"Wet, she was a star," Joseph Pasternak once remarked about the silver screen's swimming sensation, Esther Williams, and that was the problem with her films -- there's only so much time that the star of a motion picture can spend in the water. All of Williams' films suffer from the (literal) "dry spells" between water ballets, but the mediocre Pagan Love Song suffers more than most. At best an adequate actor, Williams is particularly mechanical here and is not helped by the always stolid Howard Keel. The lack of chemistry between the leads is damaging, although both of them are in fine physical condition and look good together. They get little help from Robert Alton's uninspired direction, nor from Harry Warren and Arthur Freed's okay-but-nothing-more score. Williams' water ballet is a genuine keeper, of course, and other musical moments are diverting at least. And there's plenty of gorgeous scenery (courtesy of the island of Kauai) to keep the eyes entertained. Though not her best film, Pagan Love Song is still interesting as an example of a cinematic subgenre that is unlikely ever to be revived.
by Craig Butler review