Adapted from a novel by Maryam Modell by John Mortimer and his wife Penelope, Otto Preminger’s 1965 black and white thriller is a tricky tale of child abduction. Bunny is the child of Ann and Steven Lake (Carol Lynley and Keir Dullea), and when she goes missing, investigating copper Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) comes to wonder if the girl ever existed. Throw in cameos from a diverse collection including Noel Coward and The Zombies) and the result is a melange of strange ingredients, which Preminger manages to weld together with some panache. The solution, very different from the one in the book, makes sense, and the journey to get there is consistently engrossing; if the slightly musty quality of the not particularly-swinging 60’s London can be ignored, Bunny Lake Is Missing is a terse little thriller with lively performances from actors who knew how to steal a scene.
Like much of Otto Preminger’s work, his 1960 epic of Jewish empowerment, Exodus, has largely been consigned to the sidelines of cinematic history; long and serious, it’s a high-minded blockbuster that deals with the founding of the state of Israel. Paul Newman is agent Ari Ben Cannan, who steps up to the plate to take charge when a boatload of Jewish people is refused port by British authorities. Dalton Trumbo adapts Leon Uris’s book at a hefty 208 minute length, and although momentum is lost when the ship is parked around the halfway mark, it’s easy to see why Exodus is a key film in Jewish and Israeli culture; despite a hackneyed romantic subplot, there’s an underlying excitement about the political opportunities of a new state, and Preminger’s film is required viewing for anyone interested in exploring the various sides of the on-going conflict.
Director Otto Preminger’s star was on the wane by the mid-seventies, with debacles like Hurry Sundown and Skidoo following on from classics like Laura and Exodus. But 1975 thriller Rosebud has an unusual premise, as terrorists board a yacht and kidnap a group of teenage girls who fathers are rich industrialists. Rosebod has an even more unusual hero in a milk-drinking reporter (Peter O’Toole) who is engaged to track the terrorists down, with the clues pointing to British Muslim (Sir Richard Attenborough). Preminger’s film takes its time to meander through some local colour, but the final raid sequence is ingeniously thought out, and the geo-political landscape of 1975 will seem familiar to modern audiences. Early roles for Isabelle Huppert, Kim Cattrall and Dr Who companion Lalla Ward complete the garnish for this neglected film.