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  • This movie isn't for everybody. Huston, Taylor, Brando and the rest of the cast took some serious artistic risks back in 1967, and a lot of people didn't like the product; 50 years on, a lot of people still won't.

    If one comes to it cold, hearing only that it is only a movie about "a closeted homosexual in the military", which is true of the Brando character, and expects some kind of serious dramatic narrative experience - like for example in "The Sergeant" which also came out in 1968 - the approach of "Reflections", which I think is not unlike that of a Beckett play, will be a surprise, and one might say, "this is a weird movie - it's not a good drama."

    But I believe that would be a mistake. I don't mean that one kind of approach is "better" than the other, only that different kinds of movies with different kinds of artistic excellence as their goals shouldn't be measured by the same yardstick.

    The action of this film is pretty much indifferent to place and setting; it doesn't need to be in the South and it doesn't need to be on a military base. It is sometime in the period from 1945-1960 when people of privilege spent their evenings at each other's houses, playing cards and drinking way more hard liquor than today. In fact the time and setting blurred in my view into a sort of dreamlike background, not demanding to be like a real place or time.

    There are two military officers. There are their wives, whose thwarted lives are filled by avocations and disorders - sex, alcohol, and horsewomanship, or art, classical music, and depression. Their wives have admirers. One is the enlisted man played by Robert Forster, who elicits and then upsets one category after another. Another is the Filipino servant played by Zorro David (his only movie ever) with flamboyant swishiness, but is he really gay or are we being tempted to overassume? It's only what we see and judge, and neither can be trusted.

    All have secrets, concealing who they really are while trying to figure out who the other people are, sometimes successfully, more often not. People read people and situations incorrectly and act upon their bad understanding and send the activity off in another direction. When people think they are unobserved they act much differently, comforting themselves in ways that are not provided for in the conventions that surround them. To borrow the thoughts of a character, they are all square pegs trying to deal with the round holes they have been hammered into by others or themselves.

    And if that all reads sort of like the universal experience of people, that's sort of the point, I think.

    I don't think it's perfect, but every time I try to pick a flaw I start to wonder if the artists didn't intend it just that way for a reason. Some detractors have noted that the Brando character's accent is just incomprehensible at times - I turned on closed captioning eventually. But then at one of those times he was giving instructions to a subordinate, who then doesn't carry them out properly, so was this on purpose? I didn't understand why the frenzied camera work in the final scene was done that way either. But was it meant to convey something? These people are not easily dismissed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Major Penderton is a closeted homosexual living in a southern Army base. His wife, Leonora, is repressed and lashes out on him by having an affair with their neighbor, whose wife is mentally disturbed. One day, Penderton sees a young private, and he becomes infatuated with him. The same private becomes infatuated with Leonora, and begins to break into the Penderton house at night just to look at her. In the meantime, Lt. Colonel Langdon, the man whom Leonara is having an affair with, begins to grow worried with his wife.

    Meanwhile, Major Penderton's infatuation with the soldier becomes more and more intense, bringing them all towards the brink of madness...

    I have never found Huston's films to show subtlety in any way, shape or form. So, when I heard he directed a film about a closeted homosexual, warning signs began to flare up all around me. I was worried that Huston would treat the subject tactlessly, and that perhaps Huston would show Penderton as a "bad" person for his sexuality. I did not think, however, who would be playing Penderton. Marlon Brando.

    My fears, however, were not verified. Huston not only treats the subject with tact, he allows Brando to give one of his most interesting performances. By giving Brando most of the weight of the role, he allows Brando to not portray the character as an innocent, or a bad guy. His character finds the moral gray area, and jumps straight in. Brando portrays a man who is disgusted by his very core, but one whom cannot resist his primal urge. Also, he totally nailed the southern accent, and even added his own mumble in the mix, to really make the character stand out.

    Marlon Brando was one of the best actors of all time, and his portrayal is absolutely excellent. That is not to say, however, that he was the only one who gave a good performance. Elizabeth Taylor's floozy wife, is the exact opposite of Brando's introverted character. She is extroverted, unabashed and she speaks her mind. She seems like the perfect party girl, yet her moral core is even worse than Brando's. She doesn't care who she hurts, just as long as she gets what she wants.

    Taylor worked a long time to get the film made, and you can tell she was made for the part. Also excellent is the always underrated Julie Harris. She seems to be a heartbeat from collapse in each scene, yet she strings herself along. Brian Keith is very good, but his part is the most underwritten. Although he says barely nothing, Robert Forster as the object of Brando's desire is a mystery. Why does he break into the Penderton house just to go through Leonora's things? Why does he always ride his horse naked, at the exact same time each day?

    This mystery propels the current of foreboding that weaves itself through the storyline. I suppose this film could technically be called a mystery, the opening of the film features a quote from the novel it is based on. The quote states that there was a murder in the south. But who was murdered, and who was the murderer? The writing manages to propel this undercurrent in a way that is admirable. The pace is slow, but not languid, and the last few scenes rack up the tension, even though you have no reason to feel tension.

