Monday, August 29, 2016

Carting that cannon again: Stanley Kramer's THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION hits Blu-ray

I had forgotten what a slough this 1957, star- and artillery-heavy movie actually is -- plot-wise and metaphorically speaking -- as Gary Grant,
Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren, with the help of multitudinous Spanish extras, drag the largest cannon in the known world from one spot in Spain to another to keep the weapon out of the hands of Napoleon's army and eventually do some real damage to that army and its leadership.

It has been nearly 60 years since TrustMovies (back then a Los Angeles-based high-school student not much interested in world history) saw the film upon its initial release. He remembered it as big and long and heavy and occasionally actionful. It still is. Based on the C.S. Forester novel, The Gun -- a title that is short, smart and on the nose -- the movie was re-titled in typical Hollywood fashion to THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION and then handed to the thinking-man's hack director Stanley Kramer to make "meaningful." Or money-making. The former didn't happen, and despite the starry cast, I don't think the latter did, either.

Watching it now on the good Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films, the first thing you may notice is that all those thousands of extras are actual people, not CGI effects. My, god -- how did they do it! (Despite some gorgeous architecture and scenery, some of the backdrops we see are noticeably hand-painted.)  The film's very weak screenplay (by Edna and Edward Anhalt is given over to either logistics about the movement of that cannon or to the almost completely uninteresting would-be triangle love story in which Ms Loren's character moves from rebel leader Sinatra over to British military man Grant.

You can see from the old still above, compared to the new one below, how color has come back into the film with its new transfer. Mr. Grant, dapper as ever and assuming a nicely upper-crust Brit accent, looks as good as usual,

but Mr. Sinatra, below and bedded down, looks particularly scrawny in these loose Spanish period costumes. He also appears quite unhappy most of the time, which he was said to be during the shooting of the film.

For her part, Ms Loren simply smoulders, while trying half-heartedly to make peace between her guys. Because the only real concern here is getting that cannon to its destination, the love story seems less and less important and more and more ridiculous as the movie drags on. Characterization is at a minimum, particularly concerning Loren's role -- which has no real place in the proceedings.

The actress wears cleavage-exposing blouses throughout (and why not, with a body like that!), but the fact that she is often the only woman we see along for this ride makes her role seem all the more pointless. There's a very long "dance" number about one-third of the way in that goes on and on (it may be the single longest scene in the film and it adds nothing to the plot), but it does make you wonder if shaking that beautiful body wasn't the entire reason for casting the actress. (This was only her second American movie, after Boy on a Dolphin, with her Oscar-wining performance in Two Women still three years away.)

Kramer handles some of the action scenes with enough skill to keep us interested, and the film's scenery, scope, and that enormous cannon (below) do the rest. The movie is a curiosity that might be worth a rental, but not perhaps a purchase -- unless you are overly smitten with the stars or the artillery.

From Olive Films and running two hours and twelve minutes, the new Blu-ray transfer of The Pride and the Passion, is presented in 1.78:1 and was created using the best materials available, with a slight modification of the aspect ratio to better fit the home viewing experience. The movie is available now, on both Blu-ray and DVD, for purchase or rental. (Unlike the recently-covered Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie MoonNetflix actually offers this one for rental.)

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