Written by / 5/15/2016 / No comments / , ,

THE NEGLECTED CATASTROPHE OF EXODUS

Like in Highlights Magazine: See As One Actress is Listening While The Other One is Speaking YEAR: 1960
Yeah, yeah, so with the exception of a Jewish producer who turned to director Otto Preminger during a screening of EXODUS and quipped, "Let my people go," this movie has been hidden away from the bashing it deserves, and should be more universally admired for those who desire bashing bad movies, or old movie bashing; you choose the name, it's all the same in the end...

Twilight Time DVD
For fans of awful cinema, it's hilariously delightful to see otherwise fine actors reading lines like they're simply... reading lines. And those lines, written by the famously formerly unfairly blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, should have gotten a black eye in his Benzedrine soaked bathtub for, in adapting a popular and, they say, very incredible Leon Uris novel, makes each scene seem as if it stood alone, on its very own, like a stage play with exposition beginning each sentence so the movie doesn't flow from here to there but rather, rocks clumsily back and forth like a treadmill going absolutely nowhere. And as for that one allowed, quotable insult on the director, who was not very popular in the business, some say for his erratic, difficult behavior on set, it's very unfair... for EXODUS, by a viewing standard, has absolutely no direction. With the exception of the camera randomly gliding back to show other people are actually witnessing the banality being spoken, all with expressions deader than door nails, there's simply no movement at all... At least not where it should be.

Well it does have great "bluish" artwork
And the editing, too. Particular scenes will end as if the editor couldn't find time to cut it seconds before the time was supposed to lead to the next scene. In one hilarious moment when the horribly miscast Paul Newman is pretending to be an... American Soldier, wearing baggy clothes flagged upon his short bony build, usually enhanced like it should be for any actor of short stature and perfect facial looks... Yet poor Paul's left hanging like those draped-over clothing... And in this scene he's pulling off a much-too-easily planned and partially executed mission to get a load of Jewish immigrants from an internment island (within the Mediterranean Sea) aboard a quickly acquired ship, the scene lacking suspense and intrigue, and...

Back to the subject at hand, using an example of the film's ongoing awkward editing: As an "enemy" soldier returns to his position while Newman's jeep moves forward through the opened gate at the start of the undercover operation, he, the soldier, stands in a position that's edited, right in the middle of a comical formation that slightly resembles a subtle version of Nazi goose-stepping! And that particular moment is but a microcosm of an entire film that, in almost each and every sequence, provides a feeling of everyone and everything being completely abandoned halfway through.

Why? Just... Why?
And often times there seems to be no cuts as the camera, very unlike the creative motion of Otto's other work; his visuals gliding with the story and, after all, he's a Film Noir pioneer... But here his lens merely stares straight at the actors like an awkward student does a scolding teacher. And that scolding... or those scoldings... are the endlessly preachy lectures from Dalton Trumbo's embarrassing, one-dimensional script that feels like an apology within every line spoken; a moral lesson during times when a scene is meant for watching and enjoying, not brooding and perpetually goading the phantom "other side" that he feels disagrees with him. And when Paul Newman isn't stalwart in saving lives, or romancing the "Gorgeous American Girl Who Quickly Comes Around To Learn What The Spoon-Fed Audience Is Learning At The Same Time," he chain-smokes nervous cigarettes like a New York hood about to... shoot some pool, or something. Like he wants nothing to do with this picture he's stuck in. Hell, even John Wayne took time to get his eyes taped back in THE CONQUEROR, which is GONE WITH THE WIND compared to this mess. Poor Paul, in the starring-role, seems a walk-on within each and every step. And in one overboard scene, as the biggest, most devilish racist soldier says how he can spot a Jew from miles away, Newman, undercover, says he has a splinter in his eye, and the racist looks into it, still talking about his penchant for uncovering the particular "irritating race." It's obvious that Newman, surprising to audiences for being half-Jewish with those bright blue eyes (let's be honest, most are shocked upon first hearing this), was cast for that purpose alone: even the most beautiful man in the world is "one of them!" meant to "teach us all a lesson!" But he's simply drowsy and lethargic throughout, and doesn't seem to want to be part of it at all... So what happened? It's one of the worst performances ever, and we're talking Paul Newman here! Was there a gun to his, and everyone else's, head, to get this movie shot quick, before the important source novel lost interest, or they'd all be dead? Sure seems that way. One of those "brainwashed captured soldier" videos has more imaginary styling.

