By Richard Winters
My Rating: 1 out of 10
4-Word Review: Overprotective mother dominates son.
This is an awful, awful film based on the Arthur Kopit stage play of the same name. Overly domineering mother Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) keeps her son Jonathan (Robert Morse), who is 25, in a near infantile state. She also travels around with her dead husband in a coffin. Problems ensue when they arrive at a resort and meet up with nubile Rosalie (Barbra Harris) who tempts Jonathan and threatens to break him away from his mother’s clutches.
If done right this film could have, I suppose, gained some sort of cult following. Yet it is so poorly realized and so thoroughly botched that it is impossible to know where one could begin to improve it as it deserves to be in the top ten of worst movies of all time.
One of the problems is the setting itself. For some reason it was filmed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This certainly does provide for sunny and exotic scenery, but it does not at all work with its twisted, dark subject matter. The music score is also really bad. It was done by Neal Hefti the same man who did the music for the “Batman” TV-show and the soundtrack here sounds just like that one. He also has the theme song sung by children which is as irritating as nails scratching on a blackboard. The color schemes are garish and ugly. The humor is flat and the story itself is threadbare. When you get past the weird fringes all you have left is a stale, plodding coming-of- age tale.
Morse seems a natural for the part as the ‘man-child’ since he has always had a very boyish face. Yet, in an attempt to show that he is never let outside, he is made to look extremely pale and the effect is a bit sickening to look at. His infantile state is played too much to the extreme and comes off as pathetic. It is not at all funny even in an absurd, or dark way.
Russell’s presence makes it somewhat interesting. She was a legendary actress and this was certainly a very unique career move. Maybe she wanted to prove herself versatile after her Mother Superior part in The Trouble with Angels, which she had done just a year before doing this, yet in hindsight it was bad judgment. Seeing her in the strange part is fun for a few seconds, but eventually it gets over-the-top. She ends up looking like Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. You do however get to see her wear a variety of wigs and even do a wild water ski stunt at the end.
Harris has always been one terrific actress and she is good even here and the only reason I’m giving this film one point. She made a career out of playing neurotic women, but here plays a more normal one and it is interesting to compare this performance with her others.
Jonathan Winters (no relation) adds some amusing bits doing voice-over as the dead father. He was brought in after the film was completed and some of his lines have nothing to do with the plot.
The message of the story is nebulous. The video box cover states that it is a study of “human confusion”. Yet the characters seem too extreme to be relatable on any human level. They also don’t evolve and act the same idiotic way at the end as they did at the beginning so neither they nor the viewer come to any better understanding of anything. It is a complete waste of time.This film deserves its near extinct status and isn’t fun even as a curio.
My Rating: 1 out of 10
Released: February 15, 1967
Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes
Rated NR (Not Rated)
Director: Richard Quine