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Author Topic: Diana Dors/Rod Steiger/John Farrow's The Unholy Wife (1957)  (Read 54 times)
morrison-dylan-fan
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« on: November 13, 2017, 06:32:37 PM »


9 Seen on Video

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Talking to a fellow IMDber a few years ago on the IMDb Film Noir board (RIP!) I got told about a great-sounding Noir starring Diana Dors and Rod Steiger. Hoping to find the title,I was surprised to not being able to find it on DVD or Video in the UK. Keeping a note of the movie over the years,I decided whilst doing some online X-Mas shopping,to have another go at finding it,and stumbled on the US Video version! Despite the postage price tag being a bit hefty,I decided it was time to at last meet the unholy wife.

The plot:

Moving to the US from London, Phyllis gets married to former pilot/now vineyard owner Paul,and has a son Michael with him. Over the next six years,vines grow on their marriage,which leads to Phyllis falling out of love with Paul. Looking for a spark in life,Phyllis becomes tangled in an affair with rodeo San Sanders. Desiring a fresh start in life,Phyllis makes a plan with San to kill Paul. Going out with a gun one night,Phyllis aims to kill Paul,but in the dark accidentally kills his pal Gino Verdugo. Running back into the house,Phyllis starts changing her plan to manipulate Paul,so he can fade into the darkness of the night for her.

View on the film:

Gliding across the screen, the alluring Diana Dors gives an incredible performance as Phyllis, whose seductive innocence Dors threads into a Femme Fatale ruthlessness of Phyllis manipulating Paul and San to play her tune. Looking back on her games in flashbacks, Dors digs her nails deep into Phyllis Femme Fatale state of mind,that Dors transforms from being devilishly mischievous,to life completely from Phyllis's face. Riding a wave of passion with Phyllis, Tom Tryon gives a swaggering performance as drifting Noir loner San. Setting off Paul's concerns about Phyllis's faithfulness, Tryon gives San an arrogance dripping with menace. Caught between Tryon and Phyllis, Rod Steiger gives a brittle performance as Paul. Worn down by the years of a loveless marriage, Steiger's brings out Paul's attempts to grasp of what little remains of the Phyllis he knew.

Introducing the leading lady in a washed-out close-up,director John Farrow & cinematographer Lucien Ballard bravely contrast the glamour of the Film Noir with raw present-set scenes splashed with murky colours that subtly bring the bad times to Phyllis and her guys. Hearing Phyllis and San's plans on the grapevine, Farrow and Ballard give the flashbacks a ruby red appearance which brims a fantastic atmosphere of a "Woman's Picture" that has gone off the tracks into Film Noir,as scattered close-ups uncover the rot eating away in the vineyard.

Mapping out the state of Paul and Phyllis's romance as she makes a plot with San, the screenplay by Jonathan Latimer and William Durkee pour a glass of cracking Film Noir dialogue,that is shaken with a harsh pessimism and jet-black comedic one-liners. Whilst having to go for a "spiritual" ending that the Hays Code would accept, the writers make Phyllis's journey to the spirit world be one that takes a wrong turn to merciless desire for murder,and a calculating Femme Fatale knife edge,where the unholy wife stands.


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cigar joe
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 08:18:01 PM »

Thanks never heard of it will check it out.  Afro

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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2017, 09:07:34 AM »

I think I wrote a review about that a couple of years ago. It's not bad, but I wouldn't rate it as high as you do. Often it plays more like a marital drama than a Noir.

The big surprise here is Diana Dors who, like Mamie van Doren, was much more than just another blond bombshell and a much better actress than she was given credit for. I liked it that they showed Dors with mousy brown hair and no make-up, you hardly recognize her. Dors is quite adept at making the audience feel at least some kind of sympathy for her bored wife.
Unfortunately Marie Windsor is completely wasted in a very small role as another b-girl. Who hires Windsor and then does nothing with her?? Rod Steiger is only OK here.

The movie is on youtube, though the copy is fairly bad. I saw a better copy on youtube, but that seems to have been taken down.

« Last Edit: November 14, 2017, 09:11:32 AM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

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