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Paramount Pictures owned the rights to this property in the late 1960s. Originally Gower Champion was set to direct with Howard W. Koch producing. During the summer of 1972 Paramount paid for a trip to Italy by Champion and songwriters Schmidt & Jones to scout locations. By January 1973 the film had been called off. See more »
Given the resources and talent involved, one would have hoped for much more, but the movie lacks the sparkle of even a mediocre stage production.
Joel Grey as Bellamy phoned in his performance. Even making allowances for the fact that he was 63 when he made the movie, his performance was remarkably lifeless and his singing was unremarkable, even strained at times. Brad Sullivan as Hucklebee was even worse, flat performing and flat singing. Joseph McIntyre as The Boy turned in a passable performance, though he didn't really do the role justice. Jean Louisa Kelley as The Girl was perhaps the brightest spot in the lineup, delivering an adequate if not inspired performance.
Jonathon Morris was sadly miscast as El Gallo. He had the agility and strength needed for such a physical role, but lacked the proper menacing look needed. His acting was, if not totally flat, at least rather plastic. And the one song he needed to really carry -- "Try to Remember" -- he didn't have the voice for.
The staging was the most inspired part of the movie. Simply filming the minimalistic stage production wouldn't have worked, but the movie's set -- two homes and a carnival set in the prairie -- was sufficiently minimalistic to honor the play's concept while still bending to the requirements of the big screen. This facilitated devices that helped to flesh out some of the more ambiguous scenes in the play.
The script was unfortunately a Bowdlerized version. The song substituted for "The Rape Ballet" was incredibly uninspired and inconsistent. It was almost as if the writer wanted the substitute to be bad, in retaliation for pulling the original piece. In addition to "The Rape Ballet" substitution, several other songs were changed from the original, generally not for the better, and the delightful "Plant a Radish" was omitted entirely.
Perhaps the saddest change of all from the stage play was that the role of The Narrator was essentially omitted, and with it some of the most enchanting poetry in the script.
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