The Loves of Carmen

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Columbia-TriStar, standard 1.33:1, languages: English Digital Mono [CC], Portuguese & Spanish Digital Mono, subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, single side-single layer, 28 chapters, production notes, Rita Hayworth featurette, vintage advertising, talent files, theatrical trailers, rated NR, 97 min., $27.95, street date 12/21/99.

Studio Line

Academy Awards: Nominated for Best Color Cinematography, 1949.

Directed by Charles Vidor. Starring Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Ron Randell, Victor Jory, Luther Adler, Arnold Moss.

Rita Hayworth and Glen Ford are vibrant and volatile as impassioned lovers in this romantic drama of desire and revenge. Set in 19th century Spain, a beautiful gypsy girl (Hayworth) and a respectable Dragoon soldier (Ford) ignite the screen with a love affair you'll never forget.

Picture/Sound/Extras (A-/B-/D+)

Here's an idea for a new drinking game: pop in the DVD of The Loves of Carmen and take a swig every time Carmen herself (Rita Hayworth) spits. If you decide to play this game, I expect(orate - ha!) that you'll get quite tanked by the end of the film, as Carmen brims with effluvia; she's the spitting image of a fiery gypsy!

All oral discharge aside, TLOC is a moderately entertaining and compelling film about Carmen and the hypnotic effect she has on men. Can't blame them for that: Hayworth was quite a babe, and she makes Carmen rather sexy and alluring. Granted, she's a pretty obnoxious character - all that saliva! - but as Lolita proved, sheer looks can go a long way; personality need not matter.

Actually, TLOC reminded me a lot of Lolita in that both films show the destructive effects of possessive love. Actually, I shouldn't use the word "love" because I'm unconvinced the clingy and manipulative parts of those relationships really loved their mates; I expect their obsessions are for different reasons that they confuse as love. Whatever the terminology, TLOC demonstrates just how low one can sink when one develops an unhealthy attachment to another - hope that doesn't spoil the ending.

TLOC seems to be a competently executed film, with decent acting from Hayworth and Glenn Ford as her obsessor. It manages a fairly brisk and appropriate pace as directed by Charles Vidor. Still, the movie didn't do a whole lot for me. I thought it was decent but nothing special. I enjoyed it well enough while I watched it but don't expect I'll ever care to do so again.

Next time you start to think that old movies almost must look degraded, take a peek at The Loves of Carmen. While not without flaws, this image shines in ways I wouldn't expect from such an aged film. TLOC appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to the 4X3 dimensions of the image, the picture has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.

Sharpness seems consistently fine and detailed throughout the film. At times, a very slight softness enters the picture, but this appears due to lens filters used to give Hayworth that hazy "glamour shots" look. In any case, I found the picture to look quite crisp and it lacked any evidence of moire effects or jagged edges. For a movie of its age, the print used seems exceptionally clean. Speckling pops up periodically, and I also noticed very occasional scratches or marks, but these seem few and far-between; it's a very fresh-looking print.

Colors appear absolutely magnificent. They seem extraordinarily bold and bright but remain stable and solid from start to finish. The film makes wonderful use of a variety of colors in the lively costumes, and the DVD replicates them fantastically well. Black levels also look deep and rich, and shadow detail appears appropriately dense but not overwhelming; at no time did I have difficulty discerning what was happening. All in all, TLOC provides an amazingly strong viewing experience.

The film's monaural soundtrack doesn't live up to its picture, but considering the technological constraints of the era, it sounds pretty good. Dialogue seems clear and easily intelligible at all times, and music and effects are clean and smooth; at no time did I discern any hints of distortion. The entire track seems somewhat tinny and lacks depth, but that appears due to the weak sound recording technology; dynamic range will almost always be limited on films of this era.

TLOC doesn't offer a plethora of supplements, but we get a few. First up is a nearly nine minute featurette called "Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady". This provides a general biography about her career that features clips from a number of her films plus voice-over interview snippets from Orson Welles and Fred Astaire. I found this piece to be decent but rather superficial; a longer feature could have detailed her career much better. It also seemed oddly truncated. The ending describes the big push the studio made with Hayworth's 1953 film Miss Sadie Thompson but the program stops there. Strangely, it doesn't follow up with any reactions to the film or tell us why Hayworth didn't make another movie for four years or why she wanted out of Columbia at that time (as alluded to by this program's title, Columbia gained its place in Hollywood largely through the popularity of Hayworth). It's a decent documentary for what it is, but it lacks depth.

A few other minor extras appear. The "Vintage Advertising" section shows four lobby cards and two posters that were used during the film's initial release. We get trailers for TLOC, Pal Joey and Gilda, both of which also starred Hayworth. Talent files for Hayworth, Ford, actor Victor Jory and director Vidor also make the DVD; as usual with Columbia-Tristar (CTS) DVDs, these lack detail and are pretty crummy. Finally, a four-page booklet provides some very basic production notes about the film.

I can't strongly recommend The Loves of Carmen because I didn't think it was much of a movie; I enjoyed it but found it eminently forgettable. However, CTS did a wonderful job with the DVD; the picture looks fantastic and the sound seems quite strong. Only the sparse supplements disappoint. If you're a fan of Rita Hayworth or just like the movie in general, you'll be very happy with this DVD.

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