    Reflections in a Golden Eye has been called a mixture of camp and mystery. While I cannot deny that the film does not contain camp, it actually works for the film. The film does not create a world that feels realistic. Rather, in the tradition of many Southern Gothic films, it creates a fantasy world that feels detached from reality. The cinematography does nothing but help this effect. From the opening shot, the film feels like a dream. Golden hues trickle down from the sky, and it is clear that at least some of Huston's tinting made it through to the final print.

    While this dreamy effect is nice at the beginning, it slowly becomes more and more sinister. By the end, the golden hue has been replaced by jagged lightning. The effect works well. The score, is yet another weak link. It has moments where it is good, but in others it sounds over the top for such a film.

    However, this does not mean the film is flawless. The price of originality is that it can become tiring at times, and this film is no exception. As well, the last shot is really cheesy, and it made me burst out laughing, when I probably shouldn't have. As well, the character Anacleto, Julie Harris's servant, is kind of annoying. Risking criticism, he seems to be the other end of the spectrum from Brando, meaning flamboyant as opposed to introverted.

    Going back to the good points, Huston's direction is quite good. Instead of smashing the audience with a blunt instrument, his film does contain subtlety. By the end, it feels like a sick joke. That is in fact quite good. There is a deep, black satire embedded deep in the film, and it only makes the film more interesting. Huston's use of colour is also striking.

    Overall this film, while flawed, is still one of Huston's most interesting films. Thanks to the great performances by Taylor and Brando, the film manages to not dumb down the issue of homosexuality, but also not to treat it in a negative light. Homosexuality is not what dooms Penderton, but in fact it is his inability to accept who he is that dooms him right from the start.

    Reflections in a Golden Eye, 1967, Starring: Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Harris. Directed by John Huston. 7.5/10 (B+).

    (This is part of an ongoing project to watch and review every John Huston movie. You can read this and other reviews at http://everyjohnhustonmovie.blogspot.ca/)
  • Reflections in a Golden Eye came out at an interesting transitional period for gay people. The Code that had dominated what could and could not be shown on the screen was just being lifted. That Code had succeeded in making gay people all but invisible by Hollywood standards. But it was two years before the Stonewall Rebellion which gave the gay rights movement a political voice.

    Originally Montgomery Clift was scheduled to do this film with three time screen partner Elizabeth Taylor, but Clift died before the film started shooting. Marlon Brando took his place and in my opinion gave a very underrated performance as the repressed latent homosexual Major married to Elizabeth Taylor.

    Brando and Taylor dusted off a couple of southern accents previously used in films, Brando from Sayonara and Taylor from Raintree County. But the characters here are vastly different from the characters portrayed in both of those other films.

    Although certainly given Clift's background he was eminently qualified to play a repressed gay man, I'm not sure he would have been the type to have played an authority figure like Major Penderton here. Brando was far more the type. The part of the wife was Taylor made for Liz and she went to town with it.

    I wonder what those people who want to keep gays out of the military would say about Brando. Brando's burgeoning homosexuality is finding an outlet in a raging crush on a handsome private played by Robert Forster. Forster during his off hours likes to walk and ride horses in the buff and sneaks into Brando's house to play with Liz Taylor's lingerie. Liz is having an affair with Brando's immediate superior Brian Keith who has an invalid and mentally disturbed wife in Julie Harris. And Harris spends most of her time with her very effeminate Filipino houseboy, Zorro David.

    Of course this is a recipe for tragedy and tragedy does come. Author Carson McCullers, herself a lesbian, created some unforgettable characters here.

    Reflections in a Golden Eye was way before its time. Today the film and Director John Huston would have gotten far better reviews than the film did in 1967.
  • 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.
  • "Reflections in a Golden Eye" was recognized by John Huston himself as his most important film of his late period along with "The Man who would be a King". While generally the later is accepted as his masterpiece "Reflections in a Golden Eye" is misunderstood as Huston's "misfire", as a "flop", an opinion with which I tend to disagree. What we have here is a good drama whose story is based on a book by Carson McCullers, featuring superb performances from Marlon Brando who plays a U.S. Army Major in an isolated military fort somewhere in the south, who gradually discovers his homosexuallity and Liz Taylor, simply great here in the role of his cheating wife. The film, which is basically a serious drama, turns out to be something of a cynical human comedy, due to "ridiculousness" of all of it's characters and the way the story is told by film's director - John Huston. Overall it's an intelligent film whose main theme is repression and ultimate frustration of desire with it's tragic consequences. 8/10
  • Marlon Brando's career was on a downward slide when he appeared in "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (***1/2). His previous film was Charles Chaplain's disastrous "A Countess from Hong Kong" in which he gave one of his worst performances. In "Eye" he proved that as an actor he was still capable of being as daring and surprising as he once was as a sexually repressed Army Major. Widely misunderstood at the time of its release, John Huston's adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel is a witty and provocative tragicomedy in which none of the characters succeeds in escaping from their own self-imposed prisons. There have probably never been two more incompatible married couples in the movies than the brooding introverted officer played by Brando and his bawdy, outgoing wife, a fine part for Elizabeth Taylor at her funniest and most natural. Complementing them are Brian Keith as a rather dim but basically good-natured fellow officer who is having an affair with Taylor, and Julie Harris as his hypersensitive invalid wife. Zorro David also scores as her pretentiously effete Filopino houseboy. One of the many fascinating things about this film is watching how these characters interrelate without ever making a real connection. Director Huston finds a great deal of humor (most of it intentional, I'm convinced) in this sometimes hard-to-take, but fascinating film.
  • Director John Huston paints life at a Georgia army base in odd pinkish and amber tones to point up its off-color nature beneath its khaki uniformity. Reflections features Brando as a Colonel, supposedly courageous and a leader of men, who turns out to be weak, cowardly, hag- ridden, and unsure of his sexual orientation. It was one of his best, most creative and least likely performances, and shocking to audiences of the time. If anybody but Brando had played that character it would have scarred his career and maybe ended it. Just taking on the role was a brave move, but he did so much with it to bring out the man's un- Brando nature. Bold, brilliant and daring as a lead performance, he plays off wonderfully against Taylor in one of her patented bitch queen roles as an unsatisfied man-eater stifled by the regimentation of living as an army wife. The scene in which she flogs him for a weakling in front of dinner guests is shocking to watch but wonderfully evocative of the nature of their relationship roles. Taylor's infidelity and Brando's weakness become two sides of the same co-dependent coin.

