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I generally concur with the assessments of this movie. I had read
"Twilight for the Gods" (It is a great title.) many years ago and
enjoyed it immensely. As he had in "The High and the Mighty" and
"Island in the Sky," its author, Ernst K. Gann, once again threw
together a group of disparate individuals into a life-threatening
situation (this time on a leaky old barquentine called the "Cannibal")
to see how they would handle themselves. It made for compelling and
often suspenseful reading.
Alas, even with a surprisingly faithful screen adaptation (Gann himself wrote the screenplay), the final product is generally flat and offers very little in the way of excitement. This may owe to the fact that much of the suspense in the book arises from conflicts and motivations that are internalized. While this works well on the printed page, it is difficult to convey on the screen. Close-ups of contorted faces cannot say enough, while the alternative technique, a steady stream of voice-overs can only confuse, if not annoy, the viewer. What we are left with, then, is a group of people, most of whom have been drawn too sketchily to evoke any sympathy, surviving a crisis through no apparent effort of their own.
I tend to agree with the writer who has suggested that Arthur Kennedy would have been a better choice to play Captain Bell. He just seems older and more worldly-wise (and closer in age and appearance to the main character in the book) than Rock Hudson who, though not a bad actor, was just too pretty for a man who had been described as fortyish, balding, scarred down the left cheek, and one who is supposed to have spent most of his life at sea.
That said, I can't help but like this movie. The color is gorgeous, particularly noticeable in the island scenes which make you want to retire and move out to an equally beautiful south sea paradise. The long shots, showing the barquentine's majestic profile, silhouetted against a blazing sunset and skimming along the waves as graceful as a swan, beckon you to sign up as first mate. Even the studio shots of the "Cannibal" during the storm are effective enough, showing the ship's rolling and yawing without having the characters standing fully erect on a perfectly horizontal deck during the close-ups, as is sometimes the case in movies of this sort.
Best of all, there are the two stars. Rock Hudson, although not the best choice for his the role of the captain, does offer up another generous helping of his on-screen charisma. Then there is Cyd Charisse, one of the loveliest ladies ever to grace the silver screen, as the mysterious Mrs. King. Outside of her "Broadway Melody" number with Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain" and the "Girl Hunt" ballet with Fred Astaire in "The Band Wagon," she has never been sexier. Her movements are like those of a panther, slow, calculated, and deliberate, while her voice is a veritable purr. What red-blooded male could possibly resist a few days on an old rustbucket like the "Cannibal" when you have such beautiful eye candy for company (and in your corner, to boot)?
"Twilight for the Gods" is not for all tastes and will let down many viewers. But it's not a bad movie, even if it isn't a very good one either. If your expectations are not too high and you just want to veg out and relax, you could do a lot worse than invest the 120 minutes required to watch it.
I guess Universal was trying to give their own Rock Hudson (a recent Oscar nominee for GIANT) a bit of a stretch. I've read the Ernest K. Gann book, and the potential was here for a good film. But in fact Arthur Kennedy would have done better as the irascible captain, while Hudson would have been better cast as the first mate. This disastrous swap squanders the promise of a well-written (Gann himself) film with a decent veteran director (Pevney).
