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Mourning Becomes Electra
Mourning Becomes Electra
Actors: Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Katina Paxinou, Leo Genn
Genres: Drama, Military & War
NR     2004     2hr 1min

Near the end of the Civil War, the proud residents of Mannon Manor await the return of shipping tycoon Ezra Mannon (The Old Dark House?s Raymond Massey) and son Orin (Dead of Night?s Michael Redgrave). Meanwhile Extra?s co...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Katina Paxinou, Leo Genn
Genres: Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics, Family Life, Military & War
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 12/21/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 11/19/1947
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 1min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

S. Dees | GA | 11/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is one of the most underrated, overlooked films of Hollywood's Golden Era, the 1940's. I cannot understand why this film has been lamblasted over the years. It is a compelling, superbly acted drama from a famous play. Perhaps it was a dud in 1947, but the years have erased that, and I applaud loudly to Image for putting it on DVD. Never on VHS or laserdisc, it is time it was available to the home video market. If you want to see motion picture acting at its best, watch Russell, Redgrave, Paxinou, and Massey here. It's all been done recently - all these plot elements have been done on "Dallas," "Dynasty," and "Knots Landing" and countless daytime soaps. But this is the ORIGINAL. Watch it and relish what great moviemaking and acting is."
A Place in Film History...
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 12/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Mourning Becomes Electra" is notable for many reasons.RKO Studios was trying to get the word out that it was a serious studio making serious pictures. The original film featured an Overture, Intermission & Entr'Acte, which explains various discrepancies in the running time. The DVD, long overdue, is fine, and in a 159 minute running time. This "prestigious" film still fell flat at the boxoffice, and subsequent cuts were made to make it more palpable to the Post WW2 public. O'Neill is not to be fooled with, not should his work be taken lightly. His works certainly were showcases for Actresses in Oscar-friendly performances (Garbo in "Anna Christie", Kate Hepburn in "Long Day's Journey Into Night", and Roz Russell in this one; all nominated). Indeed, Roz was expected to win the Oscar in 1947; there seemed to be no question about it, and when she lost to Loretta Young for "The Farmer's Daughter" (a comedy, no less) there was an audible gasp from the audience. Actually, Loretta probably deserved it, because Roz' performance is inconsistant at best. Surely, she handles the singularly amazing demands of this central character but often fell back into those hammy mannerisms that I've grown accustomed to from her. She was much better at comedy ("His Girl Friday", "My Sister Eileen", Auntie Mame"). It's admirable that she didn't succumb to any Joan Crawford histionics; rather gave a subdued, almost one-note performance. RKO also thought high-class demanded famous British actors, and there are a few; Michael Redgrave (also nominated), Leo Genn and a fine performance from Henry Hull (as the Greek chorus). Redgrave was inconsistant, and Genn was OK. Katina Paxinou, the wonderful Greek actress (Oscar winner in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"), was miscast, if only because of her accent. The performance was good, but you'd think a woman who'd been in this country for so many years would've shed some of that accent. It just felt out of place for this very American piece by a very American playwright. Maybe the powers-that-were thought a Greek actress would be appropriate for this up-dating of the "Oresteia". I didn't dislike the film. O'Neill is certainly an acquired taste, and I was never bored. Production values were fairly high, and I appreciated the generous close-ups (thanks to director Dudley Nichols) and the crisp b&w cinematography of George Barnes. His use of shadows and back-lighting add immeasurably to the proceedings. Despite the fairly elaborate sets, this is really a filmed play, and the dialogue is the driving force. Definitely a curiosity, I would recommend this film to fans of O'Neill, and forgotten Hollywood artifacts."
Hotter than Hell
Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 04/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"All of a sudden, after World War II, Rosalind Russell seemed poised to become Hollywood's greatest star. The studios were bowing down to her, and she started flexing her muscles and chewing up the kind of parts that hitherto she had been excluded even from dreaming about. Previously there had been a sort of appreciation for her clipped comic roles, most notably in Cukor's THE WOMEN, and she was deemed a serviceable leading lady in glossy MGM romantic dramas and thrillers, nothing too special. I wonder what happened to signal to Hollywood that she was actually an actress of some range? Were people tired of Bette Davis and thought, let's give Rosalind Russell the parts we used to give to Davis automatically, the droit du seigneur distaff side?

Anyhow her casting in MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA was an inspiration that could have been good, but somehow, the movie got away from the makers. It wasn't just putting Russell into it--though some believe that casting JANE RUSSELL as Lavinia might have made more sense--it was that every last part was filled with some cockamamie choice. The casting director must have been on drugs. And yet, that is part of what makes this 1947 movie such a gem.

