A Restored Ending for Louis Malle's VIVA MARIA!
MGM/UA Technical Services rescues an ending for a famous, fun French frolic.
Louis Malle's charming fantasy adventure, Viva Maria! has been released letterboxed on
laserdisc by Image Entertainment, and it's a dazzling treat to behold. Not exactly known for light
comedies, in this breezy lark Malle both spoofs and honors adventure spectacles. Jeanne Moreau
and Brigitte Bardot play 'The Two Marias', a musical act touring Central America who become
involved in a revolutionary struggle. Falling in love with a handsome rebel figure played by an
unusually impressive George Hamilton, Moreau steals scenes from Shakespeare to rally the bourgoisie to rebellion. The innocent but demolition-trained daughter of an Irish terrorist, Bardot joins the musical act and discovers that sexual liberation and guerilla warfare are equally stimulating. In between action stunts worthy of silent comedies, spectacular musical numbers (Maria & Maria accidentally invent a Gallic striptease together) and sinister Inquisitors who can't get their torture devices to work properly, VIVA MARIA! manages a balance of tone where sweet songs, knockabout comedy, and revolutionary politics coexist in perfect harmony. Favorite surreal image: lampooning the typical 'trek through the desert', the show wagons pass by the skeletons of a horse and its rider, still mounted and upright!
MGM Technical Services archivist John Kirk was motivated to investigate the film
when he heard a cut on the original soundtrack album that was absent from the movie itself. During
the film, The Two Marias sing several times in French. Their Spanish-speaking peasant audiences
don't understand a word, but are there to savor the sexy & exotic duo, not hear lyrics. Kirk
observed that the record album contained an extra track with a song sung in Spanish. Why?
Well, it could have just been a wild track thrown in as an album extra. Or maybe it was an alternate
track to replace the French version of the song in the film itself.
After some research, John uncovered the truth, which turned out to be altogether different - there
was a missing ending! Previously, the movie had concluded with a victory celebration in a town
square. Jeanne and Brigitte exit triumphant, waving from the back of a train. Fade & FIN, as they
parlez in Francais. By contacting the French source of the film, Kirk located and restored another
minute's worth of footage, the missing Spanish song performed onstage back in Paris, where the two
apparently famous guerilleras/chanteuses have returned to capitalize on their scandalous
adventures. The joke is, that for Parisian audiences, wearing black wigs and singing their song
in Spanish is more exotic!
John Kirk was able to determine that the scene was intact for Viva Maria!'s New York
premiere, but was deleted in subsequent U.S. runs. He never received a satisfactory explanation
for exactly why this was done, but it's a treat to get it back just the same. On the
English-subtitled Image disc, viewers have the choice of listening to the original audio
track ( which is in French, English, and Spanish depending on which characters are talking) or, on
the analog tracks, the totally English-dubbed American version.
Text © Copyright 1998 Glenn Erickson
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson