Sunday, May 01, 2011


Mia Farrow is a waifish young girl whose mother has recently died, leaving her alone in a large house in London, theoretically in the care of two aunts whose idea of care is to visit her occasionally and steal knick-knacks. One day on the bus, Farrow sees Elizabeth Taylor, a lonely, high-class prostitute who bears a resemblance to Farrow's mother. Taylor has her own sorrow, having lost her daughter through an accidental drowning. Farrow follows Taylor around like a puppy, insisting that Taylor is her mother. When she sees how the girl lives, Taylor takes on the persona of the mother; at first, she seems inclined to behave like the aunts and steal some of Farrow's riches, but soon she begins to feel real compassion for her, as though they truly were mother and daughter. Soon, however, Farrow's possibly incestuous stepfather (Robert Mitchum) arrives, to seduce (or re-seduce) Farrow, and maybe Taylor while he's at it. Eventually, Farrow claims to be pregnant--with Mitchum the presumed father--but Taylor discovers that she has been stuffing a doll in her dress to look as though she was with child. What happens in the last 15 minutes results in two deaths and allows the murderous survivor to get away scot free.

This is a crazy movie, not quite camp, which might have worked better as a play. Farrow and Taylor are incredibly mannered in the first 20 minutes or so (much of which plays out with very little dialogue), the fault I assume of the director, Joseph Losey, who may have felt he was doing something avant-garde; if this was made today, it wouldn't be a star-driven film but a moody independent film (with a pre-jail Lindsay Lohan and a post-"Single Man" Julianne Moore, maybe). The movie looks great, with interesting use of color and good sets. Unfortunately, the bizarre acting and confused plotting work against this as effective entertainment. For 60s film buffs only. [TCM]

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