On the eve of World War II (1939) English officer Ralph Denistoun is in Nazi Germany on an espionage mission to recover a poison gas formula from Prof. Krosigk. He is helped by Lydia and ... See full summary »
Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone. The backdrop is SternbergÍs surreal and fantastic Carnaval in Spain. In a café the older man details his encounters with the heart breaker that his younger friend has only just met at the parade. Forewarned, the young man swears he will avoid the fate of his friend, but rushes all the same to his evening rendezvous. A dreamlike story of frustrated, lost romance, spoken in the past tense, never really resolved.Written by
The last of the Von Sternberg - Marlene Dietrich collaborations and was certainly the loveliest in terms of photography and Ms Dietrich's costumes. But was it the best of the series? All of them (except the first - THE BLUE ANGEL) seem slightly corny by modern standards of love or sex films. The hardened nightclub singer who stumbles blindly on after her legionaire lover (Gary Cooper) in the sand dunes at the end of MOROCCO or the caring wife and mother shattering her reputation to save husband (Herbert Marshall) and son in BLONDE VENUS (doing a number in a gorilla suit) are both preposterous. But due to the director and his sultry star we don't care and still enjoy both. In terms of story line, only THE SCARLET EMPRESS has a stronger one, but that is based on the life of Catherine the Great and the death of her idiot husband Peter III of Russia (Sam Jaffe). Odd as it may seem this film may be the best in terms of script in the series.
Concha is a man-eater, and Don Pasquale is her favorite meal. His infatuation is used by her to full advantage, and she literally destroys his reputation and career. But she also destroys other men. A bull fighter she humiliates Pasquale with (Atwill tells us) subsequently committed suicide. And she seems able to twist and turn both the Mayor (Edward Everett Horton) and the young radical (Cesar Romero) with ease as well. So she is a devil, who gives a few moments of pleasure to the men but chews them up alive.
But the conclusion is curious. Pasquale rejects while recovering in the hospital from the wound in the duel. She expects him to call for her, but he doesn't and it strikes her as odd. Her desertion of Romero at the Spanish/French border seems in keeping with her general behavior to all her men...but it suggests that Pasquale's act of rejection has changed the formula a bit. Is she going back to try to tempt him again (most likely) or is she curious at the experience of a man rejecting her finally. Von Sternberg wisely leaves the issue in the air as this great movie ends.
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