We are all interested in bad movies, inexcusable cinema, and objects seemingly shooting from the screen into our laps, for that is the stuff we use to fill the empty spaces… in our laps. You are interested in the moist, the sodden, and the submerged; that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of a lazy group of adventurers. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a screening. I am that miserable soul. The sweaty Mediterranean locations, the confused performances, the old-timey misogyny—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these will affect you in the future!
The Plot In Brief: Lovable rogue Manuel (Asher Dann) babysits luxury yachts for rich men somewhere off the scenic Mediterranean coast. He often woos young women by claiming the yachts are actually his. He is able to fool disillusioned fashion model Anne Traymore (Joanne Dru) into falling for his dubious charms. Anne is on vacation, trying to escape the laugh-in-the-face-of-death hurley-burley of New York’s cutthroat modeling scene. The two begin “diving” together.
I have to single out Byron Haskin for his direction. Though the narrative lacks pace, urgency, stakes, or common sense, Haskin is smart enough to place enough inanimate objects in the foreground of each shot to really sell the 3-D. This should come as no surprise, as Haskin had earlier directed the terrific 1953 War of the Worlds. While WotW was not in 3-D, the film features innumerable interesting and dense shot compositions, taking full advantage of the depth of the frame.
As if compelled by some obscure “truth in advertising” law, September Storm does feature a storm at sea sequence, with obvious miniature work and some cool 3-D effects. The trouble is, like much of this meandering, bloated film, the storm sequence drags on and on, so that the audience suffers along with the cast not from the storm’s ferocity, but from its sheer duration. It rains so much and for so long, I kept expecting to see Noah’s Ark drift by in the background.
In September Storm, Joanne Dru is convinced the film is really about her character’s existential quandary about modeling. It is not. Asher Dann believes his character is a roguish hero. He is not. Robert Strauss is stuck in an actor’s nightmare, asked to simultaneously play the film’s villain AND its comic relief. That crazy Ernie, sometimes he just gets so rapey!
Yet the film’s ultimate confusion lies in the casting of Mark Stevens in what is clearly supposed to be an Indiana Jones part. The character of Joe Balfour on the page is tricky and charming and cool and smart. Stevens’s performance is so lazy, tone deaf, and dispirited, that it sinks the film under its immoveable weight. Joe Balfour reminds me of that one boozy, washed-up friend all of our Dads had in the 1960s… you called him “Uncle Jerry” or whatever, but secretly always wondered why the hell your father hung out with him, especially after the guy’s fourth divorce. Mark Stevens is clearly going for a Bogart-like affect of cool remove; the effect is that he should be removed from the film. September Storm is barely over one hour and a half. Thanks to Mark Stevens, it feels like three.
BONUS ALERT: The KINO disc includes many wonderful extras, including the film’s original 3-D trailer and the 3-D short shown with September Storm in its early 3-D play dates. We also get an interview with a now considerably older Asher Dann, in which he opines on his never-quite-happened career as a screen heartthrob. He eventually drifted into real estate. He was cast in September Storm because he knew how to play gin rummy. This bonus feature is, needless to say, essential viewing.