Judge Clark Douglas is a washed-up DVD reviewer attempting to revive his career.
Only in Rome could this story happen!
In 1952, director Vincente Minnelli, producer Jack Houseman, writer Charles Schnee and actor Kirk Douglas teamed up on the well-regarded showbiz drama The Bad and the Beautiful, in which Douglas played a once-successful producer attempting to revive his career. Hoping to recapture the success of that film, the same quartet teamed up again for 1962's Two Weeks in Another Town, in which Douglas plays a once-successful actor attempting to revive his career. The results were much less successful, as the film is an engaging but preposterous piece of old-school Hollywood melodrama.
Jack Andrus (Douglas) used to be one of the most well-regarded actors of his generation, but lately he's been spending his days in a sanitarium. Upon his release, Jack receives a telegram from director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson, The Ten Commandments) detailing a small acting opportunity. Jack has a long history with Maurice; in the past they made seven films together (Jack even won an Oscar for one of them). Despite the fact that Jack hasn't seen Maurice in six years (not to mention that he hasn't acted in four), he accepts the offer and flies off to Rome for a couple weeks of shooting.
Upon Jack's arrival, Maurice confesses that he never actually had an acting role for Jack, but that he simply wanted to spend some time with his old friend. Jack is initially angered by this revelation, but calms down once Maurice gives him the opportunity to work on the film in a different capacity: supervising the dubbing. Jack hesitantly accepts the job, coaxing Maurice's less-than-gifted actors into dubbing their lines convincingly. When Maurice suffers a heart attack and is unable to finish the film, Jack offers to finish the project. If he succeeds in making a respectable motion picture, it will be a big boost to the career of both men. If he fails, it will put an end to Jack's comeback and significantly damage Maurice's reputation.
At a first glance, I was a little surprised that Two Weeks in Another Town is only being released as part of the "DVDs manufactured on demand" Warner Archive collection. The film certainly has a well-regarded cast; Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robsinon, Cyd Charisse, George Hamilton, and Claire Trevor in the same film ought to merit a standard DVD release, don't you think? After seeing the actual film, its less-than-prestigious release is easier to understand. While Two Weeks in Another Town isn't an unwatchable movie, it squanders a lot of the talent involved and offers ideas that are more interesting in theory than execution.
The film promises a look at how the film industry really works, but the occasional moments of insight and truth are buried in superficial, cheap melodrama. Rather than making us feel like we're getting a look behind the scenes, Two Weeks in Another Town too often feels like just another movie. The assorted romantic subplots running through the film (Edward G. Robinson is in a terrible marriage with Claire Trevor, Kirk Douglas is in love with Cyd Charisse but still has buried feelings for Daliah Lavi) meander aimlessly for the longest time and then explode into laughable hysteria (a scene in which Douglas beats Charisse and then roars down the road in a miserably staged, rear-projection-fueled automobile ride would be repulsive if it weren't so hilariously awful). The film finally concludes at the most awkward spot imaginable, spinning the characters around and then leaving them hanging as the credits roll. It feels like there's a reel (or two or three) missing.
I wish I could tell you that the performances are enjoyable despite the severe script problems, but frankly, everyone is off their game. Kirk Douglas overacts in the extreme during some of his bigger scenes, but plays things flat and low-key the rest of the time. Edward G. Robinson seems bored in his role as the aging director, while Claire Trevor's booze-fueled hysteria is much less compelling this time than it was in Key Largo. The less said about the performances of Hamilton, Charisse, and Lavi the better.
The DVD transfer isn't too great, with lots of flecks, specks and softness preventing us from enjoying the lush, busy visuals Minnelli has to offer. I wish a little more work was being put into these Warner Archive releases, but it is what it is. David Raksin's score sounds sharp and clear, but the dialogue is often muffled and distorted (the scene on the pier early in the film is particularly rough-sounding). The only extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer.
If you haven't seen The Bad and the Beautiful, you owe it to yourself to check that one out before you even think about getting Two Weeks in Another Town. For that matter, you owe to yourself to watch a whole lot of better movies before you even think about Two Weeks in Another Town. This one is only for movie buffs with a particular interest in some of the cast and crew members involved.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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