    Reflections was a watershed film in its day but at the same time years ahead of its day. It flopped at the box-office because the mid-60s were just not ready for it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This highly disturbing look at sexuality was way,way,way ahead of it's time in 1952 when Carson McCullers wrote the novel, let alone in 1967 when John Huston was bold enough to bring this to the screen. It concerns a group of people on a Southern army base in the 50's on the verge of sexual discovery and insanity. Marlon Brando plays a repressed homosexual married to the slatternly over sexed dimwit daughter(Elizabeth Taylor)of the army post General. She teases him with taunts over his "lack of interest in her" while she is having an affair with another officer Brian Keith. Brian is married to Julie Harris who has cut of her nipples with garden shears after a miscarriage (symbolically ending her female identification and interest in sex)and now lives in her bedroom, entertained by her effeminate Filipino houseboy as they watercolor, dream of escaping reality and listening to classical music. Meanwhile Brando becomes crazily obsessed with a handsome enlisted (and psychotic) man (Robert Foster) who rides naked on a horse in the woods and eventually begins to tease Brando with sexual nuances. But Foster also is sneaking into Taylor's room at night and doing something (I can not say it here, but it is solo and involves her panties) by her bed while she is in her usual drunken/pills induced stupors. Eventually all this Fruedian psychosis ends in the final explosive scene, a murder. I liked this film because it delves into dark subjects we rarely see on film, the actors are amazing (especially Brando), the photography is top notch and the extremely well written script drips in Southern Gothic guilt, symbolism and remorse (but no redemption). Two scenes that sent chills up my spine was Brando standing in the pouring rain caressing the secretly picked up candy wrapper Foster dropped, as he stares aggressively at Foster entering the barracks to take a shower and the final scene as the camera madly jumps around the room accompanied by one character's horrified screams and another literally gone insane. One of the most fascinating psychological films I have ever seen. NOTE: This film along with another Taylor vehicle "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" I've been told by a film scholar,were the catalysts for the rating system that emerged in 1968.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Brando, Taylor and Huston. WOW...the greatest actor ever, sharing screen space with one of the greatest actresses ever and both being directed by one of the greatest directors ever, is something that should be savoured.

    Reflections in a golden eye, is one of those movies which strikes you in the gut for showing life as the miserable bitch it can be. First the movie is a sold effort and leaves you feeling a lil shaken about life's complexities and how we have no say in it.

    Taylor gives a great performance as the shrill / sassy / sensitive / sarcastic wife who feels nothing but contempt for her husband but can be very nice to others in her life.

    Brando delivers one of his great performances and it is a shame and a blot that this act has not been accorded the status it deserves. No Oscar nomination, I can't believe it. A repressed homosexual could have been a caricature, it would have been a putting off experience for the viewer. Brando plays his role in such a way that he is able to convey the anguish that his character will be feeling. The little nuances that he brings are astonishing and so very real and simple. This movie contains according to me the greatest breakdown scene ever put on film - when Brando is thrown by the horse and proceeds to whip the horse and then subsequently cries / breaks down, the emotion is scary. I had goose bumps when I watched it.

    This film was a huge failure when it was released in 1967. The audiences I don't think were prepared for a film like this. The remarkable thing about this movie is that there is not one happy person in the entire film. Brando is a repressed homosexual lusting after a private in the army, having his own troubles. Taylor his wife is having an affair with a Col and not happy with her married life. The private is lusting after Taylor and has a creepy way of satisfying his lust – he steals into Taylor's bedroom in the night and smells her clothes.

