|Private Williams goes "bare-backing"|
"Any fulfillment at the expense of normality should not be allowed to bring happiness."
On an Army barracks in the South, twisted passions and adulterous affairs are playing havoc with people's lives and emotions. Major Weldon Penderton (Marlon Brando) is married to the beautiful Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor) but he's much more interested in handsome Private Williams (Robert Forster), who rides a black horse through the woods both bare-backed and bare-assed. Penderton is so obsessed with Williams that he doesn't even turn to look at a car accident behind him so that he can continue to stare at the object of his affection, and he lovingly collects the private's discarded candy wrappers. Meanwhile Leonora is sleeping with next door neighbor Lt. Col. Morris Langdon (Brian Keith), whose depressed wife Alison (Julie Harris) cut off her nipples with garden shears and has much more of a connection with her Filipino houseboy Anacleto (Zorro David). Worse news for Penderton is that Private Williams has a crush on Leonora, and sneaks into her room at night to watch her sleep and play with her things, leading to a major [no pun intended] and infuriating climactic disappointment for the Army man. Leonora seems most of all to care about her horse, Firebird. Based on a novel by Carson McCullers, Reflections in a Golden Eye is fascinating and absorbing but at the same time hard to take entirely seriously, as it tends to be over-baked and soap opera-lurid at times. Brando gives a fairly good performance, but like many of his performances, it comes dangerously close to caricature. Harris and Taylor are fine as very different housewives, light years apart in intelligence and sensitivity; Keith is excellent, as is Zorro David, a painter and beautician who appeared in no other films. Forster makes a definite impression in his first film. Repressed, unhappy Major Penderton shows signs of wanting to break out of his closet, but he also destroys the career of a man who is suspected of being gay [because of his love of poetry and classical music!] but possibly isn't. The film received some criticism because it doesn't have any 1940's period atmosphere, but I saw nothing in the movie to indicate that it takes place in any other time period than when it was shot, the late sixties. Handsomely produced and photographed, and quite well-directed by Huston. NOTE: The DVD restores the original muted colors favored by Huston but replaced by the studios with regular color prints one week after the film's release.
Verdict: Kind of silly all told, but more than watchable and with an interesting plot. ***.