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Case Number 26827: Small Claims Court

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The Rose Tattoo (1955)

Warner Bros. // 1955 // 117 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 11th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Gibron has a bouquet of violets imprinted across his...bosoms.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Rose Tattoo, published November 2nd, 2004, is also available.

The Charge

From standard DVD to OOP DVR

The Case

"(Anna) Magnani is all sex and shame in The Rose Tattoo, a mixture of Old World classicism and New World haughtiness molded into a defiant, somewhat desperate woman. Though she is dowdy and depressed throughout most of the film, Magnani manages to hint at both the life and the love still locked inside (her character of) Serafina. Saddled with a couple of obvious showpiece moments—her visit to the church bazaar and the confrontation with Rosario's mistress come to mind—she still manages to cement this overwrought work with the earthy neo-realism of her amazing performances from Italian cinema. She is the heart and soul of The Rose Tattoo, and after watching her for nearly two hours, it's hard to see anyone else in the role.

"As the other major element in the movie, Burt Lancaster is a bit of a problem, albeit a very minor one. He has the size and the heft to play Alvaro Mangiacavallo, and as an actor, he matches Magnani's efforts bravura to bravado. But he makes an ethnically blank Italian. Lancaster, who was purely Anglo-Saxon, tries his hardest, and sometimes he succeeds. When not required to mutter and bumble over Williams's culturally queer dialogue (there are times when The Rose Tattoo feels like a parody of a Mediterranean melodrama), the usually magnificent actor finds the sincerity and strength at the center of Alvaro's persona. We are supposed to feel an instant connection between Serafina and the strapping suitor, and it's as much a testament to Magnani's smoldering sexuality as Lancaster's matinee idol attractiveness that the combination works."

I said this nine years ago on this very site, and I stand by it. The Rose Tattoo was my initial introduction to the Mediterranean firebrand known as Anna Magnani (several years before home video and the whole digital revolution) and I remember wondering just how this obviously talented woman came to be involved in such a oddly Americanized production. Then I discovered that Tennessee Williams loved the actress and wrote the play for her initially. Sadly, her command of English was so poor that she couldn't originate the role of Serafina (Maureen Stapleton took it to Broadway). By the time the movie was made, she was ready, and her performance here is legend. Magnani walked away with an Oscar and the respect of millions of movie fans. While the rest of her Hollywood career saw her fall back into standard immigrant kitchen sink fare, she consistently reminded viewers of the power that it present in every frame here.

For those who don't know the film, the story centers on Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani, Mamma Roma), a proud woman whose arrogance causes her to stand out among the women in her small Gulf Coast community. She loves her truck driver husband Rosario and has faith in his affections. She is therefore stunned to learn that he was not transporting produce but smuggling and was cheating with a local whore. After a miscarriage, Serafina remains homebound, hounded by her daughter (Marisa Pavan, The Man in The Gray Flannel Suit) who is desperate to marry her sailor boyfriend Jack (Ben Cooper, Johnny Guitar). One day, our heroine meets Alvaro Mangiacavallo (Burt Lancaster, Sweet Smell of Success), a vibrant, slightly silly man who instantly falls for the melancholy madam. Naturally, Serafina wants nothing to do with him. But slowly, and gradually, she learns that there is more to life than the memory of her late husband and the scandal with which he left her.

It's not hard to see why, in the canon of classic Tennessee Williams writing, The Rose Tattoo falls somewhat short. Perhaps on stage, all the elements that work against the film fall directly into place. Or maybe it is time and temperament that have undermined the movie's effectiveness. Still, there is no denying the power and the passion in Anna Magnani's stirring portrayal of a woman reawakening to life. The Rose Tattoo may not smell as sweet as it once did, but the enduring nature of Magnani's muse is more than enough to carry the creation forward. While far from perfect, The Rose Tattoo is still an amazing, heartfelt, and worthwhile experience.

After the excellent release from Paramount—excellent in terms of everything other than bonus material—Warners takes over and more or less repeats the tech specs from before. As part of this package we get an excellent monochrome image and a crystal clear Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack. Within the picture parameters, The Rose Tattoo looks amazing. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is sensational, magnificently moody in all its black and white glory. As for the sonics, there is not much to be said about a straight mono presentation, but the dialogue is indeed understandable and solid.

As the DVD market dwindles, we will probably see more of these repurposed releases. Even with its uneven elements, Anna Magnani and The Rose Tattoo are worth checking out…but, of course, you've already done so, right? I mean, you did read my review all those years ago.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Slightly dated, but a delight nonetheless.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Classic
• Drama
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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