Saturday, January 13, 2018

Marco (1973)

Another failed attempt at extending their success to the big screen, musical fantasy Marco was produced by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr., beloved for their stop-motion Christmas specials of the ’60s and ’70s. Marco offers a weird riff on the lore of 12th-century explorer Marco Polo, played here lifelessly by Desi Arnaz Jr. The picture opens in the court of Mongol king Kublai Khan (Zero Mostel), and the central premise is that Marco’s father asks Khan to punish Marco for being irresponsible. Khan mischievously tasks Marco with spending a day in the king’s court, all the while begging Marco to marry one of Khan’s many daughters. Eventually Marco and his would-be betrothed venture beyond the castle to search for whale oil in a desert. Even setting aside the bizarre and episodic plot, Marco is tough to endure. Arnaz is terrible, Mostel screams most of his dialogue, and leading lady Cie Cie Win, as the butch Princess Aigarn, is charmless. (Totally wasted is the great comic actor Jack Weston, who plays Marco’s uncle and sings a dumb song about inventing spaghetti.) The production values of castle scenes are okay, but for no discernible reason, one fantasy scene is presented in the familiar Rankin-Bass style of cutesy puppets and stop-motion animation. And then there’s the issue of the songs—the awful, grating, stupid songs. Some are sickly-sweet, some are offensive with regard to gender and race, and all are interminable. Strangest of them is Aigarn’s recurring theme, “By Damn,” repurposed every time she articulates a strong emotion. Especially when she performs the song while stripping off her clothes to protest Khan’s insistence that she dress in a more feminine manner, “By Damn” does not belong in a G-rated kiddie flick. And for those who might argue that Aigarn’s characterization as a willful warrior woman is the movie’s most interesting and progressive element, watch out for the cringe-inducing way her storyline resolves. Like everything else in Marco, it’s just wrong.

Marco: LAME

1 comment:

Douglas said...

I remember see ads for this film when it came out. In searching for it on youtube, I found this animated Marco Polo movie.