Max Ophuls brought his three-version film (English, French and German) in for a whopping negative cost of $2 million. It is a lush color vehicle, relating the life story of a 19th-century courtesan.
Treatment of the lady of easy virtue’s life is done via flashbacks while she is being exhibited in a strangely stylized circus somewhere in America. Sketchy method of handling the subject rarely allows sympathy to be built for the much manhandled heroine or to adequately formulate the essentials of the eternal woman the film is striving for. Martine Carol, as Lola Montes, lacks the depth needed. She looks good but never seems to display the temperament required.
Ophuls gives this elegant mounting, and the C’scope has lush and knowing framing. He uses iris-type blacking out of the corners of the screen for more intimate scenes, and even the old fashioned iris-out at times.
Some fetching period observation appears from time to time, but life is rarely breathed into this frilly opus. Peter Ustinov has little acting to do but registers as the ringmaster who narrates the round of Lola’s life. Anton Walbrook is fine as the king.