Browsed by
Month: November 2012

Roberta (1935)

Roberta (1935)

“John, everyday you act worse — but today you’re acting like tomorrow.”

Synopsis:
An American football player (Randolph Scott) visits his aunt (Helen Westley) at the Parisian design house she manages (known as “Roberta”), and begins to fall for her lovely young assistant (Irene Dunne); meanwhile his bandleader-friend (Astaire) meets up with his childhood sweetheart (Ginger Rogers), a singer posing as a Polish countess.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately advises viewers to “forget the dull, convoluted Dunne-Scott plotline” of this “third Astaire-Rogers musical” — based on a Broadway play by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, which was itself based on a novel by Alice Duer Miller — and instead “watch [the] supporting players”. He argues that Astaire’s “Huck… is the least abrasive, most likable character he played in his films with Rogers”, and that “Rogers’s fake Polish countess… is refreshingly not deceitful or antagonistic”; he points out that “the two are actually playful and seem to be enjoying each other — even when they are not dancing”. He enumerates some of the film’s dancing/musical highlights, including their duet to “I’ll Be Hard to Handle” (“during which Rogers wears pants for the first time” — not something I would have really paid much attention to!), and their “magical reprise of ‘I Won’t Dance’, to which Astaire did a simply marvelous solo tap earlier”. Unfortunately, while there’s no arguing that the Astaire/Rogers dance scenes are quite enjoyable, the overlong movie spends far too much time with Scott (playing an annoying, incomprehensible character) and Dunne (whose operatic solos seem entirely out of place here).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire and Rogers improv dancing to “I’ll Be Hard to Handle”
  • Astaire’s piano solo and dance to “I Won’t Dance”

  • Astaire and Rogers dancing to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”
  • Some lovely ’30s gowns (the feathery one below is showcased by none other than young RKO starlet Lucille Ball)

Must See?
No; despite some fun dance numbers, this one is only must-see for Astaire-Rogers completists.

Links:

Shall We Dance (1937)

Shall We Dance (1937)

“We’re about the only two people in the world who don’t think we’re married.”

Synopsis:
A ballet dancer (Fred Astaire) smitten with a popular musical comedy star (Ginger Rogers) pursues her onboard an ocean liner, where the pair are mistakenly identified as married.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that this seventh on-screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — featuring a “silly plot” about dancers “mistaken for marrieds” — is “not great, but… enjoyable”. Edward Everett Horton’s performance (as Astaire’s manager) almost satirically epitomizes the type of flustered character he became known for in the series, while Eric Blore has fun in a bit role as a moralistic hotel manager valiantly attempting to determine whether Astaire and Rogers really are married or not. The film’s highlights, naturally, are when Astaire and Rogers dance and/or sing “to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin”, including “‘They All Laughed’, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’…, ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’ — during which Astaire and Rogers are on roller skates — and ‘Shall We Dance’.” Indeed, the score itself almost makes it must-see from a cultural perspective (though I suppose one could simply watch clips of each song or dance separately on YouTube). While it’s hard to choose, I’d say my all-time favorite of the bunch is Astaire’s solo dance to “Slap That Bass”, taking place in a boiler room; watching just a few seconds of rehearsal footage from this number made me appreciate all over again exactly how much of a joyfully limber-footed genius Astaire really was.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative opening titles
  • Astaire’s solo dance to “Slap That Bass”
  • Astaire and Rogers’ dance to (and duet of) “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”
  • Astaire crooning “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” to Rogers
  • Typically fine Art Deco sets by Van Nest Polglase
  • George and Ira Gershwin’s incomparable score

Must See?
No, though it’s definitely worth a look just for the songs and dances (naturally).

Links:

Carefree (1938)

Carefree (1938)

“She’s untapped… Why, she’s got everything wrong with her!”

