Modern audiences will likely find Strange Interlude a very odd duck, indeed. The Eugene O'Neill play that is its basis is highly problematic on its own; condensing its eight and a half hours to 110 minutes is bound to create additional problems, and when one adds in the "interior monologue" device for which the work is famous, it's amazing that the film works at all. Unfortunately, the necessary cutting takes a very serious play and reduces it to its bare essentials -- leaving it little more than a soap opera, albeit one blessed with some dialogue passages of great beauty and poetry. But since these passages are presented in a straightforward, stagey manner, rather than truly reconceived for the screen, they too often lack the desired impact. The voice-over device simply doesn't work, especially for modern audiences for whom the idea of a voice-over is no longer unusual. The cast works hard, but not always successfully. Norma Shearer's performance is strong but uneven; in this truncated version, she's asked to display great emotional heights that are not properly built up or justified, and Alexander Kirkland and Ralph Morgan also fall prey to overacting. Robert Young and Maureen O'Sullivan do better, but only Clark Gable really turns in an impressive performance, one that is both natural and moving.
by Craig Butler review