Didn't find it to be that terribly bad...my question is...is this film on video tape anywhere...TNT showed it some years back and since they have changed their format, it's not been seen since...I thought Hudson being an arrogant type was a nice change, not that romantic role that he would settle into. Kennedy as usual was good but I wonder if some weren't happy with Hudson in the lead, apart from Kennedy, who would you have picked to play the role of the Captain and the mate? Hudson would be relegated to the role of hero in years to come apart from his role in "Pretty Maids in A Row" but his role in "Twilight for the Gods"? Pretty darn good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Had I ever wondered why this vintage Rock Hudson adventure film was not included in Universal's 3-Disc/5-film Franchise Collection dedicated to its star, the answer is now clear to me: it just is not very good. Despite a respectable pedigree Ernest K. (ISLAND IN THE SKY, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY) Gann adapted his own novel for the screen and its seafaring STAGECOACH-like plot, the film never amounts to much not even during a climax in which the decrepit vessel (commandeered by Captain Hudson who is burdened with a Lord Jim-complex) is almost lost during a storm. The characters of the crew and passengers are, likewise, all from stock: a mysterious, statuesque redhead (Cyd Charisse) with a past that falls for and cures our lock-jawed hero; a sleazy second-in-command (Arthur Kennedy) who, at first, undermines but eventually grows to respect his superior; initially mutinous sailors (headed by Charles McGraw) who, again, are on Hudson's side by the end of the film; a trouble-making charlatan (Leif Erickson) is redeemed by long-suppressed love for his aging prima donna; a womanizing drunkard (Richard Haydn) sparring verbally with an old priest; an aged couple (including Vladimir Sokoloff), etc. For what it is worth, Hudson also has a hairy mutt for a pet (which goes on to perish from a shark attack) and the dramas haunting the two protagonists are depicted for us via short flashback sequences.
This is a very remarkable film. Don't be misled by my rating of 7/10.
I'm a harsh grader. On usual accepted critique methods, this is just
about an "ultimate" film. Unlike the "safe" movies that people like to
think of as "risk taking", this is an ultimate "risk taking" venture.
It's obviously too iconoclastic for most of the rich kids on IMDb, safe
in their snug cubicles.
And i understand the annoyance one would feel with this film. I feel it, too. I like "cut and dry" stories. This film is full of so many loose ends, that in spite of being set in the scenic Pacific ocean on a beautiful ship, it is the exact opposite of "escapism".
This is a very adventurous drama for the lack of violence involved. It is a drama, but it is cleverly handled. Take it off the slowly sinking ship in the ocean, and you have a stage fare. The two leads get most of the attention, but all of the characters are explored. Not only are they all very three dimensional and likable, including the bad guy, but they are almost "four dimensional". Each of these roles are mouth watering to any thespian.
Whenever you begin with a ship named "Cannibal", you know you're also dealing with symbolism. The symbolism of the written word, of a book I did not read, is far better depicted in this film than one would expect. Perhaps the character of the reverend is the ultimate symbol of Faith. Don't expect the usual hypocrite you see in most movies. Like I said, this is too iconoclastic for anything that obvious. All of the characters have more to them than meets the eye, with the probable exception of our two macho male shipmen, the young captain and his charismatic older helmsman. The world is seen mostly through their honest eyes of hard working men. The older, wiser one has seen it before. The captain is at a stage in life when he thinks he is a cynic, but is still fairly naive about people.
Which may be why Hudson was allowed to play the role. On the surface, he appears a mismatch for a role you'd expect Bogie in, or perhaps cast member Kennedy. However, the contrast of not being what one appears was set in our director's mind. He could easily have added scars, whiskers, and pot marks to our captain, but it was on purpose that we see the glamorous duo of our two gorgeous leads feel like they appear rugged, while all the time being untainted by the world. To their credit, they do a great job of conveying this feeling. One looks and sees Rock Hudson in a role that doesn't become him, but that's because the role doesn't become the character. He is a clean soul being put through the wringer of an unclean world.
There is a sad scene which is designed to make strong men cry and women gasp. It is very effective. But then this entire film is very effective.
So why do I only rate it 7/10? Honestly, I like the "cut and dry" escapism, and would rather see all the facts be known. But this is a "reality" piece. Perhaps I am not strong enough for complete reality. For instance, our hero is left dangling about the truth over whom to trust, and puts it in Faith to trust the right person. This is very realistic, but it is totally annoying to watch, when we are bursting to have it be known.
But that's why it is not revealed to our character. There are many other examples of "loose ends", such as a former airman never confronting a braggart who falsely claims to be an ex-pilot. It is never brought up again.
A few loose ends I could handle, but this is stark reality. There are many loose ends. This is a "mature" piece, designed to help us "mature" into serenity.
This is why I set it down one notch, out of my own desire for escapism. The film does what it sets out to do. The directing is excellent.
