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John Huston
Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith
Writing Credits:
Chapman Mortimer, Gladys Hill

The off-kilter relationship of an Army colonel and his wife plays out under the voyeuristic gaze of a soldier soon to become the focal point of tragedy.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 4/28/20

• Gold-Hued Version of Film
• Vintage Footage
• Trailer


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Reflections in a Golden Eye [Blu-Ray] (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 11, 2020)

Two of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor worked together only once. Along with legendary director John Huston, the actors paired for 1967’s Reflections in a Golden Eye.

Based on Carson McCullers’ 1941 novel, we meet US Army Major Weldon Penderton (Brando) and his wife Leonora (Taylor). Assigned to a fairly insignificant base in the American south, Weldon struggles with a mix of internal issues, and the marriage becomes arid and loveless.

To satisfy herself, Leonora engages in an affair with Lieutenant Colonel Morris Langdon (Brian Keith), also a married person. Langdon’s wife Alison (Julie Harris) experienced a mental breakdown when she suffered a miscarriage a few years earlier. All these characters and others bring an emotional powder keg that could go off at any moment.

Geez, that sounds like one effed up military base! With all those loony characters, one gets the impression that Eye might offer nothing more than lurid soap opera fare.

And you know what? That concept remains largely true, with one issue: Eye doesn’t quite seem lurid enough.

The film walks a fine line, as it wants to present all the whacked-out material I describe above, but Huston seems largely unwilling to embrace the story’s inherent melodrama. Normally I’d approve of a more low-key take on a potentially over the top narrative, but the approach simply doesn’t work here.

Partly the issue stems from the absence of real character development. Eye tends to favor subtext, without much concrete story information onto which the viewer can grasp.

Again, this sounds like a good idea on the surface, but Eye can feel stuck in neutral too much of the time. Despite the occasional moment of major impact, the tale drags and lacks much real momentum.

Rather than move along the plot and characters, it often feels like we get little more than one shot after another of creepy Private Williams (Robert Forster) as he stares at buildings and people. Doesn’t he ever work?

I get the use of Williams as a connecting element, but again, this choice doesn’t connect. We simply feel like Williams appears as a weird Greek chorus of sorts – albeit one who rarely speaks – and not as a strong narrative component on his own.

As the movie wanders through drama and tragedy, it fails to find a groove. Again, the characters don’t develop in a particularly compelling way, and Eye tends to waste its leads

Even with overwritten scenes, we get a good charge when Taylor and Brando appear together. Unfortunately, they spend much more time apart, so we don’t find the desired impact much of the time.

Instead, we wander through fairly dull character scenes that the film punctuates with pretentious monologues. Most of these come across more as laughable than impactful – and the scene in which Weldon suffers a breakdown becomes unintentionally comedic due to Brando’s wild facial gestures.

Other than those handful of energetic encounters I mentioned, neither Brando nor Taylor can do much with their roles, and they tend to overplay their parts, perhaps in an effort to enliven the dreary proceedings. Keith and Harris fare much better, as they perform in a more “straight” manner, and one tends to wish the film wholly focused on them.

But it doesn’t, and those supporting roles can’t redeem a murky narrative. As much fun as it should be to see Taylor and Brando in the same film, the end result disappoints.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Reflections in a Golden Eye appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.

Overall sharpness looked strong. Mild softness appeared during occasional wider shots, but the movie generally offered nice clarity.

I noticed no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to appear. I discerned no digital noise reduction, so the film came with a satisfying sense of grain. In addition, print flaws remained absent.

Colors appeared accurate and clear, as I saw some warm and vibrant hues. The film’s hues came across as one of the image’s strong points.

Black levels seemed deep and dark with acceptable contrast, and shadow detail appeared pretty clean and concise.

I also felt relatively pleased with the monaural soundtrack of Eye. Dialogue came across as slightly stiff and tinny but it remained clear and intelligible at all times with no signs of edginess. Effects were reasonably crisp and clean and showed only a little distortion.

Music followed suit and showed acceptable tones, though it leaned on the trebly side. Nothing here excelled, but the mix worked fine given its age.

The most significant extra here brings a gold-hued version of Eye. Apparently director John Huston wanted the movie to come suffused with a heavy gold tint, but this didn’t go over well with initial audiences and the more monochrome presentation became replaced with the natural-hued movie I rated above after only a week.

I can’t claim the golden version of the film makes the story more effective. While it adds more of a surreal feel to the tale, I don’t think it creates a terribly different impression of the material.

Still, I like that we can watch the movie in either version, and the golden one looks as good as the standard edition. That meant it came with the same strengths and only seemed different due to its palette.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find Vintage Footage. This offers a 23-minute, nine-second collection offers silent footage from the shoot. While it’s too bad we get no source audio, I still like this glimpse of the production.

With legends both in front of and behind the camera, Reflections in a Golden Eye seems destined to turn into a classic. Unfortunately, it lacks much real narrative momentum and devolves into a series of dull character sequences. The Blu-ray brings solid picture as well as age-appropriate audio and a few bonus materials. Eye fails to find its groove.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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