Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Desire Under the Elms (Delbert Mann, 1958) C-
I'm not familiar with the original play by Eugene O'Neill that Desire Under the Elms is based on, but I believe that it deserves a far better treatment than what Mann delivers here. The story- a young man lusting after his aged father's hot new wife and their ensuing battle over the land they live on- should have interested me more, but writer Irwin Shaw and director Delbert Mann completely butcher the power of it by not bothering to adapt the play cinematically. The film looks as if it was shot from the audience point of view with absolutely no imagination: you can obviously tell how the different scenes are set up in the stage production. The scenery looks so shoddy and cheap that it could have been knocked over with a breath of air. Burl Ives basically does his whole Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Big Daddy schtick that comes across as hammy beyond belief this time. Sophia Loren is good, but not quite at her Two Women peak. Anthony Perkins, however, proves here that he was a good actor before Psycho and that it wasn't just a fluke. It's no Norman Bates but it's quite a fine performance.