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July 2016

All Night Long

cast: Patrick McGoohan, Keith Michell, Betsy Blair, Dave Brubeck, and John Dankworth

director: Basil Dearden

91 minutes (15) 1962
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Network blu-ray region B

RATING: 10/10
review by J.C. Hartley

All Night Long

One of the advantages of having your character named Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan) is you can say lines like "Listen to your cousin Johnny," and that's what everyone does: they listen to Johnny as he infects their minds with suspicion and doubt. In Shakespeare's Othello, which is the source for this drama, the ensign Iago, motivated primarily by jealousy and thwarted ambition, plots to discredit his General, Othello, and destroy his superior's marriage to Desdemona. Iago has brooded over rumours that Othello has slept with his wife Emilia, doing his work between his sheets, but buries the suspicion as Emilia dismisses the calumny as mere gossip, not so fortunate Othello, whom Iago convinces of Desdemona's treachery within days.

The narrative of All Night Long doesn't quite occupy real time, but the events occur within the span of a single night, at an after-show party thrown by entrepreneur music-promoter the Honourable Rodney Hamilton (Richard Attenborough), to celebrate the first wedding anniversary of the splendidly named Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and Delia Lane (Marti Stevens). As befits the longevity of Shakespeare's work, Othello has been variously interpreted over the centuries. Is Iago simply jealous of his General's status, does he lust after Desdemona himself, is he nursing a homosexual crush for the Moor, or is he simply racist?

After marrying black band leader Aurelius Rex, singer Delia Lane has retired from the stage. However, unbeknownst to her husband, she has been secretly rehearsing a new style with tour manager and musical director Cass (Keith Michell). Meanwhile, drummer Johnny Cousin has been making plans to tour his own 12-piece band with the tacit approval of Hamilton, and the promise of financial backing from club-owner Berger (Bernard Braden), but any deal is dependent upon Lane coming out of retirement and fronting the band as vocalist. Convinced that Lane is missing the limelight, Johnny pitches the deal, and reveals that he has always nursed romantic feelings for her, but she rejects both offers. Aware of Rex's jealousy, Delia's continuing desire to perform, and the singer's secret rehearsals with Cass, Johnny begins to intrigue to destroy the year-old marriage and lure Delia back to the stage.

I'm only vaguely aware of McGoohan's early film career; I first became aware of him as the taciturn John Drake in the ITC series Danger Man, a series I loved but was often confused by as it became increasingly off-beat; looking back I can now appreciate its post-modern deconstruction of genre tropes (yes indeed). I know he pops up in a 'Hey, that's Patrick McGoohan' moment as an airman on guard duty in The Dambusters (1955) early in his career. I've seen him in Nor The Moon By Night (1958), an African jungle picture in which he spends most of the film recuperating from either a mauling or malaria while his brother seduces his fiancée. He was the psycho trucker 'Red' Redman in Hell Drivers (1957), and I've even spotted him as Doctor Syn in Disney's The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh (1963), which I caught on TV in a hotel bedroom in New York.

He'll forever be Number 6 for British audiences of The Prisoner (1967-8), and - yes - in All Night Long he not only tells someone he'll be seeing them, but whoever put the clips sequence together for the start menu on the blu-ray managed to combine a particularly appropriate thunder-crack from the film, to be followed by a drum-roll rim-shot from the soundtrack; one almost expects to see the Caterham Lotus 7, KAR 120C, come barrelling down the road.

After The Prisoner McGoohan continued his film career, as well as winning awards for his appearances in his friend Peter Falk's Columbo series for NBC. McGoohan showed he had lost none of the quirky flair he displayed on The Prisoner in his directorial duties on the Columbo episode Last Salute To The Commodore (1976), where, presumably with the collusion of the star, he subverted the format of the show to Brechtian ends of alienation. The chief suspect isn't shown committing the murder, is murdered himself, and Columbo attempts one interview while trying to adopt the lotus position, and another during which a witness operates noisy machinery.

