|Glenn Ford and Ingrid Thulin with backdrop of Notre Dame|
This remake of the silent film of the same title has been updated to WW Two. Argentinian Madriaga (Lee J. Cobb) is dispatched with rather quickly, and most of the story takes place in Paris, where an initially superficial Julio Desnoyers (Glenn Ford) has an affair with the married Marguerite Laurier (Ingrid Thulin of The Silence). Julio's father Marcelo (Charles Boyer) had deserted Army service years before and begs his son to fight the Nazis, unaware that Julio has already joined the resistance. This leads to the movie turning into a ersatz spy picture that has Julio going off on a suicide mission and a final confrontation with his cousin Heinrich (Karl Boehm of Sissi). Other characters include Julio's sister Chi Chi (Yvette Mimieux of Light in the Piazza) who joins the resistance much sooner; Marguerite's husband, Etinne (Paul Henreid); and Heinrich's father, Karl (Paul Lukas). It's amazing that adding all the excitement and peril of WW Two, plus technicolor and CinemaScope, has not resulted in a better movie than the original, but a far worse one. A middle-aged Glenn Ford is horribly miscast -- Minelli wanted a more appropriate Alain Delon but MGM nixed it -- and his love affair with Marguerite never for a minute seems passionate or believable. Scenes that should crackle with tension and drama are frittered away by Minelli's lacklustre direction. Not a single actor ever gets a close up, further distancing us from the characters, and Andre Previn's musical score can best be described as insipid. Milton R. Krasner's cinematography is a plus, but the sweeping vistas do little to pull us into the story. Other changes from the silent version include more wartime interaction between the two families -- one French, the other German -- and Etienne is not blinded. A bizarre sequence has Marguerite telling her husband she's leaving him for Julio the exact instant after he shows up, shattered by being tortured, after months away -- what perfect timing! Badly written and poorly made despite all the technological advances, this is a colossal bore. Of the cast, only Charles Boyer makes much of an impression. Like the silent version, this also has shots of phantom horsemen floating through the skies, and this time it seems even hokier.
Verdict: Stick with the original. ** out of 4.