Otto Preminger: also known as Batman’s hyperboreal nemesis, Mr. Freeze
What’s colder than an igloo made from icy Kubricks? Otto Preminger’s oeuvre! Why else was the director the perfect choice to play Batman’s hyperboreal nemesis, Mr. Freeze?
Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
Bonjour Tristesse trailer
In best-selling author Francoise Sagan’s schoolgirl confessional, Preminger found a sophisticated romantic triangle he could disdainfully observe from a distance. David Niven stars at the dashing widower whose replacement love interest (Deborah Kerr) threatens to come between the commiserable playboy and his easily corrupted teenage daughter (Jean Seberg). American viewers looked the other way, but the film became a major success in France, especially among New Wave directors who adored Preminger’s use of the wide screen and his choice of leading lady. According to Peter Bogdanovich, “Jean Seberg became a French sensation, explaining why Jean-Luc Godard cast her in Breathless — an homage to Preminger — which in turn made Seberg more acceptable to U.S. tastemakers.” Though he dropped the Technicolor of Tristesse and kept only the black-and-white, Godard said, “I could have taken the last shot of Preminger's film and started after dissolving to a title: ‘Three years later.’” If it’s true that the more tumultuous the shoot, the better the finished product, it’s no wonder that the director’s abysmal treatment of his star resulted in a masterpiece.
Advise and Consent (1962)
Advise and Consent trailer
Preminger hit his stride in the 60’s with a series of widescreen melodramas that took as their subject the criticizing of large institutions — the Navy in In Harm’s Way, organized religion in The Cardinal, the founding of the state of Israel in Exodus, etc. In Advise and Consent, Henry Fonda plays a candidate for secretary of state with past connections to the communist party. Don Murray is the idealistic senator who leads the investigation into Fonda’s past and ultimately becomes a blackmail victim with a sordid secret of his own. Preminger surefootedly weaves his multi-character cast through the various political backstories in what’s easily the sharpest political thriller ever to come out of Hollywood. The wattage of star power on display — enough to light up a dozen features — comes courtesy of Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Franchot Tone, Charles Laughton (in his last role), Burgess Meredith, and the voice of Frank Sinatra.
Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)
Bunny Lake is Missing trailer
American Carol Lynley enrolls her illegitimate four-year-old daughter in an English nursery school. When she goes to retrieve the child later that afternoon, not only is Bunny Lake missing, no one on the staff can vouch for her existence. This contemporary “mad slasher” film found its origins in Henri Georges Clouzet’s seminal Diabolique. Six years later, Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom had been released, and a full-blown genre was launched. Bunny Lake is Preminger’s contribution to the burgeoning paranoia. Most of Preminger’s 60’s films were curious collections of actors with widely varying talent ranges, and this is no exception. Apart from Lord Laurence Olivier as the detective assigned to crack the case, the film features the diverse likes of Finlay Currie, Anna Massey, Kier Dullea (in the role generally reserved for Anthony Perkins) and, in a rare screen appearance, Noel Coward. Preminger’s nod to the younger generation is an appearance on a barroom television by rock ‘n’ roll-models, the Zombies.