Pros: Albert Finney, Hugh Griffith, Joyce Redman, Story
Cons: Direction, Editing
Tom Jones (1963)
Heroes, whatever high ideas we may have of them, are mortal and not divine. We are all as God made us, and many of us much worse. Narrator
Tom Jones is a ribald comedy that hasnt aged well. The story concerns a foundling (Tom Jones - Albert Finney) who is raised in the country as a minor nobles son. The opening of the movie is ten minutes of silent film style sped up/slowed down/frozen hijinx where the squire tries to find the father - the mother has fled. One of his servants is banished as a result - but hell be back
Albert Finney (Miller's Crossing) is the title character, a young man who possesses an easy charm and a way with the ladies that finally gets him banished from his home when the Lords jealous servants rat him out.
Tom is quickly relieved of his 500 pound patrimony when he makes the mistake of partying with a group of redcoats. When he awakens from his stupor, his money is gone. He soon goes on to another adventure, rescuing a lady who is about to be raped by a couple of the same redcoats. Her blouse has been torn off so she has to hold up the front while he marches bravely ahead. Of course there is an interlude before which Jones blocks off the camera with his hat.
The lady (Joyce Redman) and Jones have a sensuous meal at a tavern - probably the best scene in the movie - where they eat lobsters, chicken, oysters, in an enormous feast, topped off by dripping pears, before scurrying off to bed for more lovemaking. This, of course, is interrupted by a jealous husband, but the lady is not his wife.
The film continues on in much the same vein until the ending, when all mysteries are revealed and Jones is found to be the son of the squire's sister and can therefore marry the neighboring squire's daughter, played by Susannah York.
The story has a number of excellent scenes, including a deer hunt with hounds, but the slapstick treatment a la "Benny Hill" gets a bit tedious after a short while. Old silent film editing techniques like iris, freeze frame, shutter, wipe, title card, and so on look trendy but dated. Much the same dated look is featured by The Sting, which I also felt lost a lot of its charm over the years.
Albert Finney, Hugh Griffith (Counterfeit Traitor), Joyce Redman, Susannah York and others fulfilled their duties admirably, but I felt the disjointed, episodic, harpsichord-punctuated style may not have been the best choice for the material. I felt the directors treatment had the same flaws in Tony Richardsons Charge of the Light Brigade.
The MGM DVD is presented in color, in 1.66:1 theatrical format with Spanish and French subtitles (no English!) and the same audio choices. The trailer is the sole extra.
If you like costume dramas featuring 18th century nobility with powdered wigs and beauty marks you might enjoy
Plunkett and Macleane
Thanks for reading!