Saturday, 27 September 2014

Behold A Pale Horse (1964)

Another day, another Spanish Civil War movie...

Behold A Pale Horse is a cat and mouse drama concerning a loyalist hero of the Spanish Civil War (played by a gnarled Gregory Peck) his old enemy, a venal  captain in the Guardia Civil (Anthony Quinn) and the benign young priest who stands between them (Omar Sharif) is almost fatally short on the key ingredients required for any thriller, tension and action, but just about sustains our interest as a character study between the three leads and their effects on the film's supporting cast of go-betweens, notably Marietto Angeletti's orphaned boy.

When director Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, The Day Of The Jackal) does invest the drama with moments of rare tension, he does so with a very distinctive and unusual approach; most notably when Angeletti is struck by hiccups when he discovers a traitor in Peck's ranks. Otherwise, Zinnemann's key strengths here are in the location shoot and in the capable performances of his cast.

The film was based on a novel with the curious title Killing A Mouse On Sunday by Emeric Pressburger. With that fact in mind, I can't help think how Behold A Pale Horse would have played out in the hands of The Archers instead. That really would have been something. As it is, this production is an earnest effort that just about keeps our attention.

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