Saturday, August 20, 2022



Captain Penderton fails to tame his wife’s wild horse, an apt metaphor concerning his impotence and weakness to ride his beautiful wife as their marriage disappears into an emotional crevasse.

Marlon Brando’s narcissistic portrayal of the respected Captain is marvelously multi-dimensional: revealing the love of his own manly physique while showing the inner gulf that separates him from his voluptuous wife Leonora. The Captain speaks of the bond between men that is stronger than death, and this repressed homosexuality exudes from his pores and leads to violence: it’s not the fact he’s attracted to another man…it’s the fact that he can’t come to grips with this sexual revelation that destroys him.

Director John Huston imbues the film in a golden aura, which consumes all primary colors and gives the film a feel of nostalgia…or psychosis. This is one of Huston’s most solemn films with little direct humor, a condemnation of the Army’s attitude towards homosexuality and society’s bleak judgment upon the characters. The subject of “male bonding” hasn’t been this prevalent since James Jones novel THE THIN RED LINE. Leonora is having an affair with Major Langdon to satisfy her physical needs while Penderton stalks a young Private, and Langdon’s wife is busy having a nervous breakdown as she suspects the illicit tryst. John Huston films Penderton’s wild horse ride through the thickets and woods in one continuous tracking shot, while he desperately holds on for his life. But the horse is too strong and throws him; he then spies the naked Private sunning himself and he beats the horse viciously with a stick. Later that night, Leonora returns the abuse with a riding crop slapping him across the face in disgust. The erotic image of Leonora excitingly depicted by Elizabeth Taylor, in a night gown holding a riding crop isn’t lost on the viewer, but Penderton is disinterested, thus further provoking her fury.

Finally, Penderton sees the Private sneak into his house late one night, and believing his obsession is about to be realized, watches in horror as this man silently enters his wife’s bedroom, fascinated by her sleeping beauty. Enraged, Penderton shoots the intruder and Huston’s camera arcs quickly from the dead man, to Leonora’s screams, and Penderton’s confused visage. The film ends with the destruction of the patriarchal family unit, as phantasmal as the golden beauty that resides in the eye of the beholder.

Final Grade: (B+)