Tuesday, November 27, 2007


"You see my son, you make your heaven and hell for yourselves on earth, you only bring it with you here."

Those are the frightening words spoken by Reverend Tim Thompson (played by the great Sydney Greenstreet) to a small group of passengers aboard an eerie steamship shortly after its departure from war-torn London. The year is 1944, and it will soon be "Judgement Day" for a varied array of unique individuals who don't yet realize they died enroute to the docks when a Luftwaffe air raid bombed their shuttle bus from above.

The opening shot indicates the passenger liner is owned by the Great White Steamship Company. I suggest one stay clear of this cruise line just as you would the White Star Line, the only difference between the two is you will probably go to a cold, watery grave aboard the latter whereas you will be forced to disembark forever in either Bali or Belize (my idea of Heaven and Hell) with the former.

(Yes, I've been to Belize -- I hope it isn't too late to clean up my act.)

The entire cast is truly terrific. John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Eleanor Parker, Edmund Gwen, George Tobias, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, Dennis King, Isobel Elsom, Gilbert Emery and Sara Allgood comprise the entire passenger manifest. As Sara's name indicates, all are good (if not great) in their roles. Together, they comprise an excellent ensemble, although I will admit that Garfield tends to go over the top on occasion.

Of course, in this morality play the only baggage each brings aboard the unnamed ship is the baggage they carry inside. It is the magnificent Greenstreet as Reverend Thompson, aka "The Examiner," who sends each to their ultimate destiny. You can expect a surprise or two along the way but be forewarned -- the unexpected, unprincipled denouement is perhaps the most exasperating in the history of American cinema. Yes, the Gospel according to Jack L. Warner simply had to have a happy ending even if it makes no sense whatsoever. For this unpardonable indiscretion I'm sure he is now permanently residing in an outlying area near Belize City.

Two additional thoughts regarding BETWEEN TWO WORLDS:

Sydney Greenstreet appeared in a grand total of only twenty-three movies. His entire motion picture career lasted a mere eight years and it ended well over fifty years ago. However, starting with THE MALTESE FALCON and going on to such classics as CASABLANCA and FLAMINGO ROAD, Mr. Greenstreet remains one of the best remembered and most recognizable film actors of all time. Fittingly, there is a road named Greenstreet in Sydney, Australia. (I knew you were going to ask.)

Also, pay attention to the music in BETWEEN TWO WORLDS. The appropriately melancholy and mysterious score was done by Erich Wolfgang Korngold -- often credited with "inventing" the syntax of orchestral film music. Clearly he remains one of the best ever at his craft, and should you be looking for a little controversy, I encourage you to get a copy of KING'S ROW (1942), starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings and Ronald Reagan. Listen to the powerful score and then tell me John Williams wasn't at the very least "extremely influenced" when he wrote his score for STAR WARS.

If George Harrison can be successfully sued for plagiarizing the Chiffons' "He's So Fine" for the melody of his own "My Sweet Lord," then Mr. Williams must have a hard time sleeping. I'm tempted to call the Law Offices of James Sokolove, but I refrain since an eerie, unnamed passenger ship belonging to the Great White Steamship Company awaits.

Mr. Williams -- meet Mr. Warner.