Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution (1982) Review

In my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review, I mentioned finding Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. During that trip on IMDB, I found another film I could review for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. As the title of this review says, that movie is the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Witness for the Prosecution! I’ve gone on record to state how I’d like to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as realistically possible. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever see Witness for the Prosecution. That’s because the film not only didn’t receive a DVD release, but it doesn’t seem to have received a VHS release either. So, imagine my shock when I found the full movie on Youtube! Mysteries are, arguably, the most popular genre on my blog. This is also not the first time I’ve reviewed an Agatha Christie adaptation. Back in April, I wrote about the 2022 film, Death on the Nile. In that review, I said the movie had a weaker execution than its 2017 predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express. How will Witness for the Prosecution fare against these aforementioned adaptations? All rise, as this review is now in session!

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution poster created by CBS Entertainment Production, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Rosemont Productions, and United Artists Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Diana Rigg is one of the eligible Bond Girls for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. Therefore, I will talk about her performance first. In Witness for the Prosecution, Diana portrayed Christine Vole, the wife of the accused party. Throughout the film, she carried her character as a woman from stories in the 1920s. What I mean by this is Christine held her own with confidence, never shaken by the probing of those involved in the legal side of the case. Even when she took the stand, Christine adopted a serious demeanor, as if putting on a “poker face” and refusing to show her deck of cards too early. These acting choices and the consistency of her performance allowed Diana to pull off a captivating and memorable portrayal!

Deborah Kerr is an actress I’ve talked about before on 18 Cinema Lane. While I have seen and reviewed five of her films, none of them were from the mystery genre. Despite this, Deborah held her own, acting wise, among the cast! She portrays Nurse Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution. While watching the 1982 production, her performance reminded me a bit of Donna Reed’s portrayal of Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life. Nurse Plimsoll cares about the health and well-being of the film’s protagonist, Sir Wilfred Robarts. Though Wilfred finds her overall nursing approach annoying, Nurse Plimsoll doesn’t give up on her mission. Even though she is stricter on other on-screen nurses, her heart is always in the right place. This can be seen through Deborah’s facial expressions, body language, and emotions.

Even though the cast as a whole was strong, there was one performance that stole the show. This came from Beau Bridges! Witness for the Prosecution shows Beau portraying an American named Leonard. Because his case is presented in a British/U.K. court system, he is a “fish out of water”. The situation itself provides an interesting dynamic for the cast, including Beau, to work with. It also gave Beau an opportunity to utilize a variety of emotions. During the case, one of the witnesses causes Leonard to have an emotional reaction. At the start of the witness’ questioning, Leonard presents a calm “resting face”. But as the questioning continues, he slowly becomes sadder, adopting a growing frown and his eyes filling with tears. This transformation was gradual, allowing Beau to adapt to the on-screen situation.

The set design: The majority of Witness for the Prosecution takes place within a British/U.K. court room. Despite the limited locations, there were some examples of set design that I liked! Inside the court room, the ceiling was domed, with clear glass exposing a view of the sky. Surrounding the dome are etched, white arches. With a green light shown on these arches, they gave the appearance of boasting an antique limestone material, which complimented the dark wood of the court room’s walls and furniture. In the lobby of the court room, painted murals are shown near the ceiling. The lobby’s walls appear to be covered in a two-tone marble material, with the floor revealing a black-and-white tile design. My favorite set in Witness for the Prosecution was Wilfred’s office! The room’s color scheme was brown, beige, and red. When this set was first introduced, a large, dark wood bookcase proudly stood. It was guarded by a dark wood table and two dark brown armchairs. While the walls were beige, the curtains on the window were red, giving the room a pop of color. The more time Wilfred spent in this space, the more the sophisticated, professional, and intelligent appearance of the office complimented his personality.