Synopsis:
A man (Ralph Bellamy) experiencing troubles with his fiancee (Ginger Rogers) asks his psychiatrist-friend (Fred Astaire) to help Rogers overcome her reluctance to marry him. Soon, however, Rogers falls in love with Astaire, and he attempts to rectify the sticky situation through the use of hypnosis.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ eighth onscreen pairing, Peary writes that they “somehow got stuck in [a] second-rate screwball comedy where songs and dances are an afterthought” (Irving Berlin’s score is merely serviceable), and accurately notes that “the storyline would be offensive if it weren’t so stupid”. Indeed, the entire love triangle premise — involving Rogers acting silly and reckless while under hypnosis, and changing allegiances back and forth between potential partners — is both tiresome and tasteless. Peary points out that while the “picture is brief”, it “seems to drag because there are only four dances”, and notes that the “musical highlight” of the film (a welcome relief!) is when Astaire and Rogers (both “in a cheery mood”) dance “The Yam” — which “becomes breathtaking as Astaire repeatedly puts a foot on a tabletop (several tables are used) and swings Rogers over his leg”. Given my full agreement with Peary’s review, I was astonished to find that Carefree seems to be highly regarded by just about every other critic, with the New York Times referring to it as “in excellent musical comedy taste”, DVD Savant labeling the script “exceptionally clever”, and Time Out relegating it simply to the ranks of “not quite as unrelievedly marvelous as the earlier films”. Apparently each film fanatic will have to decide for him/herself whether this one is a clunker or a worthy entry in Astaire and Rogers’ oeuvre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire’s golf club “dance”
  • Fred and Ginger doing “The Yam”

Must See?
No; in my opinion, this one is only must-see for diehard Astaire-and-Rogers completists.

Links:

Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Flying Down to Rio (1933)

“What have these South Americans got below the equator that we haven’t?”

Synopsis:
Flirtatious bandleader Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) falls in love with a beautiful Brazilian socialite named Belinha (Dolores Del Rio), unaware that she’s already engaged to his friend Julio (Raul Roulien). Meanwhile, when Bond brings his band — including dancers Fred (Fred Astaire) and Honey (Ginger Rogers) — to Rio for a gig at Belinha’s father’s hotel, he discovers that members of a powerful bank eager to take over the hotel are determined to stop the show from taking place.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that despite being fourth- and fifth-billed in their first onscreen pairing (behind top-billed romantic leads Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond), Rogers and Astaire “steal [this] film” as they “do their one duet” together, dancing “The Carioca” and “giving off electricity that Raymond and… Del Rio are unable to equal”. He notes that “despite some dull spots and a flimsy plot”, the picture remains “romantic, sexy, and delightfully and inventively kitschy”, with “some tricky camera work, unusual art design by Van Nest Polglase and Carroll Clark, and some creative production numbers” — most notably the “unforgettable” aerial ballet finale featuring “scantily clad chorus girls strik[ing] provocative pre-Hollywood poses on the wings of airplanes in flight”.

Indeed, while “Rogers and Astaire are the main reason this film” has remained in film lovers’ consciousness (most know of it simply as the movie that sparked Astaire and Rogers’ lengthy onscreen partnership), it’s ultimately more “bizarre” than “innocuous”, and offers some unexpected pleasures here and there — such as the use of shadowy silhouettes (accompanied by an unforgettably wonky musical theme) to represent the three “evil” bank members, or the surreal outcome of Del Rio and Raymond’s overnight island stay. Meanwhile, the culminating aerial sequence (complete with one chorine nearly falling to her death!) is certainly worth a look for curiosity-value alone — though it’s not quite enough to raise the film as a whole to the level of “must see” viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire and Rogers dancing the Carioca
  • Astaire finding himself unable NOT to dance when he hears band music starting up
  • The justifiably infamous “aerial ballet” scene
  • Some fun pre-code zingers (see quote at beginning of review)

Must See?
No, though of course anyone interested in the evolution of the Astaire-Rogers films will want to check it out.

Links:

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot (1959)

“Now you know how the other half lives.”

