A Most Unusual Movie

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Let me say up front that I’m no fan of ballet. For entertainment and edification, it ranks somewhere below getting a parking ticket and above Obama’s speeches.

But I do like a psychological thriller packed with snappy dialogue and vivid characters played by brilliant actors at the top of their form, and this off-beat little gem from 1946 has all of that.

What happens when a struggling ballet studio and a failed ballet impresario try to strike it rich by engineering the comeback of a genius dancer who may have, and probably did, murder his wife? And who has been holed up with galloping hallucinations ever since? The police can’t prove he did it, the gifted young ballerina is in love with him–so why not? This time everything will turn out hunky-dory.

Uh-huh–but what if Mr. Superstar is not really better, after all?

This movie by Republic Pictures bombed in the box office when it was released in 1946, and you can now see it for free on youtube. I guess it was just too far ahead of its time: probably too dark for 1946.

But it has great things going for it: sharp screenplay by Ben Hecht, Dame Judith Anderson as a washed-up star running a studio packed with mediocre talent, Lionel Stander as a jealous journalist with a bent for bitter poetry. Then there’s Ivan Kirov as the psychotic ballet star. Outside of The Specter of the Rose, his acting career didn’t amount to much; but in this outing he brought a powerful and at times menacing presence to the screen.

Yes, I admit it–I like good old stuff. This movie is even older than I am. I’m not sure modern movie-makers could tell a story this grim without recourse to a lot of nudity, f-bombs, gore, and the usual screaming bodies flying all around, etc.

Watching this film will probably not make a better Christian of you, except in the sense that all things may be considered in the light of faith, and possibly teach a useful lesson. But it will hold your interest–even though there’s a fair amount of dancing in it.

3 comments on “A Most Unusual Movie

  1. This sounds like a lot of fun. Shame that it bombed!

    I really got to catch up with older films. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that came before 1950.

    1. There were an awful lot of great movies made in the 30s and 40s, and thanks to youtube, I can see them. Wasn’t born yet, so I couldn’t pay my 15 cents and see them at the theater.

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