An in-depth look at the British/U.K. court system: As I mentioned in my point about the film’s set design, the majority of this story takes place in a British/U.K. court room. That part of the movie exposed the audience to the British/U.K. court system. Even though Witness for the Prosecution is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to this specific court system’s portrayal in entertainment media, it gives viewers a chance to compare and contrast it to other court systems in other productions. The layout of the court room itself provides one example. Toward the front of the court room, the witness stand is located at the judge’s right-hand side. This part of the court room is separate from the judge’s stand. Meanwhile, in court room productions taking place in the United States, the witness stand can either be located at the judge’s left or right-hand side. It is also connected to the judge’s stand.  

The Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon banner created by Gabriela from Pale Writer and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

The magical monocle: While working on the case, Wilfred wore a monocle when he was questioning the accused party and his wife. As he questioned them, a light shone through the monocle and directly landed on Leonard and Christine. But these were the only two times Wilfred used the magical monocle. The purpose of the monocle or Wilfred’s reason for using it was never explained. Was this monocle truly magical or was the monocle used as foreshadowing? I wish this part of Wilfred’s character was more consistent.

A dialogue heavy story: With any movie or tv show episode featuring a court case, there’s going to be a certain amount of dialogue within the story. But because Witness for the Prosecution mostly revolved around a court case, the 1982 production feels more dialogue heavy compared to Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. Before watching Witness for the Prosecution, I had expected more showing than telling when it came to the mystery. Instead of watching the characters making discoveries related to the mystery, I heard about it through the questioning in court. Because of this creative decision, I didn’t find the movie’s mystery as engaging as it could have been.

An inactive detective: In a story where a detective, amateur or professional, is the protagonist, the audience expects to see this character actively solve their respective film’s mystery. Sadly, the viewers won’t witness that in Witness for the Prosecution. Wilfred is a lawyer defending Leonard in his case. However, Wilfred places more emphasis in resolving the case than playing detective. Even though this movie’s mystery was solved, it felt like Wilfred was served the answer on a silver platter instead of discovering it himself. Similar to what I said about the dialogue-heavy story, I didn’t find the mystery engaging because of Wilfred’s inactive detective role.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution shares a similar plot with 1997’s Red Corner: an American man is accused of murder, with his case in a court system outside of the United States. But where Red Corner succeeded and Witness for the Prosecution didn’t is how Shen, Jack’s lawyer in Red Corner, not only played a role in the court case, but also went above and beyond in attempting to solve the mystery surrounding the case. This allowed Red Corner’s story to be intriguing and engaging for the audience. With the 1982 production, Wilfred spends more time on the court case than the mystery wrapped around it. This decreases the audience’s engagement. The dialogue heavy nature of Witness for the Prosecution’s story also affected the mystery’s intrigue. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation is the third Agatha Christie adaptation I’ve seen, which I wasn’t overly thrilled with. I still want to, one day, read her literary work. But based on my reactions to the three adaptations I have watched so far, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll find an Agatha Christie story I like?

Overall score: 6.1-6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Agatha Christie’s adaptations? Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Sundowners (1960) Review

Here at 18 Cinema Lane, I try to go out of my way to watch, and review, as many film recommendations as possible. In fact, I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to these recommendations. Two years ago, when I reviewed Marriage on the Rocks, Maddy, from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, suggested I check out the 1960 picture, The Sundowners. Shortly after Debbie, from Moon in Gemini, invited me to her Foreign Western Blogathon, I finally found an opportunity to write about the movie! The Sundowners fits two of the four blogathon categories: ‘directed by foreign directors’ and ‘shot in a foreign country’. According to IMDB, the film’s director, Fred Zinnemann, is from Austria-Hungary. The movie was also filmed in Australia, where the story takes place. Foreign westerns are not a new concept on 18 Cinema Lane. Neither are Australian films. Within the four years of my movie blogging journey, I reviewed Another Man, Another Chance, Interrupted Melody, and Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango. If you’re interested, I’ll provide the links to these reviews toward the beginning of this article.

Take 3: Another Man, Another Chance Review

Take 3: Interrupted Melody Review

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango Review

The Sundowners (1960) poster created by Warner Bros.

