Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

THE UNHOLY WIFE


THE UNHOLY WIFE (1957). Director: John Farrow.

Paul (Rod Steiger) is a vintner who marries a woman, Phyllis (Diana Dors), who admits from the first that she's not very good. It's not just that she has no maternal instinct, she doesn't even have any particular love for her little boy, Mike (Gary Hunley), and as he's a charmer that puts her in an especially bad light. We learn from the first that Phyllis has fallen for hunky rodeo man San Sanders (Tom Tryon, who later became a novelist), and wants to murder Paul. But will she succeed in her plans? There are ironic and compelling aspects to this sultry melodrama, which features an interesting cast and good performances. Steiger is excellent, as usual, and Dors is pretty good, although one could say that she plays it a little too cool and unemotional for the most part. [Even sociopaths can at least act emotional when they have to.] Tom Tryon, little Gary Hunley, and Arthur Franz as Paul's priest brother are notable, as is Beulah Bondi as Paul's mother. [It's hard to imagine Diana Dors and Beulah Bondi in the same movie, but there they are, sometimes in the same frame.] Marie Windsor is her usual sardonic self in a brief bit as an associate of Phyllis' in a nightclub. Dors appears very deglamorized in certain sequences.

Verdict: May not seem promising at first but stick with it. ***.