Sophia Loren Emerges Hot and Very Bothered
DIRECTED BY JEAN NEGULESCO/1957
STREET DATE OCTOBER 25, 2016/KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
This 1957 deep sea diving treasure hunt tale stars Alan Ladd, Clifton Webb, and in her Hollywood screen debut, Sophia Loren. It’s title is The Boy on a Dolphin, and to quote Bart Simpson, there’s at least two things wrong with that title.
Not really though, as the titular lad and fish (correction – highly intelligent ocean mammal) are prominent; in fact they are the center of film’s waterlogged treasure hunting plot. “The Boy on a Dolphin” is an exquisite long lost ancient gold statue that went to the bottom of the sea centuries ago. Loren, in her recreational diving off the coast of the Greek island of Hydra, stumbles upon the thing. When she begins to speak of it in the company of men, they perk up even more than whenever she pops out of the water. The statue is priceless, and soon competing searches are underway, the noble Alan Ladd versus the duplicitous Clifton Webb.
Boy on a Dolphin is a passable film with a terrible title that never quite gets on its feet the way it should, but Negulesco’s visual flair for his scenery makes it worth a look in beautiful high definition.
Alan Ladd as the right-hearted sea-searching lead comes off as dour and joyless, running counter to the dash of wit and charisma this movie needs from his character. Cary Grant was supposedly cast in the role, but left the project days before shooting, resulting in Ladd’s emergency hiring. Very unfortunate, and probably a deal-breaker as far as Boy on a Dolphin‘s longevity is concerned. As terrific as Ladd was in Shane, he’s just not the guy for this.
On paper, this being Loren’s first American produced film is its primary point of interest today. (Apparently beating out Stanley Kramer’s The Pride and the Passion by a few months). Loren’s presence is as advertised: Feisty, sexy, vivacious yet conflicted. As Alan Ladd addresses her, she’s the prettiest girl who ever lived under a windmill. She spends a lot of time under water, making for plenty of glistening skin and wet, clingy clothing when she emerges on the boat. In that sense, and in that sense only, we see Loren earning her “Italian goddess” monicker from the get-go – even if she’s supposed to be Greek in this. Her acting chops aren’t near her talent level witnessed a mere half decade later in Five Miles to Midnight, and elsewhere. But, she shakes a mean strut on the dance floor, and her character even sings a traditional Greek shanty.
Director Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire, Daddy Long Legs), who veered into filmmaking by way of fine art painting, is clearly enjoying every opportunity to compose for the CinemaScope frame. The widescreen format was only a few years old at the time, and still novel. Negulesco’s strong understanding of CinemaScope’s strengths (horizontal landscapes, boats on the waterline, etc.) and weaknesses (people standing upright) is the real reason to seek out Boy on a Dolphin. This new blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber Studio Classics is particularly exquisite. The disc offers no bonus features aside from the trailer for this and a few other Loren titles, but the Greek isles truly never looked better. Boy on a Dolphin is a passable film with a terrible title that never quite gets on its feet the way it should, but Negulesco’s visual flair for his scenery makes it worth a look in beautiful high definition.