1960 (Scent Of Mystery ~ 70mm/Smell-o-vision)
1962 (Holiday In Spain ~ (3-Strip & 70mm Cinerama)
DIRECTOR: Jack Cardiff
Where to start with this one.
Beginning life with one supposedly revolutionary process, as the Smell-o-vision 70mm extravaganza in 1960, it would end up being re-cut into the then flailing widescreen format of Cinerama in 1962, losing both scenes as well as its odours.
So, having been deodorised and presented on the 146 degree deeply curved screen that was Cinerama and retitled Holiday In Spain, presumably to capitalise the on the Cinerama format’s trend for travelogues, this light-hearted crime thriller, starring a host of big names, Denholm Elliot, Peter Lorre, who I am sure references his role in Casablanca (1943) directly at one point and Leo McKern, let alone cameos from Diana Dors and another whcih I will not give away here, is a contrivance of ideas.
On one hand, it is a quite forgettable comedy crime movie of the day and on the other it is presented in an unnecessarily epic manner, with a booming score from Mario Nacimbeme playing across a series of stunning Spanish vistas.
The views are awesome, a point laboured by the cast of numerous occasions and the plot which is almost pointless yet serves the purpose of taking us a nonsensical journey across the country. But it works. It is overblown technically but the film is fun, light-hearted and never takes itself too seriously.
Elliot playing the quintessential Brit on holiday in Spain, is brilliant, complete with his inner monologue talking us through his trip and is a well judged that conceit; as is his pairing with down and out cab driver Lorre, as the duo chase down assassins and potential victims as the web of intrigue, though bare in mind this is hardly Hitchcock, is spun across the scenic expanse of Spain.
Nacimbeme’s score is breezy, loud and brash but never intrusive, serving the story, characters and photography perfectly.
This is a reconstruction of the Cinerama print by David Strohmaier yet again and considering the state of the negatives and other elements, it is a great job. Though that is not to say that there are not problems and lots of them here. The source materials were clearly badly damaged due to various reasons, many of which are explained in a brief documentary on the restoration by Strohmaier himself but we did not to have him explain this and it was pretty clear that the film was in need of a lot of restoring.
But having said that, the movie was very enjoyable and probably the most enjoyable Cinerama film that I have seen to date.
Though it is clear that the original cut of the film (Scent Of Mystery) is all but lost and with its 25 minutes, some have suggested the parts of the plot which make the film work have been lost with them. Maybe this is true but as I have said, the film still works as a colourful, breezy work of fun, and a good looking fun to boot.
But a word on that spoiler below but if you have not seen the film and plan to do I would NOT READ ahead.
MAJOR PLOT SPOILER!!!
READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL…
HIGHLIGHT the text below to reveal…
Elizabeth Taylor is revealed to be the REAL Sally at the climax of the film.
Liz Taylor was married to Eddie Fisher at the time and since he had sang the theme song for Scent Of Mystery and Taylor had been Michael Todd Jr.’s, the film’s producer’s, stepmother prior to her marriage to the singer, it is not completely out of left field that she would have this cameo. But certainly it comes out of the blue for the audience, who I suspect like me, were expecting Diana Dors to return after her cameo earlier in the movie.
N.B. Today is the 56th Anniversary of The Scent Of Mystery’s premier on January 12th 1960, as well as this year being the 50th Anniversary of the film’s U.K. premier in February of 1966. Whether this was the U.K. release date of Scent Of Mystery or Holiday In Spain, I must admit, I am not sure.