Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Acting talent lost in "Amber"

Cleveland Press September 17, 1970

"Darker Than Amber" had some of the ingredients of a pretty fair movie going in. A bad job of mixing and a few ingredients that don't mix well have resulted instead in a rather lackluster jumble.

The film has Rod Taylor portraying John D. MacDonald's fictional adventurer Travis McGee. Those are two promising ingredients right there. Rod Taylor is one of those vastly underrated actors, a fine performer who is capable of roles that are more than purely physical.

ANYWAY, IT'S a good choice and it isn't Taylor's fault that the thing doesn't jell. And while we are on the subject of good ingredients there is Suzy Kendall, a British actress who has a tendency to get roles in which she is pretty well mauled. Must be a masochistic streak. She looks good anyway.

The world of Travis McGee is the Florida Keys and again the movie scores in firmly establishing the locale.

BUT SO WHAT? Good leading man, pretty leading lady and fine scenery are all wasted in a movie that seems to have more padding than substance.

A few things happen, most of them violent and in between times folks make inane conversation or go through senseless action.

The picture starts with Miss Kendall being dropped off a bridge into deep water with weights attached to her feet. Down below Taylor is fishing and hooks her, though he has to jump overboard and do a little diving to bring in his catch.

EVERYBODY settles down to some cozy living on Taylor's luxurious houseboat and no one figures on calling the police. Though it's clear to Taylor that he's hooked a hooker he's kind of hooked on her anyway.

He gets a little worked up when she wanders into town and the same boy friends who put that heavy anchor on her heave her in the path of a speeding car.

Our hero mutters something about how he gets moody when he loses things and sets out to avenge her death.

AT THIS POINT the movie is half over without having gone anywhere. It continues on the same path. There's lots of movement but no direction, just a kind of aimless wandering in and out of incidents.

There is a racket to uncover, some intrigue to go through but the complexities are muddy rather than puzzling. Another girl, a fellow hooker of Miss Kendall's, is dragged in for a long episode without apparent reason except that it makes the movie longer.

MUCH BLOOD is spilled over the screen before the film is over. One fellow gets beaten to a pulp, a body bounces off a car and through a plate glass window and another guy gets a shovel -- blade first -- right in the belly.

And then there's the conclusion with Taylor and the villain mauling each other as they break through walls, mirrors, doors and generally mess up the furniture as well as each other's faces.

I still think someone should have called a cop earlier in the game.