I do set it down two notches for the ending, which I did not buy. Our hero makes a huge, needless sacrifice, which is meant to be attributed to his idealism, but which leaves him pretty much penniless, which is a condition he'll stay in while he waits for a date two years later with the heroine. I felt it didn't belong in this realistic piece, and while I could forgive the "letdown" ending as part of realism, this was a Hollywood ending that just added to the annoyance.
Still, because of its iconoclastic nature of escapist scenery mixed with realism few could endure, I highly recommend this piece. It is a showcase for directing, writing, and cinema. Viewed alone, or with others, this is a very remarkable work.
In an effort to expand his casting range Universal Studios was giving
Rock Hudson some unusual parts during a period when he was at the top
of the box office heap in the late Fifties. In Twilight For The Gods,
Rock tries but doesn't really succeed in the role of existential hero
sailing on a leaky schooner with crew and passengers across the Pacific
islands to Mexico. It's a part that Kirk Douglas or Robert Mitchum
probably would have done better with.
But not much better because Twilight For The Gods is ambiguous to the point of confusion. Some people who want to leave the South Seas like Reverend Ernest Truex, irreverent beachcomber Richard Haydn, singer Judith Evelyn and her conman manager Leif Erickson, and hooker Cyd Charisse. The only two normal ones who give Rock no problems are elderly refugees Celia Lovsky and Vladimir Sokoloff. As for the crew his first mate Arthur Kennedy is a treacherous piece of work and Charles McGraw is a mutinous dog. Only Wallace Ford is any kind of loyal and he's drunk most of the time. This tub should have sunk within sight of Tahiti.
Cyd Charisse has the best reason for leaving, she's wanted by the Honolulu PD for questioning in a murder. She's got Rock's mojo going and she's the main reason he won't stop in Hawaii for repairs. This mutinous crew's case is not without merit.
The film was adapted by Ernest K. Gann from his book. Gann wrote a couple of really good air story novels The High And The Mighty and Island In The Sky that served John Wayne well. There are some superficial resemblances between Twilight For The Gods and The High And The Mighty, but whereas Wayne was a real hero bringing in that damaged plane, Hudson comes off like a petulant fool as the captain.
Best scene in the film is Cyd Charisse who repels Arthur Kennedy's blackmail attempts with some real put down zingers.
Twilight For The Gods did nothing for Rock Hudson's career. Fortunately for him the following year would see him team with Doris Day for the first time. Hudson would have some good dramatic parts in his future as well. But Twilight For The Gods was probably a film he'd like to forget.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Dog being swallowed up by a shark was enough to give this film a big fat zero. You don't do that ever in any movie. Good grief! So Rock Hudson plays himself, a stiff, and Cyd Charise has a difficult time not being gorgeous. So if you want to watch good old Rock play a stiff and show no acting chops, then take this film in for nothing more than to look at pretty people and see a lovely sweet dog go for drink and be drunk. The story line is lame by today or yesteryear's standards. I can't figure out why this film was made in the first place. A bomb for sure. Did this film make money? I wonder but the actors were paid and I am sure they were embarrassed just to watch themselves. Yikes to this waste of time.
Twilight for the Gods coul have been a good tittle for a good movie. But is just stay in a good -and incomprehensible- tittle. By another side I sorry confess I did not read author this best seller at all. May be the novel where was based the film was a excellent book but in my opinion the film is a bite long for usual spectators. May be the old sailing ship was too old and the Captain too alcoholic. Any way there are a handful of masochistic traveller gathered round this Captain who insist in travel in spite of the poor appearance. The apathetic and long hear Captain David Bell is Rock Hudson. Miss Charlotte King (an elegant, curved and glorious Cyd Charisse) is quite all right but the rest of the passage is not very interesting to do a trip by the sea with them. That is why the navigation results some long. I personally thank indeed Miss King presence with her cloudy past. The little dog is funny too. Even it likes Cyd Charisse. It means it was a really clever dog. I give 6 (but only for Cyd Charisse).
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