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.
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