The Marriage-Go-Round DVD Review: James Mason, '60s Swinger at Large!

Lesson learned: don't punch holes in the lid of the bottle for the lightning to breathe.
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Adapting a work from one form of entertainment to another is not an easy task. Imagine, if you will, what might happen were one to add a Descriptive Video Service audio track to a film like Koyaanisqatsi. Or if Cannibal Holocaust were turned into a bloodless Broadway musical. Something would inevitably get lost in translation, making way for that age old adage about capturing lightning in a bottle. But what happens if you hand that magical glass container over to someone - say a complete and total dumbass - and they go and punch holes in the lid so that the poor lightning can breathe? Well, if you're looking for a good example, The Marriage-Go-Round should more than suffice.

Originally beget as a stage play in 1958, Leslie Stevens' The Marriage-Go-Round centered on two happily-married college staff members - him a professor of cultural anthropology, her the Dean of Women - and the chaos that ensues when a young Swedish sexpot arrives at the house and promptly declares she wants to have the professor's baby. On Broadway, the title wound up giving audiences well over 700 performances total, giving a hot vixen named Julie Newmar a chance to delight both straight men and closeted women alike with her vivacious personality and bodacious bod (she even took home a Tony after it all!).

Three years later, The Marriage-Go-Round wound up being converted into a feature-length film by Twentieth Century Fox - with the lovely Julie Newmar reprising her stage role as visiting temptress Katrin Sveg, who compromises the nuptial sanctity of James Mason and Susan Hayward's onscreen marriage. While there's no denying that Newmar was quite the bombshell, there is also no refuting the fact that the feature-film adaptation of The Marriage-Go-Round was the actual bomb itself. As stilted of a screenplay as can be, the film is split into segments introduced by our onscreen elder educators. Mason presents part of the story to his male audience; Hayward to the ladies. Both of 'em soon ditch addressing their students, fixing their orbs directly into the camera lens itself, as if that fourth wall didn't even exist in film.

Though she's the "experienced" of the three, Newmar is still performing on-stage here - overplaying it every step of the way. Meanwhile, top-billed Hayward all but phones it in, rarely changing her facial expression despite the fact that her character has changed moods. Truly, the standout star of this film is James Mason, who was given a chance to exercise his not-as-commonly-seen comedic side; a scene where he asks his wife if he should shift his eyes about whilst fibbing is a particular highlight - he does just that, only to sternly reposition them towards his co-star with a thoroughly recoiling-like manner. Additional moments of him leering at Ms. Newmar as Hayward issues that infamous death stare only those of you with spouses can relate to force a chuckle or two, but, in the end, there isn't much here.

Former B-Movie actor Robert Paige submits one of his final performances here as Hayward's married male friend. Walter Lang - who helmed mainstream classics like There’s No Business Like Show Business and cult classics such as Snow White and the Three Stooges - directs this dreadful affair, with Leslie Stevens adapting his own play into screen fodder as well a producing. Two years later, Stevens would strike gold with a cult classic of his own: television's The Outer Limits. Coincidentally enough, the music score here is provided by Stevens' future Outer Limits collaborator, composer Dominic Frontiere. Tony Bennett sings the forgettable title theme song - which comes off as terribly out of place and rushed in retrospect.

Though the DVD artwork on this Fox Cinema Archives release claims The Marriage-Go-Round is presented in a letterbox format, such is not the case. In fact, the 1961 failure boasts a fine anamorphic CinemaScope transfer (though I did notice some annoying white lines at the very top of my screen - anyone else?), with a fairly hiss-heavy Dolby Digital mono soundtrack delivering Mason's patented murmuring as best it can. The Manufactured-on-Demand release contains no extras - which, after viewing the entire flick, came as a welcomed relief to me.

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