Things I liked about the film:

The cinematography: Like I said in the introduction, The Sundowners was filmed in Australia. The movie’s creative team took advantage of the country’s natural surroundings through cinematography! One long shot showcased Australia’s farmlands. What made this shot beautiful were the rays of sunlight showering over the green landscape, offering a light only nature could provide. The cinematography also did a good job putting things into perspective. During a forest fire, Ida is driving her family’s wagon away from the forest. While this maneuver is taking place, the camera is situated inside the back of the wagon. It looks out toward the road, giving the audience the illusion they are riding in the wagon with Ida.

Higher stakes: When I reviewed Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango last year, I talked about low stakes being one of the film’s biggest flaws. In The Sundowners, higher stakes were featured in a few scenes! A notable example is the forest fire I previously mentioned. While the Carmody family is herding sheep, a nearby forest fire breaks out. This leads all the characters to be in danger. The scene chronicled the entire process of the fire, starting from the detection of smoke and ending in the fire’s aftermath. Cut-away shots of scared wildlife are spliced into the story, emphasizing the other lives in harm’s way. Dramatic music can be heard in the background, elevating the sense of urgency. With all these elements combined, this scene was the perfect example of the higher stakes I expect from a western film!

The historical accuracy: With any “period film”, the historical accuracy can make or break that production. In the case of The Sundowners, the story takes place in the 1920s. From the looks of it, the 1960 project appears historical accurate! The forms of transportation are one indicator. While the Carmody family is working on the sheep farm, the employees sometimes rode in antique trucks with open beds. At least one motorcycle is featured in the story, revealing exposed gears and a model very different from the motorcycles of today. A covered wagon is the preferred vehicle of the Carmody family, with Paddy and Sean riding horses on a few occasions. This aspect of the film’s historical accuracy reminded me of a production like The Grapes of Wrath.

The Foreign Western Blogathon banner created by Debbie from Moon in Gemini

What I didn’t like about the film:

A “slice of life” story: Westerns, like any genre, contain a wide range of narratives. If given the choice, I’d rather watch a western with, at least, one conflict instead of a story that’s more “slice of life”. Unfortunately, the majority of The Sundowners is a “slice of life” story. The script primarily focuses on the daily operations of sheep farming. At first, this topic was interesting. But as the film carried on, the elements of sheep farming became repetitive. Had this movie contained one or two major conflicts, I might have found this story more intriguing.

Lack of Irish accents: According to Wikipedia, the Carmody family is Irish, a fact Sean tells Rupert early in the film. Michael Anderson Jr., Robert Mitchum, and Deborah Kerr must have missed that detail in the script, as none of them could successfully carry an Irish accent. Throughout The Sundowners, Deborah sounded like she was speaking in a British accent. Meanwhile, Robert and Michael sounded Australian. I don’t think Robert, Deborah, and Michael are bad actors. In fact, pulling off any accent can be a difficult skill to master. However, their lack of Irish accents was, for me, jarring.

The run-time: The Sundowners contains a straight-forward story about a family searching for employment in order to afford a place of their own. With that said, I found it unnecessary for the film’s run-time to be two hours and thirteen minutes. Some scenes felt drawn out in an attempt to satisfy this run-time, the shearing contest Paddy enters being one example. That scene lasts about five minutes, even though it could have only featured the most exciting parts of the contest. If scenes like that one had been cut shorter, the movie could have had a run-time of about an hour and thirty minutes.

A “bait and switch” ending: In my review of 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum, I incorporated spoilers to explain my thoughts on a specific portion of the movie. Similarly, I will be including spoilers in this part of my review. If you haven’t seen The Sundowners, please skip this part and continue reading where it states “My overall impression”.

