An announcement about April Criterion releases says that Sidney Lumet‘s The Fugitive Kind (1960), an under-appreciated adaptation of Tennessee Williams‘ Orpheus Descending starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani, will be among them. We’re talking a double-disc special edition with a high-definition digital transfer plus extras, including a documentary about the making of the film and an essay by David Thomson.
Brando’s Valentine Xaiver, a guitar-strumming drifter in a snakeskin jacket, was his second and last performance as a youngish moody type in a frankly sexual drama. (Val could’ve been the older, alienated-hipster brother of Stanley Kowalski — one who never wrote or kept in touch.) Brando returned to this kind of character in Last Tango in Paris, of course, but as a middle-aged man on a kind of spiritual downswirl.
Joanne Woodward costarred as a heavily mascara’ed wackjob. Victor Jory plays one of Williams’ standard-issue Southern sickos — a symbol of decrepitude and intolerance.
The Criterion email calls The Fugitive Kind a 1959 film. The IMDB says it opened on December 1, 1959 but Bosley Crowther‘s N.Y. Times review is dated April 15, 1960. It premiered in Los Angeles and sat around for four months before opening in New York?
“At the center of his drama, which grimly and relentlessly takes place in the sweaty and noxious climate of a backwash Louisiana town, there are two brave and enterprising people whose inevitably frustrating fate assumes, from the vibrance of their natures, the shape of tragedy,” Crowther wrote. “And because Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani play these two people brilliantly, The Fugitive Kind has a distinction and a sensitivity that are rare today in films.
“Credit, too, Sidney Lumet, who has directed this piercing account of loneliness and disappointment in a crass and tyrannical world. His plainly perceptive understanding of the deep-running skills of the two stars, his daring with faces in close-up and his out-right audacity in pacing his film at a morbid tempo that lets time drag and passions slowly shape are responsible for much of the insistence and the mesmeric quality that emerge.”