Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Was This Otto Preminger's Answer To Roman Polanski's "Repulsion???????????????"

                                     This question kept going through my mind, as I watched "Bunny Lake Is Missing," last night.  My beloved had taped it awhile ago, and wanted to watch it, so last night was as good as any.  Like 'Jessica,' I had heard of the film for years--I remember when it first came out--but had never seen it.  So, I was naturally curious.

                                      What is interesting, regarding "Repulsion," is that both films were released in the United States a day apart.  Polanski's released on October 2, 1965, and Preminger's the next day.  So, the question is certainly valid.

                                        More interesting, especially to me, was that the film is based on a novel (which I have never read, but would like to, as it seems to be very different from the film!!!!!!!!) by Merriam Modell, who wrote under the pseudonym, Evelyn Piper.  Who happens to have been the author of another childhood nightmare of mine, and a film also made in 1965--"The Nanny."  Obviously, 1965 was a big year for Modell/Piper.  She was really raking it in.

                                         I bet she did not like the film of 'Bunny Lake'.  Despite the setting of "Swinging Sixties London," the city does not seem to swing as much as Preminger would have thought.  The performances are all made-for-TV schlock, though Carol Lynley does her Method best in the role of Ann, while Keir Dullea  (to whom Noel Coward, on the set, said, to the actor, "'Keir Dullea', gone tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!"  I wonder what he said to Preminger, who was one of Hollywood's most despised directors?????)   Noel Coward camps it up as a lecherous landlord--and the notion of him being straight, let alone coming on to Carol Lynley, is ridiculous--but the real scene stealer in the film is the dog carried around, named Samantha.  Obviously, she and Preminger did not hit it off, because Samantha never looks happy on camera, and is limited to only two scenes.  Well she had two egotists--the director and Noel Coward--to deal with, and both must have realized she was walking away with the film!  While Keir Dullea almost justifies Coward's remark, by going bug-eyed, whenever he is required to act psychotic!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                       The film does manage to achieve an eerie, Gothic atmosphere, especially the scene with Lynley in the Barry Elder Doll Museum, in Hammersmith, and the hospital chase scene, shot at night, complete with a playground that both actors make good use of.  This last was the "Frogmore End" house in the film, and turned out to have been owned by Daphne Du Maurier's father, Sir Gerald Du Maurier.  Was Daphne still alive, then?  If she was, she should have muscled in on the screenplay. It might have improved things.

                                           It starts out as a kidnapping that one suspects is all in Ann's (Carol Lynley) mind.  Does the child, Bunny, actually exist?  Do we even care?  Then, amid fancy visuals, the story is reduced to incest and psychosis. 

                                            The latter two elements also figured in another film released that year, "Who Killed Teddy Bear?," which has got to be seen for Sal Mineo masturbating to Juliet Prowse, and--get this--Elaine Stritch as a victimized lesbian!  Much more lively than 'Bunny Lake.'  But  I have to wonder, what was going on at that time?  I guess filmmakers were trying to push envelope, but they were not really successful until 1967.

                                              Because, in 1965, along came a film that knocked these flat on their backs.

                                              I am talking, of course, about "The Sound Of Music." 'Nuff said!!!!!!!!!!!!


Videolaman said...

I thought "Bunny Lake" was a chore to sit thru when I was 12, then in my 20s, then the last time it was on TCM, I threw in the towel half way thru it. Thats the problem wih Otto Preminger: when he's good, he's very, very good, but when he's bad, he's insufferable. Alas, he was usually insufferable, other than the startling exception of his masterpiece "Laura" (which I've begun to think may have had a lot of beneficial studio interference). Preminger also seems to have had a weird fixation with closeted (and not so closeted) homosexuality. Several of his films either featured such characters in key roles (Webb in Laura), or starred performers who themselves fit the description (Coward in Bunny).

You know you're a girl of a certain age if you can remember the days when charmless, dead-voiced Carol Lynley came out of absolutely nowhere, inexplicably (and thankfully momentarily) chosen by the star making business to be its next sensation. She would be consigned to deserved oblivion had she not stumbled into "The Poseidon Adventure" and incidental immortality. And poor Keir Dullea: always a bride's maid, never a bride. Another Hollywood hiccup: as dead-voiced and charmless as Carol Lynley (they should have married and begat zombie children). He must have been great in bed, because there is no other plausible reason he was ever placed in front of a camera. Perfect as the soul-less astronaut in "2001: A Space Odyssey" but utterly forgettable in everything else he ever did.

Yes, "Who Killed Teddy Bear?" was a hoot! From the theme song, to the casting, to the seedy story set in sleazy Times Square: it is flawlessly executed for what it is (and at least does know what it is, unlike the pretentious, joyless, horribly dated "Midnight Cowboy"). Sal Mineo is indescribably hot in this flick, in his tight T-shirt, delivering a subtly hilarious sendup of Marlon Brando's "method" tics (you can't help imagining Mineo as Stanley in Streetcar). And what can we say about Elaine Stritch here: she indeed must be seen to be believed as a blowsy, clumsy, half-closeted '60s dyke. Between Mineo practically bursting out of his clothes in every scene, and Stritch chewing on all of hers, this movie leaves a girl breathless. My partner frequently quotes his favorite Stritch scene, when she's feeling up a traumatized Juliet Prowse under the guise of "comforting" her, seductively growling "Let it out, baby, let it all out!"

The Raving Queen said...

Last night I asked David why he taped the 'Bunny Lake.' He said he had always heard about it, and was curious. Same basic reason I agreed to watch it. I had hoped for more, but was let down. The Evelyn Piper connection got to me because both this film, and "The Nanny," were released in the same year--1965--and I think it is the better film. Unfortunately, the lesser known. Despite the stellar performance given by Samantha, the reason 'Bunny Lake' is better known is the quirkiness of its title. It is the best thing, next to Samatha, about it. And both vanish quickly, leaving behind an inexcusable mess.