By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Marrying a rich man.
Originally intended as a fact based bio of Aristotle Onassis and his marriage to Jacqueline Bouviar Kennedy where Jackie was offered $1 million to play herself, but when she turned it down the producers decided to turn it into a ‘fictional’ story where the names of the characters were changed, but many of the elements remained the same. The plot deals with a Greek shipping tycoon named Theo Tomasis (Anthony Quinn) who is known to fool-around on his wife Simi (Camilla Sparv). One day while hosting a posh party on his yacht he sets his sights on Liz (Jacqueline Bisset) who is the wife of a politician James Cassidy (James Franciscus) who’s running for the democratic nomination for the U.S. Presidency. While Theo and Liz are able to get away from the rest of the guests and talk he’s unable to admit how smitten he is with her due to her marriage. Liz returns to the states with her husband and he’s elected President, but then is assassinated. Now widowed she decides to return to Greece and meets-up with Theo. Theo in-turn leaves his wife, who was tired of his philandering ways, and marries Liz though their marriage ends-up being a rocky one as well as Theo is unable to change his old habits making Jacki feel she’s just another ‘notch-on-his-belt’.
Producer Nico Mastorakis is probably better known for having directed the controversial horror film Island of Death, which to this day remains one of the most notorious movies ever made, but before he got into filmmaking he was a reporter, who under the guise of being a musician for a rock group, gained access to Onassis’ yacht the Christina while Aristotle was hosting a party with guests Jackie and Ted Kennedy. He hid a small camera inside the his guitar and was able to take pictures of the event before having the negatives confiscated by Ted Kennedy’s security detail. Nico though remained fascinated with Onassis and his experiences while on the his yacht convinced him he’d make a perfect subject for a movie. Quinn, met with Onassis just months before his death where he reportedly gave him blessing to play the role, so Quinn initially agreed to do it only to back-out later when he spoke with Jackie who asked him not to do it. However, months later, she then publicly snubbed him at a restaurant, which got him so angry that he changed his mind and called Nico to tell him he wanted to go through with it and play the part, of which he was paid the handsome figure of $500,000.
As a soap opera, which is all this amounts to, it’s watchable with the biggest asset being the exotic European locales. The plot moves along breezily enough to keep it mildly compelling though no effort is made to make it conform to the early 60’s time period when it all began making it seem instead like it could’ve all occurred during the 70’s. The assassination is especially surreal as James gets shot as he and Jackie are walking along the beach, but no sniper is ever seen. The camera pans over to where the shots were fired and all we see are trees like some phantom gunmen came out of nowhere to kill him and then just disappeared into thin air with no explanation for who did it, or why.
Quinn’s acting though is really impressive and one of the few reasons to watch it. Quinn has always had a magnetic energy that grabs the viewer into his characters and makes you fascinated enough in them to keep you engrossed though the dark glasses he’s seen constantly wearing was a distraction. He wears them all the time even while inside and at night, which seems weird and makes him appear almost like he’s gangster. There’s a few times when the glass lenses inside the frames are clear and not darkened, but no explanation for why, or how they changed. His propensity for Greek line dancing only succeeds in reminding viewers of another more famous movie that he was in, Zorba the Greek, and for that reason alone it should’ve been avoided altogether.
Bisset on the other-hand doesn’t have much of a presence. Normally she’s a great actress, but her character here isn’t fleshed-out enough to make anything that she says or does interesting. It’s a transparent composite of what one might deem a First Lady to be, but with nothing unique, or distinct added into it and thus making her time onscreen seem quite blah. She does have one energetic moment when she gets into a fight with him after he embarrasses her in front of a few men and even proceeds to attack him physically, but other than that her performance, like the rest of the movie, is sterile with very little to recommend.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: May 12, 1978
Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Studio: Universal Pictures
Available: DVD, Blu-ray