Thursday, September 19, 2013

Merle Oberon goes wild!

By the early 1960s, Merle Oberon was pushing 50. Being 50-plus in the Hollywood of that era meant that an actress wasn't going to get such meaty leading roles any longer, unless you wanted something that made you look your age. So what was an actress like Merle Oberon to do? Well, she went to Mexico and co-funded a production company that could then star her in a movie. The result is Of Love and Desire, which is airing on what's left of the Fox Movie Channel tomorrow afternoon (September 20) at 1:00 PM.

The movie starts off with Steve Corey (Steve Cochran) landing his private plane at an airport in Mexico. He's a mining engineer who is supposed to see Paul Beckmann (Curt Jürgens) about an engineering job at one of Beckermann's mines. But a mixup means that Corey can't get to business right away, instead getting taken to Beckermann's estate where he's holding a party. At that party, he meets Katherine (Oberon), Paul's half-sister, who immediately starts flirting with Steve. Another guy a the party who was working for Beckermann and is about to return home from Mexico, Bill Maxton (Steve Brody) tells Steve that he was Katherine's last boyfriend, and that Steve should watch out because she'll seduce any man at the drop of a hat.

Bill was right: after the party ends, Katherine takes Steve home to her private residence and immediately induces him into sleeping with her. Really, it's that quick. Paul is mildly irritated because he had gone to the trouble of putting Steve's stuff in the guest house on his estate, and also because Steve had said he wanted to get an early start assessing the mines early that morning, and sleeping with Katherine unsurprisingly dealyed that. Well, there's more to Paul's disapproval, but that comes up later in the movie.

Later that day, Katherine shows up at the mine where Steve is, bringing him lunch. Since the mine needs another week or two to be ready for Steve's portion of the job, Katherine convinces him to run off with her and see Mexico. She proves to be quite the high maintenance woman, though, needing a whole lot of emotional support. Apparently, her first love died in the war, and Steve reminds her of that first love. Or, more appropriately, Steve and all of the other 4821398574328584317859 men she's slept with reminded her in one way or another of that first love. There's quite the emotional hole here. And if you hear Paul talk about it, he'll tell you that there's a lot more that Katherine isn't letting on. Of course, Paul doesn't just have Katherine's best interests, or those of the men in her life, at heart in trying to keep them from getting too close to her.

Eventually, we reach a climax that has Steve convincing Katherine to elope with him to the United States. But, after packing and a confrontatoin with Paul, Katherine instead runs away, in a scene reminiscent of Polly Bergen at the beginning of The Caretakers that winds up with Katherine going nuts in a hotel with Steve running behind her, while she keeps running into man after man after man. By this time, I was laughing instead of really caring what happened to poor Katherine.

Of Love and Desire is a mess. In some ways, that's a shame. The movie was filmed in Mexico, where Oberon was living at the time, and if there were a wide-screen print of the movie available, it would probably be lovely to look at: the characters go around Mexico and there's some beautiful scenery to be had. But you don't really care about any of the characters, and even wonder whether any of them is telling the truth about their back stories. And as I said earlier, that climax with Oberon running through the hotel is one of those unintentionally funny scenes. It's just too bad that it takes the film too long to get to the unintentionally funny stuff.

As far as I know, Of Love and Desire has never been released to DVD.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This movie recently aired on the Fox channel on November 16th, 2013. If you pay attention to the real back story of this movie, the actor Curt Jurgens, who plays Oberon's jealous stepbrother has a rather twisted attraction for his stepsister that he plays out throughout the movie. He tortures her into believing that she is the family problem. As a young virgin, she refused to give herself to a young lover before he went off to fight in WWII. He ends up killing himself because she refuses to sleep with him. Women were expected to maintain their virginity during this time period for the marriage bed. The step-brother convinces Oberon's character that she is responsible for bringing shame on the family name, convincing her that she is a sex-addict, playing on her guilt over not giving herself to the young soldier. The reality was that Curt Jurgen's character wanted Oberon's character to recognize that he wanted her for himself. Now that is crazy!

As Katherine runs through the streets and the hotel and is finally surrounded by a group of men in the streets-this scene is a sexual metaphor for all of the men's arms she has fallen into in the past.

If anything, this movie does a good job of brainwashing women into believing that your a loose woman and a whore if you sleep with too many men but it's okay if guys during this time period sleep with everything that walks and brag about it.