Kehr’s Weekly Recap: Picnic (1955)

The sometimes underrated Joshua Logan made his directorial debut with this overripe 1955 Daniel Taradash adaptation of a characteristically hyperbolic William Inge play, and the surprising thing is how much of it works—at least until the climactic dance scene with William Holden and Kim Novak, when camp and hysteria tend to take over. Jo Mielziner does such a formidable job of adapting his own theatrical set designs to homespun midwestern locations that you wonder at times if he—and maybe cinematographer James Wong Howe—shouldn’t be credited as codirectors. The secondary cast—Rosalind Russell, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field, Cliff Robertson, and Arthur O’Connell—also keep things pretty lively. 115 min.

Rancho Notorious

A perversely stylized western by Fritz Lang (1952, 89 min.), his last and best. The combination of unrestrained Technicolor and painted backdrops removes any sense of reality from the proceedings, which are set in a safe haven for gunslingers operated by Marlene Dietrich. Arthur Kennedy arrives, looking for the man who killed his fiancee, as an insistently repeated theme song pounds out a quintessential Lang chorus of “hate, murder, and revenge.”

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