Saturday, September 03, 2011

Slightly Scarlet 1956

I’m still scratching my head over this one. Made in 1956 and directed by the veteran director Allan Dwan who began his career in 1911 and was 71 when he directed this nourish B movie. Based on a novel by James M. Cain the novelty of the film is that it was filmed in Superscope  and in garish Technicolor by a master of black and white cinematography John Alton who was known for his moody and atmospheric work on many noir’s and B’s This is basically a silly little movie about two sisters who have red hair. One played by Rhonda Fleming is a secretary for a businessman who has political ambitions and heavy breathing for Rhoda. The 2nd red head is played by Arlene Dahl who when  the film opens is being released from prison for shoplifting. She’s met  by Rhonda and the sibling rivalry and trouble begins the minute Rhonda opens the door of her fabulous car for her sister to climb in.  Her home which is also fabulous and big enough to house an army (don’t ask how a secretary could afford this abode, oh wait she’s being kept by her businessman boss) is run by her housekeeper played by the wonderful Ellen Corby who dishes out happy advice and delicious crab salads. You would think that in a house this big Arlene could have a room of her own, but strangely the girls share a bedroom, maybe it’s a call out to their poor childhood. The color scheme of the film is unique and is really the big selling point of the film for me. Saturated with pastel colors and full of shadows and pools of darkness, one could get lost in the visual splendors of the interiors and the clothes worn by the two ladies. Its mix and match time with the gals flaming red hair set against dresses of green, and lavender, white and black and blue. This is Googie Architecture and design carried to extreme, and I wish the simple and familiar plot was better. What we have here is another one of those films that take place in a small town (this one on the coast of California) run by a corrupt political machine this time led by the very good bad heavy Ted de Corsia who also lives in a lavish house full of stuff. John Payne looking puffy and tired works for him, but is not above trading secrets and double crosses if the pay is right. Payne also falls big for Rhonda, which is a confusing plot hole for me, as one minute they hardly acknowledge each other and the next minute they’re snuggly and huggy all over the place. What gives? Both Fleming and Dahl give monumental performances of ineptness, two drop outs from the Dorothy Malone School of acting with your eyes who never finished the coarse. The ending is as bizarre as everything that went before it, so I would say that if you’ve seen at least 450 of the 500 greatest films ever made, you might out of curiosity give this one a look. 


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