The script for BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (TWIST OF FATE) is a derivative rehash of what was mildly popular as a second feature a few years before. In other words – a noir. The dialogue seems to be the type where one expects an actor to turn to the camera and remark ‘We’re all in a movie, aren’t we?’ The real potential star of the picture, Stanley Baker, is miscast and badly used as the heavy of the piece, the fifteen-year age difference between Rogers and him poorly covered up with grey streaks in his hair. Herbert Lom is a thief and a foreigner and crazy and doing none of them well. Jacques Bergerac was the nominal hero because he was the best looking etc. This was his film debut and was Ginger Rogers fourth husband at the time. Bosco, I believe, is the Italian word for wood and a piece of wood could have done a better acting job. I’m sure he must have had some other talents.
Not as bad as one has been led to believe. The strengths and weaknesses of this production are exactly those of the studio system. No expense or effort has been spared to make this film, yet it never really `sings’. The cast is one of the most spectacular rounded up for an 84-minute film. The photography has a black and white sheen, luminosity, which must have been unspeakably spectacular in the original nitrate print projected on a silver screen. The sets, a rare non- Cedric Gibbons design at MGM (credited to Alexander Toluboff) are suitably jazzy. The first five minutes are a set-up for audience sympathy dealing with an emergency delivery of Polio serum. Corny, but well done. The worst parts of the film are exactly where it cleaves closest to St. Expury’s original. Characters stop and begin to expostulate with a touch of the Eugene O’Neills. In this case poetry is better shown than expressed. One of the strangest phenomena of NIGHT FLIGHT is the fact that the legion of stars in the cast rarely, if ever, play a scene with one another. Helen Hayes is married to Clark Gable yet they never share the screen together.
What a very, very strange movie. From the title and set up one would think that this would be a neat, Depression era, class reversal, screwball comedy complete with the icon of that genre, Mary Boland. How wrong one would be.
Some years ago, I can’t remember how many, the Film Society of Lincoln Center had a season of films celebrating the critical concept called the auteur theory. Simply stated this is the idea that a good film, or even a better film, is the result of the intellect of one person, the director and the stronger director is one who leaves his indelible stamp on the finished film. The timing was ironic because a month before the US courts had ruled that in fact it was the copyright holder that held all rights to a work of art. At the end of American motion pictures there had been for some time, the credit stating that for legal purposes, Twentieth Century Fox or Columbia Pictures or whomever, was to be regarded as the author of the photoplay, etc. So in fact, as far as the American Industry is concerned, there is no such thing as the Auteur Theory.
I have never figured out how stuff this awful gets made. It’s not pointless, I’ll give it that, it’s just so derivative and takes its own Great Heart for granted that it never bothers to articulate. Nigel Hawthorne plays the traditional Holy Fool who has a $134,000 pillar built so he can sit on it and work his spiritual magic. The problem to overcome is that Rufus Sewell, who lives in a sprawling mansion on a piece of property with its own lake, forest and hills, needs money which he plans to get by selling his uncles wine collection so he can start up an old manganese mine. Don’t think about it, just go along with it. Minnie Driver, who I guess is his designated girlfriend ain’t driving no mini as she pulls up to the front door behind the wheel of a half million dollar Mercedes 300 SL. I couldn’t figure out the meaning of ‘needs money’ in the context of this film.