BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jul 5th, 2011 •

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So what would distinguish a Mermaid film created in the UK from one hatched in the USA? Well, our plucky sea urchin (Glynis Johns) captures an upper class Brit doctor, on vacation without his wife, sequesters him in her cave, and only agrees to let him go if he promises to take her to London so she can see the sights. Once transported there, the sights she sets her sites on include uptight British men – artists and butlers alike – who she lures into amorous abandon, and then, at the third act, faced with their retreat and her possible exposure, she dives into the Thames and makes good her escape.

It’s a socio-comedy about British manners and uptight behavior, edited so tightly I wondered if it were a studio style rather than a directorial/editorial choice. One can feel many scenes being pared to the bone, with their final shots fading on what would have been another line of dialogue to come. And the first act reveal, of our mermaid’s identity and her captive’s reaction, is dispensed with in an almost matter-of-fact way that never would have passed muster in the US. Which is just fine. It’s very much a film of its country, often charming, with Glynis Johns and her quirky voice perfectly cast as Miranda, and a feisty Margaret Rutherford playing an eccentric nurse hired to keep tabs on her. A young David Tomlinson, almost unrecognizable from his later Disney days (he appears with Ms. Johns in MARY POPPINS), essays the nonplussed butler with good, dry humor. Ken Annakin directs efficiently, keeping the plot swimming along. I wish VCI would get their hands on ACROSS THE BRIDGE, which I think was his favorite film, and has not yet shown its face on home video. Up front there is a title card acknowledging that the film has been given a restoration. It looks good. Only problem – and not at all a serious one – is that the DVD sleeve presents a lovely shot of Ms. Johns which feels like Technicolor, but the film is in B&W, which may create a false expectation from a few of the viewers.

There was an American variation on the Mermaid theme, released a mere six months later in 1948 – MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID, as yet unreleased on DVD. VCI should scoop that one up as well – then they’d have a monopoly on Mermaid films of the ’40s. In that one, William Powell plays a middle-aged married man, also vacationing initially on his without his wife, who lands the fish-lady, the incomparably dream-beautiful Ann Blyth, as Lenore. Like Miranda, she sings a wordless melody, though much more hauntingly, and there’s a great deal more swimming and tail-wagging in this version.

Despite some regretfully silly business, PEABODY is ultimately a more serious film, dealing subtexturally with male menopause. In fact, in the end, the mermaid blithely (I know…) allows her paramour to drown, then swims uncaringly off into the depths. There follows a tacked-on ending where somehow Powell has been rescued, is with his wife in a psychiatrist’s office, and accepts the whole adventure as middle-age melancholia, but if I were to get my hooks into it, I would feed it to Final Cut Pro and lop off the faux ending, letting it play out as a wistful, tragic exploration of impotence and fantasy – an aging man no long able to perform sexually who invents, or finds, the perfect woman who has no sexual parts, and who he can love on a purely romantic level.

They’d make a good double-bill.

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One Response »

  1. i live in australia where can i buy this dvd?

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