    This film along with a host of other Brando films from the 60s are now getting reevaluated and getting the recognition that they deserves. Watch the film but don't expect to come out all happy and gay (pun intended), this film will tell you that there are places and scenarios where misery and tragedy go hand in hand. Happiness is a mirage for the people living in those places.
  • The time is late 1948 and the setting is a U.S. Army post in Georgia, bordering on a forest preserve…

    A Southern amoral wife called Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor) finds a way for her stream desire in an adulterous affair with Lt. Col. Langdon (Brian Keith), carried on almost openly…

    Leonora gives aperture to her forcefulness and vigor in a passion for horses and riding… She is attached to a handsome white horse she calls Firebird and she provokes her husband by telling him that the animal is indeed a stallion with the emotional nature of man...

    Leonora's husband (Marlon Brando) is a devious, insecure, impotent Army major, a hidden homosexual preoccupied with an unsociable, lonely rider who canters around the field in the nude and whose sexual emotional stress is diminished, secretively, at the bedside of the major's wife holding her clothes and looking fixedly at her marvelous hot body…

    Private Williams (Robert Forster) is another lonely man fascinated by the fiery Leonora and her thoughtful and gentle comments to him… He takes to visiting the Penderton house at night looking attentively in the windows, observing with total recall and complete joy Leonora's nakedness, but also watching the Major in his study…

    Keith's neurotic wife (Julie Harris) is well aware of her husband's affair with Leonora but she only feels well from her close friendship with her houseboy, Anacleto (Zorro David), an affected companion who shares her penchant for the arts and is in every way the opposite of her abrupt, strong husband…

    Flavored with bitter insinuations and insulting sarcasms, Brando and Taylor's few scenes have enough flames to burn the silver screen… He's a tormented human being while she's delicious but shrill and insensitive… Aware of her physical beauty she fights back when she's rejected, instigating him with her impudent, insolent, shameless manner that offend his very being…
  • Underrated little classic here. The setting is a small southern army base and behind the formality of peacetime military life is a hotbed of sexual repressions and obsessions. Elizabeth Taylor is wonderfully overripe as the Major's unfaithful wife. Her hilarious party food monologue is a career highlight. Marlon Brando as the macho Major she calls "prissy" does an amazing job with a role that requires him to be all emotionally buttoned up while just barely keeping a lid on an obsession he has with a serviceman (Robert Forster).

    The real standout in the cast is Brian Keith. He creates a dimensional character out of a man cut off from his feelings who one day is forced to confront them. In this unusual but endlessly engrossing movie, he is a marvel.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There is a fort in the South where a few years ago a murder was committed.'—Carson McCullers. Thus, reads the opening—and closing-- panels to this bizarre, movie, all filmed through a bronze-colored filter, perhaps suggesting 'a golden eye' to the audience. McCullers wrote this short novel, principally for the fun of it, as a diversion from the boredom of living in Fayetteville, North Carolina—not that far from Fort Bragg, which suggested the setting for the story. This story relates the routine day-to-day life of characters within an Army post during peacetime.

    The pressure to either conform or to assert one's individuality is an important element to this modern Southern Gothic tale. In each of the two marriages in the movie, there is one conformist spouse, Lt. Col. Morris Langdon (Brian Keith) and Leonora Penderton (Elizabeth Taylor) and one non-conformist spouse, e.g, Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) and Alison Langdon (Julie Harris). As a result, neither marriage is a success. The two conformists end up in an adulteress affair with each other, while the two non-conformists are doomed to live in painful isolation and loneliness.

    Alison's isolation forces her to seek out a flamboyant Filipino house boy, Anacleto (Zorro David), to care for her after her nervous breakdown —during which she cuts off her nipples with garden shears after losing her child. To conform, her husband just learns to accept the situation between himself and his wife.

    If anything, Weldon and Leonora's marriage is even more strange than that of the Langdon's. Weldon is a repressed and weak-willed, man who tries to live by the strict military code expected of him. (He teaches a class on military leadership.) He and his wife are also sexually and sensually mismatched and physically separated. They sleep in separate bedrooms. Further, as he medicates himself to sleep every night, a strange voyeuristic soldier from the camp, Private Williams (Robert Forster), is constantly stalking her, even into her bedroom as she sleeps.

    Throughout the movie, Private Williams vexes Weldon while his carping wife, Leonara, constantly taunts him. No where is this more apparent than when they see Williams ridding a horse, bareback and in the nude. (Later, Weldon is perplexed to see Williams running nude through the camp forest.) While Leonara laughs at such scenes, Weldon boils over. He is no equestrian; he cannot match even his own private in this category. He shows this by privately riding Leonara's horse, being thrown, and then brutally whipping the horse. After seeing Williams caring for the abandoned and beaten horse, he walks into his wife's party and is publicly horsewhipped by her.

    This is not an easy movie to describe or understand—except through inference. Needless to say, I will be seeing it again..and then probably again..
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a film that sort of sneaks up on a period of time when this subject was still pretty taboo. The biggest thing is Brando harboring sexual tension for a young naked man on a horse. Competing with Elizabeth Taylor for his affections. The idea is good and a bit ahead of the 1967 audience.

