Who lives in a house like this?

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UNDERCURRENT is generally regarded as minor Minnelli, but it was attractive to me because the idea of that director with noirish material seemed like a fascinating match. In fact, we’re kind of in a contemporary version of GASLIGHT — is it a problem that Katherine Hepburn somewhat lacks the vulnerability of Ingrid Bergman? Not as much as it is that Robert Taylor is, as usual, a cigar store Indian in terms of expressivity and charisma.

But there’s always Robert Mitchum… but only for a few scenes. They’re the most compelling bits in the film, because although Hepburn of course can act for two if required, it’s a lot better if there’s someone with real substance for her to bounce off of.

Which leads to the film’s most amusing trope, the “ranch house” Mitchum supposedly lives in. If you suspect that a Vincente Minnelli ranch house supervised by Cedric Gibbons might not be the kind of place John Wayne would call home, you’d be right, but would you have anticipated… this ~

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The big Buddha is a nice touch, but the Cocteauesque hands holding torches put the tin lid on it.

Kate wears a cowl to add to the spiritual dimension.

There IS a possible queer studies reading to be made of this film, in which Taylor’s obsession with his brother and murderous past stand in for homosexuality. He even stammers a line about hoping his marriage to Hepburn would help him “straighten out.” But Taylor’s ulterior designs don’t excuse or explain Mitchum’s unusual taste in interior design.

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4 Responses to “Who lives in a house like this?”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    My God, that was quick work! Believe it or not, I find Robert Taylor eerily convincing in this film. His inability to express human emotion of any sort seems to chime quite well with the character.

    And as for the art direction…couldn’t we just get Minnelli and Cedric Gibbons to design the entire world and leave it at that?!

  2. Yes, there’s an argument in favour of Taylor as an effective choice. But it does make the first hour a little dull.

    “It’s Cedric Gibbons’ world… but unfortunately we don’t live in it.”

  3. It’s a ranch designed by “Lonesome Cowboys.”

  4. It certainly seems more conducive to calypso playing than the average ranch house, so I guess Mitchum could kick back here. I know I’d like to.

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