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RITA HAYWORTH & ALDO RAY IN 'MISS SADIE THOMPSON'

Charles Bronson looks over Rita Hayworth YEAR: 1954
While almost too old for this kind of sexually-driven role, she's actually the perfect age given the world-weary experience 
Whether he hypnotizes Gene Tierney right up front or rapes Peter O'Toole off-screen, from WHIRLPOOL to LAWRENCE ARABIA to playing the scholarly buzzkill in Woody Allen's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY while frowning-around in pretty much everything in-between, Jose Ferrer is known for his creepy characters driven by lust, greed, and in this case, what Hollywood considers worse than both, hypocritical Christians...

Foreign Poster Artwork
Guess the poor guy can't be blamed... Rita Hayworth, the bombshell actress whose draping hair broke hearts of real men from the 1940's to cinema-iconic fictional ones, like Morgan Freeman in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, is the title starlet, and while almost too old for this kind of sexually-driven role, she's actually the perfect age given the world-weary experience that lies beneath the much too jovial facade, making the role seem a bit over the top at first: that's until Ferrer's reverend Alfred Davidson gets inside her head, tinkering with past guilt and inner demons (or perhaps simply creating them): thrusting the formerly ultra-engaging bargirl into a depression for all the once enlightened marines stationed on American Samoa — particularly an actor who looks like he could be the toughest guy on the high school football team, in any small town in America, only ten years older...

Before the signature mustache, Charles was just an actor
Not the muscular Charles Bronson, who's one of four central servicemen with a makeshift job to serve and protect the beautiful, red-dressed, red-headed siren as she's "marooned" on the island for a week before her literal ship comes in, but Aldo Ray, a bulky, blue-eyed mountainous blond dude that, from first setting eyes on Rita's Sadie, he's a man smitten, which leads to a romance without a lot of depth or merit — basically, survival of the fittest, and he's also got the highest rank so, from the onset, Thompson is his girl, Neanderthal style... After which his constant flirtation seems like an oversexed jock trying desperately to land a sexy, slightly older dame: But not if Ferrer can help it...

As usual, his acting is intentionally dry and morose, getting right under your skin, as is intended for the role. And while he's playing the typical uptight Holy Roller going against the organic, existential lifestyle of the island "heathens," there's a reality that makes the performance seem genuine and, surprisingly enough, sympathetic. His control over Sadie is where the movie hits a wall, on purpose. The good times are only supposed to roll for as long as the villain is not in complete control,

ThompsonScore: ***
Originally filmed in 3D and given the same treatment on a Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu Ray (with the right glasses, supposedly), the 2D transfer is roughshod and grainy, making the beautiful island locale resemble a balmy purgatory, and this, too, could be intentional. Some of the best scenes take place outdoors within the first ten minutes before the lady arrives. It's fun and relaxing watching Ray, Bronson and Rudy Bond jest through their daily routine like they've been there forever, which sets up for the inevitable changeling as abrupt as when the preacher strikes, knowing of Sadie's past...

Yet the latter transformation is far more uncomfortable. As the movie is bound to morph into gloom given the storyline of a hypocritical Bible Belter ruining a lady's natural charm and prowess, it happens far too soon. But Hayworth's performance does improve within the mental torture. What seemed forced and breezy in the rudimentary stages becomes genuine and moving. It's just too bad the initial party couldn't have gone on about twenty minutes longer.
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