There are two reasons to see Gilda: Rita Hayworth and Rita Hayworth. Her immortal performance as the temptress title character carries the film, which is more or less a B-movie with a script that is as full of intoxicating noir-speak as it is convoluted; but the delivery is worth it, and the lighting elevates Hayworth to an almost ethereal level. Watch her sing "Put the Blame on Mame" and the meandering melodrama disappears; you are left with one of the most singularly sensuous scenes in all of filmdom.
The mood makes the movie, and the tone established by director Charles Vidor occasionally transforms dialogue exchanges into something resembling a ballet. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford, who had co-starred with Hayworth under Vidor's direction six years earlier in The Lady in Question) is the narrator of the picture, a rough-edged gambler who goes to work for Ballin Mundson (George Macready), owner of an illegal gambling casino in South America, after Ballin saves his life. He quickly ascends ranks to become Ballin's right-hand man, and they form a close bond that is fractured when Ballin unexpectedly marries.
Gilda, the new Mrs. Mundson, is the focal point of the routine plot, as a woman from Johnny's past. Ballin puts Johnny in charge of looking after Gilda, who works overtime to exasperate him; she is a femme fatale who will stop at nothing to see him self-destruct. Tensions build between Johnny and Gilda, and Ballin encounters problems of his own--of a legal variation, so, appropriately satisfied with the growing Johnny/Gilda mess, he fakes his own death, determined to return after a few months to knock over the human dominos he has arranged. There is a strange sexual vibe to it all, and the overtones in Ballin and Johnny's relationship have been deconstructed by several film writers, most notably Vito Russo, who references the movie several times in his landmark book "The Celluloid Closet."
Gilda, though overrated in some circles, is an endearing classic and fine example of noir despite a stale story and a disappointing though traditional ending. Screenplay by Marion Parsonnet (who adapted the 1944 Hayworth vehicle Cover Girl), legendary scribe Ben Hecht (Notorious) is an uncredited contributor. Exceptional cinematography by Rudolph Maté, who worked on the Hayworth films Cover Girl and The Lady from Shanghai (1948, uncredited).
DVD Details: Another Columbia Classics DVD release, Gilda was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Library of Congress and the UK National Film and Television Archive and it definitely shows. The transfer is wonderful with rich blacks and vivid whites. Despite occasional nics, the picture is crisp. The mono soundtrack is equally impressive, the dialogue and music are all clear.
Special features include theatrical trailers for Gilda, The Loves of Carmen, A Man for All Seasons, and The Last Hurrah, talent files for Vidor, Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George Macready, vintage advertising and a featurette about Hayworth. The advertising material includes Gilda lobby cards, a card promoting a Gilda and Platinum Blonde double feature and Gilda posters. "Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady" is the title of the featurette, tracing Hayworth's career from a 1936 bit part in Meet Nero Wolfe to her heyday as a top box-office draw. Hayworth appeared in 32 Columbia films, among them Only Angels Have Wings, The Lady from Shanghai, and Miss Sadie Thompson. The featurette is under 10 minutes long and ends somewhat abruptly, and while it features some nice (and good-looking, given their age) clips from her films a trip to the IMDb would provide a more comprehensive overview of her career.
The audio set-up features English, French, Spanish and Portuguese language tracks. There are also English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles. Scene selections and a 2-page production booklet complete the package, which has a suggested retail price of $29.95. Given the lack of features, the price seems about $5.00 too high, but the DVD is an essential addition to the library of classic film fans.