OH...ROSALINDA!!, a misfired 1955 British operetta, made its New York debut (in CinemaScope and restored color) in 1995. For all its faults, however, OH ... ROSALINDA!! offers a welcome respite from today's less accomplished art films.
This modern version of Die Fledermaus is set in an unreal, cartoon-colored postWW II Vienna. The frolic begins when Dr. Falke (Anton Walbrook), a diplomat, lands in political hot water after he is discovered lying on a sacred Russian statue at the Soviet embassy following a night of revelry in
the Occupied city. Falke plots revenge for his embarrassment on Eisenstein (Michael Redgrave), the French army colonel who had placed him on the statue.
Falke first visits Eisenstein at the plush Hotel Quadrille, where he informs him of his impending arrest due to his part in the international incident. Falke then pretends that he has arranged a delay in the imprisonment so that Eisenstein may enjoy himself at an embassy ball that night.
Eisenstein lies to his wife Rosalinda (Ludmilla Tcherina), saying that he is going directly to jail when, in fact, he is going first to the ball, which is in honor of the Russian general Orlovsky (Anthony Quayle). After her husband leaves, however, Rosalinda entertains Alfred (Mel Ferrer), an
American army officer and old flame who is also staying at the hotel.
When the British commandant, Major Frank (Dennis Price), comes to arrest Eisenstein in his hotel room, he mistakes the American lothario for the French colonel. Meanwhile, Falke tips off Rosalinda that her husband has been seen at the embassy. Rosalinda goes to the ball incognito as a redheaded
temptress in order to test her husband's fidelity. After she seduces her husband, who does not recognize her, Rosalinda abruptly leaves, and Eisenstein voluntarily goes to prison to serve his time. When he arrives, however, the colonel is alarmed to find Captain Frank in his cell impersonating him
(and declaring his love for Rosalinda). Eisenstein leaves the captain in his place in the jail and returns to the hotel to confront his wife. Rosalinda, in turn, accuses Eisenstein of cheating on her. Eventually, however, they forgive each other for their past indiscretions, while the other hotel
guests drink the night away.
It is easy to see why OH ... ROSALINDA!! was never distributed in the United States. The elaborate froufrou is even more frivolous than THE RED SHOES (1948) and TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951), the two earlier musical hits by director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger (jointly known as
The Archers). Whereas THE RED SHOES offered a commonplace backstage melodrama to anchor its fanciful ballets, and TALES OF HOFFMAN presented pure fantasy without any linear narrative at all, OH...ROSALINDA!! offers something uncomfortably in between. The film tells its story in the tradition of
the most mannered Hollywood musicals--with stars breaking into songs at any given point in the midst of ultrastylized sets. Given that these stars are hardly known for their operatic talents (Michael Redgrave and Anthony Quayle bravely sing for themselves, the others are lip-synced), the conceit,
unfortunately, becomes tiresome. OH ... ROSALINDA!! also suffers from silly lyrics (by Dennis Arundell) set to Johann Strauss's music, underwhelming choreography (by Alfred Rodriques), and weak political jabs (at least by the Archers' standards).
Despite both the major and minor flaws, OH .. .ROSALINDA!! provides at least a few moments of fun--in addition to the crazy, beautiful production design by Hein Heckroth. Anton Walbrook gets to reprise his wry storyteller role, from Max Ophuls's LA RONDE (1950), in a pre-title direct-address
sequence. (The Archers also later poke fun at the running "Madame de ..." joke from Ophuls's 1954 EARRINGS OF MADAME DE ... .) Dennis Price's drunk scenes are shot in split screen, cleverly mimicking his character's double vision. Mel Ferrer acts surprisingly goofy in a couple of musical moments,
although he would be used to better effect in Jean Renoir's similar sexual roundelay, ELENA AND HER MEN (1956). And Ludmilla Tcherina is delightful as Rosalinda, even though her big moment at the ball--when she seduces her husband--is undercut by its brevity.
OH ... ROSALINDA!! will never attain the status of BLACK NARCISSUS, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, or THE RED SHOES, but stateside Archer aficionados ought to be grateful to have a "new" work in the canon. (Sexual situations.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: OH...ROSALINDA!!, a misfired 1955 British operetta, made its New York debut (in CinemaScope and restored color) in 1995. For all its faults, however, OH ... ROSALINDA!! offers a welcome respite from today's less accomplished art films. This modern version… (more)