The Way West (London Pavilion, 'A') Africa Addio (Prince Charles Theatre, 'X') Sallah (Royalty Theatre, Kingsway, The Way West (director: Andrew MacLaglen) is not surprisingly a western and there are no surprises about it at all. This may seem either dull or reassuring. Western fans, I think, will enjoy it because what they really like is to have the same story told again, the same characters going through the same kind of action; above all, the same atmosphere—rous- ing, pioneering, dangerous, splendid. The fur- ther back• in time the West goes, the more it seems all these things. When my grandfather was there it was in its heyday, now it feels
as remote as the Crusades. Anyway, The Way West is made with spirit and feeling and, if it has all the old stuff in it, it also has three rock-like old-timers showing their - years but also their assurance, their professionalism, their sheer much-used talent. And they don't seem to think it a hoary old joke, at any rate.
Two of them are sad men (lost wives, lost chances, approaching blindness), the third, though happily provided with wife and freckled
son, has itchy feet and a -still freckled sense of adventure unsuited -(his wife feels) to his
years. On a wagon trail to Oregon in the 1840s they meet the lot, from Indians to buffaloes, from bolting hiarses to a smallpox scare, from fording a river to crossing what looks like the Grand Canyon by lowering everything and everyone on ropes. The people you expect to die die, the rest get to Oregon, the Indians are fierce but just, the negro slave is Uncle Tom in person; there's a hanging, a flogging, an attempted lynching, a birth, a drowning, a wedding, an unmarried pregnancy, several dances, funerals and fights, a dotty preacher, a madwoman—but no real villain.
The three heroes are Richard Widrtiark, Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, with honours and interest divided almost perfectly between them.
One is murdered, one rides off into the sunset, one stays put and presumably pleased with it, and Lola Alibright is loved by two of them —to leave just the merest trace of surprise, I won't say which does what.
Since few people have kind things to say about the films of Gualtiero Jacopetti, it seems a pity I can't find any for his Africa Addio —except perhaps to say that some of it must have taken courage to film and at one point we see him with bleeding head being dragged off to be shot (which he wasn't). Jacopetti has made a name for himself (with Mondo Cane and others) as a picker-up of stones and stony- faced recorder of what he finds wriggling underneath them. He claims to be simply a camera, without sympathy or side-taking, so
this should be documentary at its purest; since the horrible exists, let's face it,
let's not be squeamish. Better men than Jacopetti have said the same sort of thing and got away with it—why, then, does one feel so sick when he does?
First, perhaps, because he isn't even a good film-maker, isn't at any level an artist, so moral, physical and aesthetic revulsion all go together. Africa Addio, a farewell to the old white-dominated Africa and hail to the new, apparently blood-drenched, black one, consist- ing mostly of horror stories from end to end of the continent in large luscious close-up, over and over again, isn't just a loathsome film but a remarkably silly one, in which every second atrocity is accompanied by equally violent sunsets and fades out on a heavenly choir. If this isn't meant as a parody (which I don't think it is), then it is so inept that it goes well beyond tastelessness into sheer stupidity. Tor- ture and carnage, riot and racialism, ridicu- lously haloed with orange skies and then even
more incredibly accompanied by music and singing of a treacly; vaguely uplifting sort:
• what are you • to make• of it? What possible reaction is there but disgust?
Sallah (director : Ephraim Kishon) is a comedy from Israel about a work-shy oriental immigrant with eight children, a deep-rooted Suspicion of Europeans, and a backgammon board he wins a living from, played by Topol with grisly self-indulgence.