    This film has a lot more, including an excellent cast. This film might be one of Brian Keith's (Family Affair -TV) best most complete roles. It seems to me Keith never got a lot of great film roles and is often over looked during his career but this role is a challenge and he is more than up to it.

    The ending makes sense as it completes the main plot, but there are a lot of good sub-plots in between. The subject matter at the time caused limited release of an excellent film. That is too bad for Keith since he is so good in it, but great for viewers who have rarely seen him in a strong role like he gets here.

    Brando is fine though this is nowhere near his strongest screen role. Still he does fine without having a great role. This is an interesting one for film fans.
  • God knows what this picture looked like on the printed page--or, indeed, what this cast of talented actors were thinking when they first read it. Elizabeth Taylor probably thought it a hoot. I certainly did, but really...Julie Harris as a woebegone colonel's wife, living on a southern Army base in the 1950s with her sexually-estranged husband and a flamboyant houseboy, who has used pruning shears to--oh never mind. It's really about Marlon Brando as a sexually-repressed major, married to flirtatious belle Taylor but secretly lusting for stud-soldier Robert Forster (who rides his horse "barebacked and bare-assed"). Is it camp, serious, heartfelt or just terrible? Actually, it's all of the above, which is not only what kept me watching but keeps me returning. The moody film, based on Carson McCullers' Gothic novel, feels tampered with, muted in spots where it should be played to the hilt yet overdrawn when it should be subtle, yet this is part of its erratic appeal. Aldo Tonti's vivid cinematography (most especially in the full-color re-release print) is amazing, as is Toshiro Mayuzumi's hyperbolic score. John Huston directed, boldly and with flourish. It's a glorious mess. *** from ****
  • This Southern erotic drama casts Taylor, Brando and Julie Harris, three actors of unrelated background to create perfectly cast roles. Harris had worked in a previous McCullers adaptation and had been nominated for an Oscar. Brando had his well known background and Taylor had just started her track into decline after a decade in the limelight. A number of factors derailed the intended result: Brando replaced other considered actors as Richard Burton and Montgomery Clift (who died just before filming began). On one side it is good that We were spared another Burton-Taylor pairing in the form of protagonists, although I think Burton would make a great love interest of Taylors in the role of her extramarital affair in this movie. Furthermore, Brando had been plagued by failures in the '60s and was not the hot billing he was back in the mid fifties though he is of course quite satisfactory here! The sepia tone and a general state of hypnotism and summer laziness are evident in the film and I think this makes it a little unbearable to watch uninterruptedly.

    Also, the depiction of the locations of the events in the film do not provide much evident imagery that the film indeed unfolds in the South. It cold be anywhere in the warm states of the US. If I remember right, the novel was written not before World War II so it is almost contemporary to the film. No mentions or depictions of blacks, of the social routine in the South or the boiling discontent is depicted, much less is shown about segregation and racism. Of course I believe that, though unspecified, the exact place in the South that the film takes place is somewhere outside the Deep South. THat is supported by the film itself. Virginia, NC, Tennessee, Kentucky would be ideal for the setting of the film but not e.g. Mississippi. The setting is well restricted and confined. Finally, it is one of the cases I think a team of directors would do a better job than a single director. John Huston would be perfectly matched with a theatrical director to improve direction. To add a further positiv point, it is a film that really pushed the boundaries of erotic scenes and depictions. This is evident as there are scenes which you cannot believed were shot with the specific actors(!!!), especially a particular scene with Taylor that surprised me. Violence, sexual repression and a general atmosphere of desire boil into the film not always explosively but the film nonetheles deserves the characterisation of an erotic drama, in my opinion.
  • Reflections of a Golden Eye is not a fantastic film in itself. It doesn't show off a great script or groundbreaking acting. What it is though is something completely different. In a world that now is enamored of mind numbing CGI and artificiality this is a breath of fresh air in that everyone is acting and they know they're acting. They're trying to say something.

    Okay, so maybe what they are saying isn't all that deep or new. Hell, repressed homosexuality is dated right? But there was a time when men didn't just come out of the closet and feel free to be gay. There was a time when we didn't talk about gay men except in a demeaning fashion.

    Elizabeth Taylor is acting for the sake of acting. So is Brian Keith and Robert Forster. Robert Forster's character goes out in the woods and sunbathes nude and rides his horse bareback while nude. Now, does anyone do this? No! But this is the vision of the director and he's trying to show you that this activity makes this man feel free. And because he's enlisted in the army his life is regimented. Does any of this matter? No. I wouldn't call this an art film but in a way it is. The film is a work of art.

    The most sane person in this group of people at a Southern Army base in peace time is a woman that everyone else considers disturbed or the verge of a nervous breakdown. But she isn't. She is the only one who is able to see how disturbed those around her truly are. And her companion is a gay Asian man who is totally dedicated to her. The bravest man around.

