Weirdest Director’s Commentary Ever

I recently picked up The Night of the Following Day, starring Marlon Brando, for $5 at Wal-Mart. The film is a slow-burning nail-biter of a kidnapping caper. It has a great overcast French setting, and if you’re like me you can enjoy a film like this just for the distinctive compressed tone and rainy texture. It’s also very 1968. Its twist ending may have been inventive at the time, but would likely not impress modern moviegoers. This may be why I enjoy it.

But there’s more: the director’s commentary by director Hubert Cornfield. Or so we would be led to believe. Rumor has it (via IMDb) that the commentary was actually Brando using some type of voice disguiser. Here are the only two reasons I would believe this:

  1. Cornfield’s voice is almost unlistenable. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to release a DVD with what sounds like a dying man breathing his last gurgling breaths. Perhaps Cornfield truly wanted to record it, despite his apparent ill health (he died three years after the DVD’s release, Brando one year). He certainly reveals a great deal about Brando’s arrogant and erratic behavior on the set. Perhaps he wanted to tell the world finally. Or perhaps Brando wanted to do it as both a prank and an apology.
  2. There is one scene where the commentary reveals that Brando was performing while completely drunk. The narrator hails the scene as a grudging appreciation of Brando’s talents. But the trivia section for the movie at IMDb reveals “Cornfield had to delete the parts in which his drunkenness was apparent.” Brando probably wouldn’t know that. And if Cornfield wanted to get back at Brando, he would not have chosen to praise Brando’s skills if time had to be spent extensively editing him.

I have to admit the mystery surrounding the DVD is more tantalizing than the film’s plot. Still I highly recommend this movie as one of the best $5 DVDs I’ve ever purchased.

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