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Film Picks

[whitespace] By Richard von Busack

The General (1998)
(Plays at selected theaters.)

The exciting story of the contemporary Dublin master criminal Martin Cahill, portrayed as a wide-screen black-and-white caper. There are sickening touches--Cahill was a disciplinarian known to nail an associate's hands to a pool table. But this mixture of the violent and the picaresque is business as usual for John Boorman (Hope and Glory, Deliverance). The story is uncannily light on its feet, even though the hero (played by Brendan Gleeson) is not so much a dashing swashbuckler as a cuddly, slobby, overgrown boy. The General is exhilarating in the way crime films usually aren't; but then again it's also informed in the way that most aren't. (When you see the Irish society Cahill's up against, his sociopathology is all too understandable.)

The Witchmaker a.k.a. The Legend of Witch Hollow (1969)
(Plays Saturday, Feb 27 at the Werepad)

Hail, Satan! A group of students, lingerie models all, deliberately strand themselves in a swamp to be able to receive psychic vibrations without interference from cities. Unfortunately, the swamp is the domain of Luther the Berserk (John Lodge), Sabbath-Master of the local coven, and it's just three shopping days until Candlemas. Touching comic relief is supplied by the teacher Dr. Hayes, who handles the gory deaths of his students with inspiring calm. (Hayes is played by Alvy Moore, the crafty county agent from TV's Green Acres.) Lodge, who is terrific, once played Dietrich's busby-wearing lover in The Scarlet Empress, and he was probably the only former governor of Connecticut ever to be photographed feeding blood to an idol of Lucifer.

Peeping Tom (1960)
(Plays at the Castro Feb 25-Mar 4)

The British companion piece to Psycho, and some prefer it to the better-known film. Michael Powell, the great British director of the fantastic and the allegorical, created this horror story of a jittery cheesecake photographer (Carl Boehm) who takes out his sadistic upbringing on his models. Outrage toward this still-powerful shocker all but ended the career of Powell. He displays all of his best qualities here: his sumptuous use of color, stylized sets, velvety play of light and darkness. Connecting it all is Powell's rich dark symbolism reminiscent of the turn-of-the-last-century decadent artists.

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From the February 15, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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