    Don't watch this film unless you are willing to accept that it's an artist's vision. That even seems too pretentious for this. It isn't for everyone but there are people out there who appreciate what it's intent is.
  • The first time I saw this film was when I was studying acting in New York. The teacher referred to some of the moments in the film as far as the excellence of the work that the actors had done. So, I went out and rented it and it blew me away. It's by no means a perfect film but both Brando and Taylor are wonderful in the work that they do. I think this film is constantly misunderstood by people and thus the not so high voter rating on IMDb. Reflections is a rare film and perhaps it takes a rare audience to realize how damn good it really is.
  • parachute-44 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Way, way too much film for 1967 . Huston and the cast made a good job out of difficult material, but the mediocre box-office should not have surprised anyone; audiences brought up on films filtered by the production code simply weren't ready for the themes portrayed.

    Liz Taylor does a master turn as a a southern virago penned up in a patently unsatisfactory marriage with Marlon Brando's insipid Major Wendel. One may well ask how they came to be married in the first place. She prefers men of a more red-blooded persuasion and is accommodated by one of Wendel's superior officers, whose own marriage is equally problematic. The greater part of the story revolves around the dynamics of these two marriages in the fishbowl world of the rural army post. With the nation at peace, the soldiers apparently have little to do and the devil obligingly provides them with some alternative activities to relieve their idleness.

    I liked Brian Keith's portrayal of the laconic Lt Col Langdon, who cares for his wife deeply, but who doesn't agonize unduly over the moral dimensions of his affair with the voluptuous Leonora Presumably, the entire post is aware of this relationship with the sole exception of Major Wendel, who is treated with ill-disguised contempt by just about everyone. "Your wife is cheating" , Langdon casually informs Wendel in the context of a card game Langdon is playing with Mrs Wendel.

    Marlon Brando clearly has some trouble with his role, and it is by far the most difficult part in the film. Huston's directorial style may have impeded Brando from properly coming to grips with the character, and in any case, sharing a stage with Liz was a tough number for even the best of them. However, the most important scene between the two, the "riding crop" incident, was excellently portrayed by both actors. This scene is correctly treated by Huston as being the essential climax of the whole story.

    The role of the fragile, tragic Alison Langdon is superbly performed by Julie Harris. Alison is only too well aware of her husband's waywardness and despises Mrs Wendel to the point of insanity. Mrs Wendel for her part does not even see the problem and (apparently genuinely) pities Mrs Langdon and wants to be her friend. The appalling dynamic between the two women is well portrayed, as is the platonic relationship between Alison and her strange manservant.

    Less well structured is the portrayal of Wendel's unrequited love interest with Private Williams, who himself is rather "alternative" sexually, but apparently not homosexual and therefore unable to appreciate or reciprocate Wendel's feelings. The film as a whole could possibly have benefited from a more explicit definition of Wendel's homosexuality , but the director could obviously only go so far in 1967. Alternatively, the opposite tack could have been pursued of letting the audience "do most of the work" in regard to Wendel's sexuality, but that would have required a lot more Brando on screen and somewhat less Liz; a devil of a choice for any director.

    In fact, Huston deserves top marks for this film. It would have been a very tough call for any director and the combination of Liz Taylor and Brando was a most unusual casting combination. Liz is a fine actress, but was very much of the "old school", trained to expect and hence demand careful attention from the director at all times in all her scenes. Brando, on the other hand (and like Eli Wallach in this respect) was the "master of the method" and only really needed a director on hand to organize the camera angles and arrange the lights. Accommodating these diametrically different acting philosophies as well as the two gigantic egos on the one set would have made for a hard day's work, even for John Huston.

    R. B.
  • I saw the DVD version of this film and its print is the original golden-toned version (where the only other color that is noticeable are the reds). Apparently, audiences were NOT impressed by this weird amber look and the film was removed from circulation and released in a normal print. I would have preferred this second print, as the look of the original is hard on the eyes.

    This story must have really caught folks' attention back in 1967. Not only did it star two of the hottest stars of the day (Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando), but its plot was very, very adult--with themes of adultery, sadism, homosexuality, perversions I cannot classify (what's with the horse and that naked guy?!)and voyeurism! In addition, there is some nudity (I think they used a body double for Taylor in her scenes--as you can't see her face)--something very unusual for the time. Heck, even today this would make quite a stir in the theaters! This is one you have to see for yourself to believe!

