Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Unseen #38: Home From The Hill

Why’d I Buy It?: Came with the Robert Mitchum Boxset I purchased.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: No real reason beyond the film’s non reputation.

How Was It?: A huge mess of unseemly fun. And after consecutive reviews of The Last Exorcism, Winter's Bone, and this, I have no choice but to conclude I've got the south on the brain.

Home From The Hill, begins with Robert Mitchum getting shot by an irate husband, whose wife Mitchum has been sleeping with. Like all the ladies say, “Once you’ve had Mitchum, you go on ahead and pitch ‘em” (short notice, you do a better one). So the husband did have some right to be angry. Mitchum shakes it off though, he’s a Texas land baron who runs his empire like a fiefdom and that girl is just one of many. Besides as Werner Herzog might say “It was not a significant bullet.”

But age is starting to catch up with Mitchum, so he decides to start training his boy to take over in his stead. A training that involves plenty of wild boar fighting. Over the course of a couple of years every skeleton the family has in its closet gets dragged out kicking and screaming, in the prime fifties melodrama fashion and a few new ones are stuffed in their to replace them to boot. This all makes for some good watching.

Home From The Hill, was directed by Vincent Minelli, best known today for being the gay man who loved Judy Garland so much he married her, somehow making him more, not less gay. Home From The Hill is the kind of overheated melodrama that Minelli made his specialty, second only to Douglas Sirk in that particular Sub Genre.

The thing to remember about this particular kind of film is that they were as A list as you could get, the equivalent of today’s Oscar bait. Which is important to remember, because these films often feel like they’re literally insane. There’s a dog versus Giant Wild Boar fight that looks suspiciously like the real thing. There’s a kind of vitality and unpredictability to this kind of filmmaking that is completely lacking in today’s. Remember this is a prestige A list picture…. And it has a wild boar fight in it. As versatile as George Clooney is I don’t expect him to battle a wild boar in his Oscar bait.

The cast is filled out with the likes of George Peppard, George Hamilton, Eleanor Parker, and Luana Patton, not a group of what you would normally call heavy hitters, but all doing career best work.

Home From The Hill might seem a bit odd to the modern viewer. It’s spread out over two and a half hours and takes it time not getting anywhere in particular. It might all amount to Giant for the slow, stripped of its ambition and iconography (though not artistry this is Minelli we’re talking about here). But any movie that features Robert Mitchum surrounded by hunting hounds, drinking corn whiskey from a bottle, talking about manliness, while sitting on a throne like a cracker Lear, is more then alright in my book.

(Remember kids, Pimp is spelled M-I-T-C-H-U-M)


Rob said...

This sounds really interesting (I'd never heard of it either, I'm guessing mid-1960's?) although I have an unreasonable dislike of Eleanor Parker (can't explain it, she just bugs me). But may I say I was giggling like an idiot at this:
"(It)was directed by Vincent Minelli, best known today for being the gay man who loved Judy Garland so much he married her, somehow making him more, not less gay." What the fuck were either of them thinking? Too funny!

Peter Lenihan said...

I saw this one for the first time relatively recently (maybe six months ago?), and agree with much of what you say here; it's a bizarre movie, and works when Mitchum is on-screen, but not so much when he's not (which is most of the picture). As always though, Minnelli's compositions keep it interesting, and it's probably worth noting that a lot of the director's best melodramas are similarly formless (Some Came Running, in my opinion his best movie, is perhaps even less structured as a narrative).

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Rob: Many thanks and who knows what they were thinking? Love to be a fly on the wall huh?

@ Peter: I agree with you, both on Minelli's qualities and Some Came Running. Its such a peculiar and particular formlessness, but by no means unappealing.