Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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She Got It Unholy and That ain't Sacred

She's committed the perfect crime, Diana Dors tells us at the beginning of her 1957 film The Unholy Wife. I don't know about perfect but it's pretty clever considering directly admitting to the murder on the witness stand is part of the plan. The second of the two films Dors made in her brief American career, The Unholy Wife is a lot better than I Married a Woman but it's still a deeply flawed film noir and not half as good as some of Dors' efforts in Britain like The Long Haul and Yield to the Night.

The Unholy Wife was directed by John Farrow who had just recently made Back from Eternity, the remake of his own Five Came Back (which I talked about a few days ago). While the Five Came Back movies functioned perfectly well as mostly clever plot exercises, one of the main flaws with Unholy Wife is its attention to plot mechanics which become absurd the moment one starts to imagine real people doing these things instead of people in a movie.

Rod Steiger plays Paul, husband of the unholy one, Phyllis (Dors). In charge of a winery in Napa valley, an important part of the story is his bizarre family tradition of never locking the door (that could've been the tagline for promotions--"He didn't lock the doors and he couldn't lock--Diana Dors!"). This peculiar practice was clearly invented to fill a necessary link in the chain of Phyllis' plot which involved shooting either her husband or her lover and then claiming that she'd thought it was a prowler who'd come through the door. A gun is conveniently located in a drawer by the entrance. No-one stops to think about the contradiction of having a door always open to strangers and a gun next to the door at all times. Our doors are open to all, but we might kill you.

The worse thing is that characters get so caught up in figuring out the whys and what fors of who killed or didn't kill who that people seem to forget to feel very upset when family members or dear friends die. Method actor Rod Steiger remedies this a little with a characteristically great performance that sticks out like a sore thumb. Dors tells the story from a prison cell where her hair is put in a dowdy ponytail in a clear attempt to channel some of her performance in Yield to the Night but mostly she never really stretches her legs here. I saw an interview with Steiger who said he felt Dors was never permitted to be as good an actor as she could have been. The two supposedly had an affair, it might have been interesting to see a Diana Dors who took up method acting under Steiger's tutelage.

The film isn't exactly bad. There's a nice thought towards ruminations on fundamentally good or evil people that's sabotaged quite a bit by the mechanical quality of the story. And so it was back to Britain for Ms. Dors.

The Unholy Wife is another one that's just about impossible to find. I watched it on Daily Motion, which tends to be a bit more lenient than YouTube, but since the last time I posted a whole movie on my blog it was immediately taken down I think I'll avoid embedding another one here for now unless it's indisputably public domain. I wonder if I have a narc among my readers.
Tags: diana dors, film noir, john farrow, movies, rod steiger
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