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Muddled script/point of view mars debut of John Ericson
This is one of those films that tries to be too many things and thus fails at all of them. Why it's called TERESA is anyone's guess since she (played by Pier Angeli) is a supporting player. It's the story of a very confused young man named Philip, played with great talent and sensitivity by the young John Ericson in his first billed appearance. It's a shame that this muddled script, which inexplicably earned an Oscar nom for Original Story, ruins Ericson's impact. It tries to be all these at the same time: a war film; a romance; a family drama; a psychological study of a young man. If it had settled on one of these things it might have worked but it's all over the place and so, doesn't. Also the leading character, Philip, is a totally unlikeable young man. Yes, he's absolutely physically gorgeous, but he's also a coward, a whiner, a slacker, and an irresponsible lump. In the last ten minutes he figures out he is this way due to a dominating mother (his dad, whom he has despised, has turned out the same way), and makes the break, leaving home, getting a job and an apartment, and collecting a forgiving Teresa and her infant son on the way - she had walked out on him and deserved someone better.
The cast performs well - especially Patrica Collinge in the thankless role of the downcast and disappointed mother. Maltin describes this as the story of a war bride facing hostility but it isn't until the last 35 minutes that she arrives in the USA and encounters this and then only from Philip's mother, so it's not an accurate description of the plot.
The cinematography is exceptionally good and deserved the Oscar nom, not the unsatisfying story. If you're looking for masculine beauty, watch it for Ericson, who is stunningly handsome. There's also some homoeroticism between he and his drill sergeant, Ralph Meeker, to whom he is inordinantly attracted, far more so than the script's father image explanation. Also watch the obvious come-on of one of the troop when he joins them in the Italian village - if this wasn't a pick-up attempt, I'll eat rations.
This was Rod Steiger's first film and he has two brief scenes, one at each end of the film, as the psychiatrist. Watch the first scene - Nicholas Ray copied it for the first interaction scene with James Dean and the police officer in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.
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