Tag Archives: Arthur Kennedy

Fantastic Voyage (1966, Richard Fleischer)

Among Fantastic Voyage‘s many problems, the two salient ones are the general lack of tension and the utter lack of wonderment. Fleischer is responsible for both, though maybe not so much the first. The story can’t really be tense because there’s very little at stake. The film’s principal characters–reduced in size to perform brain surgery from inside the brain–have a time limit of sixty minutes before they automatically enlarge.

And the guy with the brain injury isn’t a character, he’s just some scientist who picked the U.S. over the Reds. It’s not like anyone really cares about him.

As for the lack of wonderment, Fleischer is hampered with old special effects, but plenty of old movies have lots of wonderment. He clearly just doesn’t get it.

There are two or three effective sequences in Fantastic Voyage, which can’t make up for the lame script or Raquel Welch’s insufferable performance. She doesn’t even talk her first ten minutes in the film and she’s clearly terrible. Fleischer and the screenwriters do manage to contrive a way to get her into a wetsuit, of course. Oddly, it’s for one of those effective sequences–Fleischer’s excellent with three dimensions.

When the film opens with Stephen Boyd and Edmond O’Brien, the two actors are so strong together, it seems like Voyage will be all right. Sadly, it’s not.

Boyd’s good, O’Brien’s good, so is Arthur O’Connell. Arthur Kennedy has good moments, Donald Pleasence has less.

It’s a tedious film. Great opening titles though.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Fleischer; screenplay by Harry Kleiner, based on an adaptation by David Duncan and a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby; director of photography, Ernest Laszlo; edited by William B. Murphy; music by Leonard Rosenman; produced by Saul David; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval) and Jean Del Val (Jan Benes).


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Bright Victory (1951, Mark Robson)

Mark Robson made some great films. I first saw Bright Victory before I knew who he was (I think Victory was probably my first Robson, actually). I saw it on AMC in 1997 probably. Julie Adams is in it and maybe I had AMC flagged for Julie Adams movies somehow. I can’t remember if they had a website. Somehow, I saw the film. It was probably my first Arthur Kennedy film too. Kennedy’s one of those actors who’s fallen through the cracks. He never did a disaster movie or a guest on “The Love Boat.” He’s a fantastic actor and Bright Victory offers him a great role.

It’s World War II and Kennedy is blinded. Unfortunately, even though he’s the protagonist, he’s not altogether likable. He’s a Southern bigot who can’t wait to get home to marry in to money. From the title, it’s obviously Bright Victory does not end badly for Kennedy’s character. I could ramble about Bright Victory, I just realized, so I’m going to need to rein it in. First, the film’s from 1951 and a 1951 film making the lead out to be a jerk for being a bigot is a rarity. Robson had done another film about race relations (Home of the Brave), but Bright Victory is a Universal-International picture, not a smaller studio like that one. I remember, in 1997, I had never seen the issue discussed in this filmic era. Since, I’ve seen some films cover it, but never so straightforwardly.

The script, by Robert Buckner, stays with Kennedy for most of the film. The rare deviations–once for the culmination of another blind soldier’s story arc and then for a scene with the fiancée, played by Adams–don’t stick out. The film’s constructed with a roaming eye. Since Kennedy’s learning how to be blind, so is the audience. The roaming eye doesn’t stop with that usefulness, however, it goes on to become the film’s most interesting presentation principle. Bright Victory features a few scenes–three I can think of–where the characters talk to each other, but never let the audience know what’s going on. Both the characters know, but we do not. That device is never used–it’s probably one of the particularities I noticed about Bright Victory back when I first saw it.

Last, I need to go over the actors. This post is already one of the longest I’ve done–I haven’t seen Victory since the first time, probably, so I could go on and on. Peggy Dow stars as the rival love interest. She has a few particularly great scenes. James Edwards is Kennedy’s friend, again, has some great scenes. Jim Backus (from “Gilligan’s Island”) shows up and does well–Backus was a great 1950s character actor. Will Geer plays Kennedy’s father and the two have a wonderful scene together, elucidating how Kennedy’s blindness has changed their relationship. When I finished the film, I realized it managed to posit Kennedy could not have made his personal achievements without the blindness, but did never became melodramatic, contrived, or hackneyed.

TCM has the film now–they’ve played it twice–and you can even vote for a DVD release on their website (even though it’s a Universal title). It’s absolutely fantastic, just like much of Robson’s work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by Robert Buckner, based on a novel by Baynard Kendrick; director of photography, William H. Daniels; edited by Russell Schoengarth; music by Frank Skinner; produced by Buckner; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Arthur Kennedy (Larry Nevins), Peggy Dow (Judy Greene), Julie Adams (Chris Paterson), John Hudson (Corporal John Flagg), James Edwards (Joe Morgan), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Nevins), Richard Egan (Sgt. John Masterson), Jim Backus (Bill Grayson) and Will Geer (Mr. Nevins).


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