In a fine review of 40s and 50s British thrillers now appearing on DVD Dave Kehr discusses George Orwell's opinion of James Hadley Chase's "No Orchards for Miss Blandish" and it sure ain't pretty. Read the entire article in the NY Times;' movie section today. Go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/movies/homevideo/20kehr.html?ref=movies
No Orchids for Miss Blandish
James Hadley Chase’s novel “No Orchids for Miss Blandish” was published in 1939, but as George Orwell wrote in a censorious essay, it “seems to have enjoyed its greatest popularity in 1940, during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.” Described by Orwell as “a header into the cesspool,” Chase’s book — written with an American slang dictionary and a copy of James M. Cain’s “Postman Always Rings Twice” open on his desk — is an outlandish pastiche of American pulp fiction, set in an infernal New York and packed with murder, rape, sadism and intimations of exotic perversions. “It was,” Orwell wrote, “one of the things that helped to console people for the boredom of being bombed.”
But the film is fascinating for its vision of America, which is less a real place than a projection of all the fantasies, anxieties and resentments the British had been building up for a decade in regard to their bumptious allies. As the mostly English cast struggles gamely with their accents (most poignantly, there is Sid James, the archetypal good-hearted cockney of the British cinema, attempting something like Brooklynese), it becomes clear that Clowes has cleverly transposed England’s rigid social structure to an abstract space where the rules of class relations can be thrillingly violated.
The scandal no longer lies in beatings and burnings but in the spectacle of an aristocratic woman falling in love with a lower-class man. Orwell despised the book because of what he viewed as its fascistic reverence for sexual power, but the movie substitutes something more topical and subversive in those unsettled postwar years: an erotic dream of democracy. (VCI Entertainment, $19.99, not rated)
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