Mezza mezza adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s THE PAINTED VEIL (second of three*) has almost no atmosphere, missing the cloistered Hollywood glamour (and cop-out ending) Greta Garbo & Herbert Marshall drifted thru in 1934; or the doom-laden tropical mildew Naomi Watts & Edward Norton sweated out in 2006. Made back when studios proudly sent their CinemaScope cameras out to capture exotic locales, this b&w production has flavorless mock up sets and obvious stand-ins for leads Eleanor Parker, Bill Travers & George Sanders on its handful of location shots. The story holds: bored, unfaithful wife, blackmailed by the doctor/ husband she never loved into accompanying him on a cholera epidemic mission outside of Hong Kong, reevaluates her choices on love, life & family . . . too late. Ronald Neame helms efficiently (with Vincente Minnelli called in for the slightly more fluid convent scenes), while Parker pulls off repentant tropes (she's not bad, a sort of refined Joan Crawford) and Sanders surprises with an unusually brisk & energetic characterization of a happy expat with local sympathies. But Karl Tunberg’s screenplay is turgidly stage-bound (we keep hearing about dramatic incidents) with everything played right on the nose, losing the oblique Maugham manner. You’ll forget you watched it the next day.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Listen up at a bridge party to hear Miklos Rozsa reuse the great neurotic waltz he composed for MADAME BOVARY/’49.
READ ALL ABOUT IT/WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *As noted above, the other versions of this story from 1934 & 2006, though not without their own faults, get more than the superb novella’s title right.