Reflections In A Golden Eye

1967, Movie, NR, 109 mins

Review

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A weird picture based on a slim novel by Carson McCullers, this movie fails to engender any sympathy or interest due to several miscalculations. Brando plays his Southern soldier role as though he has a mouthful of corn pone, Taylor tries to re-create the screaming shrillness of "Martha" in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, and the picture is shot in muted color so it almost seems sepia or black and white. Later prints were made in full color, but it didn't make much difference as this story has little to recommend it. Although ostensibly about the South, Taylor insisted it be shot in Rome--and so it was, at Dino Di Laurentiis' studios. (Lest you think that's odd, remember that Taylor demanded that THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN, a Las Vegas story, be made in Paris.) She intended to make it with Montgomery Clift as her costar, but he died a couple of months before filming was to begin. Burton and Lee Marvin were approached to play the repressed homosexual; both refused, so she got Brando. Their predicted box-office dynamite wound up as a dud. Brando is a major in the Army married to Taylor and stationed at a remote base in 1948. While she is a woman with strong sexual drives, he pays no sexual attention to her as he is impotent and a latent homosexual who masks his effeminate tendencies with a martinet attitude toward his underlings. Despite living in such a confined area, Taylor makes no bones about the affair she is carrying on with neighbor Keith, a bird colonel, who is married to Harris, a woman on the edge of total psychosis. When Harris gave birth to a deformed child, her response was to snip off her own nipples with a pair of scissors. She has stopped trying to win back her husband and spends most of her time in the companionship of her houseboy, David, an apparently gay young man. (David was a New York City hairdresser making his film debut.) Forster is a young private who has been assigned to tend Taylor's favorite horse. He is also unique in that he enjoys naked bareback riding, peeking into windows, and playing with female underwear. (Forster had scored in the Broadway show "Mrs. Daily Has a Lover" and was making his first appearance in movies.) He likes to sneak around the Brando-Taylor home in the early morning hours, gazing at Taylor as she sleeps and playing with her underthings. Brando spies Forster riding nude and can't hide his sexual interest, following him on the sly and watching him sunbathe au naturel. Harris sees Forster slip into the next-door home one night, watches him looking at Taylor asleep and toying with her "Teddies," then goes slightly mad and tells Keith she wants a divorce. She intends to leave the post with the only man she has any relationship with, David. Keith has her thrown into a mental hospital where she dies of a heart attack. Forster comes back to the Brando-Taylor home in a rainstorm, and Brando spots him and happily believes that Forster has come to have a homosexual experience. When Forster bypasses Brando's room and walks into Taylor's, Brando walks into the bedroom and shoots Forster dead. Taylor wakes up screaming, the camera whips from Taylor to Brando to Forster until one's head spins, and the picture ends.

Definitely not a plot for a musical, this movie is second-rate Tennessee Williams as adapted by the screenwriters. Even the score is heavy-handed as it tips off every movement by the actors. When John Huston is good, he is great. When he isn't good, he can make some of the most boring, pretentious movies ever, such as this one, THE BARBARIAN AND THE GEISHA, and A WALK WITH LOVE AND DEATH. Taylor is somewhat convincing as the pneumatic wife, a slightly older version of her "Maggie the Cat" in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Keith is better than the lines he gets, and Harris is always believable. Forster doesn't have much to do and is the most enigmatic member of an enigmatic cast. The South will never rise again as long as people like this live there. leave a comment

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