"It just occurred to me, you don't believe I want to repent, is that it? Did it ever occur to you that some people might be all repentance and no sin? I may start a mission to help your kind. Come all ye repentants and let us bring a little sin into your lives." -- Sky Masterson (Guys and Dolls)
It's hard to believe the same actor who played Sky Masterson so nimbly in the film version of GUY AND DOLLS would want to suffer through something so repressed as the role of Major Pendleton in REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967). Psychosexually Freudian in the extremis, it's from a time (McCullers wrote it in the 1940s) when there was no 'out' of the closet without beatings and jail time. Repression cooked our literature in its egg.
I'd love to love this film, as I love most of John Huston's work and it has so many things going for it, but in the end REFLECTIONS reveals a sad, un-sordid truth: not all Southern Gothic Freudian hothouse pulp has aged as well as as others. The difference between Carson McCullers and her roster of closeted social misfits vs. those of her friend, the great Tennessee Williams, is as sweaty summer when it's too hot to move vs. a cool evening with mint julep and minimal mosquitoes. I'd rather watch Richard Burton swill his way through the scenery in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA for the 37th time than watch Brando soak up the masochistic vapors while his wild stallion wife Liz Taylor (her best line, whispered into Marlon's ear: "Son, were you ever taken out in the street and thrashed by a naked woman?") cavorts with (an equally-unhappily) married (to a bonkers Julie Harris) Lt. Colonel (Brian Keith) and is stalked by a doe-eyed private (Robert Forster). She's unaware he rides naked on her horse and breaks into her room to smell her underwear drawer while she sleeps (Brando is of course in a separate bedroom). In his repressed funk, Brando's Major Pendleton mistakes the stalker private's attentions as queer signals towards his own sweaty, obsessive self. Tragedy, of course, ensues.
There's lots of flustered, coded triangles with old McCullers, yet for all the litany of perversions and Baby's First Freud symbolism it's all rawther airless. The golden eye refers to an idol, unmoving, dead, but all-seeing. Such is the major, or maybe the sun, or, well, you know how dirty double entendres are the very core and existence of the South. I shudder to guess the hidden urethra meaning. Tennessee Williams would have flushed out the mythic connections for Huston a wee clearer, made they mythic dimension vibrant, relevant, alive with cognizance of mortality and archetypal forces. Here the mythic 'eye' component seems like an afterthought, something dead and only briefly unburied. The story seems to be content with horse-riding sex symbolism that's almost as overdone and sordid as EQUUS.
|Any similarity to the hindquarters of a horse is strictly intentional.|
|The eye offends thee, no?|
Oh Sky Masterson, if only you opened that sin mission....