Beyond the Forest (1949)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Even though Beyond the Forest provided Bette Davis imitators and Edward Albee with the oft-quoted "What a dump!" line, there's nothing else in the film to recommend it for the ages. As a matter of fact, Forest is a pretty lousy film -- to the point that it's a lot of fun, if the viewer is in the mood for some high-camp shenanigans. Certainly, Davis' portrayal is a camp hoot, although to be fair, the part as written is hardly Shakespeare. Still, the actress goes way overboard, creating a caricature that has no resemblance to a human being. That's probably a good thing, for screenwriter Lenore Coffee's delineation of the character would be painful if played straight. Indeed, Joseph Cotton and David Brian make the mistake of trying to make Coffee's amateurish script work and come across as rather dull and predictable; at least Davis keeps the viewer awake. King Vidor's direction is as full-throttled as Davis' performance, avoiding subtlety at all costs and making the most of trains and smokestacks as phallic imagery. And Max Steiner's bombastic score only adds to the over-the-top atmosphere. Interestingly, in spite of the melodramatics, Forest still manages to dawdle and ultimately becomes tedious. As a result, viewers may tune out long before its incredibly clich├ęd ending. But those with a taste for high camp will find enough to keep them entertained -- and, in a strange way, rewarded.