Comedic Thriller with Brilliant Juxtaposition of Farce and T
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 09/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The fact that "His Kind of Woman" achieves coherence is miraculous. One third of the film rewritten after its completion, reshoots, and scenes recast and reshot again at the insistence of executive producer Howard Hughes transformed this movie into particularly brutal film noir juxtaposed with romantic comedy and topped off with farce. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but "His Kind of Woman" is splendid. The movie's title gives the impression of a clever romantic comedy featuring RKO's biggest stars at the time, Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. And so it is. Sassy and sexy with sharp dialogue by Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard. But this is also, clearly and consciously, a menacing, introverted crime film in which Robert Mitchum's world-weary gambler has sold his fate without knowing what it is, and he's increasingly anxious to find out.
Crime boss Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) is eager to return to the United States to take control of his troubled syndicate but can't set foot over the U.S. border without being recognized. Ferraro's agent offers gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) $50,000 to leave the United States for a year so that Ferraro can assume Milner's identity to enter the U. S. Milner is to wait it out at a posh Mexican resort, Morro's Lodge. En route to the Lodge, Milner meets Lenore Brent (Jane Russell), a songstress claiming to be a millionaire, headed the same direction. At Morro's Lodge, Lenore tries to get a marriage proposal out of her daffy movie star boyfriend Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). Cardigan is more interested in hunting. Lenore is more interested in Milner. And Milner is desperate to learn if he should expect a bullet in the head or a nice Mexican vacation. Eventually, an undercover U. S. Immigration agent (Tim Holt) arrives to clear up that mystery.
It's odd to interweave a snappy, sophisticated romantic comedy with existential dread, but Robert Mitchum is as notably introverted and aloof as he is romantic and formidable. Milner sold his fate and thereby lost control of his life. He has no choice but to act like a tourist, enjoy the amenities, and await whatever comes. He tries to find out what the plans are for him, threatening one of Ferraro's men, "I want information, and I'm beginning not to care how I get it." No dice. He's adrift in a world he doesn't understand and cannot control. To emphasize the point, this film has the most low camera angles I have ever seen. We spend a lot of time looking at the ceiling. But Milner has one distraction: The lovely Lenore, who is not what she says. The affable, self-absorbed Mark Cardigan keeps us all amused with his unconscious jabs at Hollywood culture. I can't praise Vincent Price's performance enough.
The unforgettable final act of "His Kind of Woman" juxtaposes the most sadistic violence ever seen in an American movie as of 1951 with some of the most successful farce ever -and gets away with it. Howard Hughes felt that "His Kind of Woman" ended too abruptly and insisted that the conclusion of the film be rewritten. The last 40 minutes were directed by Richard Fleischer, not John Farrow, who directed the original cut of the film, and partly written by Hughes, for a total running time of 2 hours -impossibly long in 1951. Milner's torture by Ferraro and his henchmen is cross-cut with Mark Cardigan's farcical attempts to enlist the Lodge's guests and Mexican police in rescuing Milner. Back-and-forth. One might think that Cardigan's antics were intended as comic relief, but they actually emphasize the horror of Milner's predicament. I found myself laughing out loud one minute and cringing the next. More than once. No one knows how it got past the Production Code Administration, but the last 40 minutes of "His Kind of Woman" are so effective and fascinating that you may want to watch them twice.
The DVD (Warner Brothers 2006): The single bonus feature is a very good audio commentary by UCLA professor of film and television Vivian Sobchack. Ms. Sobchack talks about stars, characters, cinematography, art direction, and the problems that the film had with the PCA. She compares the film's comedic and noir tones. And she provides a lot of detail about Howard Hughes heavy-handed involvement in the last 40 minutes of the film and its results. The commentary is nearly constant, with Sobchack kindly pausing briefly so that we can hear particularly good dialogue. She does not discuss the noir themes in depth, as that does not seem to be her specialty. That may disappoint noir fans, but themes are easy to figure out for yourself, and the commentary offers a wealth of information on other aspects of the film and its amazing recreation. It's worth listening to the entire commentary. Subtitles for the film are available in English, Spanish, and French."
