|Index||6 reviews in total|
Ann-Margaret turned in one of the best performances of her career in the 1984 TV version of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, a well-mounted remake of the Tennessee Williams play that became the 1951 classic film that made a star out of Marlon Brando and won a 2nd Oscar for Vivian Leigh. Ann-Margaret gives an intense and chilling interpretation of Blanche, the mentally fragile southern belle who is brutalized by her boor of a brother-in-law (Treat Williams)when she arrives in New Orleans to visit her sister Stella (Beverly D'Angelo). Ann-Margret has never lost herself in a role the way she lost herself in this one, a performance that lacks the china-doll fragility of Leigh's Blanche but adds an underlying layer of strength that was missing from Leigh's interpretation. Treat Williams lacks the electricity that Brando brought to Stanley but D'Angelo brilliantly conveys the tattered emotions of the conflicted Stella. The other plus of this production is that it restores the original Tennessee Williams ending to the play which was drastically changed in the theatrical film in order for the story to be more acceptable to audiences in 1951; however, it completely dilutes the power of the original piece but it is restored to its original beauty here and packs the emotional punch felt by audience at the 1947 premiere of the play. Coupled with the performances of Ann-Margret and Beverly D'Angelo, this is a remake which can proudly stand up next to the original.
This second film version of the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning Tennessee
Williams play is the lesser of its three film incarnations.
The original 1951 film's only drawback is the excised 20 minutes of original play material. The third version (Jessica Lange) is the complete play on film and her performance is exceptional.
The Ann-Margret version suffers visually (it's extremely darkly lit and faces are hard to make out). The terrible "bleed" on the VHS release mixes reds and blacks to a degree that eliminates clarity in over 50% of the visuals. The casting is also uninspired. Williams is physically perfect for Stanley, but is not up to the acting requirements. Quaid is good as Mitch, but not outstanding. D'Angelo seems anachronistic and more suited to 1984 than the post-WWII setting.
Ann-Margret is a stronger and sexier Blanche than either Leigh or Lange. She is no-nonsense when she arrives - there is an almost complete lack of flirtation and mannerism, so that we are surprised later how quickly this "in-charge" woman loses her grip on reality. Neither the director nor Ann-Margret have prepared us for the Blanche we encounter at the end of the film. They almost seem like two different women.
By casting Blanche as a younger woman and not that removed from the age level of her other cast members, the sexuality can be emphasized and played for real without seeming tawdry. The mutual attraction between Blanche and Stanley is made obvious here from the beginning. The rape is between equals, not the brutish overwhelming of a scared old maid.
This desperately needs visual restoration before anyone tries to give it back to the public. Even the VHS box lists the film erroneously as 96 minutes, when it is 119 minutes (correctly labeled on the cassette itself).
See this if you are a fan of the play - it will expand your understanding of the many depths and dimensions of the characters - without actually ever seeming to "work."
There were some aspects of the original play changed when it was adapted into the film version starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter. This play adaptation is not great but decent to our standards. I think the best performance in the role is Randy Quaid playing MItch. The 1951 film version had Karl Malden. Randy was perfectly cast as Mitch in my opinion. Ann Margret's Blanche Dubois was decent. It's hard to compare her to Vivien Leigh. Ann Margret portrayed Blanche to the best of her ability. Beverly D'Angelo was fine as Stella and Treat Williams was sufficient as Stanley Kowalski. As much as I liked the original film, Ann Margret holds her own to this adaptation. If you want to see the original adaptation, go ahead but don't make comparisons. In this film, the storyline and features remained the same. It didn't have to make adjustments or adapt to today's audience like the original. This was more faithful to Tennessee Williams than the original 1951 film production itself. It lacks some things but it's still pretty good.
Many loved this remake of the 1951 film based on Tennessee Williams 1947 play; while others, like me, were appalled. Ann-Margaret as Blanche DuBois seemed wrong from the get-go, but I suppose the director was correct in letting A-M play the role to her strengths rather than attempting to have her use characteristics she can't project (i.e., fragility, delicacy, vulnerability). Ann-Margaret's Blanche not only doesn't project the faded southern aristocracy that is the backbone of the role; but she's entirely too formidable a match for Treat Williams' Stanley. I suspect those who sympathized with A-M's Blanche more than Vivien Leigh's in the original, are responding negatively to Leigh's sense of hauteur -- snobbery -- that's anathema for post-60's audiences. Nevertheless, Leigh's Blanche *is* Blanche... love her or hate her. Ann-Margaret gives an excellent performance in an entirely misconceived interpretation which ruined the play for me.
