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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Everybody’s hiding some kind of love that dare not speak its name in John Huston’s expansion of Carson McCuller’s novella. Set at an Army base way down south, Major Marlon Brando is married to Liz Taylor, but only has eyes for soldier-boy Robert Forster. He’s got a thing for horses, rides ‘em barebacked & bareass, but will stand at attention to watch La Liz sleep the night away. Not that she knows, she’s too tired from love-in-the-afternoon with Brian Keith, the Colonel next door who’s devoted, in a chaste way, to Julie Harris, his neurasthenic wife. She, in turn, despises him, preferring to gossip with their fey, Philippino houseboy. Whew, that’s a burgoo & a half! The film is usually considered one of Huston many misfires from this period, and he does lose control of the material at times, but there are extraordinary things in here. Certainly, no one in the cast is phoning it in. Taylor is a perfect fit for a change, even her squally voice doesn’t hurt; broad of bust, broad of beam & more than a tad mean, she’s wicked funny. Brando, in a role meant for Monty Clift, plays as if on a dare, beating himself up in a vanity-free mode that prefigures LAST TANGO/’73, though the accent is close to impenetrable. These two might be Brick & Maggie the Cat a few years down the road. With all it’s faults, you can’t keep your eyes off this one. NOTE: Huston desaturated the original prints, leaving a golden tone and pale hues on a nearly b&w image. But when the film flopped, the studio switched back to full color. The current DVD offers Huston’s ‘golden’ look, but the accompanying trailer gives a good idea of what the fully loaded TechniColor prints must have looked like. The difference is startling.

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