Monday, October 12, 2015

cinema obscura: Reed's "The Public Eye" (1972) / Hutton's "The Pad (and How to Use it)" (1966)

In 1964, two delightful one-act plays by Peter Shaffer opened on Broadway, titled "The Public Eye"/"The Private Ear."

Or perhaps it was the other way around.

Shaffer also wrote "Equus," "Amadeus," "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" and "Five Finger Exercise," all plays eventually made into movies.

Universal, which was busy in those days scouting Broadway productions, immediately snapped up the film rights to "The Public Eye"/"The Private Ear" and then didn't know what to do with two one-act comedies. Both were eventually made into very pleasing, if little-seen movies.

"The Private Ear" was filmed by Brian G. Hutton in 1966 and retitled "The Pad and How to Use it" - a title inspired a little too obviously by Richard Lester's successful "The Knack and How to Get It."

It's thin but appealing plot - about a shy man who finally has the nerve to approach a woman while at a concert, only to lose her to his more dashing friend - provided material in which the film's young stars: Britain's Brian Bedford (a holdover from the play) as the nerd, James Farentino as the dashing hunk and especially Julie Sommars as the girl all truly excelled.

Essentially a glorified TV movie that was released, albeit briefly, to theaters, "The Pad and How to Use It" deserves to be rescued.

And seen.

"The Public Eye," finally filmed in 1972, had better luck. Well, sort of.

It was adapted for the screen by Shaffer himself and directed by the estimable Sir Carol Reed.

In it, a dull British banker named Charles (played by Michael Jayston) hires Julian Cristo (Topol), an odd, eccentric private detective, to follow his American wife, Belinda (Mia Farrow), whom he suspects is cheating on him. (The film was titled "Follow Me" in all other countries, except the United States, which honored Shaffer's original title.)

When Belinda becomes aware that she is being followed, she's flattered by the attention and starts to play games with her potential paramour. The private eye figures everything out - that the wife isn't unfaithful at all, but merely looking for something that her husband isn't providing - but that she's getting from him. It's a truly enchanting film.

"The Public Eye" made it into theaters - but just barely. Universal opened in unannounced and without any advance critics' screenings.


Janice said...

You've really jogged my memory with both of these film. I fondly remember "The Public Eye" but can barely recall "The Pad."

Alexandra McHugh said...

"The Public Eye" - Lovely little movie

Lucas said...

You mention Brian G. Hutton. He's usually dismissed in film circles. I wonder how many people who do diss or dismiss him without actually knowing his work, or perhaps having watched some of his films casually and not considered them very much. Auteurist hierarchies tend always to be hard at work, and we want to separate directors into categories of auteurists or hacks, but someone like Hutton shows that there is a lot of room to argue for a space in between.

joe baltake said...

Yes, Lucas, I wouldn't brand Hutton either an auteurist or hack. There's a lot of wiggle room between those two extremes. He was more of a journeyman filmmaker - usually a hired hand - who got the job done.

James in England said...

looking for a dvd of follow me or the public eye as it was called in the usa. is there anyway i can procure it.

Marvin said...

I am so disappointed. After reading about THE PUBLIC EYE and THE PAD AND HOW TO USE IT (or whatever it is called), I attempted to find both films on I was shocked. Neither is available. SHIT! Do you have any idea where I might get these lost films?

joe baltake said...

James & Marvin- To the best of my knowledge, "The Public Eye"/"Follow Me" has never been put on home video in any format. I have two suggestions though.

1) As the film has been shown (infrequently) - under its original American title, "The Public Eye" - on the Sundance channel, perhaps someone can tape it for you if and when it airs again. (Do you get Sundance in England, James?) Anyway, I'd keep an eye on the Sundance schedule to see when it's screened again.

2) Check out eBay. There are a lot of obscure titles available there, usually taped off commercial TV.

Good luck

Kiki said...

I don't remember The Pad and how to use it! Was it during those days of The Knack and how to get it?

joe baltake said...

“The Pad” was release a year after “The Knack,” paraphrasing its title.

DAVID said...

The public eye is on dvd only In Japan....wonderdul transfer but extremely expensive. Both in dvd and blueray. It was shown in Japan in a film festival about little unknown movies from all times. At the end Of the festival, there was a poll to choose the best ones....the top ten would be released on dvd....the public eye (follow me in Japan &Europe) got the 3rd position. No bad for a festival with 100 hundres movies I think. Your have a very good rip available in thepiratebay or emule