THE CEREMONY (director/writer: Laurence Harvey; screenwriters: Alun Falconer/Ben Barzman/from the novel by Frédéric Grendel; cinematographer: Brian West; editor: Ralph Kemplen; music:  Gerard Schurmann; cast: Laurence Harvey (Sean McKenna), Robert Walker Jr. (Dominic), Sarah Miles (Catherine), John Ireland (Prison Warden), Ross Martin (LeCoq), Lee Patterson (Nicky),  Jack McGowran (O'Brien), Murray Melvin (First Gendarme), Noel Purcell (Finigan), Fernando Rey (Sanchez); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Laurence Harvey; United Artists; 1963)

"Pretentious, too talky, bleak and overlong oddball thriller about a man condemned to die in Tangier for a crime he didn't commit but actually tried to prevent."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The noted actor Laurence Harvey's ("Welcome to Arrow Beach") directorial debut is this pretentious, too talky, bleak and overlong oddball thriller about a man condemned to die in Tangier for a crime he didn't commit but actually tried to prevent. It's based on the the novel by Frédéric Grendel and is written by Ben Barzman.

Sean McKenna (Laurence Harvey) was part of a gang that robbed a bank in Tangier, located in the international zone. He's the only one caught, and when he refuses to tell who shot the bank guard and where the money is hidden, the rigid prosecutor (Ross Martin) insists the convicted man die by the firing squad so the world will know that Tangier punishes both Moslem and European criminals. The prison warden (John Ireland) is over-ruled in his plea to keep the prisoner alive in case he talks, thereby giving the bank a chance to recover its money. Meanwhile the younger brother of Sean's, Dominic (Robert Walker Jr.), and the condemned man's girlfriend Catherine (Sarah Miles) and Sean's bank robber partner, Nicky (Lee Patterson), in the last hour before the execution, execute a risky scheme to help the reluctant Sean escape.

Dominic takes the place of the old local priest O'Brien (Jack McGowran), who frets about saving the non-religious prisoner's soul. The Irish priest talks to God throughout since the prisoner refuses to talk to him. The escape works, but the reunion is not joyous when the escapee finds out his brother has been making time with Catherine and also wants the money. A few twists take place after the escape, but since I lost interest in the dark film it never could convince me of the awkward religious message it was trying sell that there’s a bit of God in every one of us (which might be true or not, but in the pic seemed like so much agenda bending).

The gloomy film is poorly directed, none of the characters fully get our sympathy and all the chatter by the confused priest of finding the divine truth within feels like annoying half-baked religious allegory.

REVIEWED ON 5/31/2015       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"