Secret Ceremony

Cenci and Leonora in bed

At first sight bizarre, and at second sight even weirder, 1968’s Secret Ceremony is the sort of arthouse thriller that Elizabeth Taylor apparently never made. For Mia Farrow, her co-star, it looks like a warm-up for the following year’s Rosemary’s Baby. Robert Mitchum, yes Robert Mitchum, makes up the third leg of this very wonky stool. Forget Mitchum for the moment. Who are these women, it asks and eventually answers, wrongfooting us most of the way with its story of needy co-dependence in which Taylor plays a woman called Leonora and Farrow plays Cenci (pronounced Chenchee). The women, both dressed in black, meet on the top deck of a London double-decker bus. Cenci … Read more

Out of the Past

Jeff and Kathie

You can run but you cannot hide is the sentiment driving Out of the Past, Jacques Tourneur’s bleak film noir masterclass from 1947. Just when you think you’ve got clear of something, so the story goes, up it comes from your history and bites you in the ass. Robert Mitchum plays Jeff, a private detective hired by a big “operator” to go and find the woman who’s run off with his $40,000. What Whit (Kirk Douglas) really wants back is the woman rather than the money, and when Jeff tracks her down in Acapulco he discovers why. Jeff, instantly smitten, does the thing a private eye shouldn’t do and, after trading dialogue that’s … Read more

The Yakuza

Keiko Kishi and Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum in a martial arts movie? That was Warner Bros’ crazy idea back in the early 1970s. Riding the massive success of their collaboration with Bruce Lee and the vogue for all things chop-socky, the next logical step was never to pack a paunchy and ageing Mitchum off to Japan but Warners went ahead and did it anyway. In 1974 came the verdict – The Yakuza was a massive commercial flop. Time hasn’t done much to restore its reputation, though there are great things in it, and any opportunity to watch Mitchum is usually worth taking. After 1973’s monster hit Enter the Dragon, the race was on to get more of the … Read more

Cape Fear

Robert De Niro

It’s compare and contrast time. Max Cady, a psychopath recently out of stir after a long stretch for rape, sets out to terrorise lawyer Sam Bowden who he believes withheld information about his case at the trial which resulted in him going down. The original, directed by cult British director J. Lee Thompson in 1962, starred Robert Mitchum as the avenging psycho (a role he’d perfected in 1955’s Night Of The Hunter) and Gregory Peck as the apparently decent lawyer. Both turn up again in cameos in Martin Scorsese’s remake, in which things aren’t quite so clear cut. This time around Bowden (now played by Nick Nolte) is a lousy lawyer, and a … Read more