The Fugitive Kind (1960/2010) – 2 DVD Special Edition
Starring: Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapleton
Director: Sidney Lumet
Screenplay: Tennessee Williams
Studio: United Artists/MGM/Criterion Collection 515 [4/27/10]
Video: 1.66 B&W
Audio: Dolby Digital mono
Extras: Restoration approved by Sidney Lumet, New video interview with Lumet, “Three Plays by Tennessee Williams” 1958 TV Production dir. by Lumet with BNen Gazarra and Lee Grant, New video program discussing Williams’ work in Hollywood and on The Fugitive Kind, Illustrated printed booklet with essay by film critic David Thomson
Length: 121 minutes
This film – not well-received at the time but now considered a classic – brought together a number of legendary figures in film and theater. Lumet had wanted to get Magnani and Brando together in a film for some time and it finally worked out with this rewriting of William’s play Orpheus Descending. The drama is intense in this story of William’s dysfunctional South and everyone turns in strong performances.
Brando plays Val – a snakeskin-jacketed drifter/singer/guitar player from New Orleans who has led a wild life but is trying to go straight. His old car breaks down in a desolate little Mississippi town where he finds work in the variety store owned by Magnani and her husband – who is bed-ridden with some serious ailment. The Woodward character is a wayward wild child, who like the wife is naturally attracted to the Brando character. The shoot was not without problems. Magnani was 51 and Brando 36 and when she found that there would be no physical encounter between the two of them (as she had assumed) she became aggressive and insecure.
Some of Brando’s speeches are pure Tennessee Williams, and the lighting is sometimes changed during a closeup for interesting effect. Magnani is often difficult to understand – I had to bring up the English subtitles to understand some of her dialog. Much of the film seems like a slight expansion of a stage play; I believe Lumet wanted that. The extras on the second DVD are of great interest. By the way, another important fact about this film is that it was the first one for which an actor (Brando) received a million dollars.
– John Sunier