John Huston's adaptation of Carson McCullers' novella about a bizarre murder on a Southern Army base during peace-time, gets much of its brilliance from Marlon Brando and much of its flighty comedy from Elizabeth Taylor. Brando plays Major Penderton, a tortured homosexual who clings to a stultifying image of himself as a commander of men. Taylor plays Penderton's wife, Leonora, a social butterfly and a featherbrain. Penderton smolders secretly while Leonora rides horses, gossips and has sex in a berry patch with Penderton's fellow officer, Lieutenant Colonel Langdon (Brian Keith). All the characters -- including Langdon's neurasthenic wife (Julie Harris), his Filipino houseboy (Zorro David), and a strange, silent, voyeuristic private (Robert Forster) -- converge like strings on a booby-trapped parabola. Huston's treatment of McCullers' fiction is amazingly effective, considering that the subject is repressed and hidden passion. He never pulled more out of his actors. Without hesitancy or vanity, Brando embodies a man in denial. Whether play-acting before a mirror or fantasizing that an enlisted man's existence is "as clean as a rifle barrel," he makes this homunculus breathe. And Taylor's Leonora -- with her oversized reactions and selfish gaiety -- is a unique creation: an overripe infant.
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