The Pride and The Passion (1957)

STANLEY KRAMER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 1957. . Screen Story and Screenplay by , , based on the novel The Gun by . Cinematography by . Produced by Stanley Kramer. Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by , .

The Napoleonic Wars are raging across Europe and France has laid waste to Spain, Bonaparte leaving behind occupying armies that oppress the population and inspire peasant revolts. English Captain Anthony Trumbull (, a natural fit for the period if ever there was one, I’m surprised he doesn’t show up in a tuxedo holding a champagne glass) arrives on Spanish shores and tells an illiterate, charismatic revolutionary leader named Manuel (, who makes Cary Grant look like a history professor by comparison) that he has come to take possession of a magnificently large cannon that the English would like to keep from falling into Napoleon’s hands. Manuel agrees to help transport the steamship-sized gun into English hands if Trumbull agrees to one very inconvenient condition: Manuel wants to first use the weapon against the French in the occupied city of Avila, where a tyrannical General Jouvet (played by ) has been executing Spaniards for failing to help him locate Manuel’s whereabouts and get the cannon for himself.

Trumbull agrees, in part because Miguel has next to him a female companion named Juana () who has a va-va-voom body just bursting out of her bodice, and he falls into lust and then love with her as they traipse across the countryside on their dangerous mission. Thousands of Manuel’s followers accompany them as they undergo a series of dangerous and difficult ordeals to push this ridiculously big hunk of wood and metal up and down endless hills, with friction developing between the two male leads because the stubborn, ignorant Manuel won’t listen to the book-learned and sometimes patronizing Trumbull, upset that he is also losing his woman in the process.

Gorgeous cinematography and some very impressive action sequences, including the gun taking a dangerous roll down a hill and later being hidden in a religious procession, provide cinematic magnificence that equals the size of the weapon at the heart of the story, but like the cannon protagonist, this film isn’t loaded with all that much ammunition. The unsuccessful casting is its biggest flaw, Sinatra in particular sticks out awkwardly in brownface makeup and a ridiculous accent, his comfortable, laid-back swagger illogically applied to a character who’s supposed to be one lit match away from exploding at all times (he’s playing someone that Francisco Rabal should have played, basically), but it also doesn’t help that his conflicts with Grant aren’t at all interesting and Grant’s love affair with Loren has very little depth to it (she, lovely and iconic as always, is still not in command of her English skills, reportedly she learned some of her lines phonetically and, whether that’s true or not, it’s clear that there are times that she’s not connected with what she is saying).

It’s not a waste of time, and it’s not a boring movie, but the exciting conclusion and the tragedies it involves don’t offer up much of an emotional payload to reward all the effort put into both making and watching it.

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