Synopsis:
In 1920s Chicago, a pair of struggling musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who accidentally witness a murder committed by mob boss Spats Colombo (George Raft) flee to Florida in disguise as members of an all-girl band. “Josephine” (Curtis) soon adopts the persona of a wealthy oilman to seduce sexy bandmate Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), while “Daphne” (Lemmon) is wooed by an older millionaire (Joe E. Brown) who has no idea Daphne is actually a man.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his Alternate Oscars — where he votes Some Like It Hot the Best Film of the Year — Peary accurately notes that this classic farce by director Billy Wilder features “sparkling, high-energy comic performances by Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Joe E. Brown”, as well as “a dazzling array of lead and secondary characters, all with quirky, aggressive personalities”, and “hilarious, furious, and often sexy interplay among those characters”. He points out the film’s “enlightened ahead-of-its-time sexual-identity theme”, its “frenetic pacing”, and its “consistently clever, daring, and provocative” script — by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond — which is perpetually “straddling the boundaries of bad taste”. He names some of its “many wonderful moments”, including “such classic scenes as Monroe’s Sugar [Kane] sexily wiggling up the train compartment aisle singing ‘Running Wild’; Sugar sharing secrets and a train berth with the increasingly titillated ‘Daphne’; … ‘Daphne’ dancing into the night with Osgood [Brown], a flower moving from mouth to mouth on their deadpan faces; [and] ‘Josephine’ reminding ‘Daphne’ of the reasons why s/he can’t marry Osgood”.

Peary argues that SLIH features “Marilyn Monroe’s most delectable performance”, and names her Best Actress of the Year in Alternate Oscars, where he notes that while she “plays a character who has been pushed around in life… [she] doesn’t try to win audience sympathy or pass herself off as lovable, as she does in other films”. Instead, he posits, she “concentrated on comedy”, and comes across as “truly funny in this film”. Indeed, there’s truly no evidence of the infamous inter-personal conflicts between Monroe and others that plagued the film’s production. Meanwhile, Peary names Jack Lemmon Best Actor of the Year in Alternate Oscars, where he notes that Lemmon is “howlingly funny” playing a “character who is excitable, frantic, flustered, argumentative, cynical, sarcastic, curious, horny, and slightly mischievous”. What’s most impressive about Lemmon’s characterization is the way he “jumps into the zaniness [of his “insane predicament”] and allows himself to become screwy and happy”. Peary notes that “as in all of his most successful comedies, he’s appealing here because, in addition to his immense talent, he seems to be enjoying himself so much”.

In his analysis of the film for GFTFF (elaborated upon in his more extensive reviews for Cult Movies 2 and Alternate Oscars), Peary notes that “in Wilder’s screen world, people are identified by what they wear, carry, or own, but by [the] film’s end, [the] characters will be identified by who they are”. He notes that “interestingly, Jerry and Joe don’t become silly movie females when they don women’s clothing”, instead becoming “tough, smart, fun-to-be-with broads who take guff from no man and are loyal friends to other women”. He points out that “like Sylvia Scarlett, [the movie’s] theme is that when a person lives as the other sex, he or she has the opportunity to explore previously latent aspects of the personality”; to that end, he argues that “Daphne and Josephine aren’t the alter egos of Jerry and Joe” so much as they are “more (extensions) of the two men”. Ultimately, SLIH remains the best and smartest of countless cross-dressing comedies to come out of Hollywood, offering an enduring treat to both first-time viewers as well as those returning for repeat visits.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane (named Best Actress of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Jack Lemmon as Jerry/Daphne (named Best Actor of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Tony Curtis as Joe/Josephine (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III
  • A memorable, clever script, full of plenty of one-liners: “I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.”

Must See?
Yes, of course — as a most enjoyable comedy classic.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Lady From Shanghai, The (1948)

Lady From Shanghai, The (1948)

“Everybody is somebody’s fool.”

