Tuesday, 1 September 2015

10 Ingrid Brett / Boulting

Ingrid  is  here  because  she  caught  my  eye  in  an  old  horror  film  ( number  2  below )  I  was watching  recently   and  I  thought  it  would  be   interesting  to  try  and  follow  someone  who wasn't  a  household  name.

Ingrid  is  the  daughter  of  one  of  the  film-making   Boulting  brothers  but   sources  conflict  as  to  whether  it's  Roy  or  John.  Even  her  own  website  doesn't  settle  the  matter  but  points  more  towards  John.   She  was  born  in  the  Transvaal  in  1947  and  brought  up  by  her  grandparents  for  the  first  7  years  before  joining  her  mother  and  step-siblings  in  the  UK. From  reading  her  own  biographical  notes  she  seems  to  have  grown  up  feeling  abandoned  and  neglected  and  doesn't  seem  to  be  in  close  contact  with  her  extended  family.   She  studied  ballet  for  10  years   and did  some  modelling  before  trying  her  hand  at  acting.

1. The   Great   St  Trinians  Robbery  ( 1966 )

Ingrid  was  only  an  18-year  old  uncredited  extra  in  this  one  so  I'm  not  going  to  write  too  much  about  it.

It  was  the  fourth  film  in  the  series  coming  six  years  after  the  third  and  is  the  first  one  filmed  in  colour.  Most  of  the  stars  of  the  earlier  films  were  missing  such  as  Alastair  Sim  and  Joyce  Grenfell. The  plot  has  the  girls  relocated  to  a  new  building  due  to  the  threat  of  the  comprehensive  system   ( somehow )  which  just  happens  to  be  where  a  gang  of  train  robbers  led  by  Frankie  Howerd  have  stashed  their  loot.  This  concern  to  be  topical  overrides  any  attempt  at  individual  characterisation  of  the  girls  and  they're  really  just  one  undifferentiated  secondary  character  in  a  sixties  crime  caper. Carole  Ann  Ford . fresh  from  her  stint  as  Dr  Who's  first  girl  companion,  is  the  most  notable  of  the  young  actresses  involved.

It's  not  as  frightful  as  1980's  The  Wildcats  of  St  Trinians  (  covered  in  the  Suzanna  Hamilton  post )  - little  is  - but  unless  you're  a  big  fan  of  Howerd  there's  not  much  reason  to  try  and  see  it,.

2. The  Witches  (1966)

This  was  the  one  where  Ingrid   ( for  some  reason  using  the surname  Brett  at  this  point  ) first  caught  my  eye, one  of  the  better  Hammer  films  of  the  sixties.

Joan  Fontane  in  her  last  film  ( though  she  died  in  December  2013  aged  96 )  plays  Miss  Mayfield  , a  mentally  fragile  headteacher  taking  a  role  in  a  village  school  after  being  chased  out  of  her  mission  school  in  Africa  by  the  local  witch  doctors.  Once  installed, a  series  of  strange  events  convince  her  that  witchery  is  alive  and  well  in  Buckinghamshire  too.

Though  it  owes  something  to  the  1964  non-Hammer  film  Witchcraft, The  Witches   precedes  both  Rosemary's  Baby  and  The  Wicker  Man  in  its  story  of  an  outsider  stumbling  into  a  sinister  community. In  this  case  it's  greatly   enhanced  by  the  sumptuously  gorgeous  village  of  Hambledon, Bucks, presenting  a  wonderful  glimpse  of  rural  Britain  in  the  mid-sixties.

The  film  isn't  quite  a  classic  though. It  loses  focus  when   Miss  Mayfield  has  a  spell  in  a  nursing  home  , not  helped  by  the  offputting  presence  of  Leonard  Rossiter  in  a  straight  role  as  the  doctor. And  it  does  have  a  bad  case  of  Talking  Killer  Syndrome  in  a  scene  which  telegraphs  the  eventual  resolution. This  is  actually  a  bit  tame  given  the  engrossing  ten  minutes  of  bacchanalia  which  precede  it.