As I stated earlier in this review, The Sundowners contains a straight-forward story. I also stated how the movie is two hours and thirteen minutes. Within that run-time, the Carmody family receives the funds to afford a farm that was featured toward the beginning of the film. All seems to be going well until the last ten minutes in the story. While in a drunken state, Paddy makes several I-O-Us, losing the family’s finances in the process. In an attempt to earn back some of those funds, the family enters their race-horse, Sundowner, in an upcoming horse race. Not only does Sundowner and Sean win the race, Paddy also wins a bet. Even though they have enough money to make a down payment on the aforementioned farm, Ida changes her mind, saying Paddy can keep the race horse instead. This statement contradicts Ida’s goal throughout the movie; getting a place to put down roots. Moments later, an announcement declares Sundowner is disqualified from the race due to a pass interference. This means the Carmody family lost all the money they just won. The movie ends exactly how it begins; with the family on the road looking for employment and a place to stay. If I had known the story would end this way, I wouldn’t have become invested in the Carmody family’s ordeal.

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When it comes to film-making, one of the worst things you can do is waste the audience’s time. The way I feel about The Sundowners is similar to how I felt about The Birds; like I truly wasted two hours and thirteen minutes. I understand circumstances in western films aren’t always fair. Heck, life itself is sometimes unfair. But what is also not fair is giving your characters and audience hope for two hours, then taking that hope away in the film’s last ten minutes. With the way The Sundowners turned out for me, it almost seemed like history repeated itself. As I mentioned in this review, I wrote about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Durango last year. That 1999 presentation was a foreign western I didn’t like. Both Durango and The Sundowners have one thing in common. Even though there were things about each film I liked, they contained a weak script. A script is the foundation of any cinematic production. If it isn’t strong, there’s only so much you can do to remedy the issue. Before I end this review, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against foreign westerns or Australian cinema. I’m confident there are stellar Australian and foreign western pictures I haven’t seen yet. Unfortunately, The Sundowners isn’t one of them.

Overall score: 4.7 out of 10

Have you watched any foreign westerns? If so, which ones would you recommend? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Presenting the Gold Sally Awards’ Best Actor and Actress Polls

It’s that time of year again; time to choose the best actor and actress of this year’s Gold Sally Awards! Like I stated before, these polls will run together. But voting for this round will only take place within a week’s time. It will start today, on March 8th, and end on Tuesday, March 15th. Even though you can only vote once per person, you can vote for more than one nominee. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘PollMaker’.

 

Who is the Best Actor of 2021?

 

1. Ralph Macchio — The Karate Kid (1984)
2. Gene Kelly — The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. Campbell Scott — The Love Letter
4. Raymond Burr — Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Marshall Williams — Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Joseph Paur — Rigoletto
7. Jeremy Jordan — Holly and Ivy
8. Yul Brynner — The King and I (1956)
9. Fredric March — A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Jesse Metcalfe– Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Created with PollMaker
Who is the Best Actress of 2021?

 

1. Elisabeth Shue — The Karate Kid (1984)
2. Lana Turner — The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. Jennifer Jason Leigh — The Love Letter
4. Barbara Hale — Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Natalie Hall — Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Ivey Lloyd — Rigoletto
7. Janel Parrish — Holly and Ivy
8. Deborah Kerr — The King and I (1956)
9. Janet Gaynor — A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Sarah Lind — Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Created with PollMaker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

For the Fourth Broadway Bound Blogathon, I chose to review the 1956 version of The King and I! Years ago, I had seen the 1999 animated adaptation of the musical. Since I vaguely remember it, I can’t provide an honest opinion of that movie. Because I had only seen pieces of the 1956 film and because it was recommended to me by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, I now found a good excuse to finally check the film out! While I knew the play itself was successful, I was surprised to discover it had won a Tony award. As this year’s blogathon focuses on Tony winners, it gave me an opportunity to learn something new. This is one of the reasons why I love participating in blogathons! Now, let’s start this review of 1956’s The King and I!

