11 August 2008 | kayaker36
With This Assemblage of Talent, Why Wasn't It Better?
It wasn't all hysteria. There were Communists and Communist sympathizers in the movie business. Several were involved one way and another in the making of this didactic film. This picture with its heavy political message about the backwardness and repression in Spain under Franco could never have been made in the United States although two American actors share top billing.
There is some fine acting here but not by Gregory Peck. He does not make a convincing European. Nor does the brutishness of his character fit the man of integrity audiences had come to expect this great star to portray.
On the other hand, the restrained performance by Anthony Quinn makes his **Guardia** captain the most complicated and interesting character in the movie. Unlike his adversary, this man has no illusions. He knows he serves a regime that rules by fear though he is outwardly courteous to everyone. A married man, the address and telephone number of his mistress are common knowledge at police headquarters. Yet he prays with apparent sincerity to the Virgin for success in the upcoming confrontation. You really wish there were more of him but he has little screen time--one of the movie's major faults.
Big, handsome Christian Marquand from Marseilles, France is outstanding as Quinn's able and tactful lieutenant, and as Pilar, mother to Peck's character and an unreconstructed, anticlerical leftist, American Mildred Dunnock is remarkably convincing in a small role. Having been brought **in extremis** to the local hospital, she sends a priest who has come to her bedside away with the suggestion he "go and bless the rifles in the firing squad".
The documentary footage of the pilgrimage site at Lourdes, France is a gratifying bonus, along with some impressive shots of the Pyrenees. In truth, the cinematography is first rate throughout, a Fred Zinneman trademark.
The shortcomings in the film center around the screenplay. There is too much talking as many others here have remarked, the movie is tedious in places and about fifteen minutes too long. The device of having much of the action viewed through the eyes of a child simply doesn't work.
Many have noted that Peck and Quinn had appeared together in the 1959 blockbuster "The Guns of Navarone". Along with composer Maurice Jarre, several actors from "Lawrence of Arabia" are reunited in this picture, also. There is Quinn, Omar Sharif as a priest facing a moral dilemma and in an odd bit of casting, Anglo-Pakistani Zia Mohyeddin. He plays a guide--the same role he had in "Lawrence" but this time he survives.