Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Surprise Package, 1960

The surprise is its terrible. This is one 1960 'comedy' that passed me by completely and never surfaced here at all in the last 50 or so years, so when I saw it was on dvd, I had to investigate ... particularly as it was filmed on the Greek island of Rhodes, at Lindos - a place I loved a few years ago and it looks just the same here. But WHY is it in black and white? if they were filming on a Greek island back then, surely they could have ran to colour? 
Stanley Donen had the oddest career directing movies - he is 91 now - I won't even mention SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or SEVEN BRIDES, as I don't care for them much, both very over-rated - but I love 1949's ON THE TOWN and his 1955 ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, FUNNY FACE in 1957 and THE PAJAMA GAME, DAMN YANKEES in 1958 and also INDISCREET, then he did those 2 odd films with Yul Brynner: ONCE MORE WITH FEELING made in 1959 and released in 1960 after the death of its star Kay Kendall (who died in September 1959). Yul Brynner was the temperamental orchestra conductor and showed, as he does here in 1960, that while effective in epics and dramatic roles, he has no flair for comedy at all. 

Mitzi Gaynor is as delightful as ever - she had the misfortune to come along as musicals were dying out, but scored in THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS in 1954, in ANYTHING GOES, was one of the LES GIRLS in 1957 and probably peaked as Nellie Forbush in SOUTH PACIFIC in 1958. After that she did a forgettable David Niven comedy, this Donen misfire and another forgotten item in 1963 and that was the end of her movie career - fortunately she went into television and cabaret and had some great stage shows over the years, which are camp extravaganzas to see now on YouTube. 

Noel Coward is wonderful here even if he looks bored with the whole thing, He does have a good scene with Mitzi (in a ritzy dress) where they sing and dance the title song. He is the exiled King of Anatolia and Yul is the deported from the USA criminal. It is meant to be a comedy caper about Yul trying to steal the King's crown but is too tedious to go into detail about. Yul, Mitzi and Noel are the whole show here, and of course that Greek scenery - amusing to see Yul and Mitz on donkeys going up the hill to the town's fortress and ancient Greek temple with those great views ..... I did that in 2009. I dare say Donen, Yul and Mitzi had some talks about Kay Kendall as they had recently worked with her, and Noel knew her well too .... Coward had just finished OUR MAN IN HAVANA and had launched himself as a cabaret star in the USA. This film though has reams of dialogue in scenes that go on too long and have one itching to use the fast-forward ... which I did a few times. 

Donen went on to the agreeable THE GRASS IS GREENER and those 60s hits CHARADE, ARABESQUE, TWO FOR THE ROAD and BEDAZZLED (see Donen label), the rest of his output included the dreadful STAIRCASE in 1969 and some 70s misfires like LUCKY LADY and THE LITTLE PRINCE. But he gets trotted out occasionally to comment on his three with Audrey Hepburn or those great 50s musicals. SURPRISE PACKAGE though is one to forget. The dvd blurb hopefully describes it as a "delightful souffle" but zis ees one souffle that has collapsed and fallen flat. 

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