Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1962. Famous Artists Productions. Screenplay by John Fante, Edmund Morris, based on the novel by Nelson Algren. Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Produced by Charles K. Feldman. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Charles Le Maire. Film Editing by Harry Gerstad. Academy Awards 1962.
Laurence Harvey is drifting through Texas when he finds an even more aimless Jane Fonda roughing it on the road. They team up and head for Louisiana, he wants to find his lost love and she just wants to go where things are happening. They split outside of Sin City where he takes up work at a roadside restaurant run by Anne Baxter, then makes his way into the French quarter when he finds out what happened to the lady he’s been searching for: Hallie, played by Capucine, is working in a brothel run by Barbara Stanwyck as a madam who is obsessed with holding on to her. Harvey gets himself into a heap of trouble trying to get Hallie out of there, complicated further when Fonda resurfaces and takes up work in the same “doll house” and helps foil his plans. The seedy world that this movie takes place in would have made much more of an impact when this film came out, there’s still an atmosphere of sex and sin that pervades but, without the shock of its dealing so boldly with taboo subjects, the rather thin plotting and shallow characters are much more obvious. Too much of it relies on its need for the leading lady’s emotional generosity and Capucine, while stunning physically and possessing a kind of commanding allure, doesn’t have the depth to turn flimsy material into something compelling. Harvey fares better and Baxter does best of them all, hers is the most detailed performance in the whole thing, and there’s a pleasure to be had from looking at the dazzling fashions (anachronistic as they are) and a thrill from seeing so many great stars in one explosive piece. Does this add up to a good film? No, but any one of these elements (or the terrific score by Elmer Bernstein) might make you want to at least check it out.