Tuesday, January 11, 2011


One of the movie musicals that killed (or at least seriously wounded) Julie Andrews' career after her back-to-back successes with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. This and the earlier STAR! are both big-budget period-piece disasters, and both are amorphous messes that can’t commit to being either family friendly or fully adult. Neither movie is unwatchable, but both are disappointments. This one, directed by Blake Edwards, who would marry Andrews just before the film was released, is set during WWI, and features Andrews as a British music hall star; we first see her calming an audience by singing during an air raid, but we soon discover that she’s a spy, selling secrets to German officer Jeremy Kemp who poses as her uncle. She goes to work on American pilot Rock Hudson but two things go wrong: the British suspect that there’s a female spy at work, and she comes to care about Hudson. One of the biggest problems with the movie is its awkward shifting in tone, back and forth from serious spy story to frivolous spy story, with musical numbers and instances of irritating slapstick farce cropping up. There is some good aerial footage, and Andrews does a strip tease number, but as attractive as she is, she just doesn't cut it as a hottie or a femme fatale, whether it's her or just our perception of her. Of course, another big problem is the state of the movie musical at the time; just a couple of years after it seemed to have hit a commercial peak (My Fair Lady and Andrews' earlier films), the bottom fell out and the post-Easy Rider audience was staying away in droves. Here, most of the songs are performed on a stage, and one original song, "Whistling Away the Dark," is actually quite lovely. The DVD contains a director-approved re-cut edition, shorn of some 25 minutes (with the cut footage included as extras), but it still feels a bit too long. [DVD]

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