Sunday, December 15, 2013

TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN

I watched most of TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (1962) last night. When I wasn't watching the film (recently recorded off of TCM), I was watching the inside of my eyelids. Hey, I had a long day.

TWO WEEKS is a wide screen potboiler that reunites actor Kirk Douglas and director Vincente Minnelli for a film about the movie industry. The two had teamed ten years earlier for the similarly themed THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) but B&B is far and away the better film.

TWO WEEKS finds washed up actor Douglas in a sanitarium where he's recovering from alcoholism and a failed suicide attempt. He gets a cable from director Edward G. Robinson who's in Rome shooting a picture. The two had worked together on many hit films and Robinson claims he needs Douglas for a few days work.

When Douglas arrives in Rome, he discovers that the small part doesn't exist but Robinson still needs him to direct all of the dubbed dialogue that either must be done by the American production company or an Italian one (which would produce vastly different results).

While Douglas is in the sound studio directing the dubbin, Robinson falls ill and it's left to Douglas to take over as director and finish the film. He knocks heads with temperamental young actor George Hamilton and eventually coaxes a stellar performance from him. But in the end, the picture is taken away from Douglas which leads him into another downward spiral.

That spiral is aided and abetted by Douglas's ex-wife Cyd Charisse who is now married to a wealthy Italian businessman. Douglas and Charisse share a bizarre love-hate relationship and Douglas attempts to re-enact his attempted suicide by automobile with Charisse along for the ride as an unwilling passenger (as depicted in the lobby card above).

Douglas doesn't die. Neither does Charisse. TWO WEEKS is still a major Hollywood studio production and a happy ending is required.

TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN has horrible dialogue, antagonistic relationships for no clear reasons in which characters shriek shrilly at each other and implausible coincidences and plot twists. In several scenes the lead actors appear to be playing their scenes to an audience of onlookers in restaurants, bars and parties. These extras all have their gazes focused on the leads who are exchanging dialogue. A climactic party at an Italian castle is populated by grotesque party goers (one woman is deathly pale). We don't know who these characters are or precisely why they're behaving so strangely. There's a general air of overall weirdness to some parts of TWO WEEKS that seems to be inspired by Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2.

But there's just one problem. It's the other way around. TWO WEEKS was filmed and released in 1962, while 8 1/2 came out in 1963. Is it possible that Fellini saw TWO WEEKS and was in some way inspired by the more outre aspects of this film?

TWO WEEKS was test screened twice before the studio (MGM) demanded some major cuts to the material. These missing scenes allegedly contain some more serious sexual content and help explain the motivation for Charisse's character. The film went into wide release with these studio enforced cuts and promptly laid an egg. TWO WEEKS reportedly lost over two million dollars.

I had high hopes for this one. I admire both Kirk Douglas and Edgar G. Robinson and Vincente Minnelli made a lot of great films in his career. TWO WEEK IN ANOTHER TOWN isn't one of them.

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