Friday, April 2, 2010

Dark Purpose (L'Intrigo) 1964

Click on the photo to see the enlarge picture. If you look closely you can actually see the despair in these two actor's eyes.

Man this movie was bad. It stunk. The script was bad. The direction was confused. The music was overpowering and annoying. The cinematography went back and forth between cliched and blurry. The copy TCM showed was cruddy. The actors: George Sanders, Rossano Brazzi and Shirley Jones all had an air of hopelessness about them as they spoke their lines. That is when you could understand the lines, because the dubbing is downright awful.

This is the point where you expect me to say, "But I loved it anyway!" or "George and Rossano can save any dog turd of a film." No, I'm not going to say that. The only genuine entertainment in this movie was seeing George Sanders crammed into a tiny Italian car in the first three minutes. Even that sequence was poorly edited, backed by annoying music, squinched into a horrible pan and scan frame and the film stock looked washed out and a hundred years old. At one point in the film Shirley Jones and Rossano Brazzi come into the room and find Sanders lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling. I was really hoping he'd address the fourth wall and say, "I've just given up on this movie, people. Can you blame me?" But wouldn't you know, it was actually part of the "plot."

Sometimes bad movies are good for their mockability quotient. Dark Purpose isn't even bad enough for that. It's just good enough. It has a 1970s made for TV movie vibe about it. The plot smells of warmed over television. Two professional art appraisers (Shirley Jones and George Sanders) spend a week in an Italian villa owned by a mysterious Count (Rossano Brazzi) and his troubled daughter (Giorgia Moll). There's a little bit of Jane Eyre here, or at least the Wide Sargasso Sea, but tension never builds enough for it to pay off.

Brazzi and Jones seem to have little chemistry together. "Oh Paolo I love you. I love you!" She says and he looks like he might be mentally chastising his agent for getting him involved in this debacle. She has more luck with George Sanders and I wish things would have been written more of a love triangle. Though Sanders is ten years older than Brazzi he somehow seems more comfortable in his skin, probably because Brazzi was, at this point really tired of playing the continental lover. Sanders had long since ceased to care about acting other than what it paid him. Shirley Jones was great as Mrs. Partridge, but as the supposed daughter of a museum curator and art historian, she seems way out of her depth. Giorgia Moll gives a decent performance, if a bit silly and over dramatic at times, but the whole plot is hard to swallow, especially her part of it.

The most compelling thing about the movie is the Count's over-worked German Shepard named Diablo. It wasn't just the presence of a satanic German Shepard that reminded me of the made for television horror schlock master piece Devil Dog (1978). Everything about Dark Purpose seemed crying out for it to be endlessly recycled in the CBS late Night Movie, sandwiched between old episodes of Magnum PI and Columbo. It's too bad because Sanders is hilarious--I laugh at his smallest gesture or expression, and had he been given anything at all to do he might have saved this movie from junk heap.


Kate Gabrielle said...

Darn!!! When I saw this in Now Playing last month, I circled it and drew little arrows pointing to the title to make sure I'd remember to record it.. I was so excited. Sounds like such a disappointment!! :(

Jennythenipper said...

Yeah, me too. I was so excited for the whole Twofer aspect of it. It is a bummer, but if you tivoed it, you should probably watch it just to see for yourself. Maybe with properly lowered expectations you might enjoy it. Just don't go in expecting Foreign Correspondent level goodness.

ladybug said...

Okay Jenny, apparently great minds do sometimes think alike. I recorded DP on Wednesday and rushed home to see it. I wasn't expecting much and so didn't have to lower my expections. I had a great laugh anyway because Sanders' deadpan delivery made it survivable. But I admit to being a Sanders fanatic. Like you, I felt the chemistry between Jones and Sanders was great, but Jones and Brazzi....nada. Was Brazzi's hair dyed? If stories are true, the excitement was off-camera where Sanders read Batman in French to Jones' son, Shaun. They should have filmed that. And yes, the dog was great. Nora

Jennythenipper said...

Hi Nora:

I think Brazzi's hair was dyed. That's part of what made him unappealing, I think. (I mean besides the homicidal maniac part). Something about a guy trying to look younger with the died hair that's just blah.

