the review.

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 10:41 a.m. CST

    What about Chumbawamba?

    by Kurutteru Yatsu

    I heard they get knocked down, but they get up again.

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 12:51 p.m. CST

    Rod Taylor can fight for real!!!!

    by picardsucks

    Not in the repessed extremely gay MMA style but in the old school bar room and back alley real life style. Notorious 50's-60's bad ass

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 6:48 p.m. CST

    Can you link Rod Taylor to Bacon in 3 moves or less?

    by Leafar the Lost

    I have never heard of Rod Taylor until now, so this may be difficult.

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Keep em' Coming!

    by Darthkrusty

    Really appreciate your work here Quint. I've never seen THE HIGH COMMISSIONER before, but shall certainly seek it out now. Many years since I've seen Silent Partner but I remember liking it lots. Enjoy!

  • Dec. 27, 2008, 8:13 p.m. CST

    simple Leafer

    by aint_it_cruel?

    Rod Taylor was in Fate Is the Hunter (1964) with Tony Barr who was in Murder in the First (1995) with Kevin Bacon.

  • Jan. 7, 2009, 10:39 a.m. CST

    Rod Taylor is on fi-yah in

    by dannyocean

    The Liquidator, a great Bond knock-off with Trevor Howard and Jill St. John.