Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Phaedra 1962

If you’re looking for a good updating of the Phaedra legend (and who isn’t?) you could do a lot worse than this hot house 1962 version. I won’t be giving anything away since we all know that things don’t turn out so good for Phaedra and just what was she thinking anyway taking up with her stepson and tempting the fates. In the 1962 modern day version directed by the one time blacklisted Jules Dassin who left Hollywood and arrived in Paris in 1953 where he eventually would do ok making “Rififi” a swell crime heist movie and the big international hit “Never On Sunday” which made an international star of Melina. Dassin and Melina would later tie the knot and lived a long and creative life together. In this version that I first saw when I was 15 at the old Astor Theatre on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn things still don’t turn out so good for her.
Phaedra is played with shock and awe by the great Melina Mecuri who makes a memorable entrance and devours everything in her path including a poor somewhat miscast Anthony Perkins who is a little too soft and fey for the part. He does his best though including showing us the outline of his private parts in tight white pants.
Still set in Greece with short trips to London and Paris Melina/Phaedra is married to shipping magnate Raf Vallone all hairy and intense who spoils her and their young son with everything that his billions can buy including some great looking early 60’s clothes designed by the great Theoni V. Aldredge who got an Oscar nomination for the duds.
Melina of course looks great especially in some lovely white creations topped off by big dark glasses and turbans. She’s off and running and is warned and warned by her dour lesbian assistant-companion to lay off Perkins, but does she listen? Of course not.
A few years later I would have two close encounters with the leads. One early Saturday or was it a Sunday morning in 1967 or 68 I was in Washington Sq. Park when I noticed a small commotion in the distance that was moving closer to me. I realized that it was a camera crew and leading the way was Melina Mercouri who passed right near me and wished me a “good morning young man.” I was of course dumb struck. A few years later as I waited for a bus on 6th ave in the 20’s Tony Perkins rode by me on his bike, slowed down gave me an in my face slow cruise and when I didn’t respond fast enough off he went. Listen this is not a great work of art, but its fun and very high pitched with a good score by Mikis Theodorakis and crisp black and white cinematography by Jacques Natteau, and I would watch Melina any time of the day or night. I wish she were still with us slinking down sun-drenched streets with her white turbans and dark glasses.


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