Tuesday, May 12, 2015


This movie was recommended to me by a fan of bad movies, and let me tell you, this is indeed a special kind of bad. Anthony Francisosa returns from a stint in the military which he undertook specifically to get out from under the thumb of his old-fashioned Greek father (Ernest Borgnine), owner of a successful construction company who has his son's life all planned out for him. Unfortunately as soon as Tony returns, Ernie is all over him, expressing his parental love in a grotesque, smothering, almost physical way. Before he lets Tony in the house, he makes the family (mom and sexy sister) and the gardener literally get down on their knees and give thanks that Tony is back safe and sound—this over-the-top scene is played with a bit of a wink (the reactions of Tony and the gardener), but sadly, the rest of the movie's melodrama seems intended to be taken seriously. Ernie wants to pair Tony off with the daughter of a business associate, but during a night on the town, Tony meets the luscious Gina Lollobrigida and they hit it off, so much so that he spends the night. What he doesn't know is that Gina is a high-priced call girl who's been with practically every high roller in town, including his father. The rest of the movie charts the ups and downs in Tony and Gina's relationship to its ludicrous ending.

This is faux-Tennessee Williams or William Inge territory, a psychological dysfunctional family soap opera which might have worked better with a more subtle director. The screenplay is no great shakes, but the acting is terrible and I blame the director, Ranald MacDougall, because all these actors are capable of much better. Franciosa is too butch and hearty to be playing a maladjusted daddy's boy; Lollobrigida is all over the map, not knowing how to handle her character's mood swings. The mother (Nancy R. Pollock) is barely a character. And worst of all is Borgnine, who gives an obnoxiously operatic performance that never, for a moment, feels real, all shrieking and in-your-face; even when he calms down, he's grating, and I can't imagine why this man's family hadn't deserted him years ago. The ending is so bad and creepy; I want to talk about it but it really shouldn't be spoiled. Suffice to say it's a bizarre downer that I didn't quite see coming. Two quotes will give a good idea of the overheated dialogue. Ernie to Tony, about Gina's career: "Love is love, but we’re talkin' about rent"; Gina,when Tony asks her how many men she's had: "Why count the waves in the ocean?" Indeed. [TCM]

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