The Fountainhead ★★★★½

'I remember the day we [King Vidor and Gary Cooper] drove up to Fresno to do our location shooting for The Fountainhead. We met Patricia Neal there that night. It was the first time they had met. They went for each other right away. After dinner we never saw the two of them again except when we were shooting..' (Vidor talking about the beginnings of the passionate affair between Cooper and Neal)

Brief Synopsis: Idealistic architect (Coop) refuses to compromise his principles as he battles big business to erect his visionary buildings.

Verdict: Vidor visually adapts the prose of Ayn Rand's original novel into one of his most vigorous, sensual and passionate films, very much in the fantastically demented mould of his earlier success with Duel In The Sun. This really shouldn't work at all as it's one of the most bizarre films you will ever see from a major Hollywood studio; a heady brew of half-baked philosophical symbolism and crypto-fascistic polemics delivered with all the visual style associated with German Expressionism and 'film noir' camera angles and darkness, brilliantly photographed by Robert Burks - Alfred Hitchcock's 'go to' cinematographer - who produces frames of film that are straight out of Metropolis or Citizen Kane. A movie like this also needs a bombastic score and Max Steiner is your man for that! It's a complete fever dream of a picture, seeped in eroticism and Freudian symbolism: how else do you interpret Neal wielding a riding crop as she stares lustfully at Coop as he wields his mighty weapon - a drill! - in a quarry?! And all of those magnificent erections which are so proudly displayed... Absolutely unmissable!

Trivia Note: Barbara Stanwyck was desperate to play Neal's part and when she was overlooked in favour of the younger actress she was so angry that she terminated her contract with Warner Brothers.

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