â€¢ Stanley Kramer's OKLAHOMA CRUDE is a study in dissipated energy and wasted dramatic potential. Set in the Oklahoma oil fields about 1910, the story details a young woman's attempt to defend her lone (and so far unproductive) oil well against a predatory major oil company. Ideologically the movie is as crude as its title, and not surprisingly it walked off with first prize at the recent Moscow Film Festival. Nevertheless, all the ingredients for a first-rate drama are present; but they go largely untapped, and in the process some fine acting is wasted. Faye Dunaway plays a hardened, embittered young woman, hanging on to her oil well for God only knows what reason. Coming to her aid despite her open hostility are her father, John Mills, attempting to expiate past sins; and a hired hand, George C. Scott, whose character alternates between inexplicable courage and inexplicable cowardice. Arrayed against this motly group is Jack Palance, leader of a pack of oil company thugs and goons seemingly intent on taking over this nonproducing well at any cost. (The absurdity of this effort, in economic terms alone, is so obvious that it scarcely needs comment.) The film's dramatic values are further undercut by periodic episodes of "comic relief" and some wild improbabilities and coincidences in the plot. The ending, even on the film's own terms, is a disappointment. The acting is light-years better than the rest of the movie. George C. Scott, especially, shows once more that he can play just about any role. Faye Dunaway delivers a controlled performance in a part which at times comes dangerously close to parody. John Mills becomes as good a Westerner as he is an Englisriman. Jack Palance is convincingly repulsive as the villain. To waste this fine talent in such a ridiculous movie is a crime. Rated "PG".
â€¢ THE MACKINTOSH MAN is a good, old-fashioned spy thrillerâ€""old-fashioned" in this case meaning derivative of the mid- 1960's. The twists and turns of the plot cover quite a bit of familiar ground, but what the movie lacks in originality it makes up for in atmosphere. The cool, steady hand of director John Huston and superior performances by Paul Newman, Dominique Sanda and James Mason generate quite a bit of suspense and interest. In addition, the movie introduces several moral dilemmas, not all of which are resolved. Newman plays an undercover agent who helps engineer his own arrest and imprisonment in England, to flush out a criminal gang that specializes in arranging jailbreaks. Dominique Sanda, who plays his "secretary," delivers an admirably understated performance, in many ways reminiscent of Ingrid Bergman. James Mason portrays a type which is becoming increasingly familiar: a champion of "law and order" who, beneath the surface, is driven by a philosophy of power for its own sake. In supporting roles, Harry Andrews is urbane as Newman's boss, the mastermind with one trick too many up his sleeve; and Ian Bannen believable and even sympathetic as a pragmatic, amoral foreign agent who breaks out of prison with Newman. The austere location photography and simple, repetitive background music aid in achieving the film's mysterious and often chilling effects. Rated "PG".
â€¢ A few months ago, Twentieth Century-Fox released a movie entitled EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE. In the film's initial advertising campaign, a single theme was stressed: violence. Following complaints by various distributors and newspapers, and some confusion over the title, the name of the movie was shortened to EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, and the cue word in the advertisements was changed from "violence" to "excitement." However, nothing else about the movie has been modified; and even though well- plotted, and evocative of the depression- ridden 1930's, the whole enterprise is built essentially around a few bloody fight scenes. Between the action sequences, the picture visibly appears to lose momentum. Lee Marvin stars as a professional hobo, out to attempt what no one else has done: hitch a ride on a train run by Ernest Borgnine, a sadistic conductor who doesn't hesitate to kill any tramps he finds riding the rails. Keith Carradine plays a brash, opportunistic apprentice hobo who becomes a thorn in the side of both protagonists. Within the film's own context, most of the violence is justified; but in essence, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH is nothing more than a story about men playing some hideous, pointless children's game elevated to the level of a life-and-death struggle. Rated "PG".