Inspired by a performance of his favorite play, "Volpone," 20th-century millionaire Cecil Fox devises an intricate plan to trick three of his former mistresses into believing he is dying. ...
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Inspired by a performance of his favorite play, "Volpone," 20th-century millionaire Cecil Fox devises an intricate plan to trick three of his former mistresses into believing he is dying. Although the women are wealthy in their own right, all have good reason to covet his fortune. To assist him in his scheme, Fox hires William McFly, a gigolo and sometime actor, to act as his secretary/servant. Fox is soon visited at his "deathbed" by the three former mistresses: Merle McGill, a fading Hollywood sex symbol; Princess Dominique, who once took a cruise on Fox's yacht; and Lone Star Crockett, a Texas hypochondriac who travels with an enigmatic nurse/companion. As Fox and McFly act out the charade, things take an unexpected turn from comical farce to full-blown murder mystery. Written by
The great Italian cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo died suddenly of hepatitis (aged only 45) during the making of this film, with many weeks of the five-month shooting schedule to go before completion. His operator, Pasqualino De Santis, took over as director of photography but refused credit in this capacity, although he would quickly go on to international renown with his work for Visconti, Zeffirelli, Losey and others. See more »
A lot of talent and high production values lost in dull cleverness.
The Honey Pot (1967)
An odd film historically--it falls in the year of the New Hollywood breakouts like "The Graduate" and "Bonnie and Clyde" yet it is made in the style of those earlier 1960s slick and effete capers like "The Pink Panther." The movie can't be seen in quite contemporary terms, because it's just too slick and clever, and yet it doesn't have the panache and glorious success of the best of the earlier color films, glamour besides.
Technically this is an American production, though it's thoroughly British in feel (and the production company also handled the embarrassing "Casino Royale" which is equally British at its core). The story is basically a romanticized version of Ben Jonson's "Volpone," a play from the same year (1606) as Shakespeare's MacBeth. There is a small part of "Volpone" performed in the movie (for the indulgence of the filthy rich scheming main character). This would seem a promising starting point.
And the director (and co-screenwriter) is one of Hollywood's classic greats, Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Like many of the old guard still working in the late 1960s, there is a slight sense of displacement here, or even of weariness mixed with self-satisfaction. Maybe it shows that this is his last film. The theatrical style of acting is also teetering into the functional dialog and delivery of television--it depends not on atmosphere (t.v. had none back then) but on a development of ideas. In fact, it is something of a play expanded and made colorful for the wide screen. Its drama depends on a sequence of events rather than cinematic, visual elements.
If you are looking for a Susan Hayward performance, there isn't much to watch for--it's quirky and brief. Rex Harrison as the lead is forceful and uncomplicated. And convincing enough. The many side characters are strong and will do, though there is a sad lack of momentum to it all. The combination never quite stumbles, combining a light wit and sophisticated air (and lacking the seeming selfish cruelty of Jonson's original). Even the camera-work, ever smooth and perfectly balanced, gives a sense of well made, if slightly too well lit (television again) movie-making.
Yes, I am all hesitance here. It's so nice and smart all the time without great effect. It twists and twists and you have no way to really anticipate, merely respond by saying, oh, another twist. You don't give a hoot about the characters, or the murdered woman, or whether the inheritance is real or not, or much of anything. So all the back and forth, all the hiding of secrets and playing of parts, even the voice-over from the dead at the end, is slim entertainment.
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