Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Walk on the Wild Side (1962)

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Writers: Nelson Algren, John Fante, Edmund Morris, Raphael Hayes, Ben Hecht

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter, Barbara Stanwyck, Joanna Moore, Richard Rust, Karl Swenson, Don 'Red' Barry, Juanita Moore, John Anderson, Ken Lynch, Todd Armstrong, Sherry O'Neil, John Bryant, Kathryn Card

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A side of life you never expected to see on the screen.

Plot: At the Doll House, a 1930's New Orleans bordello, Hallie is the main attraction both for clients and for Jo, the madame. Her comfortable if tedious life is disrupted by the arrival in town of Dove Linkhorn, her true love of three years before who is now searching for her. When Linkhorn learns the truth of her profession he triggers a chain of events involving a number of people, including the young Kitty with whom he travelled from Texas and who is now the Doll House newest recruit.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

How about that kick ass opening credit sequence by Saul Bass?  One of the best, right?  I honestly didn't know what to expect as I was clueless about this picture aside from the score.  As a longtime soundtrack freak from when I was a kid in the 70s, I've been humming this tune for more than thirty years.  It's a beaut.  The film isn't that bad but even for '62, I expected a little more.  In what area?  Not sure.  The IMDb trivia says that Stanwyck (as The Doll House Madame, Miss Precious) is the first actress to play a lesbian in a major motion picture.  OK.  I can see that...now.  During the film it's so disguised that you can think that or you can think of her as a shrewd business woman that knows Hallie (Capucine) is THE star attraction at her bordello and brings in a lot of dough.  I was flip flopping on that one.  Regardless, there are fine performances all around and sometimes the actors briefly dip into too much melodrama.  The story starts out with a bang until we get to New Orleans and Dove (Harvey) finds Hallie and that's when it starts to slow down with the strange romance.  Even still, I couldn't tell if Hallie was Miss Precious' lover or a prostitute or both.  They only show her having drinks with men and I don't recall the film hinting at anything going beyond that.  I'm going to assume now that she was a working girl and she was Miss Precious' main squeeze.  Jane Fonda (as the sizzling hot and dangerous Kitty Twist!) is smokin' in this picture.

The drama plays out nicely with an unexpected and shocking ending.  I was satisfied.  But the big star for me was Elmer Bernstein's score.  The main theme gets so much coverage that you get the idea it's the only tune the house band (at The Doll House) plays.  To make it worse, early on at the house of ill repute, the camera enters the joint while a vocal version of the tune is played by the band yet there's no vocalist with the band. It's a huge screw up where I'm sittin'.  The Columbia/Tri Star DVD has a great widescreen print along with 3 trailers for extras, none of which are for this film.  WTF?  It's a good flick and I'm glad I finally saw it.  Now I can move on with my life.

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