If you look up the word "fluffy" in the dictionary, here's the definition you'll find: Light and airy; soft; frivolous; lacking depth; see also: A Breath of Scandal (1960)
Indeed, so fluffy and airy is this vehicle from early in Sophia Loren's career that it practically threatens to melt away like so much sugar if you should happen to stare at the screen too closely. It's a sweet, saccharine, and entirely silly little romantic comedy, and one that's worthy of note only to Loren lovers or those who were born in Vienna and desperately miss their birthplace.
Ms. Loren plays Olympia, the gorgeous spoiled princess of Vienna who is spending some time in comfortable exile, mainly because she's a flirty lil' thing who sometimes allows her libido to govern her brain. After whining her way through yet another morning of luxurious punishment, Princess Olympia takes her horse for a ride, bumps into a handsome American stranger who's there studying mineral deposits, and spends a (sex-free) night with the dashing hunk.
Obviously this potential scandal hits close to home once Olympia is invited back to Vienna; the dashing Charlie Foster visits the palace to discuss Vienna's bauxite deposits with Prince Philip (a.k.a. Olympia's daddy), thereby sparking a series of farcical moments that involve Olympia's betrothal to a total stranger, the scandal that may or may not arise from Charlie's arrival, and the inevitably happy ending that's in the cards for Chuck and Princess O.
It's all very story-book, sweet, and old-fashioned, which means that if you're old enough to have seen A Breath of Scandal during its 1960 theatrical run, you might find yourself enjoying the flick a lot more than the young'ens might -- but the simple fact is that A Breath of Scandal, for all its sumptuous production design and Sophia-supplied sexiness, is about as engaging as a damp washcloth.
Leading man John Gavin delivers a performance that could best be described as "balsatic," as in: the guy's a block of wood. There's no sort of effusive charm or devil-may-care bravado from our hunky hero; the guy's a one-note line-reader for the whole of the film. Ms. Loren does manage to display her many charms, be they physical or otherwise, but her Princess Olympia is a rather wishy-washy little love interest. She wavers back and forth between "regal duty" and "true love" for about 65 minutes, but we're all well aware how this particular confection is going to be prepared: slowly, teasingly, and predictably.
One of the very last films from legendary director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Sea Hawk, and dozens more), A Breath of Scandal looks, sounds, and feels precisely like the stage adaptation it is. Inspired by the play "Olympia" by Ferenc Molnár, the movie rattles somewhat blandly through its stock conventions with little to no real enthusiasm: Will Olympia's nemesis (played colorfully by Angela Lansbury) uncover the mini-scandal and rock the royal family? Will Olympia's old-fashioned Mummy & Daddy allow her to marry a common American rock-hound? And will the curvaceous cutie ignore her regal duty and, ultimately, marry for loOOooove?
Well, if you don't already know the answers to these questions, feel free to give A Breath of Scandal an immediate rental. To everyone else, Scandal stands as a sultry snapshot of Sophia Loren at her most eye-poppingly beautiful, and as a lovely travelogue of the lush Viennese countryside. But ultimately this is a very fluffy, very predictable little comedy of manners, one that's not particularly trail-blazing or memorable in any way. It's easy on the eyes and pudding for the brain -- but it sure looks pretty, if that's all you're after.
Video: The Widescreen Anamorphic transfer brings Mario Montuori's lovely cinematography home in beautiful fashion.
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono (English), which does the job just fine. Optional subtitles are available in English.
Extras: Not a one.
Loren lovers will certainly want to add this one to their collection, but there's not much here that romance fans haven't seen, heard, and enjoyed in much better films than this one. It's mildly engaging, but never really amusing; it's got a few bits of movie-star charm (mainly from Ms. Loren and Maurce Chevalier as her princely papa) and a seriously lovely visual style -- but the flick's about as substantial as a puffy French pastry.