Saturday, February 3, 2007

BAND OF ANGELS (Warner Bros. 1957) Warner Home Video

Woefully undernourished, Raoul Walsh’s Band of Angels (1957) is a cliché-ridden and emasculated attempt to revive the glories of the old south. The film is an obvious and painful attempt to resurrect the majesty of Gone With The Wind. As leaden in its’ incendiary melodrama as it is dulled by the muddy hues of vintage Warnercolor, the film stars Clark Gable as New Orleans millionaire Hamish Bond.


Gable’s pedigree – that of Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind (1939) – must have seemed like sound insurance for this outing. But Gable is a pale shadow of his former self here. He's older, wiser, more brooding and quite awkwardly stiff in his gentleman duds. The benevolent master of a troop of slaves fronted by Rau-Ru (Sidney Poitier, in a role that must have really stuck in his craw), Hamish hides a guilty dirty secret; that once he was a vicious slave trader who took pleasure in decimating the black population of an island village.


On one of his current ‘shopping’ expeditions Hamish has cause to purchase Amantha Starr (Yvonne De Carlo), a woman who learns that she is of mixed blood after her father's death. After much consternation, Amantha begins to fall in love with Hamish. Ah, but their burgeoning romance is flawed and stunted by the onslaught of the civil war. Rau-Ru, now a Union soldier and gunning for his old master, hunts Hamish down in an abandoned plantation. But he inexplicably has a change of heart, allowing Hamish and Amantha to escape on a waiting riverboat in the bayou.


Walsh’s direction is stifling and uninspired. The script, such as it is, wallows in its flawed depiction of the benevolent simple minded darkie and bandies about the ‘N’ word as though its inclusion transcends the material from pulp tripe to high art. De Carlo is painfully out of touch with her character – running about the scenery in acts of defiance that come across like the simpering entrails of an overgrown teenage guttersnipe.


Gable is worn well beyond his years and quite exhausted by the lines of dialogue he’s been given. There’s no emotional arch to Poitier’s performance either. He’s angry, then evil, then completely compassionate and understanding without any tonality to link these polar opposites. Finally, there seems to have been no attention paid to production detail and set design. The studio footage looks as though it’s been staged at a prop auction house full of leftovers from the antebellum. The exteriors are dull stock shots of plantations which quite obviously have not been maintained for some time. Overall, Band of Angels is something of a grand disappointment.


So too is Warner Home Video’s presentation in keeping with that assessment. The Warnercolor process was, in a word, abysmal and this DVD presentation has not bothered to correct any of its shortcomings. The image is overly contrasted with a dull palette of extremely pasty flesh tones and inconsistently rendered colors. In one scene, Amantha’s dress fluctuates from an orange hue to red, then slightly pink. The image is frequently out of focus and riddled with film grain that is gritty rather than grainy, and age related artifacts. Truly, there is nothing to recommend the visual quality of this disc. The audio is nicely balanced. There are NO extras.


FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)
1


VIDEO/AUDIO
1


EXTRAS0

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

"Rau-Ru, now a soldier in the confederacy and gunning for his old master, hunts Hamish down in an abandoned plantation. But he inexplicably has a change of heart, allowing Hamish and Amantha to escape on a waiting riverboat in the bayou."


The character Rau-Ru became a Union soldier, not a Confederate soldier.