The professional mercenary Sir William Walker instigates a slave revolt on the Caribbean island of Queimada in order to help improve the British sugar trade. Years later he is sent again to... See full summary »
A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her 15-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new "friend" also go well beyond platonic friendship.
A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Robert De Niro,
On a U.S. Army post circa 1948, a major who is an impotent, latent homosexual is married to an infantile birdbrain who never misses an opportunity to ridicule his masculine failings. He displaces his hostility by brutally flogging her horse and she retaliates by humiliating him before a houseful of guests, repeatedly slashing him across the face with her riding crop. She is also committing adultery with the officer next door, who's wife cut off her nipples with garden shears after the death of her baby. She has sought solace in the ministrations of her effeminate houseboy. The sixth character, coveted by the major, is a darkly handsome noncom, a voyeur and lingerie-fondler, given to nightly appearances as a peeping tom in the birdbrain's bedroom and daily sessions of horseback riding in the middle of the woods stark naked. Written by
John Huston's depressing, oddly compelling adaption of Carson McCullers' best-selling social elegy is, still and all, a misfire.
Carson McCullers' second novel `Reflections in a Golden Eye,' first published in 1941, is a great depressing read -- full of lurid, loveless, neurotic, alienated, self-destructive characters who mire in their own and others' unhappiness. The mood and tone distinctly reflect the author's own morbid life story (McCullers, the Diane Arbus of literature, was a chronic depressive and bisexual who was married to a suicidal alcoholic and bisexual). In 1967, John Huston took her novel to film. End result: the book is infinitely better than Huston's erratic, muddled handling of the rather ignoble material. I'm sure it was very tempting to tinker around with this type of scandalous fodder, especially with the abolishment of the longstanding Hollywood production code in the mid-60s, but what comes off morbidly fascinating in the novel with its themes of self-mutilation, masochism, impotence, sex and murder, is just plain dreary here. Pseudo-smut can come off quite boring, sometimes laughable, if not handled properly.
Set on an army base in the Deep South, the story revolves around Captain Penderton (Marlon Brando), a morose high-commanding officer and pent-up homosexual who disguises his humiliation with sadomasochistic acts. He finds an interesting outlet for his deep-seated frustrations by fixating on a very handsome young private on base, who has his own arousing aura of mystery. As the Captain scouts around, he finds out that the private, a raging sociopath if ever there was one, gets his kicks taking naked midnight rides in the woods on his horse and engaging in voyeurism. The Captain naturally is curious yellow and yearns to find who the target of this man's obsession is. Meanwhile, the Captain's shrewish, adulterous wife, Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor), a spoiled slob of a socialite who, after the death of her son, decides to make life a living hell for her husband, sexual distraction with Major Langdon (Brian Keith), her neighbor, while his crackpot invalid wife, Alison (Julie Harris), a walking suicide just waiting to happen, seems to find her only source of joy in the company of her devoted, extremely prissy houseboy who gets off on spouting poetry passages and flouncing around the room like `Tinkerbell.' God, love it-- is this America or what?
The first and foremost problem with Huston's film is that its interest is derived not from the sordid characters but from the high-profile stars who play them. Taylor delivers another in a long list of blowsy, viper-tongued bitches that she started churning out after her Oscar-winning performance as monster Martha in `Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' in 1965. As in other grotesque roles of this ilk and era (`Boom!', `Hammersmith Is Out,' you name it' ), she is all bark and all bite...shrill and shallow. It is a one-note performance that comes off lazy, annoying, and ultimately tedious, with no shred of dimension or nuance to perk up the distastefully sensational aspects. Like Bette Davis' Rosa Moline in `Beyond the Forest,' Taylor squelches our desire to care about or understand this vindictive, bitter woman's misery. Just feed her to the wolves and be done with it. Is it any wonder Brando's character is turned on to her polar opposite -- a man with nothing to say?
Marlon's tortured Captain is the film's big lure here. He brings to the movie all the mumbling melancholy he can muster and he alone commands any sympathy. But you can't help forgetting the character while concentrating on Marlon's technique as he teases us with ever-so-slightly mincing affectations. How is Marlon going to play a closet queen in uniform? That is the excitement and the oddly compelling element of this feature. Is he successful? Not really. But you can't help but be drawn to him. He is Marlon after all. Initially cast in this role was Taylor's close, devoted friend (and closet homosexual) Montgomery Clift, who died before filming began. I doubt if he could have done any better than Marlon, despite Monty's correlation.
Dark, handsome, saturnine Robert Forster is indeed another drawing point in the role of the remote, taciturn private. This was his first big role and though he has almost no dialogue, Huston manages to make him a fascinating, rather enigmatic and sexy figure. Gruff and virile Brian Keith is reliable as always, while plaintive Julie Harris is a pro when it comes to dishing out the neurotics. Zorro David's portrayal as Anacleto, the houseboy, is bad and sad enough to send the gay movement back thirty years. It's reviling, degrading and, like a horrible traffic accident, impossible to ignore. No wonder Brando's character is desperate to keep his little secret. Look at his role model! This was David's first and only film role. You see? There is justice.
The overall production values may be up to snuff but the camera work is lifeless and mundane -- and they certainly do not flatter the actors, that's for sure - particularly Taylor, who was getting quite zaftig at this time. To top it all off, the supposedly explosive climax is shot terribly, with Huston's jarring, swerving camera moves from character to character coming off amateurish. A totally bizarre miscalculation on his part to achieve the shocking effect he was going for.
You WILL stay with `Reflections in a Golden Eye' but be warned: it will leave you as empty as the film's characters, and you'll probably hate yourself in the end for caving in to your primitive, prurient curiosity. McCullers' first novel, `The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,' as a book and film, is better in practically every respect. Catch IT instead.
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