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Friday, September 25, 2015

HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON (1957)

John Huston made something of a companion piece to his own THE AFRICAN QUEEN/’51 with this mismatched near-romance wartime adventure. It’s always been in the shadow of the earlier pic (though it was a very big hit). Less original, perhaps, but equally exciting & delightful, with selfless perfs from Deborah Kerr & Robert Mitchum easily matching the star aura of Kate Hepburn & Humphrey Bogart in QUEEN. And without any of that film's showboating or cashing in on their own well-defined personalities. This time, the war is WWII, and Mitchum’s stranded marine encounters Kerr’s missionary nun on an otherwise deserted Pacific isle. Their plan to escape is quickly halted by a wave of Japanese military, landing on the little island and forcing a series of close-call incidents. Funny, touching, suspenseful, and consistently believable, since Huston keeps the scale of events reasonably limited, the heroics plausible and lets the two leads do the rest. It’s just about a perfect example of the form. Very underrated on the Huston C.V., and showing an easy command of the new WideScreen format with help from lenser Oswald Morris who steps back from his highly stylized work on Huston’s MOULIN ROUGE/’52 and MOBY DICK/’56 for ultra-smooth naturalism.

DOUBLE-BILL: Rather than AFRICAN QUEEN, try FATHER GOOSE/’54, something of a comic riff on this.

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