In 1956, cinematic history was born as two very powerful leading performers — Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr — were united as The King and I. Three years later, MGM decided to bring these two commanding stars back together for another motion picture outing: a little ditty called The Journey. Sadly, the end-result does not appear to have been as productive as all who were involved in it probably would have hoped for, since the movie wound up falling in the cracks of time several years down the road — only now finding its way to home video in the United States as a Manufactured-on-Demand gem from the Warner Archive Collection.
The story here — set the same year as The King and I was released — finds Englishwoman Kerr attempting to smuggle her Hungarian hubby (Jason Robards, in his film debut) out of his homeland during the mostly-forgotten-about-now Hungary Revolt of ’56. Sadly, the two of them are delayed indefinitely after a security check courtesy the Russians lands everyone on the bus in a local hotel, politely imprisoned by a real sly dog of a commander (Brynner) who simply wants to seduce his female co-star. Sure, he even knows that her spouse is not who he claims to be, and that he is not permitted to leave the country, but his first concern is love.
Not only could the film have greatly benefited from a punchier title, but it could have used some extensive editing as well. Granted, a couple of minutes were trimmed from the original 126-minute release shortly after it initially hit theaters in ’59, but The Journey still remains an overlong, ineffective romance set amid the Cold War. It’s a purely implausible picture — one where an overacting Brynner considerably overshadows the decidedly subdued Kerr, and wherein there really is much going on to begin with. Future actor-cum-filmmaker Ron Howard has an early role as a young American boy caught up in the drama, and the supporting cast also includes E.G Marshall (with more hair than we all remember him for today), Robert Morley, Anne Jackson, and Land of the Giants villain Kurt Kasznar.
The Journey hits DVD-R via an unrestored presentation that looks pretty good for the most part, but which is a bit on the faded side, color-wise (and the expected amount of grain). A mono English-language track suffices in bringing out the rather ridiculous story’s dialogue, and the sole special feature is a theatrical trailer that promotes it as the torrid romantic surefire hit that it most assuredly did not succeed in becoming.
For diehard Brynner, Kerr, or Robards fans only.