I think I pretty much laughed at everything Sanders did in the movie. Even his walking backward into the pond cracked me up. Heck I was laughing before he even stepped in the pond. I think they could have just had a Sanders' cam and I would have watched it. Nice to hear about Sanders being nice to Jones' kid. I always did suspect he might have made a good dad.

I am convinced that low or at least realistic expectations are the key to enjoying a movie. I think I had mentally confused Dark purpose with another Sanders' Italian-made Twofer, Voyage to Italy with Ingrid Bergman, which I'd read was one of the best roles of his career.

ladybug said...

Greetings Jenny,

I thought Brazzi's hair was dyed. Thank you.

For some reason I kept waiting for either Brazzi or Sanders to break out into "Some Enchanted Evening" (a part Sanders was offered on Broadway). Then a duet or trio with Jones. Or better yet, a quartet with Moll.

A Sanders' cam would have been great (and not just on this film). But you are right about the opening "let me out of this rat-trap of a car", reading the magazine as we drive the winding byways of Italy sequence. I had to pause, rewind and watch it again. The shadows of the mike boom in some scenes were also interesting. I won't say what they reminded me of because this is a family website.

Sanders would have made one eccentric father. Overprotecting the girls from men like himself and introducing his boys to his fully equipped workshop. He was, he said, an electrician at heart.

Viaggio in Italia is one of the very best if you are not expecting any action. What you are watching is the dissolution of a marriage without any fireworks. Rossellini gave Sanders a nervous breakdown (of sorts) and Sanders hated him for it. But it is one of his best performances because he is stripped of his usual defense mechanism.....language. No script, the dialogue was improvised. Watch it, please.

PS: Your piece on Robert Donat was wonderful. Now I have new requests for ILL. Please do a book on him. And what is a copyright for except to violate?

And speaking of books and geek spheres, do we get points if your books show up in the picture?

Nora (the Babbler)

SteveQ said...

Now Devil Dog I know! I saw it on a bill with Zoltan, the Hound from Hell and Dracula's Dog. Actually, those three might only be two films; it's hard to keep straight. Oh, Those Deadly Dobermans was also on that bill.

Jennythenipper said...

Steve, we will have to get Rupert Pupkin to do a "Best Evil Dog" list post. I suppose Cujo and Boys from Brazil would need to be in there too. Devil Dog was probably the go to horror movie of my childhood. Many a slumber party was kept up all night with that and The Gargoyle which I think was made by the same production company.

If MST3K would have done Dark Purpose, I think the stinger at the end would have to be Brazzi barking, "DIABLO!"

AbbyNormal said...

Well, you wonderful folks just saved me an hour and a half. I DVRed this one and almost watched it today. Decided on something else, but made a note to watch it tomorrow.

I don't want to hate Brazzi, I think I will just delete this one off the DVR and forget I ever knew it existed.

Thank you! :-)

Jennythenipper said...

Hey Nora: I would love to do a book on Robert Donat. He deserves a big lovely picture-heavy Films of Volume with lots of essays and biography goodness.

Abbey! Yeah if you just want Rossano Brazzi, you are probably better off rewatching Summertime. This one is not his best. Then again, if you are in the right mood it might be good for a laugh. S'up to you, darlin'.

ladybug said...

So put Mr. Donat in the queue of forthcoming great works. Special attention to the Mandarin please. I still cry over this one the most. Even more than Mr. Chips.

And ILL loves the "Netflix of Books" so much they are thinking of putting a new sign on the door.

Jennythenipper said...

I confess I've yet to watch The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. I want to get through all his other available films first. I've been deliberately stringing them out to avoid posting all Robert Donat all the time. I have four others left.

ladybug said...

Have several boxes of tissues on hand when you do see the film.

Sarah said...

Ohohohoho!!! Nice. Was going to do a Brazzi twofer all inspired by your Summertime redux and was blown because I really didn't feel like writing a review on Dark Purpose. Mind if I reference your blog entry on it instead? It's basically everything I want to say.

Sarah said...

Ach! Keep forgetting to tell you that I love your new blog header!!

Jennythenipper said...

Sarah, go ahead and reference away!

Thanks, Kate does swell work doesn't she!?

Sarah said...

Awesome! Thanks!

She sure does! I have spruced up my walls thanks to her!