The Dirty Disappearance
In its fourth week of release on this day 49 years ago, The Dirty Dozen was the #1 film, the third of five times it would grasp the top spot. Among the title crew of murderous soldier misfits, John Cassavetes (who would be Oscar® nominated for his performance) had already established his bona fides as a movie director. But also among the scurvy bunch, playing the unflashy role of Roscoe Lever, was 24-year-old American-born, British-residing Stuart Cooper, who went on to direct two of the more provocative and thoughtful English films of the 1970s. Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs (1974) was a raw and ribald adaptation (financed by Beatle George Harrison’s Apple Films) of a play about an art school dropout (John Hurt) who bizarrely forms a political party with alpha-male dominance as its agenda. His next project received international acclaim: skillfully utilizing Imperial War Museum footage from training missions and the D-Day invasion itself, Overlord (1975) was an incredible World War II chronicle of the enlistment and odyssey of a young soldier through his preparation and ill-fated landing in the hell of battle, shot with impeccable dexterity by John Alcott, whose other project that year, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, would also prove a revelatory cinematic ground-breaker for historical recreation. Cooper’s next directing gig (with Alcott again behind the camera) was a multilayered thriller, the British-Canadian adaptation of a Derek Marlowe novel (Echoes of Celandine) called The Disappearance (1977). Starring The Dirty Dozen castmate Donald Sutherland as a chillingly efficient contract killer trying to find his vanished wife (Francine Racette) and determine whether or not the organization he works for is responsible, it oozes mystery and dread throughout, as the characters in his shady underworld encircle him. It was an ensemble that in cunning and duplicity – not to mention acting chops – rivaling that of The Dirty Dozen: David Hemmings (who also served as producer), David Warner, John Hurt, Peter Bowles, Virginia McKenna and the impeccable Christopher Plummer. As the menacing riddle unfolds between Montreal and London locations, The Disappearance generates the vibe of tension, self-doubt and moral murkiness that several of the great 1970s conspiracy movies engineered so expertly. Written for the screen by frequent Nicolas Roeg collaborator Paul Mayersberg (their teaming on Eureka (1983) was recently issued on Twilight Time), The Disappearance is a moody and absorbing puzzle box that will reward your unraveling on TT hi-def Blu-ray, available here with two cuts of the film and an interview with the erudite director: http://screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/25492/THE-DISAPPEARANCE-1977/.