Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida Fall in and out of the Same old Sack
DIRECTED BY MELVIN FRANK/1965
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: MARCH 8, 2022/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
Hailing from the changing world of Playboy magazine and Goldfinger, 1965’s Strange Bedfellows is a tepid farce kept a-spark solely thanks to the magnetism of its stars. By this point, Hudson is a well-experienced pro at this sort of battle-of-the-sexes lockhorning comedy-lite. So too is his Come September costar, Gina Lollobrigida, once again the fashionable and feisty Italiana. Supporting players Gig Young and particularly Edward Judd are having fun along for the ride. Both, though, add up to one Tony Randall, were this one of Hudson’s Doris Day farces. (One of them at one point does of course have to awkwardly share a bed with Hudson. Wink, wink?) Strange Bedfellows, though, is far too international for that subset of domesticity. International, yet shot almost entirely on the Universal backlot.
The randiness of Strange Bedfellows is established in the opening prologue, itself a compressed entire other non-existent movie. Like a coherent distortion of the manic start of Preston Sturges’ Palm Beach Story, we’re whisked through the backstory-ing set-up, wherein Hudson finds himself married in a libidinous flurry to Lollobrigida. It’s only in the harsh light of morning that they get to know each other… as exact political opposites. Dodging thrown vases and kitchenware, Hudson makes his way out of her life- for seven years. It’s only when he’s told that the thing between him and a massive promotion are the poor optics caused by his lingering marriage that he must track her down for a proper divorce. He does, and wouldn’tchaknowit, they instead (ahem) reconnect. Smooth riding from here? Bwah ha ha, ha ha! Haha, hah…
She, of course, is a leftist bohemian rabble rouser, though obviously a very wealthy and stylish one. He’s the corporate stuffed shirt that the audience is expected to identify with more readily. Though the circumstances are kooky, it’s ultimately to Strange Bedfellows’ credit that he is the one humbled into accepting her for who she is, not the other way around. Prior to that, the question is, will she, in protest of some artistic suppression or something or other, humiliate him (and cost him his job) by riding a white steed (un)dressed as Lady Godiva?
Though transparently caught in the receding wave of 1959’s Pillow Talk (considered a naughty flirt of a movie… six eternal years prior), effort is made to modernize Strange Bedfellows. It’s understandable that from a perspective of today, one might not see it as such, as the shoehorned-in headline-y aspects can blend into the previous decade’s. That is why God gave us audio commentaries. In his newly recorded track for this disc from KL Studio Classics, film historian Eddy Von Mueller, makes a good point that Bedfellows’ turn-of-a-page focus on Hudson’s deadly mission to a crude-rich third world “shithole country” (all an elaborate contrivance to fool Lollobrigida) reflects America’s rising, intrusive thirst for foreign oil. This, Von Mueller tells us in his calm, flowing tone, is a stark contrast to the notion of the rolling oil-rich American land at the core of 1956’s Hudson-starring drama, Giant.
1965 marks a threshold reached or nearly reached for Hudson in terms of starring in this sort of thing. The following year, he’d bust out in grand fashion in John Frankenheimer’s startling oddity, Seconds. Seconds, particularly when placed in near proximity of Strange Bedfellows, socks the viewer with its no-holds-barred craft and content. It’s a greyscale stark contrast to the Technicolor throwback that director Melvin Frank is phoning in here. (Which, the KL Blu-ray presents swimmingly, giving us its theatrical trailer, to boot).
In the end, Lollobrigida does ride out as Lady Godiva. Or more accurately, in a full-body Lady Godiva costume, with a loooong hair wig, for added protection. Hudson meanwhile, in his race not to stop her but to tell her he’s learned his lesson to let her be her, mistakes an undertaker’s shop (run by Terry-Thomas) for her chosen costume shop. Universal Studios, Hudson’s home for his increasingly stale run of these buttoned up farces, in its own way, seemed to be doing the exact same thing in regard to his career. It wanted to do right by its handsome and versatile star, but couldn’t look up to see where things really stood with him. His future would lie Seconds away.