Tag Archives: Deborah Kerr

Eye of the Devil (1966)

eye of the devil 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Husband is a pagan.

Vineyard owner Philippe (David Niven) is called back to the castle of Bellenac when it is found that they are suffering from another dry season. Philippe’s wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr) and his two young children follow him there a few days later despite his insistence that they not come. Once there Catherine finds everyone’s behavior to be quite odd including a menacing brother and sister (David Hemmings, Sharon Tate) who make Catherine uneasy, but nothing prepares her for the real reason that her husband is there nor its shocking outcome.

Although several directors worked on this project including Michael Anderson the credit is ultimately given to J. Lee Thompson, who is probably best known for his frequent collaborations with Charles Bronson. Despite the different directors the film is very fluid and well produced. In fact it is the directing that makes this film high enjoyable. The lighting, editing, imagery and evocative camera work make this a near brilliant work from a visual level. Turning down the sound and appreciating it for its aesthetic style alone is more than enough and the on-location shooting done at the Chateau de Hautefort is excellent.

Tate is stunningly beautiful and the photography makes the most of it watching her sit out and get drenched by the rain is actually kind of sexy. She had bit parts in two films previous to this, but this is still credited as her official film debut.  Although her voice was dubbed she still is effective with a character that straddles the line between being sensual and creepy. The part where the Niven character viciously whips her while she wriggles around on the floor and then in the end turns around and smiles like she enjoyed it was year’s ahead-of-its-time and definitely pushing-the-envelope for that period.

Kerr came in to replace Kim Novak who was injured during filming and unable to complete the picture. Normally she always gives a superior performance, but her she seemed miscast. The only facial expression she seems able to show here is that of shock and fright and the character and scenario seems to be too much of an extension to the one that she did in The Innocents just a few years earlier. Both she and Niven seemed too old to be parents of such young children. He was already in his mid-fifties and she in her mid-forties and the film would have been better served had a young attractive couple in their 20’s been cast in the part.

Niven has always done so well being cast in likable roles that having him play someone with a dark personality doesn’t quite work and he looks uncomfortable in the part. Both Donald Pleasance and David Hemmings are underused and not given enough lines or screen-time.

The story itself is rather one-dimensional. The final sequence features some great shots and editing of Kerr running through some underground tunnels of the castle, but the outcome is quite predictable. The script lacks that added perspective or twist to make it truly memorable and is the weakest element in this otherwise visually arresting production.

eye of the devil 4

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 8, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Not Rated

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

night of the iguana 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Flawed clergyman loves women.

Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) loses his job as a clergyman when rumors surface of indiscretions he had with a young female parishioner, which pushes him to preach a ranting sermon at the pulpit that eventually drives all the members of the congregation out of the building. He then gets a job as a tour guide in Mexico and has the chore of leading a bus load of middle-aged women around the country. Charlotte (Sue Lyon) is a young nymph who takes a liking to Lawrence much to the chagrin of her over-protective chaperon Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall). When Charlotte is caught in Lawrence’s bedroom late at night Ms. Fellowes promises that she will have it reported and get him fired. Unable to handle a another potential job loss Lawrence takes the bus load of women to an isolated seaside hotel run by Maxine (Ava Gardner) an old friend of his. He hopes that by somehow trapping them there he will be able to convince Ms. Fellowes to drop the charges, but along the way he meets Hannah (Deborah Kerr) who he starts to fall in-love with.

Unlike most of Tennesse William’s other plays this one, at least the first half, is full of energy and comical nuance. I found the group of ladies and Lawrence’s exasperated dealings with them to be quite amusing and the film moves along at an engaging pace. The second half though bogs down with more of William’s signature brooding drama that ends up hurting the flow. In many ways this film seems like two movies in one and the difference in tone and pace never gels. Despite a good nighttime conversation between Kerr and Burton I kept hoping the ladies and Ms. Fellowes would come back and felt the film was weaker without them.

Legendary director John Huston hits most of the right buttons here although it is not his best work. I was surprised and impressed to learn that Maxine’s hotel was built specifically for the production in an otherwise deserted region of the country. The building had an authentic old look and helped give the film added style and personality. I had mixed feelings with the black and white photography. On one had it helps bring out the dark recesses of its flawed characters and accentuate the moodiness of William’s script, but it also takes away from the exotic beauty of the locale.

Burton is good as usual and playing the part of an emotionally fractured, alcoholic character seems right up his alley. Gardner is great as the brassy Maxine and the scene of her making out with her two young, shirtless, maraca playing male assistants along the beach late at night is genuinely steamy. Kerr is in fine form as well and her more restrained demeanor makes a nice contrast to Gardner’s.

Lyon’s acting isn’t quite up to her costars and she seems particularly out of her league during her scene with Burton, but in the looks department she is unmatched. She is more filled-out and mature than in Lolita and in many ways even hotter. The scene of close-up shots of her moving her hips to a tune at a Mexican bar may excite some of the male viewers.

The under-rated Hall is excellent in her role as the heavy. Her craggy face and personality are perfect for the part and it rightly got her a supporting actress nomination.

In the final analysis this is not a bad version of Tennessee William’s material, but not a great one either.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 6, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Huston

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Grass is Greener (1960)

grass is greener

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They all fool around.

Hilary (Deborah Kerr) is married to Victor (Cary Grant) and they are low on funds so they give guided tours of their castle in order to make ends meet. Then one day rich American businessman Charles Delarco (Robert Mitchum) stops by and takes an immediate liking to Hilary and her to him. Soon they are having an affair and Victor along with his friend Hattie (Jean Simmons) devises a plan to win her back.

The film starts out well with a funny montage of cute babies in goofy poises shown during the opening credits, but then things go rapidly and irrevocably flat. One of the main problems is that there is simply too much talking and most of it isn’t funny or engaging. In fact none of the conversations between any of the four leads is interesting. The best dialogue in the whole film is the ones between Victor and his butler Trevor (Moray Watson) who is doing the job while working on his novel.  I wished there had been more of Trevor and that the story had revolved around him as the rest is trite and predictable.

Mitchum just doesn’t seem right as the love interest. He is best in parts requiring a rugged or villainous character as his romantic appeal is lacking. I actually thought he came off as downright creepy especially with the way he barges into Hillary’s room unannounced and is reluctant to immediately leave when he realizes he has walked into the wrong place. Most women would have considered him a stalker and his squinty eyes don’t help things.

I also thought Hillary throws herself at him a little too quickly. He is a stranger who pops out of nowhere. The two have a boring ten minute conversation and then are in a passionate embrace. Victor tries like crazy to win her back while I’m thinking why bother keeping a woman who jumps at any man who has money. Might as well just hire a good lawyer and take the hussy for all she’s worth.

The fact that Victor immediately figures out about the affair was another negative in my opinion as it doesn’t allow for hundreds of potential comic scenarios of them carrying on behind his back. As it is scenarios of any kind are woefully lacking. There is one scene where Victor takes Charles out fishing and another where they have a dual, but both end up being much too brief. For the most part it is just a static filmed stage play with background sets that a boring and color that looks faded and washed out.

Of course I did like Cary it is hard to dislike him simply because he is so good at being Cary. If anything his charm manages to keep this waterlogged thing afloat. Simmons isn’t bad either. I loved her variety of outfits and spunky personality. Kerr though looks and acts tired and not able to keep up with the comic timing of the other two.

If you like an old-fashioned but still very tasteful bedroom farce then this would at best be passable although Grant fans may like it a bit more while others will find it stagnant.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 23, 1960

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Stanley Donen

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video