    The film begins with Brando playing an officer in the Army. His wife has contempt for him, as he's impotent--and deeply closeted. So, she has an affair with their neighbor (Brian Keith)--a fellow officer. As for Keith, his wife (Julie Harris) is severely depressed following the death of their child and all her moments with their houseboy. As for this houseboy, he is a VERY effeminate homosexual who minces about the house to the wife's amusement (clearly the woman could have used a TV or some books). Clearly, this was not filmed in Mayberry! And, more importantly, is the film any good or is director John Huston just warming up for his next and even more super-offensive film, "Myra Breckenridge"? Unfortunately, once you peel away all the shock value of this film, you are simply left with nothing...no plot of any great interest and a waste of some talented actors. I have no idea WHAT this film was trying to say other than we are all hypocrites--though this is hard to generalize from the film since NO ONE in the film acts like anyone remotely normal or realistic. A weird misfire...but a misfire nevertheless.
  • Carson McCullers' second novel `Reflections in a Golden Eye,' first published in 1941, is a great depressing read -- full of lurid, loveless, neurotic, alienated, self-destructive characters who mire in their own and others' unhappiness. The mood and tone distinctly reflect the author's own morbid life story (McCullers, the Diane Arbus of literature, was a chronic depressive and bisexual who was married to a suicidal alcoholic and bisexual). In 1967, John Huston took her novel to film. End result: the book is infinitely better than Huston's erratic, muddled handling of the rather ignoble material. I'm sure it was very tempting to tinker around with this type of scandalous fodder, especially with the abolishment of the longstanding Hollywood production code in the mid-60s, but what comes off morbidly fascinating in the novel with its themes of self-mutilation, masochism, impotence, sex and murder, is just plain dreary here. Pseudo-smut can come off quite boring, sometimes laughable, if not handled properly.

    Set on an army base in the Deep South, the story revolves around Captain Penderton (Marlon Brando), a morose high-commanding officer and pent-up homosexual who disguises his humiliation with sadomasochistic acts. He finds an interesting outlet for his deep-seated frustrations by fixating on a very handsome young private on base, who has his own arousing aura of mystery. As the Captain scouts around, he finds out that the private, a raging sociopath if ever there was one, gets his kicks taking naked midnight rides in the woods on his horse and engaging in voyeurism. The Captain naturally is curious yellow and yearns to find who the target of this man's obsession is. Meanwhile, the Captain's shrewish, adulterous wife, Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor), a spoiled slob of a socialite who, after the death of her son, decides to make life a living hell for her husband, sexual distraction with Major Langdon (Brian Keith), her neighbor, while his crackpot invalid wife, Alison (Julie Harris), a walking suicide just waiting to happen, seems to find her only source of joy in the company of her devoted, extremely prissy houseboy who gets off on spouting poetry passages and flouncing around the room like `Tinkerbell.' God, love it-- is this America or what?

    The first and foremost problem with Huston's film is that its interest is derived not from the sordid characters but from the high-profile stars who play them. Taylor delivers another in a long list of blowsy, viper-tongued bitches that she started churning out after her Oscar-winning performance as monster Martha in `Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' in 1965. As in other grotesque roles of this ilk and era (`Boom!', `Hammersmith Is Out,' you name it' ), she is all bark and all bite...shrill and shallow. It is a one-note performance that comes off lazy, annoying, and ultimately tedious, with no shred of dimension or nuance to perk up the distastefully sensational aspects. Like Bette Davis' Rosa Moline in `Beyond the Forest,' Taylor squelches our desire to care about or understand this vindictive, bitter woman's misery. Just feed her to the wolves and be done with it. Is it any wonder Brando's character is turned on to her polar opposite -- a man with nothing to say?

    Marlon's tortured Captain is the film's big lure here. He brings to the movie all the mumbling melancholy he can muster and he alone commands any sympathy. But you can't help forgetting the character while concentrating on Marlon's technique as he teases us with ever-so-slightly mincing affectations. How is Marlon going to play a closet queen in uniform? That is the excitement and the oddly compelling element of this feature. Is he successful? Not really. But you can't help but be drawn to him. He is Marlon after all. Initially cast in this role was Taylor's close, devoted friend (and closet homosexual) Montgomery Clift, who died before filming began. I doubt if he could have done any better than Marlon, despite Monty's correlation.

    Dark, handsome, saturnine Robert Forster is indeed another drawing point in the role of the remote, taciturn private. This was his first big role and though he has almost no dialogue, Huston manages to make him a fascinating, rather enigmatic and sexy figure. Gruff and virile Brian Keith is reliable as always, while plaintive Julie Harris is a pro when it comes to dishing out the neurotics. Zorro David's portrayal as Anacleto, the houseboy, is bad and sad enough to send the gay movement back thirty years. It's reviling, degrading and, like a horrible traffic accident, impossible to ignore. No wonder Brando's character is desperate to keep his little secret. Look at his role model! This was David's first and only film role. You see? There is justice.

    The overall production values may be up to snuff but the camera work is lifeless and mundane -- and they certainly do not flatter the actors, that's for sure - particularly Taylor, who was getting quite zaftig at this time. To top it all off, the supposedly explosive climax is shot terribly, with Huston's jarring, swerving camera moves from character to character coming off amateurish. A totally bizarre miscalculation on his part to achieve the shocking effect he was going for.

