Monday, June 24, 2013

Death Takes A Holiday (1934)

DEATH:  I'm about to take a holiday. I shall take only three days. After that, I must go back.
DUKE LAMBERT:  Why, why do you do this?
DEATH:  For a number of reasons.. For one thing, I must discover why men fear me as much as they do.
DUKE LAMBERT:  Don't you know??
DEATH:  How should I know?? What could terror mean to me who have nothing to fear?

Based on La Morte in Vacanza, an Italian play by Alberto Casella, this movie gives us a closer look at Death in his human form - learning and feeling human emotions as he discovers what makes men the way they are - weak, fearful of death, and pathetically clingy to things and people.

I was watching this movie alone at 2am, and this scene made me freak out, with that voice and creepy music O_O

I'm just so happy to have found this on YouTube, as I have tried downloading it before but I couldn't find a copy. Death Takes a Holiday is now permanently included in my list of All-Time Favorite Movies. The film is unique, morbidly funny, and every scene is just so delicious to watch.  To see Death as a human, tasting emotions, questioning his building feelings for a woman, and his leniency or indulgence of human idiosyncracies - it's truly delightful. Each scene I was engrossed, both by the dialogue and acting, as well as the lavishness of the setting that immediately transports me into that world. I also loved the opening credits, quirky fun.

Aside from Fredric March as Prince Sirki/Death and Guy Standing as Duke Lambert, there is another character which in my opinion has delivered some of the funnier and more memorable lines & scenes in the movie - Baron Cesarea (Henry Travers). Actually, almost every character in this film is quite interesting and had worthwhile scenes with March. Almost. The exception to that is Death's lady love herself - Grazia (Evelyn Venable). It's possibly intentional, given that Venable's character has this certain weariness or longing, something lacking in her life, but her slightly wooden portrayal as Grazia is the only flaw I could pinpoint in this film. That, and the melodramatic speech & scene in the ending - although I can totally forgive that.

BARON CESAREA:   I think you're all wrong to be afraid. I talked to him about dying, and he said "Has it ever occured to you that Death may be simpler than Life and infinitely more kind?"
DUKE LAMBERT: He said that?
BARON CESEREA:  Yes... and when he spoke, I had a curious feeling that somehow he knew.

While I have liked Meet Joe Black despite of its flaws & cop out feel-good ending, Death Takes A Holiday is far more superior in its execution.. the script may be a bit stilted, the plot more straightforward and simple, but what made this film better in my opinion is the cast and its morbid humor. Pitt's pretty boy, slightly insipid Death could never compete with March's sexy-in-a-Cary Grant/Sean Connery-way, charming naivete, & charismatic portrayal as Death. 

Who wouldn't be charmed with this dashing man?

Sirki's quest to be human, even for only three days, to find answers, to understand why men flee from him in terror, clinging to life as much as they could, is wonderfully executed in this film that blends fantasy, dark romance, and morbid humor. We fear him as Death, and yet we soften and sympathize with him as a human, driven by selfish human need for love and companionship. With him, we ask why? Why do we fear him? Why do we fear to succumb to that unknown world. Why do we fear death?


My Rating:  5/5 - a timeless classic that deserves a space in your movie collection. 

Director:  Mitchell Leisen (Midnight, To Each His Own)

Starring:  Fredric March (Prince Sirki/Death), Evelyn Venable (Grazia), Sir Guy Standing (Duke Lambert)

Running time:  79 mins.

Tagline: No one can die - while he makes love!

Watch the movie HERE.

Which do you think is the better version, Meet Joe Black or Death Takes A Holiday?

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  1. I loved Hopkins in meet Joe Black, but the movie did drag on .... I think this version is more grabbing of attention, as it flows from scene to scene making us think of many things..... This film was powerful, candid, and the most valuable feeling as well as rewarding to me was, " true happiness and going wth ones heart." Death learned how to love, and Grazia was finally at peace wth her real love and not fearing anything wth her happiness.....

    1. I too have enjoyed Meet Joe Black, and I was quite content with Brad Pitt (bec I love him as u may already know lol).. HOpkins was great of course. and Forlani was ok too... It was long yes, but there's a certain quiet beauty to that film which i liked, so i was never bored.... But then I saw this film. and i saw fredric march' performance. pitt pales in comparison. this movie is absolutely adorable.



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