Sunday, June 26, 2016

Siren of Atlantis

Arthur Ripley & John Brahm 
Hollywood CA 1947      
with Maria Montez & Jean Pierre Aumont

Based on the same novel, L’Atlantide by Pierre Benoit, that also served as the basis for films by Jacques Feyder (1921,) GW Pabst (1932,) Edgar Ulmer (1961,) and Bob Swaim (1992,) this particular project was initiated by Seymour Nebenzal, who also produced the Pabst version.  Early on he approached Douglas Sirk, who didn’t want to direct it but did help structure the screenplay.  After Arthur Ripley completed his work, and it was poorly received by preview audiences, Sirk was again called in to save it, but he wanted no part of it, so the task fell to John Brahm, who spent a few more weeks reshooting parts of it.  When neither Brahm nor Ripley wanted credit for the direction, Gregg Tallas, the editor who was responsible for cobbling it all together, ended up the director of record.  It’s not a bad film, in fact it was one of Jack Smith’s favorites, and it is referenced repeatedly throughout his work.  The woman whom Jack worshipped, the film’s star, Maria Montez, considered it her greatest role and her finest performance.  It no doubt helped that her leading man was her very handsome and genuinely gifted husband, Jean Pierre Aumont.  Both Ripley and Brahm were very good at creating an atmosphere of delirium in their films, which serves the material they were asked to work with here.  At its best, the film has the quality of a half remembered dream.

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