Synopsis:
An Irish drifter (Orson Welles) immediately becomes smitten with a beautiful woman (Rita Hayworth) he helps rescue from a rape attempt. Soon he’s invited to serve as a ship’s mate on a yacht trip hosted by Hayworth’s wealthy, crippled husband (Everett Sloane), where Sloane’s business partner (Glenn Anders) attempts to convince Welles to take the rap for a murder he won’t actually commit.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “longtime cult favorite” — infamous as the movie “held back for two years by Columbia chief Harry Cohn, who was horrified that Welles would chop off the flowing red hair of Rita Hayworth” in addition to going “way over budget on a film that [he] couldn’t understand” — may be “Orson Welles’s most enjoyable film”. He notes that “the film has always given critics trouble because it’s hard to categorize”, given that the “story itself” (based on Sherwood King’s novel If I Die Before I Wake) “is classic film noir material”, but it could also be seen as “more of a twist on Gilda,” and “anticipates Beat the Devil” because of its “tongue-in-cheek humor, the improvisation, the bizarre characters, the blonde (played by an actress known for a different hair color) who is a habitual liar, [and] the sense that the director is having a grand time behind his camera”. Indeed, as Peary points out, “Welles has fun simply by setting his significant scenes in such unusual places as an aquarium (for a love scene), a Chinese theater, and an amusement-park Crazy House”, which serves as the location for Welles’ justifiably “celebrated shootout in the Hall of Mirrors”.

I’m in complete agreement with Peary’s assessment of this convoluted yet consistently enjoyable and creatively filmed noir, which — like most of the titles in Welles’ oeuvre — never fails to keep one engaged on (at the very least) a visual level. Welles-the-actor has been criticized for his attempt at an Irish brogue here in the lead role, but I find it convincing enough, and a nice change from his typically sonorous boom. It’s remarkably easy to buy his characterization as a chump who’s fully aware he’s being taken advantage of by Hayworth and her crew, yet can’t seem to find a way out of the nightmare he’s pulled into. The screenplay (co-written by Welles) is full of zingy one-liners (“I’ve always found it very sanitary to be broke”), and will certainly keep you on your toes throughout — though I actually don’t find it quite so difficult to follow as others claim. Meanwhile, Hayworth is as gorgeous as ever, easily convincing us that she’s someone Welles would lose his head over.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Orson Welles as Michael O’Hara
  • Everett Sloane as Arthur Bannister
  • Glenn Anders as George Grisby
  • Innovative direction by Welles

  • Atmospherically noir-ish cinematography

  • Fine location footage in the Bay Area of California

  • The justifiably famous “hall of mirrors” finale

Must See?
Yes, as one of Welles’ best films.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Becky Sharp (1935)

Becky Sharp (1935)

“She’s hard, she’s selfish — she’ll take advantage of you!”

Synopsis:
In early 19th century England, a socially ambitious orphan named Becky Sharp (Miriam Hopkins) seduces various men in her attempt to rise out of poverty, though she only truly loves her soldier-husband (Alan Mowbray).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that while this screen version of “Langdon Mitchell’s stage adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair… restores several episodes from the novel, it differs in drastic ways”, specifically by eliminating “most of his social criticism”, failing to adequately express “how class pressures mold the character of Becky Sharp”, and making Becky “the one major character in the film”. While Becky is traditionally viewed as the “anti-heroine” of the novel — in contrast with the lead character of Amelia (played as a supporting role in the film by Frances Dee) — “Becky becomes our heroine [in the movie], the feisty figure whom we identify with or root for as she uses every trick in the book… to get what she wants.” Peary points out that while “in the book she is ruthless”, the “script eliminates her many unforgivable acts”, leaving us to “see only her virtues”. He notes that she possesses “charm, wit, intelligence, resilience, [and] vitality” — and that while she “is selfish”, she “wants the best for her social husband… and best friend [Dee] as well as for herself”, and is “willing to sacrifice her own happiness so that they will be happy”.

Peary ultimately argues that while this film “may not be Thackeray”, it’s nonetheless “an enjoyable, if flimsy, period piece, with a likable heroine and a dynamic performance from Hopkins” (who he nominates as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars). Unfortunately, I can’t quite agree with Peary that Becky comes across as a “likable heroine”, and I’m not overly impressed with Hopkins’ performance, in which she seems to indulge her worst tendencies towards shrillness and hyperactivity. With that said, her Becky remains a clever, savvy heroine to be sure, and one can’t help sympathizing with her position in a society which so roundly rejects her from the get-go; meanwhile, her marriage to Mowbray demonstrates that she is capable of true love, even if her designs on men are always and forever calculated to help her maneuver her way out of poverty.

