Wednesday, June 22, 2011


A pale, overlong and overly complicated CASABLANCA retread. In 1938 Paris, just before the outbreak of World War II, a refugee doctor (Charles Boyer) prowls the streets trying to stay a step ahead of the authorities and at the same time, planning to get revenge against the Nazi officer (Charles Laughton) who tortured a girlfriend of his to death. One night, he sees a young woman (Ingrid Bergman) wandering the streets, on the verge of collapse after her lover dropped dead in her hotel room. He takes care of her and introduces her to his friend, a former Russian officer (Louis Calhern) now reduced to working as a doorman. Eventually Boyer is caught and deported, and Bergman is taken in by an old lover (Stephen Bekassy). Act II picks up several months later, in the summer of '39, when Boyer works his way back to Paris where Bergman insists she doesn't love her sugar daddy, though the bitter Boyer isn't sure he believes her—and Bekassy seems loath to let her go. Boyer also meets up with Laughton, who doesn’t recognize him, and the plotlines of Boyer's revenge and Bergman's predicament cross at the climax.

The film is based on a long novel by Erich Maria Remarque, and the original cut was apparently almost as long as GONE WITH THE WIND. The existing print is a little over two hours, which is both too short and too long: too long for the Boyer/Bergman affair, which has a leisurely pace that grows tedious, and too short to give an interesting supporting cast much to do. Laughton's part has been cut down so he has almost nothing to do until the last 15 minutes. Calhern's character is colorful and interesting, and I wish he had seen more of him. Also with Curt Bois, Ruth Warrick, and in a cameo, Michael Romanoff, a famous Hollywood restauranteur of the time. The DVD is murky, but that could be because of the shadowy noir-like look of the film. [DVD]

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