Rhinoceros (1974)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy, Farce  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - Canada, United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Some plays are probably incapable of being translated effectively to the screen, as Rhinoceros amply demonstrates. Even on-stage, Eugene Ionesco's allegorical-metaphorical black farce is terribly difficult to pull off; unless given an impeccable production, it can come off as both tritely obvious and alarmingly obscure. Placed on the screen, which tends to be relentlessly realistic, this kind of purposely artificial stagecraft has very little chance of being effective. That doesn't mean, however, that it has to be as horrible as Tom O'Horgan's atrocious direction makes this one. Reconciliation of conflicting tones, which is crucial to this project, is totally alien to O'Horgan, as is pacing. Attempts to cinematize the play are lame, ineffective, and annoying. Worse, Ionesco's message -- the point of the piece -- ends up trivialized. Rhinoceros does preserve Zero Mostel's legendary transformation scene, but even that, removed from its theatrical setting, doesn't quite work here, powerful though it may be. Mostel and Gene Wilder acquit themselves as well as could be expected under the circumstances, but it's for naught -- this is simply a film that should never have been made.