U.S. Army Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) is stationed on a base in the American south. He and his wife Leonora Penderton (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) are in an unsatisfying marriage. Weldon is generally a solitary man who in his time alone tries to bolster his self image as he feels less than adequate as a man and a Major. He does not want to viewed like Captain Murray Weincheck (Irvin Dugan), who has been bypassed for promotion time and time again solely because he is seen as being too sensitive. Self absorbed Leonora, when not focused on her passion of horses and riding, tries to maintain the façade of being what she sees an officer's wife should be while she carries on an affair with their next door neighbor, married Lieutenant Colonel Morris Langdon (Brian Keith). Morris' wife, Alison Langdon (Julie Harris), suffered a nervous breakdown three years ago after miscarrying her child, she is still with that nervous constitution. Alison is generally drawn toward sensitive types, such as Captain Weincheck and their faithful flamboyant Filipino houseboy, Anacleto (Zorro David). Peripheral to the Pendertons' lives is brooding Private L.G. Williams (Robert Forster), who Leonora knows as the enlisted man who works at the stables, and who Weldon asks to do some work around their house. While Weldon secretly becomes fixated on Williams, Williams in turn becomes secretly fixated on Leonora. The question becomes what emotions, many of those emotions being latent, will dictate what actions each of these people will make. —Huggo
Southern Fried Gothic Of The Most Delicious Kind
Montgomery Clift was supposed to play Brando's part. Elizabeth Taylor had put her own salary as a collateral for insurances purposes. It wasn't to be but the thought stayed with me throughout the film without spoiling the perverse delights's of Carson McCuller's steamy original story. Gladys Hill, adapting McCuller's book, was clearly giving John Huston exactly what he needed, she did it two other times in "The Kremlin Letter" and most memorably in "The Man Who Would Be King" John Huston has traveled through many different universes throughout his career. Sometimes he merely visited with a fantastic inquisitive eye and his masterful hand. He was never one to judge, he seem to find redeeming sides even in the, apparently, unredeemable. Here he seems to observe this peculiar world from a distance and what he gives us is a brilliantly cinematic glimpse into the unmentionable. In lesser hands this would have been an heavy, turgid melodrama in Huston's hands is a brilliantly heavy, stunningly turgid, intelligent melodrama. Brando is terrific in one of his most uncomfortable performances. You sense he is a time bomb that stopped clicking. Elizabeth Taylor throws herself into the part with such gusto that keeps the proceedings not merely high but in flames - this was her messy wives period, Virginia Woolf and Zee - The shots of her beautifully round behind bouncing up and down her horse's saddle is a funny reminder of her National Velvet days. So far, far away. Here, her casual cruelty is so totally amoral that verges on innocence. Julie Harris's performance is nothing short of sensational and Zorro David as her loyal Anacleto starts as a caricature and ends as one of the stalwarts of the piece. The great John Huston had cinematographer Aldo Tonti to translate this kinky universe into a stunning, steamy masterpiece.
- Aug 7, 2005
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