Fontane's  expertise  is  evident  throughout  and  she  has  good  support  from  Kay  Walsh  and  Alec  McGowan  as  her  hosts  although  the  latter's  character  doesn't  make  a  scrap  of  sense. There's  also  small  roles  for  familiar  faces  like  Michelle  Dotrice  and  Bryan  Marshall   among  the  villagers.

Although  she's  crucial  to  the  plot,  Ingrid, playing  a  very  tall  and  mature  14  year  old,  doesn't  have   much  to  do  for  most  of  the  film. She  does  come  alive  in  the  climax  performing  a  dance  in  a  very  tight  dress  which  is  certainly  worth  seeing.

3.  The  Jokers  ( 1967 )

Ingrid's  next  film  means  we  enter  the  world  of  Michael  Winner  for  the  first  time.

The  Jokers   is  a  crime  caper  cum  social  satire  set  in  Swinging  London   and  was  developed  from  Winner's  own  idea. A  well  to  do  military  officer  Michael  Tremayne  ( Michael  Crawford )  is  ejected  from  Sandhurst  after  deliberately  messing  up  a  training  exercise  and  enlists  his  frustrated  brother  David  ( Oliver  Reed ) an  ex-army  man  who's  now  an  interior  decorator   in  a  plot  to  steal  the  Crown  Jewels  and  then  give  them  back.

If  the  above  hasn't  already  given  the  game  away  the  film  is  a  load  of  tripe.  None  of  the  characters  have  believable  motives- who  would  court  a  lengthy  prison  term  just  to  be  in  the  papers  for  a  couple  of  days ?  Crawford  and  Reed  are  a  highly  unlikely  pair  of  siblings. Any  attempts  at  humour  fall  flat  on  their  face   and  the  whole  thing  is  horribly  dated.

The  charisma  of  the  two  leads  keeps  it  just  about  watchable  and  there's  good  support  from  stalwarts  like  Harry  Andrews  and  James  Donald . Ingrid  plays  Crawford's  girlfriend  Sarah  , a  brainless  Sloane  who's  just  window  dressing. Ingrid  plays  her  well  enough; she's  certainly  better  than  the  European  girls  who  play  Reed's  paramors.

4. Inadmissible  Evidence ( 1968 )

5. Kampf  Um  Rom  I  &  II   (  The  Last  Roman ) ( 1968  / 1969  )

This  is  really  one  film  but  it  was  released  in  two  instalments  in  successive  years.  It  was  the  biggest  movie  of  Ingrid's  career  and  gave  her  her  biggest  part  but  unfortunately  turned  out  to  be  a  turkey.

"Kampf  Um  Rom"  is  a  German-Italian  co-production  and  is  an  historical  epic  set  in  the  sixth  century  when  the  Byzantine  Emperor  Justinian  set  out  to  recover  the  Western  half  of  the  empire  including  the  ancient  capital  itself  from  the  hands  of  the  Ostrogoths. The  film  departs  so  widely  from  the  facts  it  makes  Braveheart  seem  like  a  work  of  historical  scholarship.

I'm  handicapped   in  discussing  it  by the  fact  that  I've  only  seen  a  version  in  German  ( I'm presuming  the  Hollywood  names  spoke  English  in  the  original  ) .  It  starts  with  a  power  struggle  on  the  death  of  King  Theodoric,  between  his  daughters  Amalaswintha  ( Honor  Blackman )  and  Mathaswintha  ( Harriet  Andersson )  temporarily  won  by  the  former. The  film's  main  character,  a  fictional  Roman  politician  Cephegus  ( Laurence  Harvey  )  seeks  to  exploit  both  this  situation  and  his  friendship  with  the  notorious  Empress  Theodora  ( Sylvia  Koscina )  for  his  own  ends. Orson  Welles  plays  Justinian. Cephegus's  plans  are  complicated  when  his  daughter  Julia  ( Ingrid )  falls  for  an  heroic  Ostrogoth  Totila  ( Robert  Hoffman ) . Beyond  that  I  don't  really  know  what's  going  on  and  the  critical  mauling  it  received  suggests  it's  not  worth  fretting  about. It  also  lost  a  shedload  of  money  at  the  box  office  where  the  public  had  lost  interest  in  these  sword  and  sandals  blockbusters  anyway.

