While filming The Damned, Joseph Losey was approached by the Hakim brothers to direct an adaptation of James Hadley Chase’ s novel about a feted novelist who’s revealed as a phony by a mysterious woman named Eve. Loathing the first draft, Losey fashioned a new screenplay, transferring the location from Hollywood to Venice, and with his stellar cast, filmed and delivered a cut that ran about two hours and forty-five minutes. The producers withdrew the film as Italy’s official entry at the Cannes film festival until Losey agreed to reduce the movie to about two hours, although by that time bad blood had developed between the Hakims and Losey.
KINO’s DVD contains a mixed bag of elements that present the only versions of Losey’s arty and indulgent drama, yet they reveal the flaws of the director’s excessive fixations on visual ornamentation, and his gift for a directorial style that would later coalesce with better restraint and finesse in The Servant.
The DVD menu defaults to the English version that was released theatrically in Britain and the U.S. as Eve with a more regional English dub track for the Italian-language exchanges with Virna Lisi; in the longer version, actress Anna Proclemer provides a more natural English dubbing that’s matches Lisi’s performance.
The longer version is taken from a beat-up, high contrast Scandinavian source (apparently it’s the only print of the 119 min. cut in existence), with burnt-in Swedish & Finnish subtitles for all non-English dialogue; the shorter version, with the J. Arthur Rank logo, has non-removable English subtitles for the non-English dialogue.
Overall, the longer cut has a number of extra scenes between Stanley Baker (last seen in Losey’s The Criminal) and Jeanne Moreau, but it’s missing an important dock scene present in the shorter English version where Baker injures his hand before the film’s final confrontation between himself and vindictive Moreau. That continuity gaffe is one of several which make the theatrical cut rather wonky, but Michel Legrand’s score, evoking Miles Davis and Gil Evans (Losey had originally wanted Davis to score the film) is more fluid in the longer version due to less jarring edits.
Both versions, however, aren’t anamorphic on KINO’s DVD, and the English version, while a crisper transfer, is taken from a PAL master that appears sped-up due to a poor PAL to NTSC conversion. The mono mix in the longer version is a muddy, harsh, garbled mess, while the shorter version sports a very clean mix that retains a better balance between music, dialogue, and Losey’s precision use of sound effects.
It’s a real mixed bag of elements, but until there’s a desire to mount a proper restoration from surviving elements, this is as close of a sampling that Loseyphiles will get of the director’s legendary art film.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan