Thursday, March 15, 2007

Alert! Quine's missing "The Notorious Landlady" (1962) Sighted - Alive and Well in France!

Good news. Sort of. Inexplicably neglected by Columbia Pictures for more than 40 years now, Richard Quine's silky smooth Hitchcock farce of 1962, "The Notorious Landlady," suddenly surfaced in France on February 14 for a major revival, under its local title, "L'Inquiétante dame en noir." Here, the film has been just about impossible to see, thanks to Columbia's bizarre apprehension about putting the film on home video in any format. "The Notorious Landlady," despite its impressive credentials, has never been on Beta, VHS, Laser or DVD. I haven't been able to find a TV showing of it in years, although sources tell me that it's been shown on Encore's Mystery Channel (whatever and wherever that is).

The film is irresistible, thanks in large part to a uniquely literate script by Blake Edwards and Larry Gelbart, based on a short story by British mutmeggy Margery Sharp that ran in Colliers Magazine in 1956. Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak, Quine's muse, teamed up for the third time (following Mark Robson's smart 1954 marital comedy, "Phffft!," and 1958's "Bell, Book and Candle," also directed by Quine), but this time with a romantic payoff. Novak plays an American expatriate living in London and accused of murdering her missing husband; Lemmon plays an American diplomat who rents a flat in Novak's huge Mayfair house, much to the chagrin of his nervous boss, played by Fred Astaire.

Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote, "From the moment he pokes the doorbell of Kim Novak's London house and starts sparking brightly on the instant she guardedly answers it, Lemmon is full of delightful little gurgles, witty spayings, appreciate looks and all the amusing indications of a healthy fellow falling - well, in love ... Credit a clever little story and a comic performance by Lemmon that twinkles like a mischief-maker's eyes for the unexpected good humor that generally crackles and pops in Columbia's 'The Notorious Landlady,' which came to the Criterion and the Beekman yesterday."

And in The New Yorker, Edith Oliver wrote, "I don't see how anyone could help but have a good time watching Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire and a British actor named Lionale Jeffries, all of them expert comedians in a comedy of murder called 'The Notorious Landlady.'"

The topping is a wonderful climatic chase scene along the rocky cliffs of Penzance, which ace music supervisor George Duning set to - what else? - Gilbert and Sullivan.

Aside from Jeffries, the film co-stars Estelle Winwood and Phillipa Bevans, Mrs. Pearce from the original Broadway production of "My Fair Lady."

Bottom Line: Release it on DVD already!

(Artwork: French ad for Columbia's "The Notorious Landlady"/"L'Inquiétante dame en noir")


Anonymous said...

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reviews, some of which must have taken courage to write when the subject matter was controversial, I have been reminded that films cannot be accurately evaluated
apart from their social and historical contexts. Your reviews usually left me with a good idea of whether I would like to see a film, regardless of whether
you personally liked it. Finally, you endured with good grace amd humor the continuous slings and arrows of outraged readers who were upset that you dared to have an opinion different from theirs. These are the marks of an excellent and highly professional reviewer.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone finally pointed out Lemmon's fine work with Quine and Kovacs. They were every bit as good a trio as Lemmon, Wilder and Matthau