In Review: Unfaithfully Yours (1948) on DVD

by Christina Newland on 13/05/2014

unfaithfully yours

Suicide, adultery and murder with a straight razor? Preston Sturges was one of the brave few directors to take these subjects as suitable for schizoid slapstick comedy. Simply Media’s re-release of his delightfully weird 1948 film, Unfaithfully Yours, features all of the above. The story surrounds Rex Harrison’s Sir Alfred, a refined English composer with a beautiful young wife, Daphne (Linda Darnell). He becomes convinced of her infidelity, and over the course of one evening while he composes at a concert, entertains elaborate fantasies about his revenge.

Sturges moves into extreme close up as Sir Alfred imagines three separate scenarios – magnanimously forgiving his cheating wife, killing himself in a fit of nihilism, or framing her lover for her brutal murder, which he dreams of committing by cutting her throat.

Bizarrely, there is a dedicated element of slapstick that later unfolds into a hilarious setpiece, complete with Alfred pratfalling, plunging through broken chairs, and tangling himself in telephone wire. The tone, as such, shifts from the exceptionally dark to the clumsily amusing with great speed. What at first seems something of a slow starter develops into a strangely heartfelt black comedy, albeit not one of Sturges’ finest. Unfaithfully Yours floats freely without any one central thesis, and as a result, does seem unwieldy at times.

Nonetheless, Rex Harrison’s overly verbose indignance and dry wit are a highlight; no one in the world – past, present, or future – has ever spoken like people do in a Sturges movie [and more’s the pity]. With a characteristically clever turn-around in the final act, the last few moments are positively effervescent. Yet it’s difficult to shake the film’s essentially sinister conceit from the periphery; it is too unsettling not to determinedly chafe against the happy mood. It may not be a great movie, but Unfaithfully Yours is so unmistakably inventive that it’s hard not to admire it.

Extras: Simply Media only includes a Scene Selection among its features – it’s unfortunate, as it would be fascinating to learn more about the ideas and circumstances around such a unique movie.

Christina has awarded Unfaithfully Yours (1948) on DVD three Torches of Truth

three torches

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