In "Tom Jones," vulgarity was an asset. In "Moll Flanders," it’s a bore
ANY SIMILARITY between The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders and any other film, the credits assure us with a wink, “is merely coincidental.” In other words, we know that you know we’re trying to repeat the success of Tom Jones and what of it? Like Tom, Moll is a character from one of those rambling British novels of the 1700s, “a ribald century,” according to the movie publicists, “that really should have been ashamed of itself!”
Moll (Kim Novak) is a flamehaired orphan whose remarkable physique recommends her to a good family, where she acquires a taste for upper-class luxury and a foolish, short-lived husband. Turfed out by her in-laws, she chooses to steal for a living, the lesser of two evils.
Merely coincidentally, Moll goes in for bawdy humor, has engaging music by John Addison, and features a number of the actors from Tom Jones in supporting roles. But there the similarities end. Tom Jones was both vigorous and frankly vulgar. Moll is charming and sprightly, but coy. It keeps on winking at you until the gesture, far from being ingratiating, becomes as wearying as a nervous tic. In Tom Jones the men went wenching with the same single-mindedness as they rode to hounds, but the characters in Moll are addicted to the doubleentendre. George Sanders, for one, woos Kim Novak “for the heaven you promise with those . . . (pause while he examines her décolletage) . . . eyes”.
Kim Novak is a considerable asset, glowing like a fresh gardenia in her gorgeous disarray, but she’s unmistakably a modern female, and the whole picture lacks the feeling for period and social differences that distinguished Tom Jones.
MASQUERADE is also pretty frank about its origins. Cliff Robertson plays an American soldier of fortune mysteriously hired by the British secret service to protect a young Eastern prince until he gets old enough, to sign an oil treaty with England. Early in the game, Robertson is discovered reading Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger by his comrade in secrecy, Jack Hawkins. “A bit farfetched, don’t you think?” Hawkins inquires with his hangover growl.
The picture then goes on to fetch even further and wider than any of the Bond films, though not with quite the same flair for the fantastic. Masquerade’s tongue is just as firmly in cheek, and the locales are just as exotic (the inside of a wine truck, a traveling menagerie, an abandoned castle) but none of it is as convincing, as inevitable as the plots bottled in Bond.
DIE, DIE, MY DARLING: Tallulah Bankhead plays a kinky old hag who traps
and tortures the fiancée (Stephanie Powers) of her dead son, all in the name of religion. It’s directed in color with a shrewd sense of the sinister by CBC-TV graduate Silvio Narrizano until the last half hour, when he overindulges in red, green and purple filters. Still, if you like this sort of picture, it’s worth seeing for Tallulah alone. She’s terrific.
THE HIGH, BRIGHT SUN settles on the Cypriot troubles of 1957 as a suspenseful situation, and it just doesn’t work. Dirk Bogarde is a British officer who is trying to protect American college girl Susan Strasberg from being killed by Cypriots who think she knows too much.
Miss Strasberg alone engages our sympathies, because the picture sidesteps the issue of what the fighting is all about. The British soldiers are a self-righteous lot, and it’s very hard to accept them as the good guys. To add to the confusion, Dirk Bogarde makes a wishy-washy sort of hero, while George Chakiris emerges as a thoroughly dynamic bad guy. There is lots of shooting and fighting in The High, Bright Sun, but when you can’t spot the bad guys, you don’t really care who does what to whom. And that's the end of suspense.
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