Saturday, April 17, 2010

A love triangle only Hollywood could create

Sometimes, lovely settings are used to hide the fact that a movie has no energy in either its plot or its acting. In Niagara, for example, the fact that Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe aren't well cast as a married couple is overshadowed by gorgeous location shooting of Niagara Falls. Cinemascope made location shooting even more beautiful, as can be seen in the movie Boy on a Dolphin, which airs tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM on the Fox Movie Channel.

Sophia Loren, making her first movie for a Hollywood studio, plays Phaedra, a poor Greek skin diver living on one of the many beautiful Greek islands. One day, while looking for sponges, she comes upon what looks like a priceless ancient Greek statue, of a boy on a dolphin. It could be worth quite a bit of money, if only she could get it off the sea floor.

Enter two people who could help Phaedra and her family do just that. First is the American archaeologist Jim Calder, played by Alan Ladd. He's the sort of guy who would be campaigning today for the Elgin Marbles to be removed from the British Museum and returned to the Acropolis, where apparently they'd just erode in the elements. Calder is adamant that the statue remain in Greece, but can't help Phaedra very much financially. On the other hand, wealthy art collector Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb) has the money that would be quite useful for Phaedra. But, he wants the statue for himself. The rest of the plot conflict is so predictable that it doesn't really need to be mentioned.

Why, then, is Boy on a Dolphin worth watching? There are a few reasons. Sophia Loren is one (or, if you have a dirty mind, two). She was in her early 20s at the time she made the movie, and was extremely good looking, especially in color and in the skimpy outfits she had to wear as a skin diver. Second is the equally good looking scenery. It's pretty darn hard to go wrong with cinematography in the Greek islands, or the Acropolis, although many of the indoor scenes that were filmed at Rome's famed Cinecittà Studios aren't quite as good.

As for the love affair? Oh dear, what were they thinking? Alan Ladd is probably best known for being short. As such, he literally was not up to playing opposite a Sophia Loren. Webb, on the other hand, was pushing 70, and while he could play elegant well, he wasn't nearly as good as putting over the romantic angle as was, say, the older Cary Grant. It doesn't help that his bad guy here doesn't have the elegance of what he had played in movies like Laura a decade earlier. Still, the visually good things in this movie merit its getting at least one look.

Boy on a Dolphin seems never to have been released to DVD, so you'll have to catch the rare showings on the Fox Movie Channel.

No comments: