A Film by Roger and Gerald Sindell

Los Angeles Times

by Kevin Thomas, Times Staff Writer

The theme of the film, to the Sindell’s credit, is major and timely: the impossibility of living in splendid isolation in today’s world. Their handsome hero (Jeremiah Sullivan) is third cellist in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, lives in a converted coach house is Shaker Heights with his wife (Mimi Torchin) and their child—called Pablo, of course—and drives a sumptuous sports car.

He lives a beautiful life, knows it, and wants to keep it that way. But his wife, who shot a series of photographs of ghetto wreckage in the wake of the previous summer’s rioting, wants their son bussed into a predominantly Negro school. He needs to experience “a totality,” she argues. In the midst of their tug-of-war over this issue the girl friend of Sullivan’s best friend, a droll, likeable bassoonist (Anthony Walsh) is murdered in a Cleveland park, neatly pointing up the futility of trying to run away from the ugly realities of modern life.

If the Sindells get artsy-craftsy in presenting their artsy-craftsy protagonists they nonetheless are straightforward and even subtle in the way in which they develop them. The cellist, in truth, is far more honest and perceptive than either his wife or friend (who naively has believed you can go home again even though home has become virtually 100% black).

Sullivan says that just because he doesn’t want his son bussed to the ghetto doesn’t mean he isn’t all for the reverse: bussing colored kids to Shaker Heights. Indeed, you feel that all his wife has done with her photographic forways is to reduce human suffering to a chic “graphic arts” backdrop for a Beautiful People cocktail party. You feel she subconsciously has decided it’s in to bus your child to the ghetto.

Considering the comparative youth and lack of experience of nearly everyone involved in “Double-Stop,” it’s reasonably free of technical and even thespic awkwardnesses. Its color is rich, its score beautiful and its settings shrewdly chosen. The Sindells tackled more than they could handle, but at least they took on something worthy of the effort.

Kevin Thomas’s Subsequent Review of Gerald Sindell’s film that followed Double-Stop:

Hugh O’Brian in ‘Harpy’

by Kevin Thomas, Times Staff Writer, Mar 12, 1971

A harpy, Webster tells us, can be either “a relentless, greedy or grasping person” or a kind of eagle.

Both meanings apply to “Harpy,” the excellent, offbeat Cinema Center 100 production airing at 9 tonight on the CBS Friday Night Movies.

As this striking picture opens we find architect and amateur falconer Hugh O’Brian feeding his harpy eagle just as his super-rich and beautiful ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley drives up, startling him and the bird, who sinks his talons into O’Brian’s left leg. Miss Ashley, it turns out, has it in mind to sink her nails into O’Brian too.

“Harpy is that rare film in which every element is precisely integrated. It is a triumph of style in which Sindell, whose first venture was the admirably ambitious but flawed “Double-Stop,” demonstrates that he has what it takes to be a first-rate director.”

From this beginning, which does not play like the contrived bit of symbolism its description may sound, diector Gerald Sindell, writer William Wood, adapting T.K.Brown III’s original story, and an outstanding cast that includes Tom Nardini and Marlyn Mason create an intriguing psychological drama.

One of the key strengths of “Harpy” is that none of its people are quire what they at first seem—in other words, ot possesses characters that actually do develop:

O’Brian initially looks too glamorous to be a serious person, Miss Ashley seems merely eager to get back a desirable spouse who has become a big success all by himself in the three-and-a-half year since their divorce, <iss Mason, O’Brian’s secretary-fiancee, too unsophisticated and too understated to compete with the chic and confident Miss Ashley, and Nardini gives the impression of being simply a sullen Indian youth placed in O’Brian’s guardianship.

It is quite possible that all six actors have never had more fully realized roles to play.

But the intricate interplay between this quartet reveals four entirely different people.

“Harpy” is an instance of perfect casting—an observation that extends to Mark Miller as a crass Texan, a prospective client for O’Brian, and Linda Watkins as Miss Mason’s hearty, plain-talking mother. It is quite possible that all six actors have never had more fully realized roles to play.

To pose such a threat to O’Brian and Miss Mason’s happiness, Miss Ashley, as a temptress, must at once be shrewd and incredibly sexy—and she is both.

And O’Brian must suggest the full measure of the challenges facing the person who can get by on looks and manners but who has learned the hard way the importance of achieving something in life on his own—which he does. Nardini and Miss Mason also display strengths and complexities.

Finally, “Harpy” is that rare film in which every element is precisely integrated. It is a triumph of style in which Sindell, whose first venture was the admirably ambitious but flawed “Double-Stop,” demonstrates that he has what it takes to be a first-rate director.

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