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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This tragic legendary story of the Flying Dutchman is expertly woven
into a wonderful drama about the tale of a beautiful but spoiled
destructive lover, night club singer Pandora Reynolds, the beautiful
femme fatal played by Ava Gardner. Already giving her hand in marriage
to racing car driver Stephen Cameron played by Nigel Patrick she meets
the mystical owner of a strange yacht, played outstandingly by James
Mason, which is anchored in the port off Esperanza Spain. She is
immediately attracted to him and finds a new meaning to her life
abandoning her selfish, spiteful deceit with her past life and her
other suitors including jealous bull fighter Mario Cabre who kills
Mason not knowing he has immortality and where Mason then shows up at a
bullfight shocking the performing Cabre, and distracting him so, that
he mortally wounded by an attacking bull.
Harold Warrender as archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding provides a brilliant narration of this story throughout the movie and holds it together with gentleman expertise.
The final part of this movie is absolutely moving with the fatal love scene between Mason and Gardner culminating in the cracked hour glass in which they succumb to their mortal qualities in a storm where their lives are consumed and he is released from his imposed curse of wandering the seven seas for an eternity until he could find a woman who was prepared to die for him. This movie was too far ahead of it's time to be fully appreciated by the audiences of the day.
This superb story and direction by Albert Lewin makes it a lost classic. Bring it back.
I was an usher in the Paramount Theater in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania when this film came out. That's when ushers were ushers! I must have seen the picture 30 times while working. The picture was not popular at the time -- and I had a heck of a time understanding it. But I do remember being fascinated by the scenery. The film was initially promoted as "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" -- but when it came to the Paramount, they changed the name to "The Loves of Pandora". I have no clue why that change was made -- but I remember that the revised title as it appeared on the screen was sort of "home made" and not of the quality of a new film. Were they experimenting with changing the name to get more patrons? I have not read anything about this anywhere on the internet. I have always been curious about this picture and intend to rent it to see it now that I'm 75 years old and may understand it at this stage of my life -- a full 58 years after seeing it at the Paramount.
Albert Lewin's 1951 movie injects the Flying Dutchman legend into an
upper-class English-speaking community in a small port in 1930s Spain. Ava
Gardner, never more beautiful and just about to emerge as a star, is the
Pandora of the title, a night-club singer and femme fatale, engaged to be
married to a gentlemanly racing car driver (Nigel Patrick), but with a
hotheaded bullfighter (Mario Cabré) eager to win her.
Enter the Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee, trying to find a woman willing to give up her life for him so he can gain release from his eternal roving of the seas. James Mason's performance as Hendrick is one of the main salvations of the movie. With his grace, good looks and wonderfully expressive voice, he is able to give credibility to situations and lines that would be fatal for other actors.
But the film's prime asset is its visual richness. At a straightforward level there is lovely Mediterranean scenery, and some great action sequences, notably the flamenco dancing, land-speed record, and bullfight scenes. Then there are quite a few references to surreal art, matching the surreal nature of the film, such as Hendrick's Chirico-like painting of Pandora, and a remarkable shot of her, lying on her back with the profile of her face in close-up, like a Dali painting. (The film is set on the Costa Brava, near Dali's home town of Cadaques.) And throughout, there is Jack Cardiff's creative camerawork in beautiful technicolor. These visual qualities outweigh such flaws as an intrusive voice-over, and the stress laid on the - for me - irrelevant "Moving Finger" quatrain from the Rubaiyat.
Albert Lewin's work as director had not impressed me prior to seeing
"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" I found myself frankly quite bored by
his version of Maugham's "The Moon and Sixpence" as well as "The
Private Affairs of Bel Ami". "The Picture of Dorian Gray" has quite the
reputation, but I unfortunately haven't seen it yet.
'Exceeded expectations' cannot begin to describe how surprised I was at how absorbing, intense, captivating, and utterly gorgeous "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is. Sure, there are flaws, mostly in the script which occasionally seems to think it's smarter than it actually is and goes for the sort of intrusive voice-over narration that never fails to annoy, but also in scenes where Lewin's decisions as director become frustrating and in the score which is generally quite good but often overbearing.
Regardless of its flaws, "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is a literate, creative, fairly original, and exceptionally well-acted film, with the exceptional feature of being photographed by Jack Cardiff OBE, who was on quite a run going into this film having photographed the three Powell/Pressburger classics from the 40's: "A Matter of Life and Death", "Black Narcissus", and "The Red Shoes" as well as the underrated if not exactly great 1949 Hitchcock offering "Under Capricorn". James Mason and Ava Gardner are really excellent here in the lead roles.
