Buyer beware: the sleeve shown here indicates Zero Mostel and Vanessa Redgrave are in the film. They are not.
By Lee Pfeiffer
The White Bus (aka Red, White and Zero) is an experimental film by future acclaimed director Lindsay Anderson. Running a scant 46 minutes, the movie was intended to be one third of a feature film that consisted of other offbeat stories by different directors. For various reasons, the other segments were never completed, thus leaving Anderson's work an orphan. MGM has released The White Bus as one of its burn-to-order DVD titles. The merits of the film are debatable. It's visually striking. Filmed primarily in B&W with occasional short sequences in color, the movie is a fairly incomprehensible critique of British society. Like Bryan Forbes' The Whisperers, the movie was largely photographed in and around Manchester and the city fairs equally bad in Anderson's work. The plot, such as a it is, centers on an unnamed young woman (Patricia Healey) who is bored working in a London office. We see her at the end of another mundane day getting ready to leave for home. However, the viewer is then exposed to a pair of legs dangling from above her desk. Someone has hanged themselves, but no one in the office pays the slightest bit of attention. The girl takes a train to Manchester and ends up inexplicably deciding to board a white tourist bus that is packed with an eclectic assortment of international eccentrics. The bus stops at various locations including factories and the group is escorted about by the Lord Mayor (Arthur Lowe) who is decked out in full regalia.
There are bizarre sequences that are at times rather mesmerizing - like outtakes from an episode of The Prisoner in that they mingle realism with fantasy. Anderson seems to be making a cynical comment about the degradation of society and the loss of individualism, though the message is muddled amidst the arresting visual aspects of the film. Consequently, the whole enterprise becomes rather frustrating and wearying. Anderson has something to say but is so obtuse about making his point that the film becomes rather like one of those pretentious movies designed to please no one other than pseudo intellectuals who populate panels at film festivals.
There are some other talented people involved in this enterprise including future Oscar winning producer Michael Deeley (The Italian Job, Blade Runner, The Deer Hunter), acclaimed film maker and movie historian Kevin Brownlow (It Happened Here) and screenwriter Shelagh Delaney, whose novel the segment is based on. Young Anthony Hopkins also has a brief bit in the film. Anderson fans will certainly want to check out this early endeavor, but for the average viewer its rather difficult to warm to.
Note: it's come to our attention that the sleeve depicted on Oldies.com doesn't reflect the screener copy we received. It has been retitled Red, White and Zero and the sleeve says the movie stars Zero Mostel and Vanessa Redgrave, who have nothing whatsoever to do with this film!