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November 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Rains of Ranchipur (1955, Blu-Ray, Twilight Time)

Review: The Rains of Ranchipur (1955 Blu-Ray Edition)
Directed by Jean Negulesco
Starring Lana Turner, Richard Burton and Fred McMurray
Run Time: 104 minutes

Filmed in CinemaScope by Twentieth Century Fox, The Rains of Ranchipur tells the story of Lady Edwina Esketh (Lana Turner), who is in a loveless marriage of convenience to the henpecked Lord Albert Esketh (Michael Rennie). They basically spend their lives traveling the world, where Edwina enjoys taking lovers at every available stop along the way. Lord Albert is quite aware his wife is a trollop but basically just goes with the flow and deals with it as it comes.

Upon stopping for a visit in the Indian village of Ranchipur, Lady Edwina spies idealistic Dr. Rami Safti (Richard Burton), and after her husband Albert is mauled by a tiger, she uses the opportunity to strike up an affair with the doctor.  She at first has no intentions of it being anything more then a fling but soon finds herself wondering if she has finally found true love. The story takes a turn after an earthquake and rains cause a massive catastrophe in the village, and the doctor is forced to choose between caring for his new love and saving the many injured villagers. When Lady Edwina wakes from her sickness and finds her lover had chosen his people over her, she becomes obviously butt-hurt and decides its time to move on, husband in tow.

As is the case with many of these CinemaScope films of the 50‘s, Rains of Ranchipur offers some dazzling visuals and pretty neat special-effects for its time. The story itself though wasn't all that intriguing and the script was unfortunately only fair at best. With that being the case, the small cast of stellar actors still managed to do as good a job as was possible with the material they had to work with. Lana Turner does an excellent job of playing the heartless self-serving twat of a wife, but when the time came for her character to have a changing of her ways, the story writers did nothing to help her character achieve this, so that pivotal part of the story kind of fell flat. Michael Rennie (best known for his legendary performance as the alien Klaatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still), was great as her cuckolded husband and some of the most enjoyable scenes of the film were the venomous verbal exchanges between his and Turners characters. Had the rest of the script kept pace with these exchanges this would have been a really fun watch. Richard Burton's performance as the Indian doctor I had mixed feelings about, he does play the part with subdued confidence but the sight of a blue-eyed British-born actor trying to pass as an Indian was a bit tough for me to swallow.

For me the highlight of the film was the sub-plot which involved an American service veteran and engineer, Tom Ransome (Fred McMurray), who has escaped the real world to drink his sorrows away in the small Indian village, and his strange budding affair with the suspiciously young woman Fern Simmon (Joan Caulfield). McMurray’s performance was excellent, but when tragedy strikes the village and his character is given a chance at redemption, again, the film makers drop the ball and do not include his actions in the story, his saving of the village is only implied. That was a bit disappointing.

Again, the visual side of this film was great, with wonderful set designs, colorful scenery and snazzy special-effects. The costume work was also top-notch, especially Lana Turners wardrobe, she looked amazing and sexy in everything she wore. The story itself though was only fair at best, and I often found myself more interested in the visual peripherals then in the story itself.

 I will be the first to admit, I’m not a big fan of love stories and this one did nothing to change my opinion on them but we are treated to some fine performances by some truly legendary Hollywood icons, so for that reason I’d recommend Twilight Time's release of The Rains of Ranchipur to fans of old-school melodramas.

Please head over to the Screen Archives website where you can grab The Rains of Ranchipur and other super limited Twilight Time titles:  Screen Archives Entertainment.

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