I was not looking forward to "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" but I found myself very pleasantly surprised by it. It's far from a perfect film but I did find it to be quite excellent; even the melodrama that tends to bother me in romances from this era of film worked in the context of this film. A surprisingly good film, overall.
You must make your own mind up here. This a rare movie but classic
discovery. James Mason will disturb you as the Flying Dutchman. Ava
tries to be the star but Mason will remove you into the make believe
that is the quality of this movie.
We don't see Mason for a while and we see Gardner a lot but this is a treat for the reasons that movies were made for. Its just beautiful and other comments like 'sentimental' or 'pretentious' are really stupid here.
This is great cinema like it should be. Of course nonesense but this is a world created successfully by the celluloid which is the whole purpose. Brilliant.
.... cause ,though a bit too long,"Pandora" is an unique film .It is
part of those movies in which love refutes everything ,including space
and time.It is continuously constructed and when it's over we have the
strange feeling of having come full circle.
"Pandora" is wrapped in mystery and it renewed the genre which "Peter Ibbetson "and "portrait of Jennie" had pioneered in the thirties and late forties which "Somewhere in Time" (based on a Richard Matheson novel) would continue in the eighties.
Ava Gardner,the most beautiful woman of that era (and for me the most beautiful woman of all time) is ideally cast as the female lead.Who else could play such a gorgeous creature ?James Mason gives a tormented heartrending performance.
Albert Lewin made few movies but the best of them (the picture of Dorian Gray" "the private Affairs of Bel-Ami" ) are worth seeking out.The only real horror is "Saadia" which even Michel Simon could not redeem.
Ava Gardner and James Mason would play another legendary couple (real this time):Francis-Joseph and Elisabeth of Austria.("Mayerling",Terence Young,1968)
There is much to enjoy in this legendary tale. The story is well told and quickly grabs the viewer. I thought the Spanish setting was perfect and the land speed record and bullfighting scenes in the main convincingly shot. The extraordinary use of Technicolor gives the whole picture an almost dream like ethereal look and many scenes have an almost surreal quality. The whole cast are splendid with Ava Gardner particularly spellbinding - I can't think of any actress today who could carry her role as convincingly.
Albert Lewin's independently produced and directed UK film PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951) is one of the most ethereal and haunting love stories ever filmed. Lewin directs with a keen vision and doesn't often stray from the ethereal atmosphere, to the viewers delight. We get truly superb performances by the entire cast, particularly Ava Gardner, who delivers a heart-felt and very memorable performance. Not to mention the other-worldly photography, which is beautifully shot by two-time Oscar winner, the master cinematographer, Jack Cardiff (BLACK NARCISSUS,THE RED SHOES). Another major addition to this film is the musical score by classical composer Alan Rawsthorne, which is dream-like and uplifting, yet blended with a sense of melancholy. The score also blends poetically with the other-worldly visual richness to extraordinary effect. Fans of classic fantasy films are sure to be delighted. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, this has been on my most-wanted list for years now and it didn't disappoint me. What a lovely, romantic, ethereal and strange movie. James Mason is the Dutchman of the title, who murdered his beloved wife hundreds of years ago when he thought she had been unfaithful (she hadn't). He is doomed to sail the Seven Seas until he can find a woman willing to die for him. That woman appears as Pandora Reynolds, played by a ravishing Ava Gardner. Pandora entrances every man she meets but something is missing in her life, and her relationship with Mason's Hendrik brings her to learn the meaning of undying love and the sacrifices we might make. Occasionally the film lapses into pretension, thinking it's a bit clever for itself. The voice-over jars a bit at times, and some of the dialogue is very flowery and oh-so-mystical. But it's still a great film because it creates an atmosphere so unlike any other. I believe the print is in major need of restoration because I can't fathom how a Jack Cardiff-photographed film could look so poor in some places (Mason's teeth etc). It's very romantic, and I loved the flashback to when Mason killed his beautiful wife. It really shouldn't work, because it's very dramatic and a bit too orchestrated, but it does because Mason's acting is so terrific. I swear I love him more every time I see him.
Ave Gardener and James Mason are perfectly cast for this epic unfolding and exploration of pure love. The love which is realised contrasts with and exceeds the self centred manifestations demonstrated by the other characters (who are colourful and vivid) and in its nobility and apparent brevity proves that context is what lends meaning to life. The final scenes are wonderfully free from restraining causes and effects with a judgement of love from....?* validating us all. The colours of the production is as intense as the mythic setting for the story and helps the suspension of disbelief. The setting is not of the same importance to the story as Shangri-la to the plot of 'Beyond the Blue Horizon' which explores similar issues of a man exploring a context to give meaning to what he is or could be. These are both aspects of the question we all eventually ask ourselves. * Insert your own conceptualisation of the divine here.
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