Tuesday, June 14, 2011

British anthology movies

I've recommended a couple of anthology movies made at 20th Century-Fox in the past, and even at least one made by MGM. Anthologies were made all over the place, however, as you can see from the British movie Trio, which is airing tonight at 8:00 PM

The popularity of the anthology genre can be shown by the fact that Trio was a follow-up. In 1949, the movie Quartet was released, which was based on four short stories by the British writer W. Somerset Maugham, with Maugham himself narrating the pieces introducing each of the stories. The movie proved popular enough that Trio, which as you can probably guess from the title tells three more of Maugham's stories, went into production. (Another movie, Encore, was made after this.) As for the stories themselves:

First up is "The Verger", which tells the story of a church sexton (James Hayter) who has been doing his job well for close to 20 years despite being functionally illiterate. A new vicar comes along, however, and fires the sexton, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as our hero goes on to start his own business and wind up much more financially successful than he ever could have been as a sexton.

Next is "The Know-It-All", about a bunch of passengers on a sea voyage who have to suffer through an obnoxious self-styled know-it-all. Some of the passengers decide to extract a measure of revenge on him by embarrassing him over a piece of costume jewelry. The plot could backfire, though, as the costume necklace might be authentic, in which case the woman wearing it didn't get it from her husband.

Finally is "Sanatorium", a story about the various patients at a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in Scotland. Star of the Month Jean Simmons shows up here, as a young female patient who falls in love with fellow patient Michael Rennie although everybody around them knows it's destined to be a doomed affair. This is the longest of the three stories, and also the best, at it has a whole bunch of vignettes in it dealing with all of the patients. It's not just the story of Simmons and Rennie.

To be honest, Trio isn't without its flaws. The first two segments ended rather quickly, which quite surprised me, as I didn't expect "Sanatorium" to run so long. Also, "The Know-It-All" is a relatively weak story, not helped by the fact that the main character is so irritating, and unctuous enough to make Jack Carson's Wally Fay look tame by comparison. It's a worthy enough movie, however, and the sort of movie that doesn't get made today.

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