Terribly over-rated. The Hemingway short story this is based on takes up maybe the first ten minutes of the movie, and it’s sterling silver screen. But the rest of it, providing the back-story, is pretty lame. For example, Burt Lancaster is tricked into a phony double-cross by Ava Gardner, and when he finds out he’s been played, he tries to kill himself by jumping out a hotel window, but the old bag who comes in to clean his room stops him with a couple lines of catholic Hell-fire. Listen, if Lancaster’s character is that easily spooked by the church of Rome’s hocus-pocus, how the Hell did he ever have the nerve for a life of crime in the first place?
Lancaster’s character is one of the great Straw Men in film history. The script sets him up for whatever is needed, then knocks him down just as quickly. There’s nothing real about any of it, especially his mania for Ava Gardner. He meets her at a party and is INSTANTLY bewitched by her. This isn’t love at first sight, it’s mesmerism. I guess this is all supposed to be a case of style over substance, but the style, other than the opening few minutes, is nothing special, either. Even eye-candy Ava Gardner doesn’t seem to have any real appeal here, either. In fact, she seemed a lot hotter almost twenty years later as a middle-aged wench in The Night Of The Iguana. The Night Of The Igauna? I should have watched that, instead.
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