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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

GAMES

Simone Signoret











GAMES (1967). Director: Curtis Harrington.

"I'm afraid I'm accustomed to infinitely more exciting -- and dangerous -- games."

Jennifer Montgomery (Katharine Ross) is a wealthy gal with an artist husband, Paul (James Caan), and a beautiful Manhattan townhouse. Alas, Jennifer isn't too bright. When a cosmetics saleslady named Lisa Schindler (Simone Signoret) shows up at her doorstep and faints from hunger or something, Jennifer invites this total stranger to stay and the woman simply moves in. If you can buy that utterly improbable scenario [I mean, give her a meal and send her on her way] you might buy the rest of this admittedly entertaining but often stupid movie that borrows a plot device or two from Signoret's better known film Diabolique. Paul has a game room full of macabre pinball machines and the like but Lisa tells him his games are tame as, say, compared to Russian roulette, and before long the members of this strange household are playing increasingly violent practical jokes on one another, with delivery man Don Stroud eventually becoming an unintended victim. But there's even more intrigue afoot after that ... Signoret gives a very good, enigmatic performance and Stroud is fine, while Ross and Caan will probably not consider this one of the better showcases for their talents -- they both "underplay" so much after someone is shot in their house that it's almost unintentionally comical. The movie itself cries out for more atmosphere and more inventive direction. Florence Marly of Harrington's Queen of Blood plays a baroness and party guest in one sequence; Kent Smith is the family retainer; Estelle Winwood is a neighbor with cats; and Ian Wolfe is a doctor -- all are on the money. Signoret won a well-deserved Oscar for her work in Room at the Top, which this in no way resembles.

Verdict: These games are a little too familiar. **1/2.

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