It's  also  hard  to  rate  performances  when  the  voices  of  the  main  actors  have  been  dubbed  into  a  strange  language  though  it's  still  possible  to  spot  that  Welles  looks  completely  uninterested  in  proceedings. The  rival  princesses  convey  their  enmity  well  and  this  is  the  go  to  picture  to  see  Honor  Blackman  topless,  when  she's  murdered  in  her  bath  ( in  the  first  film ). Ingrid  seems  to  do  OK  in  a  meatier  role  than  her  previous  films  but  ultimately  it  didn't  do  much  for  her  career.

In  fact  Ingrid  turned  her  back  on  film  for  the  next  few  years  as  her  modelling  career  took  off  with  an  iconic  poster  for  the  quintessential  sixties  boutique  Biba  and  frequent  appearances  in  Vogue  ( including  cover  shots  ).

6.  The  Last  Tycoon ( 1976 )

Ingrid  returned  to  film  with  this  one. The  credits  dishonestly  read  "introducing  Ingrid  Boulting " which  is  only  true  in  the  sense  it's  the  first  film  in  which  she  used  her  real  name.

"The  Last  Tycoon"  is  a  lavish  adptation  by  Harold  Pinter  of   F  Scott  Fitzgerald's  not  quite  finished  final  novel  and  the  film  reflects  a  sense  of  unfulfilment  and  lack  of  closure. Monroe  Starr  ( Robert  de  Niro ) is  a  young  film  producer in  1930s  Hollywood  whose  track  record  and  reputation  as  a  genius  insulate  him  from  having  to  pay  much  attention  to  the  concerns  of  chief  mogul  Brady  ( Robert  Mitchum ) . Brady's  daughter  Cecelia   ( Theresa  Russell  ) is  pursuing  him  but  he  is  too  busy  chasing  a  young  woman  Kathleen ( Ingrid )  who  reminds  him  of  his  deceased  lover. That  pursuit  and  Starr's  burgeoning  disputes  with  his  writers  which  lead  up  to a  memorable  confrontation  with  their  representative  Brimmer  ( Jack  Nicholson )  form  the  main  narrative  spine  but  the  film  is  generally  an  impressionistic  series  of  vignettes  punctuated  by  scenes  from  the  current  film  production  starring  Tony  Curtis  and  Jeanne  Moreau.

It's  well  made  and  superbly  acted  but  it's  somewhat  lacking  in  emotional  heft. It's  hard  to  empathise  with  any  of  these  privileged  characters. It's  not  one  of  De  Niro's  more  celebrated  roles  and  he  seems  too  young  for  it; Starr  couldn't  have  attained  such  status  without  a  substantial  track  record. Otherwise  he's  OK  and  the  support  couldn't  be  better  from  Mitchum, Nicholson , Donald  Pleasence  and  especially  Ray  Milland  as  the  lawyer  Fleishacker  whose  baleful  presence  signifies  the  end  of  Starr's  invulnerability. Even  the  normally  awful  Russell  does  well  here.

Ingrid's  cool  English  reserve  suits  the  part  well  and  she  does  appear  nude ( though  not  full  frontal )  but  otherwise  it's  something  of  a  one-note  performance  and  it's  not  surprising  that  she  wasn't  able  to  use  it  as   a  springboard  for  a  renewed  film  career.

7. Deadly  Passion ( 1985 )

8. Conversations  With  God  ( 2006 )

Ingrid  now  lives  in  California  where  she  paints  and  runs  yoga  courses. If  the  photos  on  her  website  are  recent  she's  in  astonishingly  good  shape  for  a  68  year  old.

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