BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jun 12th, 2012 •

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I imagine all involved in the production of this film were hoping for sparks to fly again on screen between Brynner and Deborah Kerr, as they had three years earlier on THE KING AND I. They even have a dance sequence, with Brynner executing his wild swinging twirls around the dance floor just like he did as the King of Siam…only it isn’t with Ms. Kerr. He then dances with her, but she’s stand-offish and there’s no fun in their little pas de deux.

And that’s the major flaw here. No sparks. Brynner, at least, has great charisma. But when, in the third act, he confesses to Ms. Kerr how much he’s obsessed over her, I neither saw any reason for him to have (she’s as stiff and unappealing as a red-headed board), nor did I see him being more than somewhat attracted to her – no overwhelming fixation was ever manifested.

Still, it’s an intermittently good film. A slow, heavy-handed start gives way to an interesting ‘road film’ quality as a group of tourists of disparate nationalities are prevented from returning home and have to trek by bus through enemy territory, threatened alternately by rebel Hungarians and occupying Russians. Sequestered at an inn, they make great use of the Art Department’s expressionistic set, moving around in shadows and space. Only Brynner gets sweeping camera moves that follow him from one side of the inn’s interior to the other. He’s grandly free, while they are little more than huddled captives.

Among the anxious tourists, Robert Morley is denied the use of his delicious comic delivery, Jason Robards Jr. is apparently making his film debut here, and I’ve almost always found him off-puttingly weak (ONCE UPON THE TIME IN THE WEST – oh, my god!), but he does have some good moments. E.G. Marshall – wasted. Anne Jackson – never seen her so young, and she’s good. Anouk Aimee – didn’t recognize her, but she’s iconic, believably representing a harbinger of death.

Brynner, proud of his Mongolian heritage, yaps away in Russian and seems (I’m guessing) to have refused to allow the studio to use subtitles. He must have felt he could get the meaning across by the strength of pure histrionic skill. And he pretty much does. This was a brief, commanding period for him as a super-star: THE KING AND I, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, ANASTASIA, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, and THE JOURNEY. Powerful stuff. After that it was sporadic at best: SOLOMON AND SHEBA, ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING!, SURPRISE PACKAGE, TARAS BULBA, KINGSOF THE SUN, FLIGHT FROM ASHIYA, INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER – all lesser works. There would be evidence of the old Yul in THE MAGNIFICANT SEVEN, MORITURI, and even in WESTWORLD.

And then there was the cancer commercial – a strong ending to a unique career.

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