Scent of Mystery
Cast & Crew
While touring Spain, Englishman Oliver Larker is rescued from the teasing of local children by friendly cab driver Smiley. Hiring Smiley to drive him on a sight-seeing tour, Oliver is captivated by an attractive woman in a white, wide-brimmed hat walking down a side street. After stopping at a shop, the woman proceeds down an alley, apparently unaware of a speeding truck bearing down behind her that is deflected when Smiley's cab accidentally turns in front of it. Annoyed by the excited crowd that gathers to discuss the near accident, Oliver steps into the street where he is approached by Johnny Gin, the neighborhood drunk, who insists that he witnessed the event and believes the mysterious woman was targeted by the truck. His curiosity piqued, Oliver visits the shop where the woman stopped and asks the proprietor if he might examine the most recently cashed checks. While Oliver is searching for the women who stopped at the shop, Johnny Gin is questioned by Baron Saradin, another witness to the near accident, and their interview is watched by a dark-haired American man. Oliver tracks down the flirty Miss Jordan and an ebullient artist, Miss Leonard, but he is disappointed that neither physically matches the woman in the white hat. Oliver then finds Sally Kennedy at her hotel, and, discovering a wide-brimmed, white hat in her closet, is convinced that she is the near victim and offers her his protection. Although grateful, Sally insists that her brother lives nearby and will defend her against any threats. Resuming his tour with Smiley, Oliver proceeds to a scenic vista where he sees Johnny Gin wandering down a narrow street far below. As Oliver watches through his binoculars, three large casks of wine are mysteriously pushed onto the street and roll toward the older man, who desperately tries to outrun them. Panicked, Oliver and Smiley hurry down to the alley but by the time they arrive, Johnny Gin is dead. Concluding that Johnny's murder indicates Sally is in real danger, Oliver orders Smiley to return to her hotel where they see her driving away in a rented red sports car. The pair trail in the cab, unaware that another car, driven by the mysterious American, is following them. After the cab suffers a flat tire and Smiley stops to repair it, Oliver hurries up a nearby hill to follow through his binoculars Sally's progress along the winding roads. Hidden on an opposite hill, Saradin fires rifle shots at Oliver. At the hilltop hotel, Villa Flora, Oliver discovers that the last guest to check in was "Constance Walker." Deducing that Sally has checked in under an assumed name, Oliver and Smiley wait in the bar, unaware that Saradin is already there, as is the American. When a woman answering to "Miss Walker" appears at the bar, Oliver is dismayed that she is not Sally. Upon exploring the hotel grounds, Oliver is confronted by a man who identifies himself as Tommy Kennedy, Sally's brother. Tommy firmly asserts that his sister is on a cruise and not expected until the next day. Certain that Sally is on the property, Oliver continues searching and soon finds the red convertible covered by a tarp. After spotting a blonde in a nearby cottage, Oliver makes a dangerous climb to the cottage's balcony which hangs over a cliff. Inside, Oliver is attacked and after a brief skirmish knocks out his assailant, the American. The man revives and tells Oliver and the anxious Sally that he is Richard Fleming, a lawyer and executor of a trust for Sally which designates she will be given three million dollars at the end of the next day, her twenty-fifth birthday. Fleming adds that if Sally should die before midnight of the following day, Tommy will receive the inheritance. Excited to have found a motive for the threat against Sally, Oliver maintains that she must be escorted to a safe place. Fleming agrees and Oliver and Smiley drive all night with Sally to Seville, where they hope to lose themselves in the crowds gathered for a fiesta. That afternoon, the trio is shot at while walking and, declaring that she cannot put them at further risk, Sally dashes away. Oliver goes after her and the couple is nearly struck by a rock slide started by Saradin, who has pursued them. Returning to the cab, the trio sets off into the countryside, but when Sally dabs on a bit of perfume, Oliver grows suspicious. When the cab stalls, Oliver accuses Sally of being an imposter as the perfume does not match the "Scent-of-Mystery" perfume he learned Sally Kennedy prefers. Startled, Sally pulls a gun, orders the men from the car and steals the cab. On a nearby hillside, Saradin sees the cab and shoots out a tire, causing the cab to plunge over the mountainside. Saradin then chases Oliver and Smiley, firing at them as they hurry through a cave and over steep, narrow passages. Darting into a train