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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Walk Don't Run (1966)

In Cary Grant's last film, he plays Sir William Rutland who arrives in Tokyo two days early and can't find anywhere to sleep because Tokyo is hosting the Olympics. Very polite Japanese hoteliers fail to find a room for him and a rather less polite Englishman at the British Embassy fails too. He manages to find an apartment though, owned by Christine Easton, and moves in to the front room. Easton, as portayed elegantly by Samantha Eggar, is a very organised woman and has a timetable for everything. Needless to say she's a neat freak too and has a high respect for order.

Naturally the pair of them clash, with ensuing comedy, but this really kicks in with the addition of a third wheel to the tiny apartment, when Rutland sublets his room out to an American architecture student in Tokyo for the Olympics, who is two days early too. He's Steve Davis, played by Jim Hutton, and Rutland quickly turns matchmaker, which takes less effort than you'd expect given that there's a complication: Easton is engaged to Julius P Haversack, the rather less polite Englishman at the British Embassy. The longer the film runs, the more clever Rutland's ploys become.

The story is complete lunacy but that's the charm of it. It takes about five minutes to realise that there's not a lot of reality here at all and as long as you're OK with that fact you should be able to settle back into a light and fluffy romantic comedy sixties style, as free of the sort of less savoury material that pervades modern comedy as it is of reality (and no, I'm no prude, but sometimes it's refreshing to imagine not to see or hear). If you're in the mood for a timeslip back half a century, this would be a good pick.

The whole Olympic scene is completely ridiculous, of course, but what really stands out for me is the dinner. Now it would be easy for many 2008 viewers to think of global security as something that only became an issue after 9/11, but this was set in 1964, only two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and security must have been as serious then as it is today. Yet we're expected to believe that it's quite possible for a group of athletes, seemingly one per country, to meet up in Tokyo for dinner and each dance their national dances to a female Japanese orchestra that looks like the one in the Star Wars cantina, only in pink. Yes, this is how dumb this film is.

We do get a little subplot through the friendship between Davis and a Russian athlete. The latter's government appointed guardian is an idiot and in his eagerness to discover some sort of inappropriate behaviour he ends up falling for a dumb concoction of spy nonsense and leading the entire cast to reassemble at the police station to be questioned by a police captain played by George Takei, Sulu from Star Trek. This leads to the inevitable final scenes, which are capped by the realisation that the very last scene, of Cary Grant in his car, is actually close to truth: this was his last film, as already 62 years old and on his fourth wife, he retired from the film industry to become a father.

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