Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Red Sky" is sluggish tale

Cleveland Press April 8, 1966

The leisurely approach, in a novel or a movie, works best when there is a mood or feeling to impart as well as a story to tell.

The leisure in the telling of "Red Sky at Morning" turns out to be merely sluggishness because the warmth and charm indicated in the material seldom come across on screen.

This screen adaptation of the best-seller has a rudimentary faithfulness to the original without conveying much of its feeling. It is the story of a boy growing up in the 40's, his coming of age through a series of incidents (mostly melodramatic) and his first step toward manhood as the film ends.

IN SO FAR as a movie can impart the feel of a time this one does so in a superficial way. There are the old cars with the gas-station stickers on the windshields, the tinny sounds of "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me" and "Oh, Johnny" coming out of radios, the physical look reinforced by a misty color to make it look like a faded photograph.

But the story telling is a now movie, a certain frankness that begins to sound a trifle strained, a verging toward the raw that makes "Red Sky" clearly a movie of the 70's.

Richard Thomas, good when he doesn't overwork his mannerisms, is the boy transplanted from Alabama to New Mexico and finding himself a minority among the Mexican-Americans and Indians.

HIS FATHER (Richard Crenna) has placed him and his mother (Claire Bloom) in their summer home while he goes off to voluntary Navy duty in World War II. This is where he hopes to retire and this is where he wants his family to wait out the war for him.

The lad gets buffeted about by a couple of Mexican lads out to stomp on Anglos, is befriended by two youngsters played by Dezi Arnaz Jr. and Catherine Burns. There are awkward necking sessions with the school trollops end the awakening of something close to love with Miss Burns who registers as a rather hyperthyroid teenager.

At home Clair Bloom keeps dabbing at her eyes, hitting the bottle and lamenting in a hybrid English-Southern accent that sounds like an imitation of Vivien Leigh playing Scarlet O'Hara. Pouring himself drinks is her effete cousin (John Colicos). These two sound less as though they were drawn from life than adapted from an old movie.

THE MOVIE also has other types -- faithful family servants and a Bohemian artist among them. Young Johnson encounters them all and lives through it.

He also comes through well in a climactic scene, establishing himself as t h e man in the house when his father is reported dead.

Crenna, seen only in the first 15 or 20 minutes of the movie, comes off best. Johnson has promise