Sunday, November 25, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Lisbon (1956) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Somehow I ended up watching four films this holiday weekend with one-word titles! My latest review is of LISBON (1956), released on Blu-ray and DVD earlier this month by Kino Lorber.

LISBON stars and was directed by Ray Milland, who also served as associate producer.

I'm not sure whether it was due to a lazy Sunday afternoon following Thanksgiving turkey leftovers or the movie itself, but I initially had some difficulty following the storyline. Despite that, Milland and his excellent costars, Maureen O'Hara and Claude Rains, kept me tuned in, and about halfway into the film's 90 minutes things started to clear up and become less muddled.

Milland plays Captain Evans, a smuggler hired by Mavros (Rains) to rescue an elderly and very wealthy financier, Lloyd Merrill (Percy Marmont) from behind the Iron Curtain. Mavros was hired by Merrill's much younger wife Sylvia (O'Hara), who has ulterior motives related to her husband's money rather than her desire for his safety.

Sylvia later decides she wants her husband returned dead, but having heard this, Captain Evans is repulsed by her amorous advances. Besides, he's being aggressively pursued by the gorgeous Maria (Yvonne Furneaux), who works as Mavros' "secretary."

The creepy Mavros, who kills birds with a tennis racket to feed his cat and who burns Maria's favorite dresses as punishments, also has a henchman named Seraphim (Francis Lederer). Seraphim is obsessed with Maria and thus plans to kill the captain...

This somewhat sludgy film lacks the pacing of Milland's previous directorial effort, the excellent Western A MAN ALONE (1955); it needed clearer, brisker storytelling.

Additionally, despite her star billing O'Hara was virtually relegated to being a supporting actress in this; I suspect fourth-billed Furneaux had more screen time. This fairly unsympathetic role was an interesting part for O'Hara, but in the end it's a surprisingly minor character rather than a true romantic lead.

All that said, as I finally became absorbed in the story I rather enjoyed it; it's hard not to like spending time with this cast, and the lovely Lisbon locations are an added plus. Adele Palmer's gem-colored gowns are lovely, and the film also has a score by Nelson Riddle.

LISBON was filmed by Jack Marta in Trucolor and widescreen Naturama. It looks absolutely terrific on Kino Lorber's Blu-ray, and I'm glad I finally had the chance to see this film for the first time in top-drawer condition.

Extras include five trailers and a commentary track by Toby Roan. I'm looking forward to learning more about the film's production from Toby, whose reviews are always very informative.

Coming in the near future, my review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of A MAN ALONE. (Update: My review of A MAN ALONE may be found here.)

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger john knight said...

I love your description of the film as "Sludgy" hardly an endorsement, but as you say
a top class transfer and a Toby Roan commentary more than compensate.
Glenn at Cinesavant was very impressed by Toby's commentary,especially as it gave great
insight into Republic's final days. My copy is on the way-I feel these Republic remasters
must be supported as we may never see their like again.
Sadly,according to Kino's Facebook page their arrangement with Paramount/Republic has not
been re-newed,hopefully that might change. I don't know where that leaves the two already
remastered Joseph Kane films THE PLUNDERERS and FAIR WIND TO JAVA if Kino don't release
them,hopefully someone else will. I did get, and have already viewed A MAN ALONE and the
transfer is wonderful as is Toby's commentary.

6:48 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Does that mean Lisbon is mechanical and uninspired, performed at rehearsal level, because that is certainly what I saw. Unfortunate because cast, location and storyline was there for something better, but only Yvonne Furneaux projected warmth.
Lisbon Antigua, charming as it is, probably did not pay the bills. Have not listened to Toby Roan's commentary yet. Up soon.

9:47 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Lisbon follow up: I have now seen the picture three times plus a fourth with Toby Roan's commentary, and the repeat viewing have had their effect, not that the observations above are no longer valid, but as sometimes happens on repeat viewing you learn to accept the shortcomings and simply like the people, the locations, the whole rigmarole. Not an either scientific or o critically valid approach, but if you like the people, you're stuck with it their friendship, in a manner of speaking.
Milland and his company have become like friends. Oh, he used Percy Helton again ten years later in Hostile Witness, not as strong a production, but a pretty good story.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

John and Barrylane, catching up after a busy week! John, you're right, not such a good movie yet I loved the presentation and the cast and hope to listen to the commentary very soon. Toby is doing a terrific job with these.

I'm very sorry to hear that Kino's deal with Paramount/Republic is coming to an end. Kino did just announce the release of DESERT FURY for February so hopefully we will still see a few things that are in the pipeline. Last I heard, JIVARO was also supposed to be on the way.

Barrylane, I pretty much agreed with all of the above. It wasn't anyone's best work and I described some of the issues I had with it myself in my post...but at the same time I feel as you did, I accepted the shortcomings because I enjoyed "hanging out" with the cast, if you will. And they looked great and were in beautiful locations.

Great bit of trivia...Based on the cast lists I'm sure you meant Percy Marmont -- I see Percy Helton so often (most recently in DIANE) that it's easy to type his name by default!

Best wishes,

7:53 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Thank you, Laura. Of course Percy Marmont, who was aa big star in silent films. Just for reference, I do not believe all guys called Percy look alike. My mistake and appreciate the correction.

8:06 PM  

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