DARK PURPOSE (1964)
Running Time: 97 mins. Rating: xx Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: George Marshall, Vittorio Sala
Language: English, Italian w/English subtitles
Cast: Shirley Jones, Rossano Brazzi, George Sanders, Giorgia Moll, Micheline Presle
You’ve seen all this before done better in well-preserved form.
Just a few words about the print shown on TCM. It begins with a credits over action sequence where three of the leading actors are being driven around the Amalfi coast, with a bowler hatted George Sanders half out of the Fiat 1500 (1600?) sports car. The print was obviously several generations away from the camera negative. It sported a Columbia logo but according to IMDb it was distributed by Universal. The opening credit sequence is squeezed as if it had been filmed with an anamorphic lens and copied using a normal spherical lens, a typical strategy in panned and scanned wide screen prints copied for showing on TV and for the commercial videos of recent memory. Columbia may have bought the distribution rights either for TV or video or both.
After the credits the opening frame is of the sign identifying the Salerno train station with half of the “S” and none of the “O” in the frame. The train arrives and George Sanders and Shirley Jones get off and have a deliberately unintelligible conversation drowned out by background noise. This may be because Italian films are shot silent with the dialog recorded later and this meant that the complicated and expensive mixing of such a scene could be more cheaply “faked”. Then they are met by a woman and taken to the Fiat sports car and the opening theme music begins and then abruptly ends in a jump cut of the Fiat pulling up to the front door of a villa. Obviously the opening has been rearranged as the arrival at the train station was supposed to be a pre-credit sequence and probably was in the theatrical feature but the mimed conversation was judged to be too off-putting as an opening and things were just rearranged. I.E. The picture starts with the arrival in Salerno and proceeds to a picturesque road trip along the Amalfi coast complete with credits and theme music (‘60s faux Parisian vocalese) and then the story begins.
There is no widescreen process, anamorphic or not, listed in the credits so the big question is – was the film re-edited for the after-market, or for American theatrical distribution or maybe it was cheaper to print the original film in 1:33 from a ‘scope camera original? Whatever, the current print isn’t even panned and scanned but just seemingly run through the printer at full speed. The film is in Technicolor, which suggests the possibility of their house process Techniscope. This was a recently introduced widescreen process, which uses spherical lenses to record two wide frames inside a usual 35mm frame but is printed anamorphic by being blown up 2X. This would explain the fuzzy focus and crude depth of field of the TCM print.
This is a pretty terrible film, call it at its best – “derivative”. Another snore fest of the innocent American girl falling for a dubious but charming and handsome Italian nobleman, complete with secret door and hidden room containing “the truth”. The star attraction, except for maybe a nearly extinct cult following for the laconic and sardonic George Sanders, is non-existent. There is nothing remarkable about this film either aesthetically, cinematically, or historically. This makes DARK PURPOSE a very bad candidate for restoration. I fear the copy shown on TCM is about all anyone will see of L’INTRIGO or DARK PURPOSE so if you must see it or copy it then take advantage the next time its on TCM. It truly is an orphan film.
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