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In 1950, life as usual in a middle-American town. Cold War paranoia is beginning; the young men's biggest concern is the draft board and deferments from the peacetime army. Then the Korean War begins, and the Greer family starts to worry: kid brother Jack, courting the lovely daughter of the draft board chairman, is next on the list. A character study examining American attitudes of that era. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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[Arriving home with her husband after sending the youngest of their three sons off to the Korean War, Sarah begins trashing the husband's WWI shrine.]
Liar! Crazy, crazy liar! You never were in any one of those places and you know it. You never heard a shot fired. You were in Paris all through the war, shining up a general's boots, bringing him bicarbonate of soda when he'd drunk too much the night before. I went along with you; I thought it was childish, foolish, but I didn't think it did any ...
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I am a classic movie lover, always tuned to TCM, and a serious Dana Andrews fan. I'm trying to watch every film he's done and thanks to TCM, I get the chance to see a few not available on DVD. After watching "The Satan Bug", (which nearly killed me) I just knew nothing could be worse, so I had hopes when I saw "I Want You" airing on TCM.
I tuned in to watch the film that Robert Osborne called an interesting film about the Korean War which addressed the topic of WW2 veterans called back to active duty and their sons being drafted, some immediately out of high school. Great idea for a story, time appropriate, potential to see how this guts the American family. It was described as similar to "The Best Years of Our Lives" with a different writer. Up until this film, I had great trust in ole Bob. He typically calls the films accurately, saying it isn't very good in a nice way if the film stinks, and advising if it is propaganda or government fueled, etc. This film was not described as being an educational propaganda film. Bobby Boy, you shook up my faith in you.
What the film turned out to be was almost 2 hours of boring "can't dodge the draft" conversations. Seriously. The entire film is propaganda. Here's the gist of it: You have older men who have served previously that want to be exempt but cannot. Young men with "bum knees" that aren't exempt. Young men who are the livelihood of their families that aren't exempt. You have older men who are the sole income for their families and cannot be exempt. You have people trying to say they are in college, or are too valuable to their work or families, the only child -- none of which are exempt. The entire film is people talking to each other about ways they want to avoid the draft but cannot. There is zero action. Mostly characters dressed in suits and ties standing around interacting with Andrews who is the central character in the film and is used as a propaganda sound-piece.
The film also addresses that young men who aren't old enough to have a beer in a bar are being sent off to war to be scarred for life and/or to die for their country. This scene was overplayed and under-developed.
Even the casting for the film couldn't raise this out of the cow patty pile. Dana Andrews sleep walks through his part, sounding like he's the sole source of information on a government issue training film. His heart obviously isn't in it. Farley Granger has a storyline with Peggy Dow that is confusing at best, but without material to work from, they fall deep into the pile of muck that is this movie. Great to see Martin Milner of Pete Malloy Adam-12 fame and Jim Backus who will forever be Thurston Howell III of Gilligan's Island, but bless their hearts, this couldn't have been a career booster unless it was considered paying your dues in the studio system. Somewhere in this stinker is Dorothy McGuire, playing a concerned protective mother to Farley Granger and Dana Andrews who is, incidentally, about 10 years older than her...and it shows! Heaven forbid she smells cloves or whiskey on anyone's breath.
Script: Stale. Unbelievable dialog. The movie goes straight from exposition into a mind-numbing boring that lacks anything to build to a climax.
Casting: Caliber of actors isn't the issue with this film as much as the script and lack of action in the film. Actors weren't connecting with their parts because there wasn't anything to connect to. Milner gave the best performance of the film when he explains he isn't trying to dodge the draft. Dow wasn't necessary to anything in the plot. Age is an issue with Andrews.
Cinematography: Basic studio lighting with a horrible opening sequence aerial shot that is running too fast. No real moving shots, mostly stationary camera. Filmed almost like a Leave it to Beaver TV episode, where the actors move but the camera doesn't. But I'll be honest, a nice complex crane, jib or dolly shot wouldn't have helped anything in this film.
Shot Selection: Dull. Mostly med-wide 2 shots resulting in a lot of talking torsos.
Direction: That-a-way. If the actors received any direction at all, it should have been towards the sound stage exit. As it stands, I don't see any evidence of directing the actors, neither through motivation or even career salvaging. It's difficult to believe that any director would ever have this movie pictured as their ideal finished product. They should have had Ed Wood direct this. Wood would have at least made sure the film had something watchable in it! It would possibly stink, but in a better way.
Editing: Strictly studio. Should have done something different w/ opening shot. Could have been tighter. Inter-cutting with some closeups would have made the scenes a bit more visually interesting.
This film makes the "Why We Fight" series look like "Gone With the Wind". It makes the government issued films of the 50s about home life, how to be a good wife, how to properly groom, how to give an effective public speech, how important a spring is, how to be a good employee, and the famous how to duck and cover all look Oscar worthy. "I Want You" would have been a perfect candidate for a MST3K riffing, but I believe it could have potentially killed the show. Someone please toss this film onto one of the garbage barges floating around and let it rot there before it can torture another viewer. Dana, I'll still be watching your films as surely none of the rest could be as bad as this. Oh, and Bob, I just don't know if I can forgive you for this one. Tsk Tsk Tsk.
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