Monday, October 31, 2016

The Pride and the Passion

I've read that producer Stanley Kramer was fond of making message pictures. If that's the case, then the message of The Pride and the Passion must have been, "I'm arrogant enough to think I can put Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra in a costume drama and make it work."

The setting is Spain in 1810. Napoleon was running much of the Continent, and he had put one of his family on the Spanish throne, also occupying the place with a whole bunch of French troops. One company is dragging a cannon around, and it's more trouble than it's worth, so they ditch the thing down a ravine. The British find out, and sent naval man Anthony (Cary Grant) with a British company to retrive the cannon and bring it to the coast at Santander.

He retrives the cannon, but when he gets it to the flat land above the ravine, he's met by Miguel (Frank Sinatra). Miguel leads a bunch of rebels from Ávila, which is well inland. And dammit, Miguel wants to use that cannon to take Ávila back from the French. Miguel has more force with him than Anthony, so you can guess which way the cannon is going to go.

The Pride and the Passion is filled with one trope after another of the sort that you'd see in the wagon train-style western, or a bunch of military movies. One is that there has to be a love interest to be both a source of conflict between the two male leads, and to moderate between them. That part, Juana, is played by Sophia Loren.

Other tropes involve getting that cannon over, around, or through a whole bunch of obstacles. There are mountains, a river, a treeless plain, a bridge for a detachment to blow up, and a whole bunch of French patrols they have to avoid. Commanding those forces from Ávila is General Jouvet, played by Theodore Bikel who is about as well cast as Grant and Sinatra.

And then there are the silly ones, like the "village" that has a cathedral and thousands of people dressed in what look like Ku Klux Klan outfits, complete with pointy hoods, doing some sort of religious ritual. Oh, and there's the priest who doesn't want to hide the cannon in his cathedral; you wonder why.

It all goes on like this for a runtime of 132 hours. Well, it only feels like 132 hours; the running time is actually 132 minutes, which is still entirely too long. Poor Cary Grand and Frank Sinatra are terribly miscast, leading this viewer to laugh at a whole lot of this movie, which was clearly not the intent. And then there's the music. At times it's overpowering, with the musical cues being blatantly obvious.

Even the lovely Technicolor cinematography of Spain and of Sophia Loren can't save this one. But it's the sort of thing you might want to judge for yourself. The movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray from the TCM Shop. Amazon, meanwhile, seems to be running a special deal that's only available to those who have Amazon Prime. Not that I have any plans to buy this one.

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