Say “Cheese” 005 – The Last of The Belles (1974)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

Back to the 70s this time around with movie three of disk one 1974’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and “The Last of the Belles”. (to give it its full on screen title).

There was a time when Richard Chamberlain was the king of television  miniseries an movies. Centennial, Shogun, The Thorn Birds, he was all over the place, and was one of those acts who, if you could get him for your show you were pretty much guaranteed a hit..

However there was a time before he became this ratings juggernaut, and it was during this time that he starred in this sleeper of a film. And just to be clear, I don’t use “sleeper”to ean “stealth” or “unknown hit”. No, I mean it as in I had to back this film up about half way through because I had taken an inadvertent nap while it was running.

Seriously, I’m considering keeping this one handy for those nights wh insomnia strikes.

Okay, I’ll admit here that I’ve never really bee a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories. I ‘t really say why, but they’ve just never clicked with me. So I’ve never rea his story “The Last of the Belles”, and can’t comment on how good an adaptation of the story the “movie within a movie” presented here is. Nor do I know enough about life of the author to comment on the accuracy of the biographical details. Insteadi I simply have to take the presentation at face value.

Still, even with all of that said, I decided to approach this simply as a movie, without any additional baggage.

Well, you can infer the results from what I said above about it turning nto nap time.

I’d love to at least be able to say that there are performances within the movie that redeem it, but honestly, even with the presence of Blythe Danner as Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda and the usually at least entertaining Susan Sarandon as her younger fictional avatar, there’s still just nothing to make it stand out at all.

I will give the film makers one positive point. For a while it seems as though the eventual outcome of this exercise is going to be a redemption of Fitzgerald or some sort of reconciliation between him and his emotionally estranged wife through this journey through the past, but the writers and producers at least have the guts not to go for the happy ending.

Okay, I’ve spent enough time and words on this one. Let’s just put it in the “I watched it so you don’t have to” file. You’re welcome.

Up Next: The Excellent 80s  Disk 1 Movie 3: Second Sight: A Love Story– To see or not to see: Is that the question?

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