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Mourning Becomes Electra

3.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Near the end of the Civil War, the proud residents of Mannon Manor await the return of shipping tycoon Ezra Mannon (The Old Dark House’s Raymond Massey) and son Orin (Dead of Night’s Michael Redgrave). Meanwhile Extra’s conniving wife Christine (Rocco and His Brothers’ Katina Paxinou) and daughter Lavinia (Auntie Mame’s Rosalind Russell) vie for the love of a handsome captain (Leo Genn) with a dark secret while well-meaning neighbor Peter (Academy Award® winner Kirk Douglas) sets his sights on Lavinia. Poisoning, infidelity, gunshots and shocking family secrets explode in a haunting climax that will never be forgotten. Adapted from the classic play by Eugene O’Neill, this powerhouse classic is a tour de force of American cinema! This often censored drama features a dramatic all-star cast! Now presented in the longest restored version in existence!

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Katina Paxinou, Leo Genn
  • Directors: Dudley Nichols
  • Writers: Dudley Nichols, Eugene O'Neill
  • Producers: Dudley Nichols, Edward Donahue
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: December 21, 2004
  • Run Time: 159 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00068NVK2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,709 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mourning Becomes Electra" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Mourning Becomes Electra" is notable for many reasons.RKO Studios was trying to get the word out that it was a serious studio making serious pictures. The original film featured an Overture, Intermission & Entr'Acte, which explains various discrepancies in the running time. The DVD, long overdue, is fine, and in a 159 minute running time. This "prestigious" film still fell flat at the boxoffice, and subsequent cuts were made to make it more palpable to the Post WW2 public. O'Neill is not to be fooled with, not should his work be taken lightly. His works certainly were showcases for Actresses in Oscar-friendly performances (Garbo in "Anna Christie", Kate Hepburn in "Long Day's Journey Into Night", and Roz Russell in this one; all nominated). Indeed, Roz was expected to win the Oscar in 1947; there seemed to be no question about it, and when she lost to Loretta Young for "The Farmer's Daughter" (a comedy, no less) there was an audible gasp from the audience. Actually, Loretta probably deserved it, because Roz' performance is inconsistant at best. Surely, she handles the singularly amazing demands of this central character but often fell back into those hammy mannerisms that I've grown accustomed to from her. She was much better at comedy ("His Girl Friday", "My Sister Eileen", Auntie Mame"). It's admirable that she didn't succumb to any Joan Crawford histionics; rather gave a subdued, almost one-note performance. RKO also thought high-class demanded famous British actors, and there are a few; Michael Redgrave (also nominated), Leo Genn and a fine performance from Henry Hull (as the Greek chorus). Redgrave was inconsistant, and Genn was OK. Katina Paxinou, the wonderful Greek actress (Oscar winner in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"), was miscast, if only because of her accent.Read more ›
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By S. Dees on November 24, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is one of the most underrated, overlooked films of Hollywood's Golden Era, the 1940's. I cannot understand why this film has been lamblasted over the years. It is a compelling, superbly acted drama from a famous play. Perhaps it was a dud in 1947, but the years have erased that, and I applaud loudly to Image for putting it on DVD. Never on VHS or laserdisc, it is time it was available to the home video market. If you want to see motion picture acting at its best, watch Russell, Redgrave, Paxinou, and Massey here. It's all been done recently - all these plot elements have been done on "Dallas," "Dynasty," and "Knots Landing" and countless daytime soaps. But this is the ORIGINAL. Watch it and relish what great moviemaking and acting is.
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Although some people have criticized some of the casting choices, to me this is a minor consideration given your choices on DVD--this or the Broadway Theater version. To me, this version is more faithful and more satisfying than the longer--and thus presumably more complete--PBS production, which would be a false assumption. I was suitably impressed with this version of the drama to want more; I thought that the public television version would be the "definitive" version. Unfortunately, I was stunned by the truncated ending that left everything that had gone before incomprehensible and moot; apparently the viewer was supposed to make his or her conclusion of how the tale would end. Is it supposed to be a "happy" ending, or is there something we are supposed to glean from Orin's wild-eyed stare? Trust me: this version is far closer to the spirit of O'Neill's play and its final tragic denouement.
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One of the many excellent plays by O'Neil is destroyed by poor casting. Massey is the best one in the cast. Paxinou is an embarassment; half her dialogue is not understandable due to her heavy accent (and the DVD is NOT closed captioned). Her constant use of her eyes like a silent movie star is laughable at times, ruining the drama of the scene. Redgrave can't quite get the ebb and flow of the American English for which O'Neil is so well known. He is too over the top near the end. And Russell just holds up her head and looks down her nose as her way of registering Lavinia's imagined superiority to the other characters. Her voice has an irritating, pinched sound at all the dramatic moments; she nevers builds to an emotion - she just starts screaming. She's just plain awful! Poor Kirk Douglas is lost among all these scenery chewers. IMAGE has made a rotten transfer to DVD. There are white specks throughout, and the extreme contrast between the blacks and whites, renders some scenes unwatchable. The soundtrack has a constant hiss, and has not been properly balanced digitally. All in all, a waste of money. Stick with the EXCELLENT Broadway Archieve production which is vastly superior on all counts (and which is a production of the COMPLETE play). This one is strictly of historical interest to O'Neil fans.
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Format: DVD
All of a sudden, after World War II, Rosalind Russell seemed poised to become Hollywood's greatest star. The studios were bowing down to her, and she started flexing her muscles and chewing up the kind of parts that hitherto she had been excluded even from dreaming about. Previously there had been a sort of appreciation for her clipped comic roles, most notably in Cukor's THE WOMEN, and she was deemed a serviceable leading lady in glossy MGM romantic dramas and thrillers, nothing too special. I wonder what happened to signal to Hollywood that she was actually an actress of some range? Were people tired of Bette Davis and thought, let's give Rosalind Russell the parts we used to give to Davis automatically, the droit du seigneur distaff side?

Anyhow her casting in MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA was an inspiration that could have been good, but somehow, the movie got away from the makers. It wasn't just putting Russell into it--though some believe that casting JANE RUSSELL as Lavinia might have made more sense--it was that every last part was filled with some cockamamie choice. The casting director must have been on drugs. And yet, that is part of what makes this 1947 movie such a gem.

By the way, Lucille Ball is said to have lobbied heavily to land the role of Lavinia, in a production which would have co-starred Jane Darwell as Christine. But who did they get for Christine?

Katina Paxinou--the revered Greek actress who had made a sensation playing a Spanish peasant in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. Audiences just barely made out what she was saying in BELL TOLLS. Here she plays Rosalind Russell's mother, a New England aristocrat.
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