Ann-Margaret as Blanche Dubois turns in the best performance of her career. Do not believe the deriders! EVERY actor in this version is more believable than in the Leigh/Brando release. This will be particularly evident if you see this version before the original as I did. Camera work is excellent & the music is outstanding in creating that hot New Orleans atmosphere. Don't miss this one!
You can't improve upon perfection. Remember that, all you young,
impressionable, earnest Hollywood executive types out there even thinking
about a TV remake of `Citizen Kane.' Back in 1984, some daring soul
decided to re-film the immortal 1951 classic, `A Streetcar Named Desire.'
After 33 years it was bound to happen I suppose, but, I thought, with the
right mix of talent, it is not unfathomable to think that a decent, even
above-average production could be had.
Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando put their indelible stamps on the roles of Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski, and time simply refuses to erode their puissant images. Elia Kazan's stark and stagy production, despite its sanitization by the Hollywood production code, made a landmark impact in Hollywood, pushing film into a new era of mature adult themes. It remains one of my 'top 5' movies of all time. Moreover, this is THE movie that single-handedly venerates the genius of one of America's foremost playwrights, Tennessee Williams.
All right, back to reality. This TV replica was almost unbearable to watch. A drowsy, perfunctory adaptation to say the least, I'll give it an extra point in that its intentions were honest and sincere, but this version is totally eclipsed by its predecessor both in raw power and sheer theatricality. In fact, not a single aspect of this production challenges the original in any way, shape or form.
As Blanche, the frail, illusory, emotionally unbalanced charmer who depended on the kindness of strangers, it appears that Ann-Margret had virtually no one, not even herself, to depend on here. Quoting the late critic Pauline Kael from another infamous review, this actress runs the gamut of emotions from `A' to `B.' It is merely a facsimile of a performance. There is nothing harder to `reel' in than a star playing a Southern belle. It seems to bring out the very worst in Hollywood actresses. Ms. Margret's aggressive performance is littered with irksome, Southern-baked affectations and unsubtle acting choices. And the harder she bears down on this tortured creature, the more unintended laughter she elicits -- none more so than the scene where Blanche's treasured love letters have fallen to the floor, having been touched and tarnished by Stanley. The way Vivien's Blanche grappled for and embraced her private recollections is heart-breaking. With Ann-Margret, she could have been holding junk mail. Even the reading glasses she wears in that scene look funny and fake on her.
The truly lamentable fact is that Ms. Margret really, really, REALLY tries. After the 1970 movie `Carnal Knowledge' came out, she beat down her "sex kitten" label and received the good seal of approval by film critics, but she is still identified with her feline roles in `Viva Las Vegas' and `Kitten With a Whip.' This is an altogether different undertaking. She is not classically-trained, or even stage-trained for that matter, and, with all due respect, it shows. By the way, she received some highly positive reviews, even earning an Emmy-nomination in the process. I don't know -- either there was a shortage of good performances that year or a gallant gesture for her effort. A much better TV-movie for her was the touching "Who Will Love My Children," which was shot the year before.
Lost as well, Treat Williams, who has strutted his stuff to good effect in other potent material (`Prince of the City') has neither the strut nor stuff to even infer the magic Brando brought to Stanley Kowalski. And the exciting cat-and-mouse chemistry between Blanche and Stanley is strictly high school. Only Beverly DeAngelo as sister Stella displays a freshness that actually threatens to rise above its mediocre surroundings, but she is defeated at almost every juncture by the less-than-adequate interplay with Ann-Margret and Williams. Randy Quaid completes the quartet, merely OK as the sensitive oaf who is taken in, then repelled by Blanche's charms. Kim Hunter and Karl Malden have nothing to worry about.
This `Streetcar,' is filled with unexciting passengers and hits dead-ends wherever it goes. Avoid it and take the `A' train, via the original. By the way, in 1995, Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin took their much-heralded Broadway roles to TV, faring somewhat better. Although the always interesting Lange makes some bold, original choices for Blanche that's worthy of a look, Baldwin is much too cerebral to make a dent as the animalistic Stanley.
Like I said, if it ain't broken...
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