The Fugitive Kind Sidney Lumet

As a teenager, I thrilled to a chance encounter with this Tennessee Williams tale of drifters and lonely housewives; it's the kind of thing a young person can point to as an example of the cruelty of the adult world. Fifteen years later, I can't say it has the same impact, but its central performances still lift it out of the merely ordinary. Marlon Brando lends his wounded pride to the role of "Snakeskin" Xavier, a drifter looking to put his past behind him and rejoin the world. Unfortunately, he tries to do it in the town of Two Rivers, Mississippi, which isn't friendly to strangers and not terribly nice to its misfit citizens either. Though he's pursued by a wild young woman played by Joanne Woodward, Xavier falls for the wife of his employer (Anna Magnani) and the two outcasts have a torrid affair of which the town can't possibly approve. Though the outline has possibilities, its adaptation of Orpheus Descending seems a little streamlined and oversimplified, like a dumbed-down version of genuine Williams instead of the real thing. But all is forgiven once Brando and Magnani start facing off. Where the young method powerhouse is all barely contained pain and hysteria, Italian staple Magnani lets the floodgates burst and subsequently blasts the rest of the supporting cast off the screen. They alone make the movie worthwhile, lending credibility to the middling script and always giving you something genuine to watch even when the script isn't providing it. Trainspotters take note: this is the movie where David Lynch got the idea for Nicolas Cage's costume in Wild at Heart, and it's still the better movie. (MGM/Sony)