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Saturday Night Cinema: Sanctuary

6

“Listen, little girl, you don’t know nothing ’bout the Candy Man — he’ll have you crawling on all fours and howling like a dog!”

Tonight’s Saturday night Cinema feature is the 1961 “SANCTUARY” (1961) starring Lee Remick, Yves Montand, Bradford Dillman and Odetta; screenplay by Ruth Ford and James Poe, based on works by William Faulkner; directed by Tony Richardson. Very dated, very strange but like a good train wreck, you can’t look away.

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In 1928 Mississippi, the black maid of a white woman kills the latter’s newborn in order to give her employer a way out of a predicament, and then faces the death penalty.

WILLIAM FAULKNER’S novel, “Sanctuary,” and his sequel to it, “Requiem for a Nun,” which together provide quite a lurid introspection of a jazz-age Southern girl, have been combined, cut down and altered….. NY Time

In 1931, William Faulkner decided to write a potboiler that would actually sell copies in the bookstore; the result was this tale of a privileged southern girl named Temple Drake, who is raped by a ruthless bootlegger named Popeye, becomes smitten with him, and lives a life of wild gaiety until the day he dies in a car chase, when she returns home with her tail between her legs. The novel was first filmed the year it came out (in 1931), as The Story of Temple Drake, then remade under its original title by British director Tony Richardson in 1961.

All Movie: Devotees of William Faulkner will take exception to Sanctuary, but those who adore steamy Southern melodramas and/or the extremely talented Lee Remick will find plenty to enjoy. While the screenplay keeps a fair amount of the plots from two Faulkner novels, it omits a great deal of their psychological complexity. As a result, characters whose actions make a great deal of sense and who seem to have a natural inevitability to them come off as a bit unmotivated and/or stiff at times, and as something of enigmas at others. Fortunately, Remick is on hand to help make up for this shortcoming, using her considerable skills to imbue Temple Drake with an inner life that makes the audience accept everything she does; we may not totally understand why she behaves the way she does, but Remick makes us believe that it is natural for her to make the choices she does. Yves Montand and Bradford Dillman are somewhat less successful, although Montand’s innate sensuality goes a long way to filling in some of his blanks; much better is Odette, whose Nancy is solid and strong. Tony Richardson directs at a somewhat leisurely pace at times, but it somehow suits the material, and there’s some very atmospheric camerawork from Ellsworth Fredericks. Sanctuary is certainly flawed and occasionally lurid, but it’s also gripping and often exciting.

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