As Peary notes, however, the film is really “best known for being the first to use three-color Technicolor process”, and represents a “remarkable job [done] with [early] color experimentation”. He points out that director Rouben Mamoulian (with assistance from DP Ray Rennahan) “decided to use color thematically to express character mood, and added more and more color as the film progresses and the plot thickens”, with “every shot look[ing] color-coordinated”. He notes that his “favorite shot comes [early] in the film”, as “Mowbray and another red-jacketed soldier stand in the foreground in front of a hanging white sheet, through which we can see the black silhouettes of Hopkins and Dee — so within the frame Mamoulian contrasts color with black and white”; he’s right to note that this is “very clever”, as is the film’s most famous sequence taking place “on the eve of Waterloo”, as the guests at a gala ball “leave according to their color group so only the ones in red remained in the ballroom”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine use of early Technicolor cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look simply for its historical relevance.

Links:

Follow the Fleet (1936)

Follow the Fleet (1936)

“Gosh, you’re glad to see me.”

Synopsis:
A sailor (Fred Astaire) on leave visits his former dance partner (Ginger Rogers) in hopes of rekindling their romance; meanwhile, his shipmate (Randolph Scott) falls for Rogers’ sister (Harriet Hilliard), but is scared away by her desire for marriage.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately points out that the “hackneyed” subplot between Hilliard and Scott in this fifth Astaire-and-Rogers musical — an adaptation of Hubert Osborne’s 1922 play Shore Leave — “slows down the film and [unfortunately] becomes more important than the Astaire-Rogers romance”. With that said, the fact that Irving Berlin “contributed seven songs” to the soundtrack — including “We Saw the Sea”, “Let Yourself Go”, and “I’d Rather Lead a Band” — nearly makes up for the boring and predictable storyline. As Peary notes, the film’s “highlight” may be the “most playful number in the series,” when Astaire and Rogers dance to “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”, “during which Rogers intentionally dances out of synch with Astaire, as if she were a little girl… who imaginatively finds silly things to do with her feet and body each time they begin a new series of steps” — it’s a true delight to watch. While the “plot has been criticized for making Astaire and Rogers into the comedy team”, I agree with Peary that this is “okay for a change because they’re funny” — at least up until the unexpectedly somber final number, Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, which takes the characters completely out of their storyline but remains an “elegant and romantic” finale.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine dancing and/or singing by Rogers and Astaire, to numerous classic tunes by Irving Berlin




Must See?
No, though it’s definitely worth a look simply for the dancing and songs, and is must-see for any Astaire/Rogers fans.

Links:

Gay Divorcee, The (1934)

Gay Divorcee, The (1934)

“Chances are that fate is foolish.”

Synopsis:
A professional dancer (Fred Astaire) falls in love-at-first-sight with a beautiful young woman (Ginger Rogers) while she’s traveling through Paris with her aunt (Alice Brady). After a fruitless attempt to successfully woo her, their paths accidentally cross again when Astaire accompanies his lawyer-friend (Edward Everett Horton) to a hotel where Horton is helping Rogers seek a divorce from her stuffy husband (William Austin), courtesy of a hired co-respondent (Erik Rhodes).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “having stolen Flying Down to Rio [1933] from its topbilled stars, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were given their first lead roles in this delightful adaptation of Dwight Taylor’s stage musical, The Gay Divorce, in which Astaire had just starred in London”. He correctly points out that the scene in which Rogers finally falls for the persistent Astaire “after they dance together to… Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ [is] one of the most elegant, seductive numbers in the entire Astaire-Rogers series” — indeed, it epitomizes the role of dance-as-lovemaking in the films, complete with Astaire lighting up a cigarette once the number is done. Peary notes that the “stars are appealing, playing very likable characters”; we can’t help but root for their romance to succeed, and it’s fun to see how they eventually overcome the mistaken-identity subplot they become immersed in.