"I don't know why!"
Well that's just another silly theory to ponder as you go, watch, and roll with the unintentionally hilarious flow; for EXODUS is an all-out learning process concerning a movie with such a highly regarded cast, crew and studio, and the question is: How could the final cut have made it "in the can," as they say in Hollywood, where heads must have been rolling when this turkey descended. And a few other examples of clumsy filmmaking: an older, moral compass, at one point, actually stares into the camera as if about to break the fourth wall while other times, characters will remain in a scene as another cast member is added. And then that person, whose job is done, will walk out during the other person's dialogue as if he/she were suddenly motioned off-camera to exit as if it were during a... Wait, that's it... The answer may just be clear, and very nearly figured out...

Perhaps EXODUS is really a three-hour rehearsal, the actors intentionally going half-ass, thinking the camera's not on yet, while those not speaking can be seen visibly waiting for their lines to arrive while doing a bad imitation of what's otherwise called... listening. Or maybe they're filming auditions for a stage play and decided to make a movie of it. Or perhaps it's a test-screening that never did make it to home plate, and yet... There it is in all its glory, simply because of the significance of the story, protected in time from those critics who usually pan films for far less obvious reasons, and don't let go. It's the ingredients here, not the pudding, wherein all the proof lies. If an adored, put-upon and frankly, somewhat overrated "Communist" (he bought the dream, but no millionaire artist carries the box out from the store, with a receipt) didn't write this fluff, overdoing the racist characters with keystone shiftiness while underplaying who he's trying to make heroes by having no spirited awakening or character arc, everyone just knows everything there is to know better than anyone watching the show, and there are even sneaky little jabs at those who once judged Communists, comparing them to Nazis. And it's all just plain silly... For this would be forever pinned to a cinematic dartboard if an endearing and handsome method actor didn't star, and a Messianic writer didn't scribe. There would be no end to what EXODUS deserves, which might not be what you think judging by this review as it nears its final stages...

A genius wrote the back propaganda
As a fan of TROLL 2, who even appeared in that catastrophic cult film's documentary, BEST WORST MOVIE – this even worse movie should have a Following. Although it's harder to laugh at these particular actors, at first. Eva Marie Saint, wow, she couldn't have been better in ON THE WATERFRONT with method-acing guru Marlon Brando by her side. But with Brando's capably-skinny and "not so weird", younger replacement, she's stiff as a board, and her dialogue with young, future horror starlet Jill Haworth (after conversing with a cab driver who speaks like an expository history teacher)...

This blonde little "American and not Jewish looking" darling, who Eva plans to adopt after two breezy scenes, are by far the WORST the film has to offer, especially one taking place at the beach; and yet, they're also the funniest. A pair of pretty blondes, one perhaps too young to compliment but she does don a bikini, speak to each other like a mother and daughter performing to a community theater audience wearing bibs and slobber... The audience, that is.

Normal Score: * Camp Value: ***1/2
And last but certainly not least, the most grueling pain to suffer is the Sound, the last thing we judge a movie on unless it's like trying to hear action figures whispering echoes inside a shoebox when you're ten feet off the ground. Most of the time, the words are unheard completely, which might fare Trumbo well since his dialogue trumps all things horrendous within; though some of us like our Camp fully audible to poke fun at. But EXODUS is, like no other extremely bad vehicle, completely unaware that it not only resembles a student film despite what should have been an Oscar grabbing big budget saga that's, to coin a modern phrase, an "Epic Fail" stealthily considered "not as great as it should be" as opposed to what it is, really, not deep down but right up front: a Cult Film without worthy status or a Following, unwilling to admit it deserves a second chance – to be taken seriously in a hilarious fashion. For, to rear back to this writeup's beginning, it's only the director who gets the quotable blame, but this isn't Leon Uris's classic page-turner, and remember, folks, the writer, not director, gets the coveted apostrophe: making this Dalton Trumbo's mess i.e. Dalton Trumbo's EXODUS. And this was no accident. It's much too long and involved to be considered a misfire. Our idealistic Phoenix emerged from the Blacklist ashes and, after SPARTACUS, which is entertaining but wastes the style of hired-in-vain director Stanley Kubrick and gets bland after 45 minutes, laid a giant egg that was hatched but never sprang forth proper wings to, like Icarus now, crash and burn in a proper "cheesy movie" fashion. What a waste of classic camp potential. But give it time, and hopefully this review might help this genuine turd shine, that is, unless the writer's considered a "Racist" by the mere suggestion to throw it under the same proverbial bus that could eventually drive it to Cult Film... EXODUS!
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