Judge Eric Profancik has two words for this unimpressive Western: "Heller" and "Goodbye."
One foot on the stage…and one step ahead of the law!
Based on a book by Louis L'Amour, Heller in Pink Tights is an atypical Western movie. Though set in the Old West with men shooting guns at each other and savage Indians in the way, Heller is more about the people in the West than the events surrounding them. To twist it even further, the movie doesn't center on the usual cowboy, sheriff, or wanted outlaw. Instead, it follows The Great Healy Dramatic and Concert Company as they go from city to city. This group is led by Tom Healy (Anthony Quinn, The Guns of Navarone), a respectable man with a very soft spot for the troublesome Angela Rossini (Sophia Loren, El Cid). Tom loves the beautiful Angie, but she isn't interested in a long-term relationship. She's an adventurous lass who uses her feminine wiles quite effectively on unsuspecting men. In each town, Angie causes some kind of problem, forcing the troupe to run away in the middle of the night. That's where we meet them, running away to Cheyenne. Once there, the group starts their next engagement, but the past catches up to them and Tom and Angie have to decide if they are going to stay and work out the problems or keep on running.
I wasn't particularly impressed with this film, which is in line with what most others feel for Heller. As directed by George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story), it's not a bad film; it's just a rather dull and routine one. I felt no connection to any of the characters; I didn't really care that they were in trouble, nor did I care if they found their way out of it. This stems from the fact that the performances here are all average. Neither Quinn nor Loren projects much of their power in this movie, causing the film to just mosey along. While Loren has never been one of my favorite actresses, I've come to expect more from Quinn. He very much fails to deliver in this one. Too bad that Loren's acting isn't as stunning as her beauty, for she looks ravishing, with an hourglass figure that is beyond comprehension. (That must be one heck of a girdle…or is it?) One note of saving grace in the acting department comes from the villain in the film, Clint Mabry, as portrayed by Steve Forrest (S.W.A.T., Amazon Women on the Moon). Forrest exudes the calm menace of a professional killer, and he brings depth and power to any scene he's in. He's a complicated character, and you're not fully certain of his exact motives. Too bad his performance receives no support.
The title of the movie caused me a moment's pause. "Heller"? What is a heller? My faithful dictionary proved to me that this is a real word, but why use such an uncommon one? Further, during the opening scrawl, Angie is called a "hellion." Why use two different words, and why aren't we watching Hellion in Pink Tights? Additionally, I didn't even make the connection between "pink tights" and the play within the movie. Duh!
This barebones release from Paramount gets a kudos point for its release in its correct original aspect ratio and for being billed as a member of the "Widescreen Collection." But that is where the praise ends, as the anamorphic print shows its age with a heavy coating of grain, dust, dirt, and noticeable flickers. Detail is missing due to the print's softness, which is most obvious in the day scenes. At least the mono audio track is acceptable and conveys the dialogue without any hiss, buzz, or distortion.
With the opening shot of grand vistas, I had high hopes for Heller in Pink Tights, but this movie is as empty as the wild country it's set in.
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