Wayward Bus, The (1957)

“Nothing ever happens in a 50-mile bus ride to be jealous of.”

Synopsis:
A bus driver (Rick Jason) married to a neurotic alcoholic (Joan Collins) takes a group of passengers — including a buxomy blonde (Jayne Mansfield) and a salesman (Dan Dailey) — on a dangerous ride.

Genres:

Review:
This adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel suffers from a cliched script, and characters we never care about or believe in. Handsome Rick Jason (no actor) glowers his way through each of his scenes, while Jayne Mansfield is wasted in a stereotypical role as an “adult performer” who wants nothing more than to get married and have a refrigerator and electric stove of her own (even if it means settling for a toothy-grinned nebbish like Dailey). The film’s main strengths are its exciting action sequences, most notably when “Sweetheart” (the eponymous bus) attempts to cross a rickety bridge in pouring rain.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting bridge sequence

Must See?
No. Although Peary lists this as a Sleeper in the back of his book, it’s not worth seeking out.

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One Response to “Wayward Bus, The (1957)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    Best of luck finding this one! I searched (not all that actively, but I did keep it in mind to find) for years – and only yesterday happened upon it for the first time on YouTube. I recall reading somewhere that the Steinbeck Estate is rather displeased with this film adaptation, and are against it being available to the public. To my knowledge, the film’s distributor – 20th Century Fox – does not show it on its own channel. Needless to say, there is no DVD, and I don’t recall ever seeing it available on home video.

    That probably makes Mansfield fans, in particular, all the more determined to see it. According to Wikipedia, the film “was released in May 1957 at the height of Mansfield’s popularity and enjoyed some box office success and good notices.” But, if she is “wasted” in this film, that’s only because the film is not a comedy (the actress is completely adrift in terms of what subtext means) and, here, Mansfield is not directed by Frank Tashlin – apparently the only director who had a real clue about how to get a performance out of someone who really can’t act. More than generally speaking – left to her own devices, Mansfield really cannot act. She appears to have a very basic understanding of what drama is, but that’s about it.

    I am a huge Steinbeck fan and have read a number of his books. I haven’t read this one – but now I will probably get around to it. Watching the film, you can sense that there is…something…vaguely Steinbeck about it. From what I know about the book, the essential structure appears to be in the film. But, overall, the transition (which comes with some rather embarrassing dialogue) comes off as clunky. Jason may not be much of an actor but at least he reads as serviceable – compared with Collins, playing, in befuddled manner, the kind of shrew you long to stop listening to; the role is badly written and Collins is more or less inept.

    Oddly, the film is not a total waste of time. There are just enough sequences (as noted, the action scenes in particular) to bounce the viewer back to consciousness. But there’s no compelling reason for ffs to make it a point to find this one.

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