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Paramount Studios presents
The Rose Tattoo (1955)

"Nothing's too good for a man if the man's good."
- Serafina Delle Rose (Anna Magnani)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 21, 2004

Stars: Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Marisa Pavan, Ben Cooper
Other Stars: Virginia Gray, Jo Van Fleet, Sandro Giglio, Mimi Aguglia, Florence Sundstrom
Director: Daniel Mann

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material)
Run Time: 01h:56m:37s
Release Date: September 21, 2004
UPC: 097360551143
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Anna Magnani first came to widespread American attention with Roberto Rossellini's neorealist classic Open City. According to the keepcase blurb, author Tennessee Williams wrote the lead role of the play The Rose Tattoo with Magnani in mind. Whether that's true or not, she certainly seizes the part of Serafina Delle Rose in the film version and makes it her own. As a result, she garnered the 1955 Best Actress Oscar for this picture. Whether it was deserved is an open question.

Italian immigrant Serafina is deeply in love with her husband Rosario, who bears a rose tattoo on his chest. When he is suddenly killed by the police for smuggling, Serafina's world falls apart and she refuses to get dressed or leave the house, and she refuses to let her daughter Rosa (Marisa Pavan) attend her own high school graduation or formal. But a defiant Rosa has met sailor Jack Hunter (Ben Cooper) and keeps a mind of her own on such subjects. Serafina's world is further upset by the revelation that her husband may have been unfaithful with blackjack dealer Estelle Hohengarten (Virginia Grey), but Serafina may find new love with dimwitted trucker Alvaro Mangiacavallo (Burt Lancaster), who gets his own tattoo to prove his affection for her.

As is the norm in Williams' dramas, the younger generation is shamed by the older generation's failures to live up to ideals, but on the other hand Serafina indulges herself in her own idealism first in the person of Rosario and then in the character of Alvaro, overlooking his heritage as grandson of a village idiot (and something of an idiot himself). The result is a sometimes poignant and other times painful assessment of the delusions of attempting to find love in middle age. Of course, the younger generation has its own shortcomings, including innate cluelessness, exemplified by Jack's ingenuous statement that he doesn't want to get into a family situation, since every relationship carries with it the baggage of the respective families in one way or another.

Although Williams obviously means to have sympathy for Serafina, between the script and Magnani's unrepentant ethnicity ladled on with a trowel, not to mention compulsive Catholicism, the part becomes almost a caricature. If Williams' script calls for letting all the Italian out at once, Magnani certainly follows it closely. She probably would have been better served with a director who would take the trouble to rein her in a bit. Her ethnicity seems to be the butt of the joke, especially when compared to the coldly Teutonic Estelle Hohengarten, whom we're given to understand Rosario really preferred to his wife. This is one of the weaker performances I've seen out of Lancaster, who makes a pitiful and intermittent attempt at an Italian accent, but next to Magnani he just comes off as Wonder Bread and really shouldn't have even bothered. Pavan is generally pretty good, though she has a tendency to get whiny.

Except for the first segment, which functions as a prologue of sorts, most of the film is set during a single 24-hour period three years later, a perfunctory nod from Williams to the classical unities. Despite a somewhat contrived happy ending, the film has its depressing moments and frankly engenders a deep disgust for the human race at times. When the most entertaining character is a cranky runaway player piano that endlessly rattles off a jaunty ragtime version of The Sheik of Araby, in contrast to the human tempesta going on around it, you know you're in for a typical Williams shouting match. If you're looking for a painful Italian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The main problem with the anamorphic widescreen picture is some excessive edge enhancement; these are problematic during the sequences when characters are seen in silhouette. But otherwise James Wong Howe's cinematography looks great, with deep blacks and very nice shadow detail and texture.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono has some evident hiss and crackle, especially early on. Dialogue is clear enough, however. The music is tinny and thin, as if it were coming over an AM radio, and even the player piano has little range or bass presence.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Look elsewhere for extras, because here there are only English subtitles, closed captioning, and some thin chaptering.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Despite some overly broad if not lamentable performances, this does manage to be affecting in its pathos of self-delusion. The transfer's acceptable, but nothing at all for extras.


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