Technicolor circus film pulls out all the punches
If you're in the mood for a circus movie, this has to be the best one
out there. It has a super abundance of circus atmosphere that is
vividly photographed in beautiful Technicolor, and three great parts
for Burt Lancaster, Gina Lollobrigida, and Tony Curtis. Lollobrigida
comes between Lancaster and Curtis,who are already an established act,
with Lancaster as the "catcher" who was injured and walks with a limp,
and Curtis as his prot.
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"In the end, you'll think about her in the middle of a triple and lose it"
Carol Reed was one of Britain's most interesting directors, and perhaps
most intriguing about his work is his unique brand of stylised realism,
the two conflicting moods astutely and unforgettably blended: the
handsome, dream-like snow-storm in 'Odd Man Out (1947)'; the woozy
war-torn streets of Vienna in 'The Third Man (1949)'; the blending of
fantasy against a working-class London background in 'A Kid for Two
Farthings (1955).' With 'Trapeze (1956),' Reed deliberately contrasts
his use of fantasy and realism. The circus had long held an element of
prestige, having spawned a tidy sub-genre of its own, encompassing
everything from Lind's 'The Flying Circus (1912)' to DeMille's 'The
Greatest Show on Earth (1952).' For decades, the circus has entertained
the masses with daring acts of strength and bravery, dangerous animals
and extraordinary human performers. But behind this glamour is a less
enchanting side of the circus endless practice sessions, money-hungry
managers, and scheming performers who'd place their own interests
before those whose lives are being placed in their hands nightly.
'Trapeze' deals with the collision of these two conflicting worlds.
Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster) was once a great "flyer" of the trapeze,
one of the few men who could execute a triple somersault. However, a
tragic accident left him with a permanent limp, and Mike has since lost
all interest in the sport he once dominated. That, at least, is until
Tino Orsino (Tony Curtis) arrives in Paris, a keen acrobat who seeks
Mike's expert instruction. That Ribble eventually agrees to the
partnership is, of course, a given, and their ultimate accomplishments
are never in any doubt, but the interplay between Lancaster and Curtis
is authentic and entertaining. Reed depicts the indomitable circus
prestige through audience applause and the cheerful melody of the "Blue
Danube" waltz. When the antagonism being played out behind-the-scenes
inexorably spills out into the performing arena, both the applause and
the music comes to a standstill. Thus, interjecting into this fantasy
world comes the realisation that the circus performers are only human.
The reality suddenly becomes clear: one mistake will spell almost
Though Mike and Tino make a formidable team, a romantic complication
arises in Lola (Gina Lollobrigida), an ambitious acrobat who'd betray
her friends and promise love to anybody whom she thought could aid her
career. Lola's exploits are contemptible throughout the film, garnering
little sympathy from the audience; one might even suggest that the
beating she receives at the hands of her former partners is almost
justified by her actions. In any case, the film's conclusion is far too
kind to her. Lola chases Mike down a quiet Paris street, perhaps a
complementary allusion to Holly Martin's shameful snubbing in the final
moments of 'The Third Man (1949).' Maintaining the optimism that Reed
displayed previously in 'A Kid for Two Farthings,' this ending offers
redemption rather than disgrace to Lola, who is seen to have betrayed
her companions, much as Martins betrayed Harry Lime and Anna Schmidt.
Most impressive of all is Robert Krasker's creative photography,
frequently offering the audience a breathtaking "birds-eye" view of the
trapeze routines, like leaning over a precipice into open space..