    You WILL stay with `Reflections in a Golden Eye' but be warned: it will leave you as empty as the film's characters, and you'll probably hate yourself in the end for caving in to your primitive, prurient curiosity. McCullers' first novel, `The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,' as a book and film, is better in practically every respect. Catch IT instead.
  • valadas14 March 2006
    In an army barracks where life seems to go on with apparent naturalness there takes place a human drama of lust, adultery and repressed homosexuality in which Elizabeth Taylor, that sensual cat, moves herself like a fish in a pond. She is married to a major (Marlon Brando) but has an established affair with a colonel (Brian Keith) since her husband seems not to accomplish with his marital duties, being a repressed homosexual feeling himself attracted against his will to a private soldier (Robert Forster). The colonel is married to a neurotic woman who has a filipino servant (Zorro David) who makes a curious character indeed in his devotion to his mistress. This story develops itself in a calm way interrupted here and there by only a few outbursts of emotion and violence when repressed feelings explode. It's not a masterpiece but a movie that portrays with enough truth and authenticity a lot of human actions and reactions, making it worth to be seen. I think however that Montgomery Clift who was first designed to perform the role of Major Penderton would have done it much better than Marlon Brando since he was a much more sensitive kind of actor in his performances.
  • This movie proves that with a few great actors you can bring a very strong story about the tormented spirits of people, about the difficulties of relationships, about the difficult struggle that life can be. I think this movie shows and demonstrates in a strong way, how hard life can be, what neglecting your own heart can do to you, never to betray yourself. (excuse my english, not my mother tongue)
  • Boyo-222 October 1999
    Warning: Spoilers
    The idea of seeing Taylor and Brando together is enough of a reason to see this movie. They're a pretty steamy couple. On top of that, it is very intriguing and you're never sure what's going to happen next. The movie has a very weird feel to it - Huston creates a mood that sticks throughout the movie, that's for sure.

    No one does 'frustrated' better than Brando, and as the object of his affection, Robert Forster is compelling too. I believe it is Forster's first movie, and I can imagine what his agent said to him upon learning he was hired..."First the good news..you got the job! You co-star with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor and you're directed by John Huston! And you have a nude scene, on a horse! And,uh... the bad news is you have virtually no dialogue whatsoever". Brando is brilliant, as usual, and Liz seems to be doing a slight variation on Martha from "..Virginia Woolf" although this couple's brand of frustration is much different from the George and Martha battles. The last moments of the movie are very well done. Good job by all involved. I read the book by Carson McCullers in high school and if I remember it correctly at all, the movie is pretty faithful.
  • Welcome to the world of Southern Gothic, a genre in its own right as director John Huston adapts Carson McCullers novel.

    The breakdown of the Hays Code only allowed such a picture to be released in the mid 1960s with a daring depiction of sexual mores and sexuality in an army base along with some nudity and repressed emotions.

    The film deals with a group of grotesques in a Southern army base after the second world war. Elizabeth Taylor plays the slutty wife, Leonora of Major Penderton (Marlon Brando) who loves her horse, Firebird and as an affair with her neighbour Lt Colonel Langdon (Brian Keith.) There is a touch of the Cat on the Hot Tin Roof about Taylor's character, very much a spoilt rich girl on heat.

    A more subtle but also visceral performance is given by Brando. Left embarrassed by his wife's antics, in awe with army life and culture. Just look at the way he works out with weights, gives the lecture to a class and talks about the army at a dinner party. Yet Penderton is a repressed homosexual maybe why he is prepared to turn a blind eye to Leonora's infidelity.

    Langdon's only solace is his time with Leonora, his own wife played by Julie Harris has had a traumatic breakdown resulting in self harm and he also has to deal with an effeminate Filipino houseboy who brings great comfort to his wife.

    Robert Forster is the final piece in the jigsaw. His Private Williams cares for the horses in the army stables and has the habit of riding the horses naked in the fields. He becomes an object of Penderton's lust but Williams is also a creep himself. A voyeur who has a perverted desire for Leonora and sneaks into her bedroom and watches her.

    Huston uses subtle use of light and visual tricks such as reflection in Private Williams golden eye to infuse the film with some artistic pretensions as well as various symbolisms.

    Its a steamy, hothouse melodrama from the south, it imbues carnage, a tragic ending. Forster says few words in this film and his character has a dark edge, Brando despite a few heated argumentative scenes is more subtle here. He brings machismo and sympathy to a complicated character.

    The film just feels too pretentious though, Taylor is kind of replaying A Cat in a Hot Tin Roof and would go on to play a more better known role a year later dealing with the breakdown of a twisted, bitter married couple in Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf.

    Its Brando thats makes the film watchable and gives it a sort of quirkiness but I felt that this adaptation never gained full steam.
  • fwdixon5 March 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    The constant yellow tint to the film is VERY annoying.

    Brando is almost incomprehensible - mumbling his way thru his lines with a bad southern accent.

    The story is absurd. Brando is an Army Major married to Liz Taylor who is having an affair with Brian Keith whose wife cut off her nipples with garden shears after her baby died. No-nipples has an effeminate Asian houseboy who sings and dances for no apparent reason.

    Meanwhile, there's a PFC who like to ride horses in the buff, spend his evenings lurking in the shadows, and breaking into Liz's bedroom to fondle her underwear. Brando is attracted to the PFC and winds up shooting him in Liz's bedroom in the final scene.

    If this strikes you a dreadful bilge,you are 100% correct. Had it been played for laughs, it might have been slightly bearable but unfortunately it's played straight.
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