Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Killing A Mouse On Sunday: Emeric Pressburger

I find that stories about arthritic old men reliving their glory days begin to have a personal application. (If the character aches, I identify.) This one is set in the 1960s on the border between the French Republic and Franco's Spain. It's essentially a western.  Manuel Artiguez - a hero of the Spanish Civil War now running to seed- is the (not so) noble outlaw; his oppo, the police chief Vinolas-  a comfortable old hypocrite- is the man with the badge. A young boy observes them and a catholic priest gets batted about between them.  Pressburger gives all these principal characters a shot at narration, which means no-one emerges as entirely hero or villain. The worst crime- in a roster that includes torture, murder, rape and adultery- is not to learn from your experience. The film version (Behold a Pale Horse) simplified the morality and employed a cast of chappies who were all of them too young and virile. (Omar Sharif as a naive catholic priest- I ask you!) The director was Fred Zinneman. I'd have liked to have seen Pressburger's old partner Michael Powell have a shot at it. Failing him, Sam Peckinpah.

(My copy- which I picked up in an antique shop in Little Walsingham- has splendidly energetic line drawings by William Papas- one time political cartoonist with the Guardian and the Sunday Times. It's been nice meeting up with him again.)

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