Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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The Good Old Faith in the New

There are a number of ways 1955's Escapade is eerily resonant to-day: it features a writer whose aggressively proselytised philosophy for peace continually has the opposite of its intended effect, it features a school shooting, and it features a rumination on the idea that it'll be children who advance humanity in the cause of peace after chucking the paralysing systems of the old. The resonances aren't always for the best, though, as the decades following the film's release emphasis the hopeless naivete of its ideas and the sentimentality in their expressions. But some of the dialogue is really clever and performances by leads John Mills, Yvonne Mitchell, and Alastair Sim elevate the material considerably.

Mills and Mitchell play Mr. and Mrs. Hampden, a couple with three children who attend a boarding school where the headmaster, Dr. Skillingworth, is played by Alastair Sim. The film really isn't a comedy--maybe it was intended to be but it's never especially funny. But Sim here is playing a slightly more contemplative version of headmaster characters he played in comedies throughout the 50s.

In the Hampden household, the kids are kept awake by the noisy arguments from downstairs in the meetings for pacifism organised by Mr. Hampden. Constantly in a rage and eager to hold forth on politics at all times, he barely seems to notice that Mrs. Hampden is growing distant and cold. He notices but doesn't quite have the presence of mind to pay attention when she laughs after he's held forth on the importance for women to feel like they're considered valuable contributors to conversation.

Meanwhile, at school, Skillingworth is trying to uncover some kind of conspiracy among the boys. When eventually one of the boys shoots a professor it turns out to be a diversion from their real intent--the episode is played for laughs in a way you can only have in a movie made in a time and place where school shootings are rare or non-existent. It turns out the kids have a really improbable, and improbably altruistic, plan that plays off the fact that one of the Hampden kids is named Icarus, a creative decision from the screenwriters that feels increasingly too broad as the film goes on.

As wrong as the movie ends up being in so many things, its basic intentions and ideals are all the more appreciable. This scene has an especially bittersweet quality to-day:

Apparently Escapade was never released on VHS or DVD. You can watch the whole movie on YouTube here.
Tags: alastair sim, escapade, john mills, movies, yvonne mitchell
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