Sax von Stroheim writes:
Dead Cert (Tony Richardson, 1974)
Something the Brits do pretty well: take their decent-to-classic mystery novels and turn them into solid-to-great TV programmes and movies. It’s rare to come across one that doesn’t have at least a few redeeming qualities. So that’s why it was surprising, if not stunning, to see one, made by a “real filmmaker”, that’s so sloppy. I have no idea what drew Richardson to this material: it doesn’t seem to fit in with his other work at all. He may have been hoping it would be a hit, but he just doesn’t have the touch for this kind of thing. Dick Francis’ novel is, at best, a light entertainment: full of shallow characters and predictable plot turns. Its main virtue is its backstage tour of English horseracing. The characters are too thin for Richardson to make their inner lives very interesting (a Richardson specialty in his other movies), and he flubs a lot of the basic set-up, which makes it a pretty poor tour guide. There is some good footage of horses racing and jumping, but the editing is so jumbled that I never got a sense of what was supposed to be happening in the races themselves. The movie is spatially confused throughout, though: Richardson cuts back-and-forth from close-ups to crowded, Altman-like long shots in such a way that I was always left wondering exactly who or what I should be looking at in any given scene.