By the way, Lucille Ball is said to have lobbied heavily to land the role of Lavinia, in a production which would have co-starred Jane Darwell as Christine. But who did they get for Christine?

Katina Paxinou--the revered Greek actress who had made a sensation playing a Spanish peasant in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. Audiences just barely made out what she was saying in BELL TOLLS. Here she plays Rosalind Russell's mother, a New England aristocrat. As many have noted, she seems to be encountering the English language for the very first time, and, as she has the most important role for the first half of the movie, it only gets better after she shuts up and lets Russell, as Lavinia, take over the ranting and raving. Michael Redgrave! He's great but where did they get him from? Had he made any US pictures before, or did they just say, he was super playing the nutty ventriloquist in DEAD OF NIGHT, let's bring him over to RKO to play Orrin--the "Orestes" character in O'Neill's secong hand Oresteia. And on and on it goes, right down to Kirk Douglas and Raymond Massey and the insufferable Leo Genn as the man both mother and daughter desire. I'm sorry, but that fire hydrant over there has more sex appeal than Leo Genn in this movie.

They say that somewhere, there is even more footage waiting to be joined up to extend this long, long picture into a fourth hour. I'm looking forward to a "special edition" of this DVD, perhaps with the later, Joan Hackett version from PBS as an extra. That one is good too, with Peter Weller from ROBOCOP playing the Kirk Douglas part, hey, why not?"
A Film That Transcends Its Own Flaws: A Neglected Masterpiec
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 11/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The script reduces the stage original by approximately two-thirds. The cinematography is clunky and the production values are weak. Direction is indifferent and the acting styles are all over the map. Even so, the 1947 MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA is a startlingly powerful film, a melodrama that leaps and crackles and which will hold the attention of discerning viewers through two and a half hours to its remarkably bitter end.

Loosely based on the ancient Greek tragedy THE ORESTIA, Eugene O'Neill's 1931 drama was and is an extraordinary creation. Strangely ritualistic in tone and requiring approximately six hours to perform, it stunned audiences upon its debut, was a powerful factor in O'Neill's winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and remains one of the great pinacles of American theatre to this day. It is also a warped, sick, and twisted tale of adultry, incestuous affections, blackmail, murder, and suicide, and as such it held Hollywood at bay for close to twenty years.

The story concerns the Mannons, a family that has dominated a small New England town for more than a hundred years, dominating through social status and supposed family and civic duty even as they conceal several internal scandals. The film opens with father Ezra (Raymond Massey) away from home, acting as a leader in the Civil War; in his absence wife Christine (Katrina Patinoux) has taken a lover who visits the house under the guise of courting daughter Lavinia (Rosalind Russell.) When Lavinia discovers the truth, she attempts to blackmail her mother into giving up the relationship--but the attempt backfires into a horrendous cycle of murder and revenge that ultimately destroys the family and drives Lavinia to her her doom.

The script actually does manage to encompass all the primary plot points of O'Neill's original, and although the result is a bit talky in a forced sort of way the story itself possesses a relentless quality that does indeed approximate the stage original. Even more surprisingly, the script makes no effort to soften the incestuous nature of the various relationships that characterize the tale, relationships that increasingly pervert and twist the family as the story progresses. This is dark, dark stuff indeed.

As previously noted, the cast is all over the map in terms of acting style and indeed each of the principles seem to be performing for a different film. Rosalind Russell is distinctly "classic Hollywood;" Michael Redgrave is distinctly "English theatre." Katrina Patinoux, a memorable performer, is Greek and therefore somewhat out of place as the matriach of a New England family; Raymond Massey, an equally memorable performer, seems to reprise his earlier portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Each and every one of them, in their own different ways, play at white-hot intensity, and many find the resulting mix too uncomfortable. I myself did not: if anything, I felt it added to and intensified the overall strangeness of the piece.

Eugene O'Neill dramas do not, as a rule, film extremely well: they are too clearly designed for the stage and as such they work best in front of a live audience. All the same, and in spite of its numerous flaws, this is one of the few film versions of an O'Neill play that actually manages to capture the intensity of the stage original. Dark, brooding, and deeply disturbing, MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA deserves a great deal more attention than it has ever received.

When the film failed at the box office, RKO responded by cutting it in re-release. This Image Entertainment DVD restores those cuts, and that is a very good thing indeed. Unfortunately, it is also the only good thing that one can say for the DVD. The print quality is at best mediocre, a bit fuzzy, occasionally streaked, and riddled with artifacts. There are no extras of any kind. But just as the film transcends its own flaws, so too does it transcends this poor transfer. Strongly recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer"