Friday, June 19, 2009

My Kind of Movie

There are SPOILERS in this - in case you mind that sort of thing.....

OK, what do you get when you mix Raymond Burr, Robert Mitchum, Jim Backus, Vincent Price, Jane Russell - and a boatload of money from Howard Hughes?? Well, if you add in some great writing and some great directing and some great cinematography, you get one of the most unique movies I've ever seen, called His Kind of Woman.

Mitchum puts in a great performance, and if you are a fan of his you'll love the movie just on that basis. But it's Vincent Price who really steals the show. He also has one of the best delivered lines I've ever heard. Price's character kills the bad guy (played by Raymond Burr - who actually speaks in what sounded to me like passable Italian!), and when Price describes shooting him, someone asks, "what did it feel like?", to which he replies, "I don't know. (pause, wait for it...) He didn't say."

The story is pretty simple. An evil gangster, played by Raymond Burr, has been deported from the US. He is desperate to get back into the states so he can properly oversee his business undertakings there. So he hires some nice folks to find someone who, very approximately, looks like him - and whom nobody will miss very much. Enter Robert Mitchum, who is about as down on his luck as it gets, but still requires some serious "convincing" to agree to .... well, it's a little complicated exactly what it is he agrees to. Basically he agrees to take a little all expenses paid trip to a very exclusive resort down in Mexico/Baja California. He isn't told why or for how long or much of anything else.

So he goes to this place, which is a VERY nice little resort and, of course, the bad guys have no intention of doing anything other than simply bumping him off and having Raymond Burr trade places with him, permanently.

Vincent Price offers frequent and highly effective comedic relief as a love-struck, incredibly vain actor. I swear to Gods the Master Thespian character that John Lovitz used to play on SNL is based on Prices' character in this movie! Of course the object of his love-struckness is Jane Russell. But when the going get tough, Price turns into a philosopher warrior who saves Robert Mitchum's ass, kills Raymond Burr, and, like a true knight errant, gallantly accepts the unrequitedness of his love.

Russell does fine - in fact she can really sing and does a couple of very nice numbers. But even though her boyfriend at the time, Howard Hughes, bankrolled this movie just for her, it's not really about her.

This is an extremely well made movie. It might not qualify as a great film, granted - but it is absolutely a great movie! Director John Farrow also made, and I am not making this up, a film in 1935 titled Last of the Pagans, based on Herman Melville's Typee which was sub-titled "A Real Romance of the South Seas"!!! You can read the whole book online at googlebooks here. Here is a very little snippet from the beginning of Chapter XXI, Strange Customs of the Islanders:
Sadly discursive as I have already been, I must still further entreat the reader's patience, as I am about to string together, without any attempt at order, a few odds and ends of things not hitherto mentioned, but which are either curious in themselves or peculiar to the Typees.
Writers Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard did an amazing job serving up lines for Mitchum and Price, and in holding this crazy story together. According to imdb Fenton also worked on the screenplay for another great Mitchum flick, Out of the Past, but was uncredited for that.

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