The King and I (1956) poster created by 20th Century-Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Deborah Kerr is a dramatic actress, as her strengths can be seen in drama films. Because there were plenty of dramatic moments in The King and I, this allowed the best of Deborah’s acting abilities to be placed on display! In scenes that allowed Anna to stand up to King Mongkut, Deborah adopts a serious persona without any sarcasm. Her tone of voice is stern, while also standing up straight and looking directly at King Mongkut. Because there were light-hearted moments as well, it gave Deborah an opportunity to incorporate humor into her performance. This balance made the role suit Deborah well! This is the first time I had ever seen any of Yul Brynner’s performances. However, I was quite impressed by his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam! Similar to Deborah Kerr’s role, there was a good balance of drama and comedy. In a scene where King Mongkut is talking to his son about what he learned in school, Yul speaks with a serious tone of voice. He also moved around the set with a posture that reflects his character’s royal power. However, when he introduced Anna to his children, King Mongkut would make silly faces in order to get them to smile. Before watching The King and I, the only film of Rita Moreno’s I had seen is West Side Story. Because of this, it was interesting to see Rita work with different material. While Anita, Rita’s character in West Side Story, is sassy and confident, Tuptim is more reserved and sensitive. When Rita didn’t have speaking lines, facial expressions and body language helped convey what Tuptim was thinking. As I liked her portrayal of Tuptim, it makes me wish Rita had appeared in more scenes.

The musical numbers: A musical is only as good as its musical numbers. With The King and I, I found the musical numbers to be entertaining! The most interesting one is the Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Because Tuptim is reading a copy Anna gave her, she decides to write a play based on her own version of the novel. This particular number features traditional dancing, stylized face masks, and practical effects, such as a white sheet representing ice. It served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The rest of the musical numbers in The King and I ranged from dramatic to comedic. One of them is ‘Getting to Know You’. In this scene, Anna dances with one of King Mongkut’s wives. Some of the children circled around their mother in order to mimic Anna’s skirt. This was a simple way humor was incorporated into some of the musical numbers.

The costume design: The King and I is known for being an elaborate musical, with elegance being found within the costume design. Bright colors were worn by almost all the characters. In a scene where Anna is introduced to King Mongkut’s children, the children’s outfits featured hues of pink, red, and green. The members of the royal family sometimes wore plaid, which complimented the rich color palette of the movie. Metals like gold could also be seen in the royal family’s attire. Some of King Mongkut’s jackets featured gold embroidery, a reminder of his wealth and affluence. Bronze coated the children’s headpieces as well. With the costume design being so exquisite, I wonder how much of this movie’s budget was devoted to it?

The Fourth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Rita Moreno: As I mentioned earlier, the only film of Rita’s I had seen is West Side Story. Therefore, I was looking forward to seeing her performance in The King and I. I was disappointed to see Rita’s talents under-utilized. In this two hour and thirteen-minute movie, Rita appeared in a handful of scenes. While she did participate in the story’s musical components, she was only given one duet and the narration during the Uncle Tom’s Cabin play. I understand The King and I was released five years before West Side Story. But if the 1961 film has taught me anything, it’s how Rita is, talent wise, capable of so much more.

Drawn out storylines: The storylines in The King and I were drawn out because of the film’s two hour and thirteen-minute run-time. King Mongkut’s story, where he attempts to save his reputation, is one example. For about half the movie, King Mongkut wants to prevent other world leaders from thinking he is “barbaric”. Since this particular storyline lasted for so long, the resolution/payoff was fine, but somewhat anti-climactic. Lun Tha and Tuptim’s storyline took place throughout the whole movie. However, by the end of the film, it was left unresolved. It makes me wonder if it would have been resolved if The King and I’s run-time had been shorter?

Songs interrupting the story: In a typical musical, the musical numbers help progress the story forward. But in The King and I, the musical numbers interrupt the over-arching story, causing the transition between story and song to feel less seamless. After an elegant party at the palace, King Mongkut discovers Tuptim is missing. King Mongkut’s search is disrupted by Anna singing ‘Shall We Dance?’. This then turns into a private dance between Anna and King Mongkut, which is interrupted by a guard. The guard informs King Mongkut that Tuptim has been found. Moments like this one cause the story to pause for the sake of a musical number.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, I have seen four of Deborah Kerr’s movies. Out of those titles, I’d say The King and I is her best one! As I said in my review, the material complimented her acting abilities. There was enough drama to show off her strengths, while also having enough comedy to let Deborah have fun with the role. The film gave me a chance to see interesting performances and musical numbers, from Rita’s portrayal of Tuptim to a Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The exquisite costume design and sets are definitely photogenic, highlighting the wealth and power within the royal family. Even though the movie as a whole is good, there are musicals I would choose over it. The songs interrupting the story instead of progressing it forward is one reason why I feel this way. I’ve heard Anna and the King is a non-musical version of this particular story, so I’d be interested in seeing how lack of musical numbers affects the overall story-telling. I’d also be interested in watching Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner’s other film, The Journey.

