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In 1865, the cadets of a Russian Naval Academy ship have shore leave in Morocco; among them is (fictionalized) future composer 'Nicky' Rimsky-Korsakov. In search of a piano, Nicky and singing ship's doctor Klin meet a family of once-wealthy Spanish colonists...and their daughter Cara who secretly dances in a cabaret. Romantic complications ensue, but Nicky seems less interested in Cara's favors than in inspirations for his future masterpieces. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Off to sea on an irresistible tidal-wave of 40s kitsch
They don't make films like this any more, they really don't. A Russian training-ship wafts round the Mediterranean under the command of cigarette-swallowing martinet-with-a-heart-of-gold Vladimir Gregorovitch, who stalks the deck in bare chest and tight trousers closely inspecting his motley crew of sea cadets, among them wicked whip-wielding aristo Prince Mischetsky and opera hopeful Nikolas 'Nicky' Rimsky-Korsakov. Nicky and shipmate Klin the Singing Doctor rush ashore at every port in search of a piano. But in the Moroccan villa of the impoverished de Talaveras they get more than a heat-warped keyboard: they get a resourceful scheming mother and café-dancer-in-disguise daughter. The stage is set for a hugely enjoyable extravaganza of romantic melodrama, costumes as camp as they come, luscious set design, overripe orchestrations and homo-erotic undercurrents strong enough to sweep an aircraft-carrier on to the rocks (how did it all get past the censors!). Brian Donlevy (the captain) and Eve Arden (the mother) are incomparably wonderful; Jean-Pierre Aumont makes Nicky an engaging hero, and Yvonne De Carlo (daughter) earns the film its full 10 points by gamely battling through some of the worst choreography and hilariously bad makeup ever put on screen. It takes a real trouper to triumph as a convincing love-interest after having to make her first appearance looking and dancing like a duck in boot-polish (Hollywood's idea of a gypsy femme fatale...)
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