Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Hot Blood (1956)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Hot Blood (1956)

by Tony Dayoub

Those who've wished Nicholas Ray would turn his eye for color towards that most saturated of genres, the musical, can see the result in Hot Blood. And it's... not that great. Coming off the success of Rebel Without a Cause doubtless allowed the often embattled director to pursue his creative whims unopposed. And in this case, he turned to a project on the Romani—more popularly referred to by the derogatory term of Gypsies—long enough in development that the majority of the research was done by Ray's first wife, Jean Evans, whom he had divorced in 1940. Hot Blood began life as the sort of ethnography that one might be able to place next to other works of his like 1952's The Lusty Men (about rodeo riders) or 1961's The Savage Innocents (the Inuits). Except that Ray's affinity for folk music and his burgeoning foray into color cinematography likely got in the way and muddled this romance up. "Good" and "bad" are relative, though. For Jane Russell, this was probably a "good" picture. For Cornel Wilde, this was probably a not-so-"good" movie. And for Ray, with plenty of flawed features to be found in his filmography, this was still most definitely a "bad" one. And to think, it's sandwiched right between two of his best motion pictures, Rebel and Bigger Than Life. Still, its influence can obviously be found in at least two ethnic musicals, West Side Story (1961) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971). I'd even argue that its presence is felt in a scene from the James Bond series, the lurid gypsy catfight setpiece in From Russia With Love (1963) (featuring a young Martine Beswick).

Since I've said about all I have to say on Hot Blood, let's look at its pretty screen captures, after the jump...


Jake Cole said...

I must admit, I really did like this. Chalk it up to the high of seeing almost all his movies for the first time but I found it good, gauche fun. Its songs are vague approximations of what gypsy music MIGHT sound like and the leads aren't trained dancers, and there's something so absurd about it that its tacky color just makes everything even more amusing. Not top-tier, obviously, and Ray would drastically improve on ethnography with The Savage Innocents, but I'd certainly watch it again.

Tony Dayoub said...

Oh, I don't think HOT BLOOD's unwatchable. I have a good time watching it. But the music wears on you. Wilde is obviously not having a great time. And the colors make my eyes tired. I wanted to link up to a great piece by the Self-Styled Siren (alas, technical difficulties with the site hosting it prevent me from doing so) where she makes a case for how one can see Ray getting bored with the movie, often mid-sequence.