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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Video Beaverhausen: Lauren Bacall & Rock Hudson in Written on the Wind

Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind is a camp classic. There is no other possible way to truly appreciate this film in all its lurid, florid, jaw-dropping, over-the-top expressionism. It is full of phallic symbolism -- largely in the form of oil rigs and pumps -- that even a a pre-teen today would pick up on.

Co-star Dorothy Malone steals the film as the lady in red (literally; so much for subtlety in this film) from under everyone's noses. She won a supporting actress Oscar for her role in Written. A much older Ms Malone reprised her bad-girl part in this film in Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone. She also starred on tv's soap Peyton Place. She is now 90 years old.

In WotW, Rock and Lauren are the good couple up against the lecherous Robert Stack (best known as Elliott Ness on tv's The Untouchables) and the alcoholic, nymphomaniacal Ms. Malone. They play a very nasty, avaricious brother and sister who are heirs to a wealthy oil tycoon's fortune. They make depravity look glam.

The highlight of this film is Dorothy doing a hot mambo in her red room in her red gown while her father is having a heart attack climbing the white staircase. When she discovers him... guess what?... she watches him die with great relish. Dorothy's Little Foxes moment.

Director Sirk brings his European sense of vivid expressionism here, just as he did in all his films. Sirk may be best remembered for his remake of Imitation of Life. While that 1959 film had its camp moments, it also had its tear-jerking one. I doubt you'll shed tears over Written on the Wind unless they're from pure joy as you watch this outrageous 1956 melodrama unfold.

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