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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

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