A Countess From Hong Kong-1967
Starring Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Tippi Hedren
Scott’s Review #1,287
Reviewed August 8, 2022
I hesitated even listing Tippi Hedren among the main cast above since she only appears in A Countess From Hong Kong’s (1967) final ten minutes. I then realized that her appearance also helped make the film better than it would have been without her so I decided to give her some deserved props.
A Countess From Hong Kong needs all the help it can get to lift it above mediocrity which it only does by a hair. This is surprising, given the directorial talents of Charlie Chaplin and the marquee name recognition of heavyweights like Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren.
Somehow the stars agreed to appear in the film. Maybe they hadn’t read the script before signing on the dotted line.
Perhaps the incessant door opening and shutting sequences that go on endlessly are symbolic of the stars attempting to flee from this film.
It’s not all drivel and doom as the set decoration is flawless in beauty and style and, of course, Miss Hedren’s appearance in the final act is splendid stuff.
The trivial storyline features a Russian countess named Natascha (Loren) who stows away in the stateroom of a married United States diplomat Ogden, (Brando) bound for New York. They must scheme to ensure she arrives safely and undetected in Hawaii by marrying her off to another man.
Predictably, Natascha and Ogden fall madly in love.
Let’s feature a couple of positives before delving into the shit.
Whoever dressed and decorated the sets for A Countess From Hong Kong practically deserves an Oscar nomination for their work. Brimming with relevant mid-1960s style and sophistication, the sets are right out of television’s Mad Men series.
The colorful yellows and navy blues pair perfectly with black and grey furniture and whatever costume Loren was wearing, especially when she is clad in an ill-fitting green getup during one hi-jink scene.
Especially noteworthy is any scene that takes place away from one of the ship’s cabins, completely overused to enhance the farcical elements.
The open-set ball sequence is like a breath of fresh air and it immediately flourishes with wide-open brightness. Easy to do (and recommended) is to forget the plot altogether and escape with pleasure into each artistic design of the dance number.
When Hedren appears dressed to the nines in glittery and royal outfits it showcases both her star power and the talent of the costume team. She is given little to do as Martha, Ogden’s suspicious wife, except to be jealous, but she knocks it out of the park with her bit of screen time.
Loren and Brando surprisingly have little chemistry even when Natascha and Ogden bark and banter with each other endlessly. Their characters are hardly developed and hers turns into a bitch before too long while he does enough fuming and pouting to last a lifetime.
Based on the title you’d expect Natascha to be Asian but instead, the character is Russian and being played by an Italian actress.
I understand the need for big Hollywood stars to be incorporated into a film to achieve solid box-office returns but Chaplin seems to be without a clue how to make the pair connect.
A feeble attempt to add sophistication by giving English actress Margaret Rutherford one scene as a dotty bed-ridden old woman does nothing other than waste the legendary actress’s time.
Though, I shudder at the thought of how poor the film would have been without these talented actors.
A Countess From Hong Kong (1967) is a botched effort at creating what undoubtedly was supposed to be a fun romantic comedy romp. The film might have worked in the silent film era but forty years later feels tired.
Instead, we must traverse the tedious story to find underlying glimpses of brightness, just bubbling beneath the surface.