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

Thursday, January 8, 2015


SANCTUARY (1961). Director: Tony Richardson.

A housekeeper named Nancy (Odetta) is sentenced to hang because she murdered an infant, but strangely the baby's mother, Temple (Lee Remick), wants to save the murderess' life. To that end she tells her father, Governor Drake (Howard St. John) what transpired during some very dark days in her past. In this second film version of William Faulkner's "Sanctuary" after The Story of Temple Drake [with parts of Faulkner's sequel, "Requiem for a Nun" thrown into the mix], Temple again winds up at a bootlegger's hide-out, is raped by "Candy Man" (Yves Montand) and taken to a whorehouse, but eventually winds up married to straight arrow Gowan Stevens (Bradford Dillman), whereupon she hires old associate Nancy to look after her children. Sanctuary idiotically tries to convince the viewer that somehow her infant's murder is all her fault, which is so morally moronic it isn't funny. And that isn't the only problem with the movie. Montand is screamingly miscast as the rapist ["Wanna dwink?" he asks Dillman in one hilarious scene], and although Remick has given some nice performances elsewhere, she is defeated by the sheer stupidity of James Poe's screenplay. Ironically Sanctuary emerges as more dated than The Story of Temple Drake because in this version Temple falls in love with her rapist, an odious notion that even soap operas finally began to reject in recent years. [Yes, one could argue that it's really sexual obsession, and Temple is not normal, but it's still offensive.] Dillman gives one of his "I'm not really sure what I'm doing here" performances; Harry Townes is notable as Nancy's lawyer, Ira; and Reta Shaw is fun as the painted madame of a brothel. Folksinger Odetta isn't a seasoned enough actress to make much of an impression as Nancy, but her part is so unbelievable it would tax the talents of an experienced acting genius. This very stupid movie seems to forget that there is never any justification for taking the life of an innocent child. The phony quasi-religious ending may have you screaming at the TV. In black and white CinemaScope.

Verdict: Looks like "fun," but isn't. *1/2.

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