Sony // 1964 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // May 14th, 2004
The more he gets in trouble, the more he gets under her skin.
Georgette Thomas (Lee Remick, Days of Wine and Roses) travels to Columbus, Texas, for a reunion with husband, Henry (Steve McQueen, Love with the Proper Stranger, The Great Escape). Henry has just been released from prison for an unspecified crime. Reunited with his family, Henry is determined to make it as a singer/songwriter. Working against him is not only his criminal past, but the tight leash held on him by former caretaker Miss Kate.
Like The Little Prince, this is a project that must have looked sensational on paper. Foote reunited with producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan (the trio that made the masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird) had to have been appealing to Columbia executives. Add in a cast led by McQueen, Remick, and Don Murray, and one would expect this to be a smash hit. Filmed in 1964, but released a year later, Baby, the Rain Must Fall was a failure at the box office. Baby, This Movie Never Ends would have been a more apt title. Not since Lost in Translation has a critically acclaimed film left me so cold.
What makes the film's failure even more appalling is the waste of good talent. Horton Foote has long been one of the most talented playwright/authors around. His script, based on the play "The Traveling Lady," must have read better than it plays on screen. On stage, the static, stodgy nature of the story would have felt less tedious than it does on film. Opening it up for the screen, it is a slow, muddy bore in which nothing of note ever happens. Also, it takes Foote far too long to reveal what makes these characters tick. On stage, he probably got away with it. Film is a different medium, however.
The acting is surprisingly bad. The previous year, Steve McQueen proved what an effective dramatic actor he could be with roles in Soldier in the Rain, The Great Escape, and the previous Pakula-Mulligan project Love with the Proper Stranger. Here, he turns in the absolute worst performance of his distinguished career. He tries hard to play Henry with some sympathy. The way Foote wrote the character, even the most accomplished actor would have trouble with it. McQueen also badly pantomimes several horrible songs. I say pantomime because it isn't even lip-synching. The songs are so awful that they spoil the film's basic premise. In addition, although Lee Remick was coming off a career high with her shattering performance in Blake Edwards' Days of Wine and Roses, here she seems to play Georgette as a lobotomized woman. How else to explain her annoying optimism even when Henry mucks up big time? Finally, Don Murray, also a good actor, seems to be in vanilla mode in his role of Slim. One of director Robert Mulligan's strengths is to guide his actors to give strong performances. Watching Baby, the Rain Must Fall leads one to conclude that God took a vacation during production. Mulligan also proves that he is not an action director with the poorly choreographed fight sequences. They inspire laughs rather than excitement.
Columbia's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is terrible. Watching it, it becomes obvious that no restoration or cleanup was performed. Grain is excessive, even obtrusive at times. Scratches and specks litter the screen along with those ugly horizontal black lines that plague old kinescopes. Even the black-and-white photography looks hazy rather than velvety. It's a bad print of a film that hasn't been seen much over the past 39 years.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono isn't much better. It sounds sterile during the many dialogue scenes. Scenes with music are over-mixed, which overwhelms the dialogue. Crackling sounds and pops appear without warning.
No extras are featured on this disc. It's just as well, considering how awful this film really is. The $24.95 price tag is a joke, as you get a horrible transfer of a bad film without any extra content. But then again even five cents would have been excessive for Baby, the Rain Must Fall.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated