Huston's most interesting decision was to riff off the title and shoot the entire picture in a golden sepia tone with only occasional splashes of color. The print was pulled from theaters when people didn't get it, but on DVD you can see it the way Huston intended, and it's unlike anything you've seen before.
On the base, the marriage of uptight Maj. Weldon Pendelton (Marlon Brando) and his foxy and flirty wife Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor) is basically dead in the water, in part because he's a closeted homosexual. We know this fact because of the way he stares at handsome young Private Williams (Robert Forster), who has a hot crush on Leonora and is fond not only of riding horses through the woods naked (shades of Equus) but also of sneaking into Leonora's bedroom at night to watch her sleep and smell her lingerie.
Next door is Lt. Col. Morris Langdon (Brian Keith), who is having an affair with Leonora, and his mentally ill wife Alison (Julie Harris), who is tended to by her loyal Filipino houseboy, the outrageously effeminate Anacleto (Zorro David). We know Alison is sick because Langdon reveals that she removed her own nipples with garden shears after the death of their child. Yee-owch!
With ingredients and stars like these, all you need to do is stir the pot a little and enjoy the meal. The best part: This is peak Taylor, La Liz in all her glorious pulchritude, never more sassy or sexy. She's literally a nude ascending a staircase, and the incendiary scene in which she takes a horse whip to Brando's face in retaliation for him beating her horse is priceless. Note the heaving bosom! Revel in the sexual repression! Brando puts on a thick southern accent and hams it up a bit, but he does the tortured psyche thing better than anyone, and he telegraphs the disasters to come brilliantly.
The rest of the cast shines as well. Harris's Alison may be crazy, but you'll soon realize that she's the most sane of all these nutjobs, and Zorro David's unforgettable Anacleto is an eyeful. David never acted again, and it's easy to see why. How could you cast a guy so unique in any normal film?
No Liz Taylor fan would dare miss this sick little treat (and check out the DVD extras for silent behind-the-scenes footage of "Mrs. Taylor-Burton" sitting around on the set wrapped in furs and toying with her hair). It's fascinating from start to finish.
Run time: 108 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th October 1967
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
Production compaines: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: John Huston
Screenwriter: Gladys Hill, Chapman Mortimer
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor as Leonora, Marlon Brando as Weldon Penderton, Brian Keith as Morris Langdon, Julie Harris as Alison Langdon, Zorro David as Anacleto, Gordon Mitchell as Sergeant, Robert Forster as Pvt. L.G. Williams
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