MGM had wanted to make a film version of James M. Cain's notoriously naughty tale of murder and sex for years, but the Production Code kept nixing the studio's efforts until a script, tailored to the moral rules of the Code, finally was given a green light.
Starring John Garfield and Lana Turner, the chemistry between the two actors still bubbles with lurid subtext – something even the Code couldn't reign in – and Turner's immortal entrance in a two-piece outfit, topped by a turban, remains one of the sexiest moments on screen. Warner Bros' transfer is made from a nice print, with balanced grey levels, and a clean mono soundtrack.
Film historian Richard Jewell's intro is really a functional mini-commentary, mixing screen shots with tightly edited comments. The included documentary on John Garfield adds a nice background on the once popular screen star, whose career and life were destroyed by the Communist with hunts during the Forties. (Turner's own biography is chronicled in the documentary included on the “Bad And The Beautiful” DVD.)
A lot of well-known actors – Lee Grant, Danny Glover, Richard Dreyfuss – and friends of John Garfield appear and share their admiration for the Method-trained actor who also brought a natural, street-smart quality to his roles that sometimes were envied by some of his colleagues. Dying at the early age of 39, Garfield's first film role was honored with an Oscar nomination, and though typecast by the studio as a new breed of gangster, the doc makes good use of film clips, taken from really nice masters (which hopefully means some of these gems might make their way to DVD as well).
Remade by director Bob Rafelson in 1981, starring Jessica Lang, and Jack Nicholson.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan
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