tunnel, Oliver and Smiley just avoid a speeding train which kills Saradin. Wondering if Fleming is aware that Sally was a fraud, Oliver determines to find the lawyer, and he and Smiley walk into a local village where they meet an Englishman. Upon learning that Oliver is "Lucky" Larkin, a famed WW II flyer, the man happily loans him his airplane, which Oliver flies back toward the Villa Flora. On the flight, Oliver spots Tommy's van headed toward another town and trails him, landing the airplane near an ancient fortress, Tommy's destination. Oliver notices with a start that a woman in a white hat is waiting in one of the fortress towers and fears Tommy is about to murder his sister. Seeing Fleming's car pull up nearby, Oliver and Smiley are relieved, but when Smiley fills and lights his pipe, the scent causes Oliver to race after the lawyer and knock him out. Oliver then explains to the startled Tommy that Smiley's distinctive American tobacco blend, given him by Fleming at the hotel, matched a scent of smoke he smelled at the truck accident scene. The men then notice a tow truck pulling Smiley's battered cab into the village and Tommy identifies the bruised "Sally" as Fleming's long-time girl friend. Sadly speculating that his wife Margharita, who knew about Sally's trust and was a friend of Saradin's, was likely the motivator behind the plot to get Sally's inheritance, Tommy then takes Oliver to the tower to meet his grateful sister.
Mary Laura Wood
Mike Todd Jr.
John Von Kotze
Scent of Mystery
Todd's idea was to incorporate the sense of smell into the actual storytelling process: the thirty designated scents (including roses, pipe tobacco, wine, peppermint, gunpowder, shoe polish, coffee, gasoline, and "the dusty cement odor of rubble") wouldn't just be there to capture the settings--they would actually be intrinsic to the story and provide clues to its solution. The resulting film, Scent of Mystery (1960), was a lighthearted romp set in Spain, with Denholm Elliott as a tourist who witnesses an attempted murder and sets about trying to head off the intended victim. (His one clue to her identity is the scent of her perfume.) Elliott is joined in the film by Peter Lorre as a sarcastic taxi driver, described by producer Todd to author Stephen D. Youngkin (The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre) as "an intentional light-hearted caricature of his typical screen image."
Lorre later said he was glad to be playing "a nice man. On one hand I can count the times I've [played] a nice man. I enjoy being normal." He nearly paid the ultimate price, however. One day, while shooting a running scene in Cordoba in triple-digit heat, Lorre collapsed from sunstroke. He was mostly unconscious and pale, his belly heaving and his breathing shallow. Several doctors (there happened to be a surgeons' convention in town) believed he would die. Then a local doctor suggested bloodletting by the use of leeches. Lorre consented, and the treatment worked "almost immediately," according to Todd. Lauren Bacall, upon hearing the news, touchingly rushed to Spain to sit by her old friend Lorre's bedside as he recovered. He was up and working again two weeks later, although a body double completed his running scenes. Asked if his near-death experience had changed his outlook on life, Lorre replied, "I didn't die, so it didn't change my outlook."
Director (and former cinematographer) Jack Cardiff later recounted that he "jumped at the chance" to film a script that "was very well-written and...really dramatized the smells." But he was disappointed in the outcome. "Everything smelled like cheap perfume," he recalled.
Indeed, Scent of Mystery ran into technical problems that doomed the film and the process--dubbed Smell-O-Vision--forever more. The scents themselves smelled like chemicals, they sometimes didn't reach balcony seats until a few seconds after they were meant to, and each smell lingered in the air for too long, mingling with the next one. (A neutralizing odor was meant to take care of this issue but didn't work too well.) Critics also reported that "some odors elicited sneezes from the spectators," and "being so close to the smells, one's nose finds no escape and remains in a state of constant confusion."
Making matters worse, the film's January 1960 opening, preceded by a massive advertising blitz for Smell-O-Vision, was also preceded by another movie using a similar gimmick. Seizing a chance to capitalize on the publicity, producer Walter Reade, Jr., acquired the rights to an award-winning 1958 documentary entitled Behind the Great Wall, a travelogue about China, and hired a scientist to create odors to accompany it, which were released through the theaters' air conditioning vents. Reade called this AromaRama, and Variety labeled the bizarre situation as "The Battle of the Smellies."
That said, Scent of Mystery actually drew mixed reviews overall, with several outlets finding it to be good, tongue-in-cheek fun--at the very least gorgeously photographed in Spain. In any event, the use of smell did not take hold and vanished from filmmaking, with the notable exception of John Waters's 1981 cult classic Polyester, in which audiences used scratch-and-sniff cards.
Elizabeth Taylor, who makes a cameo appearance, had been married to Mike Todd when he died. As this film was being made, she married for a fourth time, to Eddie Fisher, who sings the title song. In 1961, Michael Todd, Jr. struck a deal to re-release the film in the three-panel Cinemiracle process, without smells, under the title Holiday in Spain.
By Jeremy Arnold
Scent of Mystery
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002
Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.
by Lang Thompson
DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002
Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.
by Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Leo McKern
This film was shown (at least in New York City) as a "Smell-o-Vision" movie. The theatre was equipped with a system that gave off various odours in synch with the film. The opening scene involved a butterfly flitting through a peach grove, with accompanying delicious odours. Later on, a barrel of wine fell off a cart going up a hill, and rolled down the street only to smash at the bottom, again to the accompanying odour.
The film's working title was The Chase Is On. The print viewed was incomplete. Cast and technical credits were taken from reviews. There was no copyright statement visible on the film, and it was not registered for copyright. Several reviews listed the characters in the cast descriptively ("The Scrutable Englishman"). Character names listed in the credits were taken from the print viewed. Reviews commented on the fact that a large portion of the film was similar to a travelogue, presenting well-known Spanish tourist sites and festivals. Several reviews commented on footage of Pamplona's famed running of the bulls and, later, a bullfight. Neither of those sequences were included in the print viewed. Hollywood Reporter listed a title song written by Mario Nascimbene and Jordan Ramin, sung by Eddie Fisher.
Scent of Mystery was the first and only film released with the Smell-O-Vision process, developed by Swiss scientist Hans Laube at the request of producer Mike Todd, Jr. The system piped in odors via plastic tubing to individual seats, scents being triggered automatically by signals on the film's soundtrack. Scent of Mystery was written specifically to implement Smell-O-Vision, and many plot points in the narrative are tied to various scents, including the solution of the mystery, when "Oliver Larker" smells American pipe tobacco. Other scents used in the film that are mentioned in reviews are perfume, flowers, coffee, brandy, port wine and peppermint. In a modern interview with Todd, the producer stated that, not until after the premiere of Smell-O-Vision in Scent of Mystery did it occur to him and an associate to develop a reverse pump to clear the air between scents, so that each odor could be more distinctive. Todd indicated this system was added to the film after its third opening and was likely too late to make Smell-O-Vision a success. Todd admitted the process was intended as nothing more than a novelty gimmick.
Scent of Mystery was released within weeks of the distribution of the American¿updated Italian documentary production Behind the Great Wall, which featured a process similar to Smell-O-Vision, called AromaRama. Charles Weiss developed that process and, working with Sidney Kaufman, a faculty member at New York's New School for Social Research, and Thomas Orchard adapted it to create discernable odors to be coordinated with various sequences of the film. The Smell-O-Vision process differed from AromaRama in that it, unlike AromaRama, was delivered directly to individual theater seats rather than to the entire auditorium, hence was easier to control but more expensive to produce.
A June 23, 1961 Daily Variety news item revealed that Todd and business partner Elizabeth Taylor (Todd's stepmother, who made a brief, uncredited cameo in the film as the real "Sally Kennedy") filed suit against Cinemiracle Pictures Corp., demanding $2,500,000 damage. The complaint alleged that a contract had been signed with Cinemiracle in July 1960 for distribution of Scent of Mystery which was to be re-titled Holiday in Spain, but that Cinemiracle had halted distribution plans. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
Modern sources indicate that the film was severely cut from its original running time of 125 or 135 minutes, which included an intermission, and re-released in the late 1960s under the title Holiday in Spain. The re-released version included an added voice-over narration by star Denholm Elliot, which was heard on the print viewed. Modern sources add Alex Thomson and Paul Wilson to the camera crew.
Released in United States January 1960
Released in United States Winter January 1960
This was the first film to use a process called "Smell-O-Vision" in which various odors and scents were pumped into the theatre.
Released in United States January 1960
Released in United States Winter January 1960