Thursday, December 27, 2012
Abel (Anthony Perkins) comes to South American looking for treasure, and learns that a certain forbidden area in the jungle is home to a mysterious bird-girl, Rima (Audrey Hepburn), whom the natives see as a kind of witch and wish to destroy. Abel finds the real woman behind the legend and the two fall in love to face danger and tragedy together. This adaptation of the novel by William Henry Hudson has always had the reputation of being a stinker [by people who have never seen it] primarily due to the miscasting of the leads. Sensitive Tony Perkins as a fortune-hunting adventurer? Sophisticated Audrey Hepburn as a South American native girl? The casting is slightly ridiculous, but both actors manage to rise above it and give not only decent but effective performances, as do Lee J. Cobb (the old man who raised Rima), Nehemiah Persoff, Sessue Hayakawa (king of the natives), and especially Henry Silva, in perhaps his most memorable role, as the rather malevolent Kua-Ko. Joseph Ruttenberg's cinematography is stunning, as is the art direction by E. Preston Ames and William Horning. [Although the credits boast that this was filmed in South America, most of the sequences were shot on colorfully dressed sound stages.] Bronislau Kaper did the score, with some additional music from Heitor Villa-Lobos. Perkins sings "Green Grow the Mansions" not too badly. One particularly memorable scene details the natives' trial-by-insect! Director Mel Ferrer, better known as an actor, was married to Hepburn at the time of filming, and crafted a creditable showcase for his lovely wife.
Verdict: Incurable romantics will probably love the movie; others approach with caution. ***1/2.