The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) ****

December 21st, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Jack Cardiff | Wri: Ronald Duncan, Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues (Novel), Gillian Freeman| Cast: Marianne Faithfull, Alan Delon, Marius Goring, Catherine Jourdan, Jean Leduc, Jacques Marin, Andre Maranne | Drama, 91′

“Take Me to Him, My Black Pimp!”

A public safety film about the correct way to ride pillion masquerading as groovy sixties psychedelia. Based on Andre Pieyre De Mandiargues’ 1963 novel; at least the film version of Fifty Shades of Gray spared us the heroine’s inane interior monologues. The premise was simple: a married woman leaves her husband and zooms off on her motorcycle to see her lover.

It has been said that bad directors become mere photographers, and even Britain’s pre-eminent Technicolor cameraman Jack Cardiff never remotely approached, as a director, the heights he regularly achieved with his lighting. And you’d have thought he’d have have known better than all those pans and zooms (not to mention that lousy process work).

Anyone who liked the title probably wasn’t disappointed with the film; although, like Vertigo, the film that ultimately emerged was very different from that originally envisaged, because the intended female lead was rendered incapable of starring by the time the project eventually went into production. Susan Denberg, the actress originally cast (after an impressive but dubbed performance in Frankenstein Created Woman), succumbed to drug addiction. Her replacement, Marianne Faithfull, was of course chosen for her beauty as well as her celebrity rather than her ability to act (or to ride a motorbike; wearing a silly helmet that never looked as if it offered much protection), with sadly predictable results. Richard Chatten.


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