I wanted to like this. Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Harris directed by Huston in a film of a novel I liked? This sounded like a dream. And, well, I'd rather it had been.
For starters, the gold-tinted version is borderline nauseating; it's like watching it through a jar of honey. It makes the film unpleasant to look at it, which isn't a good starting-point, no matter what it may hold. The trouble is that it tried to hold too much and ended up dropping the ball.
The main issue I have with this is that half of the emotional thrust of the film is placed on a character (Brando's Maj. Penderton) you don't learn enough about to truly sympathise with. We're introduced to him constantly on breaking point, but we have no normality from him to compare it with, so he ends up coming over as crazy rather than troubled. Yes, you get the point, but that's hardly enough, and what should have been the easiest job in the world is somehow botched. It takes away from the emotional impact one feels watching him go through the things he does. Without that impact, there's really no point other than voyeurism.
The story with Julie Harris's character is handled much better, but, regrettably, it's also less interesting.
The actors try their damnedest to make it salvageable, but there's only so much they can do with what they're given. The screenwriters had a diamond of a subject, and they managed to turn it back into coal.
As an added bonus atop all of this, the ending has what must be the hokiest camera work I've ever seen. It's absolutely hilarious, and it really shouldn't be.