Stanley Baker – The Perfect Friday and The Man Who Finally Died ReviewedWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
© Words Matteo Sedazzari
The Perfect Friday (1971 Directed by Peter Hall, co-produced by Stanley Baker)
Friday is a nice day, the week draws to a close, and many of us plan a pursuit of happiness and excitement, away from the mundane routine of work. And that is certainly the case for Mr Graham (Stanley Baker), a deputy bank manager, in a pin striped suit and bowler hat, with a sergeant major type moustache working at a plush branch in London’s Hyde Park, single and on the surface dull and happy to oblige his employers and clients.
For many years he has witnessed vast amounts of money being withdrawn and deposited. With his methodical and meticulous mind, shaped after many years of loyal service, he begins to plan the perfect heist, yet the only downside is that he has no friends, and any associates he may know would certainly not wish to participate in the robbery of a bank. That is until the beautiful Lady Britt Dorset (Ursula Andress, Dr No, What’s New Pussycat, The Fifth Musketeer) turns up at his office asking to increase her overdraft in order to pay her bills, one being the telephone and visit her ill father in Switzerland . Dressed from head to toe in a loose white suit and large floppy brown hat, Lady Dorset flutters her eye lashes followed by a suggestive smile. No sooner had she adjusted her hat than Mr Graham had cleared her overdraft. She may think she has fooled him, but it is the shy and retiring bank manager who has sensed her vulnerability, and usefulness to his master plan.
Lady Dorset is next seen entering her large but run down house, with many shopping bags from all over the place. It is clear that she is a dedicated follower of fashion and needs money to keep up her stimulating appearance, and paying bills comes a poor second. Lady Dorset is married to Lord Nicholas "Nick" Dorset (David Warner, Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, Conviction, Work is a 4-Letter Word) a lazy aristocrat dressed in dapper suits with an amazing array of fur trimmed coats. A modern day Oscar Wide, who would rather starve than get his hands dirty. Then, by chance or not, Graham sees Lady Dorset in a new 1966 Sunbeam Alpine Series, which she tells him she put down a down payment from the overdraft. She offers him a lift and as they drive off into the countryside their friendship soon becomes an affair, as Graham tells of his plan in minute by minute detail as to how they can walk out of the bank with £200,000 in cash on a Friday. Excited by money and the thrill of the crime, Lady Dorset wants in. Needing another man to fulfil this scam the only natural choice is her husband, who takes little persuading.
The Perfect Friday is not only a great seventies heist movie, it is also a great study of human interaction, trust and the class system within England, as neither party truly trusts the other. Ursula Andress’ line “the mistake is to believe in the honesty of others” certainly rings true throughout the film, as the husband and wife commit open adultery, and Graham is falling in love with Lady Dorset, but what male wouldn’t, though no one knows where they stand with each other. The world of banking is portrayed as bright but soulless, with glassed silver cubicles placed in the bank’s hierarchy with large strip lighting above, an illusion of splendour is created, but underneath is gloom. The meetings between Graham and Lord Dorset, are sinister, as you try and work out who is playing who. The film offers many twists and turns, and the robbery is conducted with no music or dialogue, the silence adds to the tension.
If you love London, and much of the exterior shots are of London in the early seventies, then this is a great film to see how the City has changed in terms of tourism and culture. For instance, the trio catch a boat one afternoon from Westminster to Tower Bridge, and as the boat travels upstream, you notice straightaway that where the London Eye now stands, there are no people walking along the Embankment (Waterloo Side), and you see the original Brewery where The Tate Modern is now, and how deserted and rundown that area looked. It took London many years to realise what a gold mine they were sitting on.
As for the actors, Baker, Andress and Warner all give stern and strong performances, as the straight but dark bank manager, the femme fatale and a wild man who looks like he has partied with The Rolling Stones. Magnificent and magical to watch, they are clearly having fun as we are watching the film. The Perfect Friday was off the radar for many years, and was only released on DVD in 2013, so with the winter nights closing in, this film is perfect for a Friday night in…
The Man Who Finally Died
The Man Who Finally Died (1963), directed by a master of suspense cinema and TV, Quentin Lawrence ( Cash on Demand, The Voodoo Factor, H.G.Wells' Invisible Man) is a thriller set in the picturesque town of Konigsbergen, Bavaria, Germany which starts with a horse drawn hearse entering the town’s square with the coffin of Kurt Deutsch. Two suspicious looking men walk into a local café and make a telephone call telling someone that the deceased is their father. Next scene a dashing Joe Newman (Stanley Baker) arrives in style at the town, driving a neat sport cars, dressed in the latest Ivy League fashion, nice corduroy jacket and light polo shirt with cool sun glasses. But he isn’t there to show off his wardrobe, he needs to find out the truth about his father’s death. Believing that his father had died twenty years earlier fighting during World War 11, only to find out that his father, after escaping from behind the Iron Curtain, had relocated to their home town and remarried a woman twenty years his junior. Newman left Germany when the war broke out, and changed his surname from Deutsch, to avoid persecution for being a German. And life seems to be good for Newman, residing in London, carving a living as a jazz musician in Soho and dressing in the latest trends, until he found out that his father had died again.
Yet Newman is faced with a wall of silence in Konigsbergen which seems to be hiding something, as he enters into a labyrinth of unsavoury characters and lies. With a strong supporting cast, Eric Portman (The Colditz Story , A Canterbury Tale, The Naked Edge) as the authoritative and no nonsense chief of police, Inspector Hofmeister, a man who can’t be trusted or wish to cross. Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) as the sinister and creepy Dr. Peter von Brecht, who Newman upsets by saying “it could have been worse, you could have won the war”, von Brecht is still proud of his Nazi roots. Mai Zetterling (The Witches, Blackmailed, Faces in the Dark) as the beautiful but complex Lisa Deutsch (Newman’s step mother). These seasoned actors add depth to the thrilling plot.
Overall the story is complex, with many twists and turns, which keep our minds active, as it draws you into yearning, like Newman, to know what really happened to his father or if he is still alive. As the film goes on, more mysteries unravel such as why his father a lifelong Protestant was buried in the graveyard of a Catholic church. An atmosphere of paranoia looms over the film, which is enhanced by the film’s composer Philip Green’s (The League of Gentlemen, Victim, The Intelligence Men) gripping soundtrack with gliding strings, ominous trumpets, powerful kettle drums with a dash of harpsichord. Classic mystery film music, guaranteed to cause pandemonium.
Based on a 50’s TV series of the same name, The Man Who Finally Died is a whodunit cum espionage adventure film, as Baker goes from being a laid back jazz musician to an all out action hero, not afraid to use his fists when demanding the truth, as he enters a journey into his past. If you enjoy film noir, early sixties British cinema, a good mystery and an ensemble of a good cast, then you won’t go wrong with this film, enjoyable, entertaining and most definitely thrilling.
The Perfect Friday and The Man Who Finally Died Available from Network on Air