Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reflections in a Golden Eye (A Review)

I am a pretty big Marlon Brando fan. He's just such a great actor. But he was certainly in his share of flops and the film Reflections in a Golden from 1967 was originally considered to be one of them. Maybe it was the controversial subject matter or the sort slow place the film moves at. It certainly could have been the rather creepy atmosphere and the ominous presence of Robert Forster as Private Williams. This movie has a southern Gothic vibe to it that sort of reminded me of the Clint Eastwood flick The Beguiled, but that particular movie had a more horror and suspense type of vibe while Reflections in a Golden Eye is more understated in its approach. At the heart of this movie (as in The Beguiled) is sex and the battle with certain sexual urges. 

Marlon Brando plays a quiet major in the US Army and Elizabeth Taylor plays his rambunctious wife. Brando's character is prone to odd behavior and his wife appears to be very bored with him. For this reason she has an affair with a colonel (Brian Keith) who lives next door and Brando, seemingly oblivious to the whole thing, keeps inviting the colonel and the colonel's troubled wife (Julie Harris) into his home. Julie Harris suspects her husband is cheating on her, but no one seems to trust her because of her deteriorating mental health. 

Of course, we have Robert Forster as Private Williams as the voyeur who watches these things go on and  he begins to develop an obsession with Elizabeth Taylor's character after accidently seeing her nude. Forster begins to make nightly visits to the house of the estranged couple and begins sneaking into the wife's room to sniff her nighties while she sleeps, often staring at her until the sun rises before sneaking out of the house. 

It is only when Julie Harris sees a man entering the house of the major does Harris suspect something is amiss. 

Then things get further complicated when Brando catches the disturbed private riding bare-assed on a horse in the woods (something the private apparently does often) and Brando's character develops a bit of an obsession for that man. And the inevitable confrontation comes from this simple formula: What happens when Brando discovers that the man he has a crush on secretly sneaks into his house and watches over his own wife? 

This is pretty heavy subject matter. Ahead of its time type of stuff. I could certainly see shades of Equus with all of the horse imagery involved and I'm certain this movie (and the book it was based on) had to have been an influence. At least a small one. 

Brando is really good in this movie and he plays a repressed homosexual rather well. The accent he has is pretty decent, too. Elizabeth Taylor is perfectly at home in her role too and I wish that the lighting would have been just a little bit better during her nude scene. Unlike Brando's character, seeing a bare-assed dude on horseback isn't exactly my idea of a good time, but a nude Elizabeth Taylor? Good God.

That little bit of nitpicking aside I really enjoyed this movie. It certainly is creepy and the odd black and white with a heavy golden tint that this movie has is pretty effective. 


  1. I'm going to have to check this one out. I looked it up and noticed that John Huston directed it so that's a big plus in my book. It's got a pretty good rating on imdb (6.8). I always like how Brando gives his characters an off-kilter slant. I've seen movies of Brando's that I didn't like but I've always liked the character he played in those movies. His characters are always interesting. You should hunt down "Mutiny On The Bounty" if you haven't seen it. I love his take on Fletcher Christian.

    1. I agree about Brando's characters. Even in bad movies he gives a unique performance. I do have his Mutiny on the Bounty (it's part of a five movie pack that included Reflections in a Golden Eye), but I haven't seen it. I probably will correct that sometime in the next few days, though.

  2. Ok, I just got done watching this one. What a strange and interesting movie this is. I did not read anything about it beforehand and had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about. I kind of struggled to stay with it the first 30 minutes or so. There were a lot of secrets floating around between these few people. There was voyeurism, lingerie sniffing, drinking, adultery and hidden homosexuality. This movie had it all, XD. I thought Brian Keith was excellent in his role. I remember him from TV shows and didn't realize how good he could be. Did your version have the original golden tone color? The version I had was the original version John Huston intended. The original film was pulled after 1 week and had regular color applied to it. What did you think of that golden color? I found it kind of distracting at first but liked it after I got used to it. I'm not really sure what the intention of that was.

    You are right when you said this was ahead of it's time. There are some pretty racy themes for 1967. Even more amazing is the book it came from was written in 1941!

  3. I think that the reason the film used that golden color had to do with that peacock that Anacleto drew. At least, that's what I read on Wikipedia. Apparently, the movie was seen as it would be from the eye of the golden peacock. Hence, "Reflections in a Golden Eye." But I guess it doesn't matter if it makes sense as long as it works. :) The version I watched was the version Huston intended and I wasn't so much off put by the color as I thought I would be. Took a little bit to get adjusted to it just because it was so different.