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on The King and I? Which version is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun on Broadway!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison Review

Easter is just around the corner. Because of this, Pure Entertainment Preservation Society is hosting The Faith in Film Blogathon! This event has given me the perfect opportunity to review Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, which was recommended to me by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Since the movie features a Nun as one of the main characters, I knew there would be some religious themes within this script. However, I have never seen this film before, so I didn’t know what these themes would be. Choosing Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison also gave me an excuse to watch more movies from Deborah Kerr’s filmography. So, let’s start this review to see where this film ranks!

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison poster created by 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are the only two actors in this movie’s main cast, those are the only two performances I will be discussing in this review. This is the third film of Deborah Kerr’s I’ve seen, with the previous two being Edward, My Son and Marriage on the Rocks. The one consistent part of Deborah’s acting abilities is how she uses emotions and expressions to her advantage. This allows her to make each of her roles seem well-rounded! While Sister Angela, Deborah’s character, and Mr. Allison are fishing, Mr. Allison tries to catch a turtle with a tool he built himself. When Mr. Allison falls into the ocean, Sister Angela appears shocked and horrified, as the situation happened so quickly. Later in the film, Sister Angela and Mr. Allison are discussing their plans if they leave the island. As Mr. Allison is talking about how he has grown closer to Sister Angela, tears can be seen forming in Sister Angela’s eyes. Deborah’s face in that scene said so much more than dialogue could. Robert Mitchum is an actor I’ve heard of, but am not familiar with. Even though I have seen pieces of El Dorado and Scrooged, I don’t remember his performance in those projects. As I watched his portrayal of the titular character, it appeared as a combination of the laid-back personality of Clark Gable and the tough persona of John Wayne. But for Robert, his eyes contained emotion throughout his performance. As Sister Angela falls ill, you can tell Mr. Allison is genuinely concerned for her. Robert’s eyes are what worked in his favor, as they held a sense of sympathy for Sister Angela and longing for her well-being. The first scene of this movie contained no dialogue, as it focused on Mr. Allison’s reaction when he first arrives on the island. Because of this, Robert had to rely on his facial expressions and body language to explain what his character was going through. I found these creative decisions gave the film a good first impression, as it brought some realism to this story!

The scenery: According to IMDB, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was filmed in Trinidad and Tobago. Even though the location is not specified in the film, the scenery made the movie very photogenic! There is so much foliage to be seen, from the tall palm trees to the smaller bushes. The ocean boasted a consistent shade of blue, which was definitely appealing to the eye. Sandy beaches and dark brown rocks complete the natural look this space had to offer. Based on appearances alone, this island looked inviting!

The parallels between the religious order and the Marines: Within Mr. Allison and Sister Angela’s conversations, parallels between the Marines and the religious order are brought up. One of the them is discussed while they are building a sail for their raft. Sister Angela addresses the preparations she had to go through in order to become a Nun. She even talks about one mentor within the religious order she wasn’t a fan of. Meanwhile, Mr. Allison shares his basic training before he officially became a Marine. He also brings up a drill Sergeant that he didn’t like. I never thought about these parallels until I saw this film, so I like how this story was somewhat thought-provoking. The parallels between the religious order and the Marines also showed how Sister Angela and Mr. Allison were similar than they first realized.

