Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On TCM: Not a Dream adaptation

TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" unearthed the flat-footed 1966 version of Norman Mailer's high-strung An American Dream, a nominee for Best Song (Johnny Mandel's "A Time for Love"). I suspect the writer was singing the blues over how this one turned out, a film that needed the nervous urgency of a John Frankenheimer but instead got a director of TV shows (Robert Gist) to shepherd a cast of TV familiars, or soon-to-be TV familiars (Stuart Whitman, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Murray Hamilton, Warren Stevens, J.D. Cannon, Paul Mantee, and in smaller parts Harold Gould and George Takei), on TV production value sets--it's like a more posh 70s TV movie, or an impoverished Ross Hunter or Joseph E. Levine feature. Whitman is an anti-cop, anti-mob TV pundit who lets his shrewish heiress wife (the underrated Eleanor Parker, vivid as always) plunge to her death following a brawl on their penthouse balcony, with staging that reminded me of the final fight in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (and, it must be said, a memorably awful, though bloodless, finish 30 floors down). This puts the cops and the mob on his tail, with Janet Leigh (with cropped platinum blonde hair) as a former flame who now flickers for the Cosa Nostra. The effect, with most of the actors leadenly intoning hard-boiled dialogue, is more like The Oscar than Mailer--but that has its own appeal, and if the beautiful letterboxed (1.85:1) print shown turns up in the Warner Archive (it was a WB release) I'd consider it. Trivia for Hammer fans: This was the first of the two films the lovely Susan Denberg appeared in, the other being Frankenstein Created Woman.

And what do you know...two days after posting this on the Mobius Home Video Forum it did turn up in the Warner Archive. Still considering it, but love the noir porn box art, under its original title, featuring Parker. Was it really exhibited somewhere as See You In Hell Darling? Was the retitling Mailer's idea?

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