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You would expect a total bitchfest with a movie starring both legendary bombshell Jayne Mansfield and soap opera diva Joan Collins....but what you get is a fascinating film based on the John Steinbeck novel of a bus driver and his passengers and their adventures as they get detoured and sidetracked...both on the bus and in life. Joan Collins is the wife of driver Rick Jason (so gorgeous). It's a small and run down little bus that makes side trips. Joan Collins is the owner of a little restaurant who likes the bottle a bit too much. Unhappy with what has become of her life, she decides to "surprise" husband Jason mid-way through his bus trip. Jayne Mansfield is the shamed burlesque dancer on the way to a heavy paying gig in San Juan and gets caught up in the flirtation by a traveling salesman, played by Dan Dailey. Delores Pritchard gives a great performance as the "fast" daughter traveling with her parents on this trip. Also noteworthy is Betty Lou Keim who plays Norma. A really good ensemble piece that deserves a remastered DVD version.
Like many Steinbeck stories, this is more of a snapshot of a time and
place as opposed to a rigid start-middle-end kind of movie. What we get
here is a look into the lives of a bunch of characters with many of
their respective futures left open to interpretation.
So we have the buffoonish travelling salesman, the alcoholic diner owner, the teen dreaming of Hollywood stardom, the rugged bus driver, the embarrassed stripper, the repressed teen...the list goes on. Basically, a cross section of society travel on a bus whose journey is as unpredictable and dangerous as that of the lives of most of the passengers aboard.
While it's not the most riveting of movies, and the vastness of Cinemascope certainly spoils the intimacy of some of the scenes, it is a solid little drama in the kitchen sink/new wave style that is an entertaining watch from start to finish. While the copy I own on DVD has clearly been copied from a television broadcast resulting in fluffy picture and muffled sound, I still enjoyed (and repeatedly enjoy) watching this film.
The standout? But Jayne Mansfield of course. If Marilyn silenced the critics that she could act with a movie about a bus, then so did our Jayne. Of course the platinum blonde tresses and eye-popping figure are present and correct but gone are the silly wiggle, the high pitched squeals and the plunging necklines. Here, in a rare straight dramatic performance, Jayne present Camille not as a cartoon character a la Jessica Rabbit, but rather a sex symbol with feelings, someone who is employed for her looks but has fears and emotions beneath the surface. Jayne moves and talks naturally in this film and is a revelation.
How sad that after this solid performance and her wonderful turn as Rita Marlow in Rock Hunter, ego would dictate that she would agree to appear with Cary Grant in what many consider the final nail in her A-list film career, Kiss Them For Me...a truly abysmal waste of time.
But forget about her career mistakes; Jayne is solid gold here and this is well worth a watch.
You hear so little about this film although it was taken from a well
received John Steinbeck novel which I understand had to be cleaned up
for the screen version. Of course in today's world there's nothing
particularly shocking about any of the unruly passengers as they get
detoured on a rundown bus making a short trip through California.
RICK JASON is the ruggedly handsome driver (whatever happened to him?), JOAN COLLINS is his unhappy wife tipping the bottle, JAYNE MANSFIELD is a showgirl riding to her next strip assignment, DAN DAILEY is a stock character as a traveling salesman with an eye for a pretty girl, and others are strictly cardboard creations.
But it's strikingly photographed in B&W and CinemaScope, briskly directed by Victor Vikas (who won a directing award for this at the Berlin Film Festival), and not as bad as it might seem for all of its obscurity in the realm of classic films.
Probably lacks the punch of the Steinbeck novel in transferring his characters to the screen in accordance with the code of the '50s.
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