Saturday, February 25, 2017

A not-so-fine pair

I was looking through my DVR to see which of the unwatched movies on it were avilable on DVD for me to write a post about. Among them was A Fine Pair, which has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive. I don't think I'd spend that kind of money on this movie, however.

The movie starts off with one of those obviously 1960s scores, this one courtesy of Ennio Morricone, and scenes of an airplane landing in New York. Italian woman Esmeralda Marini (Claudia Cardinale) goes through customs, and then gets in a cab and orders it to follow another car! She winds up at police headquarters. The man she was following is Capt. Mike Harmon (Rock Hudson), whom she had met in Italy a dozen years earlier when he was working with her late father, also a police detective.

It turns out that she has a reason for seeing Harmon again after all these years. She was stupid enough to become a crook, engaging in a jewel heist. Not just that, but a particularly daring jewel heist, robbing the villa of the Fairchild family in lovely Kitzbühel, Austria. The Fairchilds are back in New York for the time being, and Esmeralda has decided she's got remorse about being involved in the heist. So she figures that the best way to get out of it is to put the jewels back, Jack of Diamonds style. That way, when the Fairchilds return, nobody will be any the wiser. A good police detective like Harmon is the only person who could get around the alarm system, which, combined with their previous relationship, is why she's picked him. (He's married, now, of course, although we never see his wife.)

So Harmon goes off to Austria with Esmeralda, falling in love with her along the way. He learns about the alarm system, and eventually comes up with some ridiculous plot to defeat it, which involves heating the room to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (I think that's what he said; one of the IMDb reviewers lists it as 134 degrees), making it like a sauna. But if he had to heat the room up like that, why wouldn't the alarm go off at room temperature, or while it was being heated up? It's all an excuse to get Cardinale to strip down to her bra in a scene filmed through an orange filter.

But the plot to put the jewels back works, and we're not even an hour into the movie! What's going on here? Of course, this means we have a twist, which is that Esmeralda tells Mark that she committed another heist in Rome. So off to Rome we go. But we also learn that perhaps getting into the Fairchild villa was a ruse so that Esmeralda could actually rob it. It all gets needlessly complicated with a bunch of twists and turns that continue once the action leaves Austria.

It's those twists and turns that make the movie a huge mess and ultimately a flop. Well, that's the big reason, I think; there's actually a lot more wrong. Esmeralda is such an annoying compulsive liar that I can't imagine anybody liking her. Even though the scenes at the Fairchild villa are over by the hour mark of the movie, the movie already then feels a lot longer than it is. And then there's the TCM print I watched. IMDb lists a running time of 113 minutes, which is also what's mentioned for the DVD release. The print TCM showed only ran 89 minutes, so I have no idea what was in the 24 minutes that were cut. Also, the print was panned-and-scanned down from 1.85:1 to 1.33:1, so the cinematography that should be lovely looks terrible. Jack of Diamonds is stylish and charming, if a mess; A Fine Pair is just a mess.

I'm sorry to say that I just didn't like A Fine Pair at all. I do like to say judge for yourself, and I suppose it would be nice if this had wound up in a box set of heist movies, or Rock Hudson movies, or something. But at the Warner Archive price?

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