Saturday, November 29, 2008

MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS (MGM 1965) Warner Home Video

Jack Donohue’s Marriage on the Rocks (1965) finds Frank Sinatra playing second fiddle as a lovelorn hipster turned family man whose wife is decidedly beside herself when it comes to finding reasons to stay married to him. The Cy Howard screenplay is clever enough, though perhaps a tad too conventional to be considered anything better than an overblown two hour exursion of those anticeptic romantic/comedies that populated the small screen throughout the 1950s.

Dan (Sinatra) and Valerie Edwards (Deborah Kerr) have been married for nineteen years and the strain is beginning to show. Though Dan sees no cracks in the eternal bliss of his wedded days, his wife has grown restless with his stability in the business world that has managed to provide them with an elegant home and two children, Tracy (Nancy Sinatra) and David (Michael Petit) but has taken the fiery spark out of their spirited days as a young couple.

Valerie is constantly throwing Dan’s swinger business partner and long time friend, Ernie Brewer (Dean Martin) in Dan’s face. Ernie’s never grown up. He’s constantly cavorting with hot young girls and living the sort of exciting life Valerie thinks she wants. Predictably, the old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ holds true.

After Ernie encourages Dan to take his wife on a second honeymoon, the couple arrives in Mexico to discover themselves on the brink of divorce. In fact, the decree is granted most willingly by amiable Miguel Santos (Cesar Romero); a one man show in the small town Dan and Valerie are staying in. Santos is the town’s judge, attorney, hotel proprietor and party coordinator.

To rectify their divorce, Dan decides to let his business acumen lapse and remarry Val’ in a lavish Mexican ceremony. Unfortunately, Dan is called away on business at the last moment, leaving Ernie to explain the situation. Instead, Ernie arrives at the altar on the day of the wedding and is accidentally married to Val’ by a Mexican priest. Seeing his moment to teach Valerie a lesson she will never forget, Dan moves out of their home, allowing both Valerie and their children to see what life would be like if their ‘Uncle Ernie’ were, in fact, their stepfather.

The film abounds in clichés and ‘60s stereotypes of a woman’s place in the home. Valerie is represented as something of a frustrated scatterbrain who doesn’t know what she wants until she has the opportunity to sample both sides of the marital fence with less than stellar results.

After reinvigorating his career in the mid-1950s with some truly inspiring movie work, Sinatra is barely going through the motions here. He’s as bland as pabulum and relegated to the backburner during the second half of the film as the plot shifts to illustrate how ineffectual Ernie is at taking Dan’s place on the homestead. Of the three principals, only Kerr is giving it her all from start to finish; at least attempting to make something of this clattering mess of plot points. In the final analysis, Marriage on the Rocks is a film on the brink of becoming a dinosaur before its time.

Warner Home Video’s DVD delivers a fairly solid image. Colors are relatively vibrant. Contrast levels are nicely realized. The sets are obvious, but beautifully lit with rich tones lovingly reproduced herein. Minimal grain and age related artifacts yield a rather impressive and tight anamorphic transfer that will surely please. The audio is a 5.1 stereo reworking of the original six track Cinemascope elements with inherent shortcomings in audio fidelity. There are NO extras.

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



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