" The Dictator." At the Tivoli This is the first film made by Toeplitz Productions, a new British company with Italian affiliations and plenty of money. No one should be led by the title to suspect Fascist propaganda, for this Dictator is a fervent democrat and his rule is soon over. The story, based on historical events at the court of Denmark,. starts with the marriage in 1766 of King Christian VII to Princess Caroline Mathilde, sister of George III of England. The King, a witless and dissipated youth, falls under the influence of Struensee, an ambitious young German doctor, who soon becomes the power behind the throne. He wants to give Denmark good government—lighter burdens for the poor and the nobles taxed to finance a health service. The King iS amenable, but not the Queen Mother, who has been accustomed to rule autocratically through her feeble son, and Struensee in bitterly opposed by her following of reactionary aristocrats. However, he has warm support from the young Queen, dis- illusioned with her marriage ; and naturally she falls in love with him.
Up to this point the story moves with vigour and precision, and the whole production is staged and costumed in the most costly style. I never remember seeing on the screen quite such an array of silks and satins, of tessellated floors and marble staircases, of branched candlesticks and ornamental statuary. These details are handled with a good deal of care and taste ; they convey realistically the baroque atmosphere of the period ; but the story—though directed by Victor Saville with his usual smoothness--is in its later stages not strong enough to support such elaborate surroundings. One trouble is that the conflict between Struensee and the court party ends too tamely. The Queen Mother, discovering through the watchfulness of a jealous lady-in-waiting that Struensee has spent a night with Caroline, seizes her chance to turn the King against him ; Struensee and Caroline are arrested and charged with treason. This climax would be more effective if one could feel that Struensee was desperately in love with Caroline, but not enough time has been allowed for building up their relationship, and so the plot proceeds rather mechanic- ally to its conclusion, with Struensee accepting death On condition that Caroline is sent back to England.
However, the film has-many pleasant qualities ; Clive Brook is a clear-cut, forcible Struensee ; Nicholas Hanneri gives a neat sketch of an intriguing chancellor ; and Helen Haye is excellent as the Queen Mother. Madeleine Carroll is gracefid and sympathetic in the trying part of the young Queen, but she is never quite the woman for whom Struensee might have imperilled his ambitions and his life. Failure to balance the characters is probably the main reason why the film comes to life only in flashes ; but its best episodes and its luxurious appointments should be enough- to earn for it considerable success.
." Ten Minute Alibi." At the Capitol IF this film were shown to a trade critic who had never heard of the play, he would probably remark : "It's well done, but the public will never stand for all that clock-watching and all those arguments about who was where at a certain moinent." However, since Anthony Armstrong's play has had a very long run in spite of these apparent obstacles, the film may be equally fortunate, though I-fancy the kind of attention it needs is more easily given to flesh-and-blood performers, intimately present on the stage.
There is a slight air of stiffness and strain about the early sequences of the screen version, but as soon as the planning Of the murder begins the action moves with ,swift assurance, and its ingenious details are clearly and neatly explained. The altruistic murderer ought perhaps to be a More attractive figure, but Phillips Holmes comes creditably through the later stages, particularly when he is 'facing the ,questions of the detectives: The gradual working up of excite- ment, too, As cleverly managed—but did the murderer fake the time of his leaving the restaurant, and why were his