Otto Preminger’s remarkable, if hardly unblemished, run of CinemaScope pics from CARMEN JONES/’54 to IN HARM’S WAY/65, never recovered from this deep-fried Southern meller. It’s a three-pronged look at upward mobility in post-WWII rural Georgia with the gentrified Michael Caine making a land grab for the farmlands of neighboring White & Black sharecroppers John Phillip Law & Robert Hooks. But Preminger, with his eyes firmly on the late-‘60s social/political scene, works too hard to keep up, stay relevant, controversial, commercial; and he winds up miscalculating just about every effect. He still revels in those sweeping (and economical) all-in-one takes, and gets an unusually vivid ‘southern’ palette from lensers Milton Krasner & Loyal Griggs. Plus, the tricky, inter-cut opening exposition scenes show him near his best, as does an OTT third-act trial which manages to be both broadly comic & menacing. But the storyline wanders all over the place while the starry cast, which also includes Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, Burgess Meredith, Beah Richards, George Kennedy & Diane Carroll, thrash away at Horton Foote’s atypically gaudy dialogue. Kennedy & Meredith are positively fermented! (NOTE: Family-Friendly pic? Sure, a great pic for bringing up the changing face of Stateside racial attitudes back in 1946, when the story takes place; in '67 when the film was made; and now.)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Don’t be surprised by the overblown, faux-Ennio Morricone on the soundtrack. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY had come out in ‘66 and it must have made a big impression on composer Hugo Montenegro who had a hit in 1968 ‘covering’ that film’s memorable theme.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY II: It was a breakthru year for Fonda, Richards, Kennedy & Dunaway . . . but in other pics! BAREFOOT IN THE PARK; GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER; COOL HAND LUKE and BONNIE & CLYDE.
DOUBLE-BILL: Fonda & Foote were still trying to recover from THE CHASE/’66, another deep-fried Southern fiasco with a big starry cast. Shows how far good intentions will get you.