Want to see a lady get her throat slashed open by a trio of thugs? It all happens right on camera, blood spurting, the works, in George Roy Hill’s film based on Lillian Hellman’s stage play.
The Hellman work was no lavender-and-old-lace affair. Miss Hellman could sling a neurosis with the best of ’em, and in Toys In The Attic – after an absence from Broadway of some years – she seemed vengefully bent on reclaiming from Tennessee Williams the title as Broadway’s most uncompromising writer about the sordid South.
Among her characters: a sister with an incestuous attraction to her brother; a second old-maid sister; a weakling brother constitutionally unable to make his own way in the world and dependent on his sisters; a psychotic child bride; and a woman of wealth who lives openly with her chauffeur.
Mr Hill heightened Miss Hellman’s sensationalism in a number of ways, typical of which is the interpolated bloodletting scene described above. The result is an unpleasant film liable to send cinemagoers away with a feeling of angry resentment for having been pointlessly assaulted with so much downbeat material.
The film might have been redeemed were one able to believe in the persons portrayed. One cannot. Dean Martin as the wayward brother is so indivisibly Dean Martin that one waits rather hopefully for Frank Sinatra to show up with a walk-on quip.
Geraldine Page, an actress of brilliant capabilities, gives a distractingly busy, over-mannered performance. Her fluttering, gesticulating, mouth-pursing should have been restrained by a stronger directorial hand.
Yvette Mimieux, the young wife pathologically afraid her husband will leave her, is lovely and fragile but gives no hint of the arrested mental development which made believable the character as written by Miss Hellman.
Wendy Hiller and Gene Tierney come off best, if only because they seem a trifle more self-possessed.
George Roy Hill