The Tenth Man (1936) Poster

(1936)

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6/10
Rogue's Progress
allenrogerj25 January 2007
N.B. THIS JOHN LODGE IS NOT JOHN DAVIS LODGE, WHOSE FILMOGRAPHY AND BIOGRAPHY ARE ATTRIBUTED TO HIM An interesting look at a successful scoundrel, both as financier and politician. George Winter may have been inspired by Horatio Bottomley, and the film could be seen as a precursor of Citizen Kane or Allthe King's Men, but it is most interesting as a study of charm and ability in itself: Winter may be a swindler (though not- he makes plain- a common one), a thief, an adulterer and a blackmailer, but he is also shown as genuinely exciting and entertaining as none of the other characters are. By the end of the film he has won back the wife whose plan to divorce him looked like ruining him, kept his seat in Parliament and charmed all around him. The only person he has not won over is the only one who admired him sincerely and honestly all along, and it is because that man will denounce him to the police he kills himself when he need not. That is the flaw in the portrayal of Winter, in fact, imposed, I suspect, for moral reasons, as we don't believe someone like Winter would allow trivialities like conviction for fraud or a gaol sentence to keep him down for long. It's a competently and briskly directed film, with good sets and surprisingly well-acted for the time; even the grotesque characters are credible, and the camera work is efficient and unobtrusive.
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7/10
to good for a quota quickie
malcolmgsw25 January 2007
This film is being shown as part of the NFTs Quota Quickie season.However the production seems to have had some money spent on it and is quite stylish so i wonder if it can truly be called a quota quickie.For example there is a musical number early on.It takes place in an art deco room which is reminiscent of Van Nest Polglase.The singer comes into the room from a concealed entrance.The actors are seated around a long table.The singer walks around the room whilst singing with the camera following her around a full 360 degrees till she exits at the concealed entrance.Quite breathtaking.The film is very engaging and is still very topical given that the main character is very similar in many ways to a very famous disgraced politician of our era.The ending has clearly been added on to comply with the requirements of the BBFC.Well worth a view
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8/10
Plus Ça Change...
Igenlode Wordsmith28 January 2007
Nine men out of ten can be manipulated; but the tenth man, when it comes down to it, will stick in his heels and obey the dictates of conscience. The art of politics, according to this polished, sardonic little film from 1936, lies in manipulating the 90% and avoiding running up against that tenth man. Seventy years later, in our jaded media age, the only shocking thing about the observation is the high percentage set on incorruptibles -- in a similar situation, modern pundits might plump for a figure of 1 in 100...

1930s politicians might have been obliged to orate to mass audiences rather than deliver TV soundbites, and party slogans may have been carried by sandwich-boards rather than billboards, but some things apparently never change. With shady dealings in the City and demands for a candidate's wife to Stand By Her Man, dirty tricks traded between parties, scandalsheets and sleaze, the electoral proceedings here would be as at home in the pages of tomorrow's tabloids as in those of P.G.Wodehouse. Far from being a period piece, it's all rather disturbingly familiar!

But while the amoral script and protagonist sparkle with cynicism and biting one-liners, the film as a whole performs an impressive and far more difficult manipulation; in the course of its brisk 70-minute running time, it manages to humanise not only George Winter, but a surrounding cast of what are -- on the face of it -- some of the most consistently unsympathetic characters on the screen. With the possible exception of Catherine, the nearest thing the film provides to an audience-identification figure, just about everyone we meet is sad, mad, bad, ridiculous or just plain weak, and they constitute little more than cardboard cut-outs to boot. By the finale, however, we not only find ourselves despite everything engaged in the fate of George Winter, we end up respecting such initial caricatures as Lord Etchinham. For what begins as brittle drawing-room satire, "The Tenth Man" ends up packing a considerable emotional punch.

The actual ending becomes blindingly obvious as soon as the truth about the gold mine is revealed; from here on there are only two timeworn clichés that the plot could follow, and sure enough it opts for the inevitable moralistic irony. (Even in the absence of a Hollywood-style Hays Code, public opinion might have frowned on anything else.) But at the start of the film, frankly, the last thing I'd have expected was to find myself caring one way or the other.

Coupled in a double-bill with the gloomy, expressionistic "Tell Tale Heart", this brisk-moving and acerbic political thriller followed as a pleasant, cynical surprise. Its amoral view of the upper classes reminded me at times of the Ealing classic "Kind Hearts and Coronets", and the polished back-biting was reminiscent of the crystalline malice of "The Women"; although I don't think "The Tenth Man" entirely matches the level of either. One thing that did strike me as slightly odd, though, was that leading man John Lodge appeared to me to be sporting a distinctly American accent: a Depression-era Hollywood player moonlighting for a British studio, or a subtle dig at the stereotypical get-rich-quick business type? Or just my mistaken perception?
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