Before I watched The Angel Wore Red I had no idea what it was about. When I read “Love is nothing”: Ava Gardner by Lee Server he mentions the film and even includes a still from it so I was curious and of course had to see it. I could not find it until the summer when TCM aired it (yes I have had this film on my DVR for months and just finally got around to watching it) I recorded it. This is a film I am on the fence with I am not sure if I liked it or if it was just blah… and this is the type of film that drives me a little nuts.
The setting is during the Spanish Civil War. A priest named Arturo Carrera (Dirk Bogarde) has left his cathedral not having lost in faith in God but losing his faith in the church as an institution. The cathedral where he was a priest holds a relic apparently containing a drop of the blood of St. John which is a central part of the story because it is believed this blood has great powers and helps those who gain control of it. The Republicans are after the priest for turning the people against them and Arturo is one of hundreds of priests that are being targeted.
One night Arturo is wanted by the police and he runs into a night club and hides. There he meets Soledad (Gardner) and after some time they fall in love. Before the two of them can get away Arturo is captured because the Republicans believe they know where the blood is (which is does but plays dumb) and they want it for their army. The general Clave has both Arturo and Soledad arrested and sent on a march with hundreds of other prisoners.
There is a lot more to this story but it is complicated, I really do not understand too much of it myself and do not want to confuse you.
I always look up reviews of films on IMDB and I have to agree with the reviews I have read and the points they brought up. I am not too much of a fan of Nunally Johnson his films besides The Black Widow (and maybe some others here and there but not many) are not too greatly made. Johnson wrote, produced, and directed The Angel Wore Red and once again I was not impressed with his work. What really made me nuts was that the story had a lot of potential it was an interesting story it just was not filmed right. It was filmed way too dark there were some scenes that were way too gray or just too black. Most of the time I barely knew where the characters were there was no explanation for half the sets and scenes. Another reviewer commented on how it looked like the actors’ voices were dubbed and there are times when it does appear to be.
The only person I thought gave an excellent performance was Ava Gardner. One reviewer on IMDB said that Gardner was past her prime and she was not beautiful. First of all the woman no matter her age just always exuded sexuality and gorgeousness and that was what she exuded in this film, second she had the perfect look for the part she looked like a woman who has been through so much in her life and likes to stay out and have a good time because that is what she did in her real life. Gardner said it herself she never really cared for acting and never really tried until her later roles and you can see her effort here. Her acting was excellent.
Dirk Bogarde was good but he really did not do anything for me he was not great but he was not terrible, he was just there. I will say he was a great match with Ava Gardner he was very handsome.
Joseph Cotton plays an American reporter. It felt like he was just thrown in the film for good measure which I am sure he was. The character feels completely out of place amidst the chaos of everything that is going on. I did like one scene with him and Ava Gardner: his character has one eye and as he was talking to Gardner he tells her to move so he can look at another girl who is dancing and she asks him “How would you like to lose the other eye?”
As I said at the beginning of the review I do not know how I feel about The Angel Wore Red. Ava Gardner was excellent and that was all I felt was good about the film. The story had so much potential but it fell flat from the direction, the lighting, the scenery, and the sound. If I ever had the chance to remake a film I would want to remake this one just because it had potential… but unfortunately I feel that no one would be able to do a better job or look as perfect that Gardner in the role. So I guess I can say catch the film The Angel Wore Red if TCM airs it again since it is not available on DVD or youtube and see what you think.