The Marlon Brando Collection

By the '60s, Marlon Brando's initial hot streak was over. He had graduated from promising young powerhouse to foregone conclusion and was winding up in the big epics and genre pieces that his former image had lived to sully. Thus the four films from the period in Universal's Brando collection are hard clusters of Hollywood normalcy knocked off-kilter by the quivering weirdo at their centre. The best of this lot is The Ugly American (1963), with our hero as the shifty ambassador to a fictional Asian country; though he has ties to a revolutionary leader opposed to American manipulation, the two come to loggerheads with disastrous results. Though it's directed with all the brilliance of an educational short, it's far more cogent than a latter-day political thriller like The Interpreter, with Brando nailing his smug and supercilious role while the rest of the stuffed-shirt company falls in line. Meanwhile, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) is the much-maligned last film by Charles Chaplin, featuring the actor as a diplomat who has to deal with a fallen aristocrat prostitute (Sophia Loren) who's stowed away in his cabin on a cruise to America. But though the writing and direction is sadly primitive (especially by '60s standards) there's enough frisson in Loren's desperation to shed her hard life for a rebirth in the States to make it hard to dismiss outright. No such distinction graces The Appaloosa (1966), a dour Western in which Brando is surrounded by phoney Mexicans in search of a stolen horse; suffice it to say that the star is the only person expending any effort, with John Saxon as the least convincing outlaw king in the history of the genre. Finally, The Night of the Following Day (1968) starts off well, with a nearly wordless kidnapping backed up by some ominously stylish visuals, but once the back-story of drug addicts/sadists/out-of-their-league crooks shows up, it's a bunch of people shouting with very little payoff. Even Brando doesn't get away clean, looking ridiculous in his fights with Rita Moreno and with his appeals to be nice to the poor girl whom they've shanghaied. The only extras are trailers and a commentary on The Following Day by director Hubert Cornfield that details the actor's attempts to fire him and seduce his wife. (Universal)