By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 14, 2012 at 3:14PM
The film that pretty much served as the final nail in the coffin of the era of the mega-budget roadshow musical, "Lost Horizon" was a cataclysmic financial failure (nicknamed "Lost Investment" by some), and if a worse movie musical has been made, we certainly haven't seen it. An adaptation of James Hilton's utopian novel, although closer to a remake of Frank Capra's 1937 film, it's probably best described as a gonzo, hippyish musical version of "Lost," about a group of archetypes who survive a plane crash and are accepted into the "perfect society" of Shangri-La in the Himalayas. The script by Larry Kramer is tonally all over the place (the writer would later deride it), Charles Jarrot's direction is entirely anonymous, and the songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (who were on the verge of severing their creative relationship and spend the next several years suing each other) are both ill-fitting and forgettable. And while the film has an impressive all-star cast, including Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Sally Kellerman, John Gielgud, George Kennedy, Bobby Van, Michael York and Olivia Hussey, every one of them is fatally miscast and quite often can't handle the tunes either. To pick one out would be unfair, especially given that we imagine they were all keen to forget the whole affair, but pretty much everyone is floundering like they were in an actual plane crash.
In the words of one Bart Simpson, "Prepare yourself for the bloody mayhem and unholy carnage of Joshua Logan's 'Paint Your Wagon.' " Bart, sadly, was misinformed, but "unholy" isn't a bad description for a project that, frankly, is stunning it ever got made. If you've never seen it, it's a Lerner and Loewe musical, written by Paddy Chayefsky, with a three-hour running time, revolving around a love triangle that's more "Jules et Jim" than you might imagine. And those three actors? "A Bout De Souffle" star Jean Seberg, Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. And not one of them can sing. Marvin is at least giving it full blast as a typically drunken layabout, and got a hit single out of it with 'Wand'rin Star" (although it may not have made up for turning down "The Wild Bunch" to make this, or for having a voice like Nick Nolte trying to open a creaky gate). But Eastwood? Eastwood is thin and wispy in the vocal numbers, like a D-list Bobby Darin, not what you'd expect from the Man With No Name, and never for a second looks anything less than totally uncomfortable on screen, clearly deeply regretting his decision. Unsurprisingly, he never went back to the genre.