Ultimately, of course, the storyline in any Astaire-and-Rogers film matters much less than its dancing, songs, and humor. To that end, it’s too bad that most of Cole Porter’s original songs were axed (leaving only his iconic “Night and Day”), but Astaire’s song-and-dance performance of “A Needle in a Haystack” is quite memorable, and 17-year-old Betty Grable’s rendition of “Let’s K-nock K-nees” (sung to Horton) is pleasant as well. I’m much less a fan of the “famous, extravagantly produced 17-minute song-dance ‘The Continental’,” which goes on for far too long — but it is fun to see how Astaire and Rogers manage to “slip past Rhodes and onto the ballroom floor”, courtesy of a clever (if patently obvious) ploy using a silhouette on a record player.

Meanwhile, playing “the ridiculous Italian co-respondent (a union man), Rhodes is absolutely hilarious” — he steals the movie whenever he’s on screen, whether he’s bungling his line-of-code (“Chance is a fool’s name for fate”) in an infinitely creative number of ways, or “calling his wife long distance” and boasting “that his nine-year-old son, whom he thinks he heard in the background, already has a voice that’s becoming deeper” (!). Alice Brady is effective as the ultimate ditzy socialite, and Horton is well-cast as a bungling lawyer struggling to live up to his father’s reputation — though Eric Blore (fresh from the stage play) is unfortunately given too few funny lines to make much of an impression.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire’s initial seduction-by-dance of Rogers (set to the music of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”)
  • Alice Brady as Aunt Hortense
  • Erik Rhodes as Tonetti
  • A fun and frothy storyline
  • Some fine solo dancing by Astaire

Must See?
Yes, as a most enjoyable Astaire-and-Rogers musical. Nominated as one of the Best Films of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars.

Categories

Links:

Boy Who Could Fly, The (1986)

Boy Who Could Fly, The (1986)

“Sometimes we need to believe in a little magic, especially when there’s so much pain.”

Synopsis:
After moving to a new town with her widowed mother (Bonnie Bedelia) and younger brother (Fred Savage), a teenage girl (Lucy Deakins) befriends and falls in love with her mute neighbor (Jay Underwood), who has believed he can fly ever since his parents died in a plane crash when he was five.

Genres:

Review:
Although it was well-received upon its release, this quirky ’80s teen romance will primarily be of interest to those who remember enjoying it years ago — especially one-time teenage boys who had a crush on beautiful 15-year-old Deakins (who looks remarkably like her screen mother, Bonnie Bedelia). The storyline, while sensitively handled in most cases, follows an overly worn path in showing how Deakins and her grieving family adjust to life in a new town: Savage (before his breakthrough fame on “The Wonder Years”) deals with predictably menacing neighborhood bullies who won’t let him ride his bike around the corner; Deakins longs from afar to be part of the predictably hip “in crowd” at school; and Bedelia (predictably) struggles to adapt to working life after 13 years away (she’s absolutely flummoxed by the introduction of computers into the insurance business).

The major selling point of the film is Deakins’ relationship with Underwood, which is touching, but leaves one with too many questions left unanswered about Underwood’s situation and supposed special abilities. His character is referred to as “autistic”, but doesn’t necessarily display characteristic signs of this, instead apparently suffering from selective mutism and emotional disturbance after his parents’ untimely death. (Could this gaffe be a function of autism only recently being better understood?) Meanwhile, his alcoholic caretaking uncle (Fred Gwynne, playing his role as a caricature) claims to have seen his nephew fly, but he’s clearly about as unreliable a witness as one could muster. Underwood’s number one fan appears to be a kind and understanding English teacher (Colleen Dewhurst), but her role is severely underwritten, and we never understand exactly how or why she’s come to play such a critical part in his welfare.

Eventually, writer/director Nick Castle chooses to turn Underwood’s situation into an actual fantasy rather than an exploration of his troubled inner fantasy-life, which may have thrilled audiences at the time (the special effects enhance the film’s romantic potential) but is ultimately the less satisfying choice. While I hate to be a grinch, I can’t agree with Peary’s assessment of this one as a Personal Recommendation.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lucy Deakins as Milly
  • Bonnie Bedelia as Charlene

Must See?
No; this one will primarily be of interest to viewers who remember it fondly from their youth. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links: