Franklin Schaffner


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Franklin Schaffner

The Best Man (1964) is a mediocre adaptation of Gore Vidal's play.

William (Henry Fonda), a man of principles, is running for president, but also has to deal with marital problems. He is running against right-wing demagogue Joe, who is willing to use any means to achieve the goal. William needs the support of the outgoing president, but the president hints that he is about to endorse Joe. William is more human than Joe, who doesn't care about the president's health (the president knows that he's dying) when they met in private. Joe overdoes when he presents the president with a dossier about William's presumed mental insanity. The president changes his mind and hints at Joe that he might endorse William. At the dinner in front of the press the president gives a great speech and then endorses... neither candidate. In private the president lets William understand that William will become president simply because Joe will lose. William is disappointed to learn that he's simply considered the lesser evil. At the convention neither candidate has enough votes to win the nomination. Joe is ready to publicize the psychiatric report on William. William, on the other hand, is opposed to smears even when a former soldier comes to testify that Joe was a homosexual while in the army. It's the president who wants him to do it. Eventually his campaign calls Joe and basically blackmails him. Joe has to call off the psychiatric report and asks to meet with William. The president, who is in William's headquarters all the time, wants to turn William into a fighter. The moment William leaves the room, the president confesses that he is paralyzed and urgently needs a doctor. William and Joe meet in private. Joe asks William to withdraw from the race. When Williams refuses, Joe asks to meet the former soldier who is accusing him. They meet him in a basement, where Joe proves that the accusations were unfounded. But William is disgusted by his ruthless ethics and decides to fight on, no matter what. Joe can now distribute the psychiatric report. While Joe is still scheming against William, William rushes to the hospital to visit the dying president. He is called by his staff, who need him at the convention to counter Joe's manoeuvres. They are still deadlocked, and Joe asks him one more time to withdraw but this time offers him the vicepresidency. He also tells him that the president has died. William, realizing that neither can win but determined to keep a dangerous man out of the White House, decides to back a third candidate, who is totally unknown and had no chance of winning. It works: William's delegates shift to the third candidate, who musters enough votes. Joe is defeated. William's wife is proud of him.

Diresse il thriller fantascientifico e moralistico Planet Of The Apes (1968), derived from Pierre Boule's novel "Monkey Planet", che e' l'archetipo del filone apocalittico in cui protagonista non e' un mostro, una civilta' aliena o un esploratore, ma la Terra dopo l'olocausto nucleare. E' il pretesto per una favola morale alla Swift che, le aberrazioni sociali delle scimmie, esamina le nostre e, attraverso l'indomita lotta per la liberta' del protagonista umano, fa l'apologia commossa della razza umana. Molte parti della trama si prestano a meditazioni sulla condizione umana e sulla responsabilita' del potere. Con questo film ha origine la fantascienza piu' disperata, che addita nella stessa natura umana la causa della distruzione: e' l'inizio della fantascienza matura, moralista.

Un'astronave viaggia da diciotto mesi, equivalenti a duemila anni sulla Terra, con a bordo quattro astronauti (due bianchi, un negro e una donna) che riposano in stato di ibernazione. L'astronave precipita nel lago di un pianeta sconosciuto; la donna si e' dissolta per una fuga d'aria ma gli altri si salvano e si mettono in marcia attraveso il deserto. Scoprono la vita e un banco di umanoidi primitivi; non sono ancora riusciti ad ambientarsi che subito vengono travolti dagli avvenimenti: il suono delle ? annuncia l'arrivo delle scimmie a cavallo, gli umanoidi scappano in tutte le direzioni, braccati senza pieta'. E' una battuta di caccia in piena regola (reti, lacci, fosse, gabbie); i tre astronauti vengono scambiati per umanoidi qualsiasi , il negro ucciso e il capitano ferito alla gola e trasportato in citta'. Ha perso la voce a causa della ferita alla gola, ma viene curato dal veterinario, un giovane scienziato che rasentato l'eresia sostenendo che le scimmie furono precedute da un'altra civilta', e attira l'attenzione della psicologa che amoreggia con il veterinario, la quale intuisce dal suo sguardo che, a differenza degli altri umani, egli e' dotato di inelligenza. Comincia la disperata lotta del capitano per farsi capire. Non puo' parlare e soltanto scrivendo potrebbe comunicare: percio' ruba il taccuino alla psicologa e ci scrive sopra il suo nome. Gli mettono in cella una ragazza e lui le si affeziona, anche se lei, come tutti gli umani, non parla. Esasperato dalla cecita' delle autorita', tenta anche la fuga; ma e' braccato da un'intera citta'. Quando lo catturano riesce pero' ad inveire contro i suoi carcerieri: ha ritrovato la parola. La battaglia del veterinario e della psicologa finisce in tribunale, davanti al bigotto ministro della scienza, deciso ad ignorare qualsiasi prova e a far imbavagliare l'uomo affinche' non parli. Cosicche' i due scienziati progressisti vengono rinviati a giudizio per eresia e al capitano non solo non viene riconosciuto alcuno status speciale, ma anzi viene affidato in custodia proprio al suo principale persecutore. Per evitare la contrazione e l'epurazione al cervello (sorte toccata al compagno sopravvissuto) al capitano non resta che la fuga; organizzata dai suoi due protettori e dal nipote di lei, si trasforma in una fuga collettiva verso la "zona proibita", cioe' il deserto da dove il capitano e' arrivato e dove il veterinario conta di riprendere certi scavi archeologici. Il ministro della scienza pero' non si da' per vinto e li raggiunge alla caverna incriminata; invitato a constatare di persona le prove dell'esistenza di una civilta' piu' antica, accetta, ma nel frattempo i suoi uomini tendono una trappola che scatta nel momento stesso in cui fra i reperti si scopre una bambola umana parlante, prova inoppugnabile. Il capitano riesce a fuggire usando come ostaggio il savio, che gli confessa di aver sempre saputo e di essere depositario del segreto della distruzione della razza piu' antica; cio' nonostante, appena partiti l'uomo e la sua donna, da' ordine di far saltare la caverna e di arrestare i due eresiarchi: e' convinto di far bene nascondendo la verita' al suo popolo (la sua non e' fede preconcetta nelle Sacre Scritture, ma una scelta meditata, anche a costo di passare per gretto e reazionario). Il capitano e la bella cavalcano e cavalcano lungo la spiaggia, finche' giungono a una rovina semisommersa: e' la "Statua della Liberta'". Il pianeta delle scimmie non e' altro che la terra, distrutta dagli uomini stessi. Ha ragione il ministro a non volere che le scimmie conoscano la storia degli antichi umani, ha ragione a temere quella razza e a volerne lo sterminio completo: il pianeta non sara' al sicuro finche' un solo uomo vivra', portandosi dietro il suo istinto di odio e distruzione. Il capitano stesso maledice l'umanita' e piange nella sabbia.

The Boys From Brazil (1978), loosely based on Ira Levin's novel "The Boys from Brazil", is an implausible fantapolitical thriller.

A young man, Barry, follows a number of people in Paraguay and takes pictures of them. He sends the photos to the elderly Ezra (Laurence Olivier), a famous hunter of nazists, who lives in poverty in Vienna. Barry thinks he has discovered a network of former nazist officials. He then finds an ingenious way to tape an entire meeting of these shady individuals as they gather at a secluded mansion to listen to a white-dressed doctor (Gregory Peck), famous for his "experiments" on the prisoners of German death-camps during World War II. Thus he learns that the doctor has ordered the assassination of 94 individuals throughout the world, mostly ordinary people, all of them 65 years old, for no apparent reason. While he is calling Ezra to relate the news, the nazis discover the microphone that he planted in the mansion, and, through the child who helped him, find out who planted it and where he lives. Ezra can hear live on the phone the nazis, led by the evil doctor, enter Barry's room and kill him. Later the doctor coldly orders to kill the child too.
Ezra looks for a journalist, Sidney, who has no time for his stories, and asks him to gather information about any man of 65 who is murdered. The journalist is skeptic but owes him a favor. The assassinations have actually already started: in Germany a mailman has been run down by a car. The doctor is asked by an associate about Ezra, but the doctor simply dismisses the old poor Jew as having been discredited, and refuses to be distracted from the "scientific" project that he has been preparing for thirty years. In Britain a young man brutally kills a girl after having sex with her and her landlord when he walks home. Ezra is approached by a young friend of Barry, David, who wants to continue his work. Ezra is initially hostile but then accepts. Another man is pushed down a dam in Sweden. Ezra in the meantime has started interviewing the widows of these assassinations (traveling all over the world, despite being poor), and is surprised to find out that the first two seem to have the same son (black hair, blue eyes, arrogant attitude, cruel look). David has been interviewing widows too, and Ezra is intrigued to learn that all of them have such a son. One of them confesses to Ezra that her son was adopted through a German woman, Frieda: Ezra knows her well, because she's a famous nazi criminal. Ezra visits her in jail and learns from her that, fourteen years earier, she was ordered by the nazis to select American couples that could not adopt children because the man was 22 years older than the woman. She then arranged for each couple to receive a boy from Brazil. Ezra realizes that now, fourteen years later, the same people are set to kill all the fathers. Meanwhile in South America the doctor is the guest of honor at a huge party of nazis. He sees one of the men he sent to kill, and attacks him as a traitor. But Eduard, his liaison to the general who runs the nazi group, tells him that all hitmen have been recalled after learning of Ezra's investigations. The doctor refuses to obey the order and decides to take over personally in the killings. He visits the old place where he carried out his experiment: he created dozens of identical children. Ezra visits a professor at a university, who is fascinated by the idea that the nazi doctor might have discovered the secret of genetic cloning. Ezra finally realizes that the combination of a 65 year-old man and a 43 year-old woman is exactly the situation in which Adolf Hitler found himself when his father died: the nazi doctor must have used Hitler's DNA to clone the children, and then have them raised in conditions that mirrored Hitler's, to make sure they would acquire Hitler's personality. (A lengthy scene describes the science that is supposed to support this theory).
Ezra knows the name of the next victim from something that Frieda told him and makes an appointment with him. Instead the nazi doctor shows up, and pretends to be Ezra. The man is protected by three ferocious dogs, and the doctor asks him to lock them in the nearby room. Then he kills the man and prepares to wait for Ezra to show up. When Ezra shows up, he shoots but somehow misses. They fight. The doctor prevails. Ezra runs to open the door to the dogs, hoping that they will mail the doctor, but somehow they don't. The doctor keeps shooting at him but somehow keeps missing and only wounds him. They are both prisoners of the dogs: a move and the dogs would maul them. Finally the son of the victim arrives: yet another twin with black hair and blue eyes. Instead of being concerned for his father's fate, he starts taking pictures of the two strangers covered with blood who are sitting in his living room. The boy easily realizes that the doctor is the criminal, because the dogs have been trained to attack anyone who pulls out a gun, and the dogs are standing in front of the doctor. Ezra can hardly talk but manages to whisper that the doctor killed his father. The boy finds the body in a closet. The doctor is delirious, trying to arouse the nazi spirit that is in the boy's genes. The boy shows his cruelty, but in a different way than the doctor planned: the boy unleashes the dogs against the doctor, and enjoys watching the carnage that follows. The boy then asks Ezra to promise he will not tell the police how the doctor was killed before he calls an ambulance. Before collapsing Ezra crawls towards the doctor's dead body and steals the piece of paper with the names and addresses of all the clones, of all the "boys from Brazil".
Ezra survives. Now he has a moral dilemma. David visits him and asks for the list, so that society can kill all the children before they turn into Hitlers, but Ezra has already decided that he will not be an accomplice in the slaughter of innocents. He burns the list in front of David while lighting a cigarette (of course, it doesn't matter that he had be wounded in the lungs).
The last orphan is home alone. He is developing the pictures that he took of the carnage, thus implying that he has sadistic ambitions of his own. Maybe Ezra's conscience has just helped the next Hitler survive, has just helped the doctor realize his plan, has just helped the thirty-year experiment succeed. Maybe the doctor has won after all.
If English is your first language and you could translate this text, please contact me.
(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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