Christopher Jones, as Miles’s illicit love interest, looks and sounds perfect – so it’s amusing to hear in the ‘making of’ documentary and to read in Stephen Silverman's book David Lean that Jones, originally from Tennessee (just like me), had to be dubbed by an English actor, was ridiculed by Sarah Miles as a "midget" and a "dead fish," and was so uncooperative in the key sex scene that various forms of trickery and fakery had to be used to bring the scene off. (But watching the film you may have no clue about any of this. The sex scene is over the top, with dandelions spewing seeds and horses nuzzling as nature performs in parallel with the beautiful young lovers, but it is unique and amazing to behold.)
In the Silverman book, Lean's memory seems a little off – for example, he's annoyed that the critics "never realized" that the story was Madame Bovary in a different setting. Yet Pauline Kael (in an unnecessarily harsh review, as apparently most of the reviews were), spent a whole long paragraph examining the Bovary connection, and Lady Chatterley's Lover as well, pointing out that such comparisons make the film look worse, not better, since its creaky melodrama lacks the irony of Bovary and the modernism of Chatterley. Lean also talks about casting Mitchum because he remembered him in the 1947 Build My Gallows High (aka Out of the Past), which he describes as a dreadful piece of junk. It is generally considered a noir masterpiece – and Mitchum did make a few other films in 20 years that Lean might have remembered also!
The making-of documentary is feature-length and fascinating. I didn’t listen to the commentary track, but other reviewers indicate that it is expertly done, with many contributors. This is a fine disc with which to show off your new HDTV – or just to acquaint yourself with a terrific, under-appreciated movie. They absolutely do not make ‘em like this any more.