Lost And Found Series: Chapter 10 Do You Still Believe In Santa Claus
It’s about that time again my fellow Lost and Founders. I hope everybody enjoyed Getting It Right in the last chapter. This week we will be returning again to the darker roots of the seventies with now Lost and Found favourite Elliot Gould, similar to Chapter 7 in the series with Busting. This chapter we are gradually gearing up for the seasonal holiday that is Christmas but not maybe in the way that you think. Instead of colourful Christmas trees and jolly sing-along songs we will be dealing with some deranged thieves, cool bank tellers and rock beauty fish. Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls I present to you…The Silent Partner.
Film: The Silent Partner
Cast: Elliot Gould, Christopher Plummer, Celine Lomez and Suzannah York
Director: Daryl Duke
Writers: Curtis Hanson and Anders Bodelsen
The Silent Partner seems to be only generally acknowledged in certain film circles and therefore deserves an entry in the Lost and Found series. A limited but informative amount of information can be found on the film due to the accolades it received on its initial release including winning the Canadian Film Award for Best Feature Film. Like the other gems we have explored in this series the film has a great deal of recognisable names collaborating on a film and would usually go on to have an established career. Elliot Gould was making a name for himself during this period hot off the heels of A Bridge Too Far and Capricorn One. Christopher Plummer was well known to the average cinemagoer as was Suzannah York who were all on board and the film also features an early appearance from everyone’s favourite eighties funny man John Candy. Not to mention it was scored by Jazz great Oscar Peterson.
Also it should be noted that even though the film was based on a novel called ‘Think of a Number’ by Danish author Anders Bodelsen, it was adapted by an unknown director and screenwriter at the time Curtis Hanson who would go on to helm films such as L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile.
Slightly more infamous though is how the film was funded. Produced by the American independent film company Carolco Pictures, The Silent Partner is also unique for being one of the first films to take advantage of the Capital Cost Allowance plan where Canadian businesses can claim expenses for calculating taxable income. In short, any that invested into the film makes money from the movie whether it’s a financial success or not. Now let’s get to the film shall we. Here is a clip.
Miles Cullen, a quiet timid bank teller in a Toronto mall, leads a typically normal everyday life sometimes made more exciting when he occasionally flirts with his fellow work colleague Julie Carver (Suzannah York). One day Cullen accidentally learns that the bank will be robbed when he comes across a note and manages to work out that the robbery will be carried out by the shopping mall Santa Claus. Underneath the costume however is a sadistic serial killer Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer) who doesn’t stop at anything to get what he wants. Cullen decides its time to have some excitement in his life and keeps some of the money for himself. This angers Reikle and the two then try to outsmart each other and closed loved ones become victims of their deadly game of cat and mouse.
The Silent Partner is a film that unexpectedly grips you from beginning to end and not necessarily for the reasons that one would think. It masterfully balances the more intense scenes with light humour or an abrupt change in pace which reflects the tension the characters are going through. What begins as a light comedy with a sinister sub-plot soon becomes quite a chilling film with some harsh subject matter and vicious scenes to boot. Luckily for the audience, the casting is done so well one does not mind being taken on such a shocking twisted rollercoaster ride and surprisingly not screaming to get off when it ends due to the playful atmosphere.
Gould once again showcases his charm, here in a more restrained but still effective manner. He bounces off the energy of others especially Celine Lomez who plays Elaine, a mysterious love interest that makes things even more perplexed between Miles and Harry than they already are. The three form a strange unusual trio where the intensity is almost unbearable, because the viewer knows that at any moment the situation can take a turn for the worst especially as Harry Reikle is such an unpredictable and resentful individual. His atrocious acts and manic state of mind makes one shudder with fright, Plummer’s character reaches such high levels of maliciousness it seems as if Reikle has jumped out of a horror film into this thriller. The best example is evident, in a now particular notorious scene, in which he carries out such a bloody brutal act that I will not giveaway to intensify the impact for viewers. However, it should be noted it is not one for the faint-hearted so I would recommend that if you are one that prefers to turn away from such cruel acts it would be wise to keep a pillow handy.
I would also prefer to not reveal too much about the workings of the plot as it has a subtle yet masterful way of unfolding itself, even within the familiar conventions it uses such as a gentle bank teller with a rather unfulfilling routine that suddenly has two love interests. Whereas many would mainly focus on either the characters or narrative, director Daryl Duke and Curtis Hanson make both the core of the story, it’s not just the characters choices that effect them but also their actions and what motivates their decisions whether it sometimes be greed, lust or exotic pets in the case of Cullen and his psychedelic-esque rock beauty fish.
The Silent Partner received a good amount of praise on its initially release but does not seem to make many appearences on anybody’s ‘forgotten about’ lists or mentioned in discussion of overlooked films of the seventies. This could be based on its dubious funding tactics but once that is put aside one is left with an entertaining, chilling and darkly comic tale about love, blackmail greed and revenge.