Green Mansions (1959) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
23Oct/100

Green Mansions (1959)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny INDIFFERENTI'm going to be honest here. I'm not entirely sure what the hell I just watched.

Initially, the confusion began when I first set my eyes on the film's DVD cover. Available only from the Warner Archive program-- surprising for a star as revered as Hepburn-- the DVD is as bare bones as you can imagine. There's a trailer and that's it-- not even a subtitle track to be found.

The cover is a dopey sort of painting that recalls the covers of old Hardy Boys novels from my teen years, all variously threatening shades of green and inexplicable floating heads. Flipping the case over reveals the tagline for this particular release, something that both sounds completely wrong and undeniably intriguing simultaneously:

"Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins share a jungle love."

As someone who is deeply into the old fashioned notions of "jungle love," I had to see this to believe it.

Hepburn plays a mystical bird woman. Thing. Yeah.

Well, there was certainly a jungle, no argument with that. Set in lush South America, the movie concerns young Abel (Anthony Perkins in his pre-Freudian phase) looking for the gold to finance his revenge against a corrupt government that had murdered his father. He seeks out a small tribe that supposedly knows where that's located and, to his surprise, he finds that none of them seem to speak English very well.

At least until Henry Silva shows up as the chief's easily corrupted and comically villainous son. He explains that, sorry, the city of gold is over in those mysterious forbidden woods over there please don't go in or the Bird Girl will kill you.

Yes, Audrey Hepburn is playing a character known throughout the film as The Bird Girl. The reason for this is that she wanders through the woods in a burlap sack making friendly bird chirps to whoever passes along her way. She also pals around with an adorable deer and bathes in the crystal blue waterfall. What a life.

Perkins can't believe his luck and decides to spend time getting to know the only white woman in a far reaching radius. The Bird Girl lives with her uncle, a man who holds many secrets behind the girl's upbringing, though none of them are terribly interesting.

Yes, at one point Anthony Perkins sings to Hepburn a love song. Available on vinyl out in the lobby!

In fact, that axiom could apply to much of Green Mansions, a depressingly literal action-romance movie based on a more fanciful and mysterious novel. Perkins' character has been ramped up from disillusioned to dashing and the actor gives the film as much bravado as he can muster. Unfortunately, since the script has written everything out, we get choice bits of dialogue, like, oh, after a snake has bitten him, Perkins ramps his acting up to Shatner levels: "Coral snake... going to die.... God.... help me!"

Hepburn, too, doesn't retain much mystique through the proceedings, coming off as slightly eccentric rather than some weird goddess who can communicate with the animals. While Perkins and Hepburn at least retain a bit of chemistry, it's like putting curtains over a broken window-- it doesn't do much.

Green Mansions was directed by Hepburn's then-husband Mel Ferrer, who you may recall as the humorless end of the love triangle back in War and Peace. He has a good eye for compositions here, and is saved by several jungle sets that don't look entirely fakey, but his sense of drive and timing just don't serve the picture.

The film's failures are too numerous, and sadly, its failures are too monotonous to enjoy on a camp level. In the end, Green Mansions feels a poem turned into a McDonald's commercial. It just doesn't work.

Audrey Hepburn Sundays

Posted by Danny

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