Is it Noir? Is it a comedy? Is it an action movie? Yes, and
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 08/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"His Kind of Woman should be a mess, but somehow it emerges as a highly enjoyable insane asylum of a movie as much thanks to as in spite of the constant interference by Howard Hughes: credited to John Farrow, Richard Fleischer spent months shooting and reshooting the yacht finale at the mogul's whims in a desperate attempt to get out of his own studio contract. Even Raymond Burr's villain is a case of third time lucky after Howard Petrie and Robert J. Wilke played the part without meriting Hughes' approval. Snappy dialogue ("You're the guy who shot (him). How did it feel?" "He didn't say.") unlucky gamblers, fortune-hunting gals, randy Wall Street types (played by no less than Mr Magoo himself, Jim Backus), Nazi plastic surgeons, Italian mobsters, Robert Mitchum betting his shoe and ironing his money, and a very wonderful hotel set courtesy of Albert D'Agostino - this has everything Hughes' money could buy. Mitch and Jane Russell have real chemistry, and she comes over as far more genuinely likeable than in many of her contemporary roles: for all the chaos, you get the sense that they're actually having fun (certainly she looks genuinely happy when she sings in her opening scene). But the show belongs to Vincent Price's ham actor, who doesn't fear death - he's too well-known to die - loves guns, never shuns the spotlight - even if it is wielded by gun-toting mobsters - but isn't too wild about his wife. He should destroy the movie if you're still expecting the bleak noir it began as, but by the time he appears you know that this is a log ride that drifts with the prevailing current and his outrageous hamming somehow compliments the sadism and prolonged action of the extended finale perfectly.
A shame that the DVD has a noticeable scratch during the yacht sequences"
A Weird One and Oddly Satisfying
Marilyn Jones | Austin, Texas | 09/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another S/M role for Raymond Burr (a la "Raw Deal") and what struck me as the strangest Vincent Price role ever...but they both work. Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell are a good match--very sexy and sort of touching for two tough cookies. One of the other reviews mentioned the strange juxtaposition of gut-wrenching violence and humor...you find yourself laughing and then wincing in the same two seconds. I loved this movie."
Mitchum and Russell are hot, Vincent Price is priceless.
Dennis C. Clements | Clovis, California | 01/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an early gangster film that is great fun. Mitchum is duped into going to a resort in Mexico. Why? So his identity can be stolen and used by Raymond Burr, a gangster, who wants to return to the states but can't because he has been deported. The battle to maintain his ID is great fun to watch. Jane Russell is his love interest and is typical sultry Jane. Vincent Price is great as a Hollywood matinee idol who longs for real action rather than staged swordplay. This movie needs to be released on DVD. It is very hard to find on VHS and shows up occasionally on AMC or TNT. By the way this filmed all on the backlot of the studio but it sure feels like your in Mexico. I love this film, hope you will too. DCC"
Appendicitis pain releiver
Og Oggilby | Co., USA | 01/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This will be an odd offbeat review so consider yourself warned. I first saw this movie on the late night channel as I was laying in a hospital bed at the age of 17. I was in agony I had driven myself to the hospital after I had an attack of a infected appendix. They could not get the surgeon sooner and I was NOT allowed any pain meds. A stupid bag of ice was all I had for the awful pain. So I had nothing to do while my surgeon sobered up except watch tv. So when this movie came on and I saw both Robert Mitchum and Vincent Price in his funniest role ever, I concentrated hard to avoid thinking about the pain. So I LOVE LOVE this movie because for me it kept me company and my mind off the agony of a inflamed appendix as I layed doubled over in a hospital bed alone at 4 a.m.. RKO built it's first new set since the war for this movie and it looks great. Just the combo of all the actors and the added comedy made 'this mess of a movie' quite good. It worked. Actually the whole idea and the way this film was made is really quite modern with many films doing the same thing today mixing crime, comedy and sadism together a la Pulp Fiction."