Richard Oliff: Curious incident of movie from long ago

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A large part of my school life was dominated by homework.

I was reminded this week of one piece of work that has stuck in the back of my mind since the 1960s, only because my best friend Roy could never remember the name of a very old black and white film.

I kept telling him it was called Incident at Owl Creek and not as he would have it, Incident at Owl Creep.

Well, I have an apology to make to my dear late friend, as it would appear we were both wrong.

By summoning up the wonder of the internet I was reconnected with this very distant piece of cinematography, which was actually called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, a concise French made film from 1962 based on the American story of the same name from 1891 by Ambrose Bierce.

We’d been shown the film at school and then asked to write a critique with an emphasis on the quality of ‘panning’ in the form of an essay, which would usually run to about four pages of foolscap paper.

Having found it online I decided to watch it again to see if it truly was a piece of work worthy of my boyhood labours.

In a nutshell a man is being executed by hanging from a bridge during the American Civil War. The rope appears to snap and he is plunged, still bound, into the river below.

Underwater he manages to unrealistically and Houdini-like unbind his hands, release the rope from his neck and free his feet.

On reaching the surface it’s not long before he is shot at and vigorously pursued by the company of soldiers who formed his execution party.

It would be wrong of me to spoil the rest of the story, except to say that there is little or no dialogue in this highly charged drama, and your homework for this week is to track it down to watch it for yourself.