High-flying acrobatics and Burt Lancaster doing his own stunts can't quite save some of the silly love triangle dramatics swinging on Carol Reed's Trapeze. Alongside Lancaster, a sporting Tony Curtis and the sultry Gina Lollobrigida add some human flash and dazzle to this circus drama but their limited skill on the high-wires and obvious stunt doubles breaks the illusion and fizzles some important tension. It's a fun albeit silly soap opera with great actors delivering some memorable performances. Kino Lorber Studio Classics delivers Trapeze onto Blu-ray with a serviceable transfer that could use some restoration work with an interesting and worthwhile audio commentary to round out the bonus features. It's not this cast's best work, but it's entertaining and worth the time you give it. Worth A Look.
"One swings, the other catches, and nobody comes between them."
In the world of circus acrobatics, the one thing a high-wire flyer always wants to achieve is a perfect triple flip. Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster) could nail the triple until the one time his catcher missed. After ruining his leg in a disastrous fall Ribble makes due as a rigger in Bouglione's (Thomas Gomez) circus. His private and quiet life is turned upside down when a young up and coming trapeze artist named Tino (Tony Curtis) arrives begging Ribble to teach him the triple. Ribble reluctantly agrees after seeing his own former youthful spirit in Tino. Just as they begin to make progress, their delicate balancing act is thrown into chaos when the sultry Lola (Gina Lollobrigida) joins the act pitting the two men against each other for her affections.
The fun of a high-wire trapeze act is the death-defying nature. Humans flinging their bodies out onto bars supported by seemingly flimsy wires just barely catching one another. It's the perfect combination of athletic skill and strength and precision timing. Because he was an acrobat before he got into films, when Burt Lancaster climbs out onto the wire, you can tell it's him up there doing any number of impressive stunts. However, when Tony Curtis or Gina Lollobrigida climb the wire you can spot the stunt doubles a mile off. Suddenly muscle tone increases, body's change shape, and in the case of Lollobrigida clearly becomes a man in women's clothing. When that happens the death-defying illusion is shattered.
Trapeze tries very hard to ground itself in within the theatrics of a love triangle. When the characters aren't swinging on the wire or falling into nets, they're embroiled in a personal clash of emotions. Burt Lancaster's hobbled Mike Ribble is defiantly demanding for control of the act because the last time he gave control he nearly died. Gina Lollobrigida's Lola is fighting for survival after her act was cut. She's desperate to stay working and willing to do anything to stay in the spotlight. Tony Curtis' Tino is caught in between. A natural talent on the high-wire, the world could be his if he stayed focused and practiced but his heart is torn by his allegiance to Mike and his love for Lola.
While the setup for this little love triangle is amiable, it starts to feel dramatically flat after a time. Once the film moves towards some fairly rote and predictable plot turns the dramatic flames of this heated romance fizzles. The only thing saving the show from being completely camp is the committed performances of the cast. Tony Curtis is no slouch at playing brash and impulsive, but here he brings a welcome touch of naivete to the part. He's at his best when he's trying to figure out his place in this little drama. Lancaster delivers another commanding performance and showcases his natural ability as a trapeze performer lending some much-needed credibility to the stunt work showcased in the big circus acts. Gina Lollobrigida relies on her good looks and sultry natural presence as she did in Woman of Straw, but thankfully she's more than just a stock beautiful face delivering a nuanced performance of someone with deeply conflicted motivations.
I didn't love Trapeze, several parts of it my wife and I found to be unintentionally comical, but at the end of the day warts and all, we thought it was very entertaining. The trapeze work while faked for a couple actors was still very impressive and when the dramatic sparks catch fire the film feels personal and human. Maybe some of the effects could have been smoothed and some of the dramatic beats ironed out a little easier, but as a whole Trapeze is a decent enough film that is well worth watching - especially if you're a fan of the cast. Burt, Tony, and Lola make the film
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Trapeze swings onto Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics in a single-disc Blu-ray set. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Trapeze shows its age with this 2.35:1 1080p transfer. Film grain is apparent throughout and tends to fluctuate surrounding optical effects. Details also have a tendency to shift from offering up pleasing facial features and costume intricacies in close-up and middle shots to looking flat and soft. This is most apparent during some of the acrobatic stunts where an attempt to hide stunt doubles has been made. One moment Tony Curtis looks great as he's about to swing out onto the trapeze, the next shot is notably softer. Compounding some of the softer scenes is the notable presence of speckling and small periodic scratches. Thankfully these age-related issues aren't very severe as to be distracting, but it shows the film has long been in need of some restoration work. Colors are well maintained and are a high-point of the disc. Primaries have a strong presence given the circus setting giving a lot of show to blues and reds. Flesh tones are even and healthy if a tad bit on the pale side. All around this is a decent enough transfer but it could use a little more TLC.
With an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix, Trapeze has a solid if somewhat unimpressive auditory presence. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout, at times it's very obvious that lines have been looped in during the stunt scenes as they sound notably flattened with a slightly tinny quality. A little bit of hiss and pops crop up from time to time but nothing distracting or impactful. Scoring is clean and sound effects give key scenes a sense of dimension. The big circus finally is a highlight of the mix. All around this audio mix gets the show done even if it isn't quite a showstopper.
The bonus features of Trapeze are in keeping with most KLSC releases with a nice audio commentary track and a bunch of related trailers
While far from being a perfect high-flying drama, Trapeze is a good bit of melodramatic fun. With Lancaster's rugged athleticism, Curtis' youthful energy, and Lollobrigida's sultry spirit, a soap opera plot turns into a real show. Even if Lancaster was the only one doing his own stunts, the high-wire act is impressive and builds to a thrilling final stunt. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Trapeze to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V presentation and a decent worthwhile audio commentary track to round out the bonus features. It's not the greatest show on earth, but it's entertaining enough to be Worth A Look.