Friday, June 10, 2011

The Loved One

Tony Richardson, 1965, bw (8.8*)
Screenplay by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood

British director Tony Richardson, his first since best picture Tom Jones two years earlier. For my money, this is a much better comedy, far more rewatchable, still fresh today - I can't say that about Tom Jones, awards or not. Some words used to describe this are dark, cynical, twisted, macabre - but hilarious is usually in there.

The story itself is a pseudo-serious look at the heights to which some people in Hollywood have gone to perpetuate the memory of lost loved ones, both at a super lucrative human cemetary called Whispering Glades (a take on Forest Lawn?), and a smaller pet cemetary, which is working on blasting animals into space, the brain of child scientist Paul Williams.

The film obviously takes a tongue-in-cheek at all this business of death (I guess it's a true 'black comedy', lol), and manages to poke fun at capitalism as well, as we see companies of all sizes looking at ways to save money on employees while gouging the public for the maximum possible, including features in the human cemetary like perpetually flowing fountains and music (all for only a few more dollars per month, of course).

The film is made special by an excellent cast, which features John Gielgud as a retiring Hollywood star, at an age when they can't wait to rush you out the door. Robert Morse stars as a young British poet who comes to Hollywood and gets a job at the Glades. Jonathan Winters has dual roles, as a Rev. Glenworthy and his rich brother Henry. Other stars are Dana Andrews, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Margaret Leighton, Tab Hunter, Roddy McDowell, Robert Morley, Liberace, and Anjanette Comer as Morse's romantic interest, and Rod Steiger as his romantic rival, Mr. Joyboy, an embalmer; Steiger is quite funny. Perhaps working in some many cameo performances hurts the films cohesion overall, that's probably the biggest drawback here.

You have to love the tagline for this one, "The movie with something to offend everyone". It's true that nothing is sacred, but it's all done in good taste, never too over-the-top, though with the episodic nature of some of the scenes some will find it inconsistent. But that's appropriate for it's time, the mid-60's. A lot of society was dis-jointed, pun intended.

Rod Steiger actually won 1 award for his comedy performance, a Sant Jordi for "actor in a major film".

Note: of course, at the time, director Tony Richardson (photo left) was the husband of actress Vanessa Redgrave (Morgan) who sued him for divorce in 1967, naming French actress Jeanne Moreau (Elevator to the Gallows) as co-respondent. He is the father of actresses Miranda, Joely, and Natasha Richardson, who died last year following a skiing accident in Canada. Richardson himself died of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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