The Faith in Film Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The limited presence of faith: While I did like seeing the parallels between the religious order and the Marines, I was disappointed by how limited faith’s presence was. Before watching Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, I expected faith to be a cornerstone of this story, similar to films like Ben-Hur. Because the movie takes place during World War II, a correlation with the David and Goliath story would make sense. Seeing one of the characters question their faith or have their faith tested would be appropriate, given their circumstances. But faith in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was served in small doses.

A basic conflict: In movies, television shows, or books, I like conflicts that contain more depth. But the conflicts in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison were more basic than I hoped. In theory, the idea of a Marine and a Nun surviving on an abandoned island sounds interesting. But as the story progresses, the conflict is the same as other films of this nature. Even when Japanese soldiers invade the island, survival is still a major conflict. Because of everything I mentioned, few new ideas were brought to this particular table.

Lack of resolution: At one point in the film, Sister Angela explains to Mr. Allison how some women change their minds when it comes to the religious order. Several scenes later, Mr. Allison tries to dissuade Sister Angela from taking her final vows by telling her he loves her. She even starts to weigh her options when it came to her future. However, we never find out what her final decision was. A brief explanation in the script would be solved this problem. But because this explanation was nowhere to be found, a sense of closure was missing.

Cute Easter image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a fine movie. Even though I found it better than Edward, My Son and Marriage on the Rocks, I was expecting more from this third film. I was hoping faith would have a bigger role in the story, especially since Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was released two years before Ben-Hur. However, as I said in my review, faith was served in small doses. The conflict itself was typical for a movie that involves characters being stranded on an island. Because I like conflicts with more depth, this creative decision was disappointing. But the movie did have its strengths, such as the acting and the thought-provoking parallels. With all this said, this is a film I would still recommend to older viewers just in time for Easter!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Robert Mitchum’s or Deborah Kerr’s films? If so, which ones would you recommend? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Marriage on the Rocks Review

When Maddy, from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, announced her 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon, I was eager to participate! I had reviewed Edward, My Son last February, so I was familiar with who Deborah is as an actress. Originally, I was going to review Black Narcissus. But due to technical difficulties with my DVR, I chose to write about Marriage on the Rocks instead. The idea of a struggling couple working through their problems in Mexico sounded like an interesting concept for a comedy. I was curious to see what effect this particular location would have on the aforementioned couple and how they would be transformed along the way. Also, I haven’t reviewed a comedy in a little while, so I thought it would be a good idea to expand the cinematic horizons of 18 Cinema Lane. Since this is my first blogathon in 2020, let the review for Marriage on the Rocks begin!

Marriage on the Rocks poster
Marriage on the Rocks poster created by A-C Productions, Sinatra Enterprises, and Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/24787/Marriage-on-the-Rocks/#.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This is the second acting performance of Deborah Kerr’s I have seen (the first was from the movie, Edward, My Son). What I’ve noticed about both performances is how much effort she puts into her roles. Even if the movie itself doesn’t hold up, Deborah still puts every piece of acting talent she has into each of her characters. In her role as Valerie Edwards, she was very expressive with her facial expressions and actions. This added to the memorability of her performance! Marriage on the Rocks is the first movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve ever seen. While I am familiar with Frank as a singer, I had never seen any of his acting performances before. The most notable aspect of Frank’s portrayal of Dan Edwards was how at ease he was in this role. His performing experiences related to stage presentations and programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as prior movie experience, seemed to work in his favor when it came to his performance in Marriage on the Rocks! The aforementioned film is also the first time I have seen Caesar Romero act in a movie. I liked his performance because of how lively and energetic it was. It was also consistent throughout the movie, just like the performances from the rest of the cast!

 

Ernie Brewer’s house: The house of Ernie Brewer, portrayed by Dean Martin, was featured in the film on several occasions. Despite the living room being the only shown part of the house, I really liked the architecture within this space! When characters enter the house, they and viewers are greeted by walls and columns of exposed stone. As characters walk into the living room, they will come face-to-face with the room’s most prominent feature: the fire pit in the center of the room. Another fantastic element of this space is the wrap-around deck. While the deck itself is featured in only one scene, it serves the purpose of giving characters and viewers a perfect view of the ocean. Whether this location is a real-life home or a pre-constructed set, it definitely could make almost anyone want those elements as part of their own living space!

