Monday, 21 December 2015

Movie Review: The Millionairess (1960)


A stupifyingly lame comedy, The Millionairess cannot be saved, despite Sophia Loren's gleaming presence in a succession of stunning outfits and various stages of undress.

In London, Epifania (Loren) inherits the business empire of her father upon his death. The will also sets a condition: any future man that she wants to marry needs to first turn £500 into £15,000 within three months. Despite her lawyer Sagamore (Alastair Sim) keeping a watchful eye, Epifania tries to get around her father's wishes and marries a good-for-nothing playboy, but he promptly starts cheating on her. Close to despair Epifania tries to kill herself.

Eventually she sets eyes on the humble and good-hearted doctor Kabir (Peter Sellers), who provides his medical care services at a ramshackle clinic dedicated to the poor. Epifania tries all she knows to seduce Kabir, but he is not interested in her nor her money. For all her wealth, comely charms and capitalistic smarts, she cannot get Kabir to fall in love with her. Eventually Epifania learns that Kabir's late mother has also set a condition on any woman that he may want to marry: to start with just £35 and live independently for three months. Epifania accepts the challenge, but finding true love will still not be easy.

An adaptation of a George Bernard Shaw play from 1936, The Millionairess is extraordinarily dull. Director Anthony Asquith delivers an inept, listless film which never engages, and indeed creates a sense of stultifying boredom. The plot never comes close to registering as a genuine story worth investing in, and the comic elements are simply limp. There is no on-screen chemistry between Sellers and Loren, and the whole concept of Epifania falling in love with Kabir for no good reason is beyond bewildering.

The film burns scene after scene with Epifania attempting to convince Kabir that he should love her, the repetition reaching absurd levels and sucking any modicum of life out of the film. The lawyer Sagamore emerges as the sharpest character but even he cannot save the pacing, while the inconsequential late introduction of a doofus drunk professor (Noell Purcell) makes things much worse. The script offers smatterings of dialogue about capitalism and socialism that sit uneasily in the context of the film, while the entire theme of financial challenges set by dead parents for spouses-to-be is overplayed to distraction.

The one reason to suffer through The Millionairess is a ravishing Sophia Loren at her most alluring, and Asquith places her in a series of fetching outfits, and finds plenty of contrived reasons to get her to partially undress. It's all satisfyingly risqué by 1960 standards, and Loren, at the height of her fame and glamour, radiates star power. Sellers, by way of contrast, seems mesmerized by his co-star and never gets to grips with his character, an Indian immigrant doctor thunderstruck by love but doggedly sticking to principles of poverty.

Loren as The Millionairess looks the part, but the film is quite bankrupt as entertainment.






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