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This review is from: Pretty Maids All in a Row [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Roger Vadim's twisted satire of Southern California and the American education program was a flop on first release, and it was a long time before he dared return to the USA to make another feature. But today PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW definitely has the hallmarks of a masterpiece, anchored by four brilliant performances. First off, Rock Hudson in perhaps his last important picture. He's a little fleshy and with his shirt off the camera seemes reluctant to travel past his navel for fear of exposing some extra weight on his hips. And Vadim's cameraman (Chuck Rosher, who later did A WEDDING and THREE WOMEN for Robert Altman) hones in on some penetrating closeups which really show up his crows feet--he's lived and that seasons his character. As usual, he's the men girls want and the man boys want to be, but here it's a deeper and considerably darker version of himself than he ever let people see on the screen. His ideal married life is something of a sham, or is it? A cryptic epilogue with Telly Savalas makes us wonder if "Tiger" hasn't really the perfect marriage after all. Vadim needed a larger-than-life star for "Tiger" and he certainly got one.
Matching him at every stroke is the young John David Carson, the boy who can't seem to get a date and walks around with a clipboard covering his arousal at all times. Carson plays "Ponce de Leon Harper" as though to remind us of his own perpetual fountain of youth. Whatever happened to this actor? He goes from boy to man in a series of believable, subtle segues; and let me tell you, it can't have been easy playing the kid whom Rock Hudson takes under his wing. Carson makes it all look easy. It's a graceful, vibrant acting job, like a young James Stewart could have turned in (if Stewart were allowed erections in the cinema of the mid 1930s).
Angie Dickinson has never been better. She's super sexy, charming, very funny, brainy and extremely elegant, like Kay Kendall, especially in her toga-style hostess gown with the slits in its side that go all the way up her armpits. These were the Bacharach years for Angie Dickinson, and if rueful acknowledgement of her unavailability, when she first appears, a little Bacharach-like phrase erupts in Lalo Schifrin's playful and ultimately moving score. Can you imagine being Angie Dickinson at this time? She had just finished THE CHASE and POINT BLANK, and meanwhile was the inspiration for some of the most stylish and passionate music of the century; no wonder she looks like the kitten with cream on her face. Vadim doesn't let her drop a beat, even during the scene which every other actress would find humiliating (when Hudson pretends that he's pretending to make love with her, then drops her claiming it was all a pedagogic exercise). Angie Dickinson just picks herself up and walks away taller than ever.
Finally, Barbara Leigh as Jean McDrew, Tiger's wife. We had just seen CROSSROADS with William Powell and Hedy Lamarr, said to have been the first film to come up with the "meet cute" gambit you've since seen in a hundred pictures, where the guy seems to be meeting the girl for the first time and takes what seems to be alarming liberties with her--and she goes right along with them--and then in a minute or two you realize, oh, they're actually married people, just playing. Well, Barbara Leigh could have invented this game. She's as foxy as Hedy Lamarr and, like Hedy, seems capable of actually forgetting the face of her own husband. Every day must be a delight when you're Barbara Leigh. By the way if you care about the movies you must read Miss Leigh's autobiography THE KING, McQUEEN, AND THE LOVE MACHINE.
A huge array of young, talented actresses play the victims, girlfriends and fellow students of Tiger, Ponce, and Miss Smith. People have called this film "misogynist." I don't know. To me it's like Aimee Eccles (the Eurasian actress who plays Hilda Lee) tells shrewd top cop Telly Savalas in the movie, "It's all about love."
Wish I could add a star just for the jaunty theme song sung by the Osmonds, "Chilly Winds." It's demented and you will love it!