McGoohan as Johnny Cousin is a bundle of nervous energy in the film but never elicits our grudging admiration as Iago or other Shakespearean villains do. His complaint that he is 35 and has nothing of his own doesn't draw our sympathy. He is dismissive of his wife Emily (Betsy Blair), a former high school groupie he married after a drunken weekend when she was still under-age, but uses her friendship with Delia, and her chaperone activities during the rehearsals with Cass, to back up his story of suggested infidelity to Rex. Johnny gets the vulnerable Cass stoned - yes McGoohan smokes reefer - and ultimately gets him sacked from his job by Rex after Cass verbally insults Berger. Any tension in the film is generated by Johnny's conniving; sometimes slick and assured, at other times wheedling and fawning he plays his victims like puppets. Rex, despite his scepticism of Johnny, is inevitably drawn into the trap.

One of the unique things about this film is the presence, as 'themselves' of a host of jazz greats. "You fellahs all know Charles Mingus?" "Yeah, sure we do." "It's Dave Brubeck!" "Hey! Here's Johnny Dankworth. Sorry Cleo couldn't make it." As well as the cameos there's quite a considerable amount of jazz played in the film, continually in the background as well as in set-piece performances, not least in a drum routine which shows Johnny's machinations coming to a head.

There are a couple of songs performed by Marti Stevens in the film, including the Egan, Marsh, Pitts and Whiteman number, I Never Knew I Could Love Anybody Like I'm Loving You, and this song showcases Delia's 'new style' and precipitates a confrontation between her and Rex. While I'm not familiar with Stevens' performances I was certain this one was actually dubbed by Cleo Laine, however the similarity in style seems to have been purely coincidental, although I did wonder if this was why 'Cleo couldn't make it', IMDB and other sources seem content that the song is by Stevens.

Despite the racist theme implicit in Othello, race is not that much of an issue in All Night Long, but there are subtle references. Aurelius asks Delia if their relationship ever seems 'alien' to her, a suggestion she rejects. Cass has an ongoing relationship with Benny (Maria Velasco) but is often diffident and distant, this seems less about their racial differences than Cass' own commitment issues, and perhaps he does carry a torch for Delia. In fact the only specific racial remarks are made by Johnny, perhaps suggesting that motive for his campaign against Rex. At one point he declares himself to be part of a minority, "White jazz musicians, who hold their meetings in a phone booth," and, later, he says Rex would do anything Delia asks of him "Even move to Johannesburg." The reference to white jazz musicians as a 'minority' is ironic given that, apart from Mingus, the stage is full of them, and yet by the end of the film there are a few more black faces among the party guests and up on stage jamming.

Performances are uniformly excellent, Harris communicates his inner turmoil with powerful restraint, Stevens is assured, Blair as Johnny's put-upon wife shows the frustration that eventually causes her to snap and expose her husband, McGoohan is either twitchy or coldly calculating as Johnny, showing a mind that in his wife's words is "always planning something." Michell is another actor whose back catalogue is overlooked, despite finding fame in the 1970s in the BBC production of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, he never managed to build on that exposure, although in 1980 he had a top five hit with the desperate Captain Beaky And His Band. He's very good as Cass in All Night Long. Basil Dearden (a contributor to anthology movie, Dead Of Night), directs effectively, keeping the camera moving around the confines of Rodney's warehouse apartment.

Given its plot of miscegenation, and the depiction of the relatively easy mixing of the races at a social level depicted in the film, not to mention the reefer madness, I'd be fascinated to know how the film played in the USA. That said, the film is so subtly played it's easy to ignore the fact that it might have been an issue in the UK as well. It's neither the gritty kitchen-sink realism of A Taste Of Honey (1961), nor the sentimentality of To Sir, With Love (1967); character and plot-driven it's a worthy adaptation of Shakespeare, only with jazz.

The only extras on the disc are the original trailer and a gallery. It would have been nice to maybe isolate the jazz performances to stand alone or provide some more information about the music.

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