 

The opening credits: Sometimes, creative teams will come up with interesting ways to present their film’s opening credits. Marriage on the Rocks is a perfect example of this. Throughout this segment of the movie, stick figure cartoons can be seen next to people’s names and roles within the project. These stick figures were not only given to the cast, but also to the crew. When the director was introduced in the credits, he was given his own stick figure, which presented him sitting in a director’s chair. I found this to be a cute and creative way to grab the audience’s attention before the official start of the film!

2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon banner
The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/announcing-the-2nd-deborah-kerr-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Comedy that was barely funny: On IMDB, Marriage on the Rocks is classified as a comedy. However, as I was watching this film, I found myself laughing only four times. Like I’ve said before, comedy is subjective. But, for me, I don’t find dysfunctionality to be hilarious. Also, the jokes themselves go on for too long. It feels like the screenwriter was having difficulty finding the punchline. There are also no breaks from the comedy, which made these jokes seem like run-on sentences. Personally, I found this aspect of the film to be an unenjoyable part to my movie-viewing experience.

 

The movie’s view on marriage and divorce: I watch movies to be entertained. While I appreciate a good message/lesson within a cinematic story, that’s not what compels me to watch any particular film. In Marriage on the Rocks, however, the overarching view on marriage and divorce made me feel uncomfortable. I personally feel that starting or ending a romantic relationship should not be taken lightly. This movie would say otherwise, portraying these two aforementioned concepts like they are effortless. Even the way most of the characters talk about marriage and divorce is concerning. One example is how David Edwards sees divorce as a way to manipulate his parents into giving him anything he wants. There were a few characters in this movie whose views were different from the overarching ones the film itself adopts. But, for most of the film, these characters are looked down upon. All the things I talked about made the views of the movie seem one-sided and skewed.

 

Problems that almost never get resolved: While watching Marriage on the Rocks, I could tell the screenwriter was trying to adopt a “comedy of errors” kind of story. But if any screenwriter is going to write a script with this kind of comedy, they need to remember that the errors have to reach a resolution. In this film, the majority of these errors don’t achieve a satisfying solution. In the rare case when one does, other problems arise because of it. The Hallmark movie, Holiday Date, is a great example of how this type of story can be executed well. In the 2019 release, the male and female protagonist experience a series of mishaps while visiting her family for Christmas. Despite this, they always found a solution that made everyone happy. Unfortunately, this never happens in Marriage on the Rocks. If anything, it made the characters’ situations even more complicated.

 

A drawn-out story: According to IMDB, Marriage on the Rocks is an hour and forty-nine minutes. To me, though, it felt like the movie was three hours. The problem here is how drawn-out the story is. This script takes a simple sounding concept and makes a bigger deal out of it than necessary. The narrative of this film could have been either a mini-series or a short film. This would have allowed the necessary plot points to be reached sooner and the script to be tighter. When I look back on it, there were things that happened in this movie just to satisfy the film’s run-time. The ongoing “second honeymoon” joke is a good example of what I’m talking about.

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Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review Marriage on the Rocks, I thought this would be a comedic version of Expecting a Miracle. While I haven’t seen the 2009 released Hallmark film, I’m aware of what the story is about. Unfortunately, Marriage on the Rocks was not even close to what I expected. Yes, there were things about it that I liked. Ernie Brewer’s house is just one example. But, for me, this movie contained more negatives than positives. As I said in my review, the movie’s view on marriage and divorce is one of the biggest missteps this project took. I didn’t find it to be funny or entertaining, just one-sided and out of touch. Later this month, I’ll be reviewing another Frank Sinatra picture called High Society. Hopefully that one will be more enjoyable than Marriage on the Rocks was. Despite the fact it’s only the beginning of the year, I think I found a contender for worst film of 2020.

 

Overall score: 4.7 out of 10

 

Have you seen Marriage on the Rocks? Do you have a favorite film from Deborah Kerr’s filmography? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen