Tuesday, September 09, 2008

DVD: Joy House (1964)

Somehow I knew the title Joy House was meant ironically. And that was before I was aware of the movie’s hardboiled pedigree: based on a Day Keene novel, adapted in part by fellow Gold Medal author Charles Williams.

Director René Clément and star Alain Delon proved they knew their way around pulp four years earlier with Purple Noon, their take on Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. Here Delon is a gorgeous playboy – what, again? – who goes too far with a married woman in New York. Pursued by a gang of villains that includes Boss Hogg and Punky Brewster’s dad, he hightails it back to la belle France. There, he holes up inside a mansion with two very odd women, a sensuous widow whose husband was mysteriously murdered (Lola Albright from The Good Humor Man!) and Jane Fonda as her coquettish cousin/maid. Delon is hired to ferry the ladies around in a sedan with a transparent roof, and to provide *ahem* other services. He thinks he’s gotten lucky. He hasn’t.

Joy House is, in a word, ridiculous. And that’s before the overheated plot kicks into gear. (At one point, Fonda notes that some people describe the title manse as “neo-Gothic.” No, really?) The movie keeps threatening to get suspenseful, or kinky, or both, but never quite makes it. Although the sequence in which Jane, in her yowza! days, strips down to almost nothing and does the forgotten ‘60s dance “The Surf” in front of a mirror did burn out some pixels on my TV.

In addition, there’s the Riviera in slick black and white and a cool jazz score. Andy Warhol once said, “Sometimes I like to be bored, and sometimes I don’t. It depends what kind of mood I’m in.” My mood could be called Sunday night, and Joy House bored me in exactly the right way.

Miscellaneous: Link

David Carradine does the AV Club’s Random Roles.