Sunday, July 21, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Madame X (1966) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Lana Turner plays the title role in MADAME X (1966), a Ross Hunter melodrama available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Turner plays Holly, a poor girl who hits the jackpot when she marries wealthy diplomat Clay Anderson (John Forsythe). Holly is deeply in love and as time passes and she and Clay have a little boy (Teddy Quinn), her happiness seems complete.

Unfortunately Clay is away from home for long periods of time on diplomatic missions, and Holly becomes bored. She's still a bit of a stranger in her own home after several years, what with her mother-in-law Estelle (Constance Bennett) there guiding everything from household management to Christmas tree decorating.

Estelle makes a good show of welcoming Holly, but deep down she resents her and feels she was the wrong choice for Clay, whose immediate political aspirations include running for the Senate.

During Clay's protracted absence Holly becomes too close to playboy Phil (Ricardo Montalban, Lana's costar in 1953's LATIN LOVERS). When Clay returns, ready to finally commit to ending his globe-trotting and buying Holly their very own home in Washington, D.C., Holly is overjoyed and breaks things off with Phil. Phil is none too happy and in an ensuing tussle he suffers an accidental fall to his death.

Estelle finds out and sees this as her chance to remove Holly from their lives while also protecting Clay's reputation. Holly will be "lost at sea," while actually living a new life -- with a new hair color! -- in Europe. Holly agrees to leave her beloved husband and son only because she believes that she's doing the best thing for them, including her husband's all-important political future.

Holly's new life is completely empty; she becomes fond of a pianist (John Van Dreelen) but cannot stay with him and risk disclosing her true identity. As she sinks lower and lower, she meets a con artist (Burgess Meredith) who suspects the truth and tries to involve her in a blackmail scheme; she shoots the man and ends up on trial -- where her public defender is her own grown son (Keir Dullea), who has no idea who she is.

This is a gorgeous Ross Hunter production with a great cast and a marvelous performance by Turner, but honestly I found it too sad to really enjoy. As Holly's life spiraled further and further out of control it felt a bit like "torture by movie," and I was relieved when the 100 minutes finally came to an end.

I appreciated Turner immensely and enjoyed individual bits, such as Bennett's phony warmth as the mother-in-law, later replaced by utter iciness; however, the sum total of everything put together was simply too overwhelmingly tragic for it to be relaxing entertainment.

I did find it fun that yesterday I saw Constance Bennett and Gilbert Roland, who were married for five years in the '40s, in the pre-Code OUR BETTERS (1933). Earlier today I also saw Roland in the 1953 film THUNDER BAY, which coincidentally was followed by Bennett in this movie. Sadly this was Bennett's last film; she died before it was released.

As was often the case, Lana made sure that Virginia Grey, her old pal from MGM, had a part. It's not a very big role but she has a few scenes as a socialite; she's seen here in a party photo with four of the film's lead actors. Grey also appeared in Turner's '60s films PORTRAIT IN BLACK (1960), BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961), and LOVE HAS MANY FACES (1965). PORTRAIT IN BLACK, reviewed here last month, is also available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

MADAME X was directed by David Lowell Rich and filmed in Technicolor by Russell Metty.

The Kino Lorber print is beautiful. Extras include a commentary track by Lee Gambin and Eloise Ross, the trailer, and a trailer gallery of four additional movies available from Kino Lorber.

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


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I too found this overwhelmingly tragic. I felt that some lighter moments would have made it more bearable without losing its gravitas. Oh well! Great review Laura.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Charlieod said...

Thanks again for a great review.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both, Raquel and Sheila, for your comments. I'm so glad to know you enjoyed the review. And Raquel, I'm kinda glad to know I'm not the only one who found all the tragedy in this one a little too much to be an enjoyable watch!

Best wishes,

1:34 PM  

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