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The Ceremony

The Ceremony(1963)

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The Ceremony (1963)

In the climax of Laurence Harvey's The Ceremony, a man disfigured in a fiery car crash is carried inside a Tangier prison and propped up before a firing squad -one of many strange and disturbing moments that comprise this adaptation of the 1951 political allegory by Frdric Grendel. The first of only two features directed by the star of Room at the Top (1959) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962)--not counting Harvey's efforts to complete A Dandy in Aspic (1968) after the death of Anthony Mann-The Ceremony is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of men charged with maintaining order in a state of chaos-in this case, an international zone that has become a magnet for lawlessness. Recalling House of Numbers (1957), in which Jack Palance played twin brothers on opposite sides of prison walls, The Ceremony is structured around a prison break spurred on by a romantic triangle of condemned man Harvey, kid brother Robert Walker, Jr. and lover Sarah Miles, and complicated further through the intervention of Ross Martin (as a seething public prosecutor who seems to get a sexual kick from capital punishment), The French Connection's Fernando Rey, John Ireland and Jack MacGowran. Shooting conditions in Morocco were bitterly cold and leading lady Sarah Miles was stricken not only with influenza but a touch of frostbite. In the end, The Ceremony failed at the box office, though several critics lauded the courage of Harvey's artistic convictions.

By Richard Harland Smith

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