Friday, July 06, 2007

Movie: “Walk On the Wild Side"

Director: Edward Dmytryk 1962
You know you’re in trouble when 15 minutes into a movie you realize the best parts are over: in this case, the title sequence (by Saul Bass) and the brilliant, jazzy theme (by the great Elmer Bernstein). Based on “A Walk On the Wild Side” by Nelson Algren (why Hollywood dropped the “A” is anybody’s guess), the film is set in the 1930s, mostly in New Orleans. A miscast Laurence Harvey plays a Texas farmer in search of his long-lost girlfriend, an equally miscast Capucine. Along the way, he encounters bad girl Jane Fonda (then in her pouting sex-kitten stage) and café owner Ann Baxter (speaking the worst Mexican accent this side of Speedy Gonzales). Things get complicated when Harvey discovers that Capucine has become a high-class hooker—and a lesbian! Not only a lesbian, but one in love with the brothel’s cruel owner (Barbara Stanwyck, in mannish suits and married to a man with no legs). Harvey does his best to get Capucine to switch sides, which she does, but it’s really too late, and it all ends as it must when there’s a Production Code in force (as there was in ’62, although its influence was starting to wane given that this is a movie about whores, S&M and The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name). The big problem is the movie concentrates on Harvey, never the warmest of actors. The women are infinitely more interesting. Still, there is that opener . . .


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