Bloodline (1979) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Bloodline (1979)

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There is little dignity in aging. Hair falls out, acne scars, cheekbones can protrude a bit. Last week's Hepburn film, Robin and Marian, examined the acute symptoms of a legend aging beyond when his legend ended, and how he may not have become said legend if he hadn't run away from it.

In a strange twist of fate, that same idea may be applied to Audrey Hepburn's career. Taking a decade off between Wait Until Dark and Robin, she left the public wanting more, departing a quickly-transforming landscape in a self-imposed exile. Her return was more for shits and giggles than any driving artistic need, and while we can all think of things that are better in memory than they really were, Hepburn's wit, poise, and charm all seemed to weather the years.

If only her exquisite taste in film projects had come with her.

While Robin and Marian was simply flawed, her next pick, 1979's Bloodline was an unmitigated disaster. Based on a tawdry novel by Sidney Sheldon (what a name), Bloodline is the story of a young woman taking charge of her father's pharmaceutical empire shortly after he was killed and then tracking down the murderer.

"Who does Hepburn play?" you may be asking. "Someone's aunt, grandmother, or possibly, in what was sure to be a great twist, King Kong?"

None of the above, I'm afraid. She actually plays said 'dainty young woman', leaving Hepburn, at the age of 50, playing a woman in her 30s. Hepburn, while she certainly aged gracefully, looks nothing like she did back in My Fair Lady. That's the other thing that's funny comparing this to the moral of Robin and Marian: the moral seems to have gone over Hepburn's head.

Maybe that's because her horrible 70s hairstyle engulfs life lessons that try and get by.

Not that the disaster of Bloodline is in any way her fault. Re-teaming with director Terence Young (from Wait Until Dark) and undoubtedly doing the guy a favor, the plot of Bloodline, as described above leaves out three important factors: 1) a love story between Hepburn and one of the corporation's executive officers, Ben Gazzara, 2) a labrynthe murder mystery involving a half dozen members of the board of directors, all of whom want Hepburn dead to take the company public and make some cash, and 3) a story of a mysterious man who has sex with prostitutes and then has a buddy film him murdering them.

Yes, that last point is indeed in there, and it's just as jarring as you can imagine. To say it's tangentially related to the plot does a disservice to tangents and plots-- it barely figures in until the last three minutes of the film-- and only serves to make the film seem desperate for attention. The worst part is how lovingly the sex and murders are filmed-- director Young films it from the camera's perspective, giving us his own version of the snuff film. In most cases, that would be the director trying to titillate and implicate the audience with what they unknowingly want, but here it's so unnecessary that it's simply revolting. I want a thriller with a moment of thrills, goddammit.

Though that does make this the only Hepburn film with nudity in it. Make sure you mention that little tidbit next time you try to seem interesting at a party.

The rest of the plot is perhaps a textbook example of how not to create suspense. The board of directors for Hepburn's pharmaceutical company is filled with international slumming stars like Omar Shariff and James Mason who all need some money quickly, either to pay off debts, pay off mistresses, or just because people just like money, darn it.

The strange thing about this, though, with six people on the board of directors, each person gets about ten minutes of screen time to establish their motives. Yes, I'd say a good quarter of this movie is spent with these characters, showing how desperate they are. Why? The story is supposed to be about Hepburn surviving the assassination attempts, not me thrilling as Shariff's mistress makes another demand. All of these plots equate to empty space, especially because A) after each one shouts "I"ll get that money no matter what the cost!" you instantly know that they're not the killer, and B) absolutely none of these individual, stupid plot lines get resolved.

"Well, mine does, but that's only because I turn out to be the killer. Oops! Didn't mean to ruin the surprise for you, but that is what you get for reading captions to completely unrelated pictures."

So the film has a ton of plot laying around on the ground, most of it in big smelly piles. Is there anything redeeming about this movie?

In a word, no. The musical score for the film is so goofy you expect the characters to pick up on it and turn it off. The acting is fairly bland, with Ben Gazzara wearing a big shit-eating grin the entire time, most likely because he was nailing Hepburn behind the scenes. That guy who played Goldfinger in Goldfinger is an Austrian detective on the case and spends most of the movie talking to a computer for some reason. There's a long flashback scene about Hepburn's character's relative starting the pharmaceutical empire that would look dopey in a short film made for Sesame Street kind of way. And then there's the ending, which is sudden, nonsensical, and pretty lame, which at least means that it compliments the rest of the film fairly well.

All things considered, there is only one thing to really like about Bloodline, and that's the fact that it's not available in North America. Not on DVD, not on demand. The odds of someone stumbling upon this movie are low, and for that tidbit, the world is a better place.

Stay tuned for next week for one of the most infamous flops of the 1980's, Peter Bogdonavich's They All Laughed.

Audrey Hepburn Sundays

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Posted by Danny

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