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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Walk On The Wild Side (1962)

Barely recognizable from its source material, the Nelson Algren novel, WALK ON THE WILD SIDE is often unfairly maligned which is unfortunate because it's an often powerful, if erratic, film. While almost all the sexuality has been omitted that was plentiful in Algren's novel, the Edward Dmytryk directed film doesn't shy away from its brothel setting nor the lesbian relationship between its madam (Barbara Stanwyck) and its star prostitute (Capucine). The film is severely damaged by Laurence Harvey in the male lead. It's not only that he's terrible in the film but he's way too old. His character should be around 19 or 20 at the most (when Harvey says, "I know a lot for my age", why shouldn't he? He looks to be around 35). Anne Baxter as the Mexican proprietor of a cafe is also miscast but Jane Fonda in only her second film role is very good as a young hustler. Stanwyck brings a steely dignity as the madam and even Capucine (like Harvey, too mature for her character) brings an appropriate self loathing as the sculptress turned whore. The main title credit sequence designed by Saul Bass featuring a small black alley cat roaming the streets until he meets up with a white cat and they go at it tooth and claw is justifiably famous. With a strong Elmer Bernstein score. With Joanna Moore, Juanita Moore and Karl Swenson.

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