Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tonight's Movie: His Kind of Woman (1951)

HIS KIND OF WOMAN is our second Robert Mitchum movie viewed this weekend, the first being BLOOD ON THE MOON. The "woman" of the title is the film's leading lady, Jane Russell.

HIS KIND OF WOMAN is considered to be film noir, but it has to be the strangest example of that genre I've yet seen. The plot, such as it is, almost defies description. The first three quarters of the movie alternates traditional dark noir elements with humor and romance, as down-on-his-luck gambler Robert Mitchum accepts a large sum of money to travel to a remote Mexican resort for unknown reasons.

The story meanders in a most unusual way as Mitchum interacts with the odd cast of characters at the resort, including Vincent Price, a sharpshooting ham actor. The movie feels rather patched together; you never have a sense of where it's going to end up next, though it's highly entertaining. Mitchum even has a CASABLANCA-type moment, helping a young couple at the gambling tables. And of course, he finds romance, not to mention a musical interlude or two, with Jane Russell. Yet even during the lighter moments, there is an undercurrent of darkness and uncertainty as Mitchum tries to figure out who he can trust and what the real reason is for his paid resort "vacation."

The level of violence in the film's last half hour is too sadistic and overdone to make the movie a complete pleasure. However, those scenes are offset by the intercut sequences featuring Price's amusing heroics, and the ending is satisfactory, so I recommend the film, although I left the room briefly during a couple of the more unpleasant scenes. I would not recommend this movie for pre-teens.

The film was chiefly directed by John Farrow (husband of Maureen O'Sullivan, father of Mia), although some scenes were reshot by Richard Fleischer. Farrow previously directed another memorable film about a group of people stranded and in danger, FIVE CAME BACK, which has stayed vivid in my memory since I saw it at a museum screening as a teenager. In that film, an airplane crashed onto an island of headhunters. Very different plots -- and HIS KIND OF WOMAN has a firm thread of humor missing from the other film -- but the overall feeling of foreboding and suspense, and the examination of group dynamics when dealing with imminent peril, feels rather similar, as does the exceeding nastiness of the threat lurking "out there."

HIS KIND OF WOMAN is available on DVD as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3. There is a commentary on the film's checkered production history by UCLA professor Vivian Sobchak. I haven't yet heard the commentary myself, but am told Sobchak disproves the assertion posted at IMDb that the movie was completely reshot by Richard Fleischer. (I suspect that if producer Howard Hughes and Fleischer had left Farrow's original ending intact, I would have found the last section of the film more tolerable.) I'm looking forward to listening to this track in the near future.

This film is also part of the Turner Classic Movies library. The TCM website has articles on the movie here and here. A trailer is available here.

The movie was filmed in black and white and runs two hours even.


Blogger Cathy said...

This movie sounds so familiar to me, I have to believe I have seen it before, but for the life of me Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell together just doesn't ring a bell.

Laura- Do you know if there was a remake of this?

4:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I checked Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide and it doesn't mention a remake, nor does IMDb.

Best wishes, Laura

9:13 AM  

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