Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Doris Day, international woman of mystery

One of Doris Day's odder movies is Caprice, which is airing tomorrow at noon ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Day stars as Patricia, who develops cosmetics for a company owned by Sir Jason (Edward Mulhare) At the start of the movie she's caught in Paris trying to sell industrial secrets to another company. Jason wants to punish her, but it's impressed upon him that this would be bad for business, and just firing her would be better. So she gets fired and banished from working in Europe. But she immediately gets offered a job by Christopher White (Richard Harris), who is the agent for competing cosmetics firm owner Matthew Cutter (Jack Kruschen).

The whole thing is actually a ruse, however: Patricia is actually plotting with Sir Jason to steal a formula from Cutter's company for a waterproof hairspray developed by Stuart (Ray Walston). Cutter quickly figures this out, and spends most of the rest of the movie trying to get Patricia to admit on tape that she's really still working for Sir Jason, as this would basically bankrupt Sir Jason's company. Christopher, meanwhile, seems a bit diffident, with it being unclear whether he's working for Cutter or trying to put the moves on Patricia. And Stuart really only seems to be working for himself.

This is part of the problem with Caprice: Everybody seems to be working two or more sides. As for Doris Day's Patricia, she's not only spying on Cutter for Sir Jason, she's working for herself on the side. It turns out that her father was a spy out in the real world, investigating a narcotics ring when he was killed in the Swiss Alps. She's trying to avenge her father's death, and the clues have apparently led her somewhere in the cosmetics world. Much of Caprice is supposed to be a comedic spy caper, and the complexity of the spy plot is really much too much for the film. I have to admit that I find it a bit difficult to care about what happens to the characters.

That having been said, some of the scenes are funny, such as one at an outdoor restaurant when Patricia has realized that she's being recorded in the attempt to get her to admit she's really still working for Sir Jason. She tells Christopher, all right, but she does it in a way that constantly has sound effects drowning out anything the bug could pick up. And then there's Patricia trying to get a lock of hair from the woman who's testing the hairspray.

But what Caprice is really worth watching for is the look at the 1960s as they more or less were, or how people at the time dreamed it could be. (This as opposed to how people of today look back on the 1960s, something I don't particularly care for.) There's a lot of trippy 1960s set design: the suspended bed in Richard Harris' apartment, or the faux stone facing are two good examples. Doris Day gets to wear a lot of mod 1960s fashions that are kind of frightening today. But this was stylish 45 years ago. And then there's the groovy music by DeVol. If only the movie weren't so busy.

Caprice is OK as background entertainment, and acceptable if you're a fan of Doris Day. But to be honest, it's really nothing great other than for a look back at the 1960s.

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