John Houseman. Yes, that John Houseman. This was the very last of about 20 movies he produced -- before relaunching his career as an actor in The Paper Chase in 1973. Who knew? (He is also listed as an "uncredited" writer on Citizen Kane, but that's another story.)
Too bad then that despite a rich backstory and star turns by Natalie Wood and Robert Redford, This Property Is Condemned deserves its obscurity. Made years after Wood's heyday in West Side Story, it's a melodrama of enormous self-importance and incredible irrelevance. The plot involves Redford as a railroad executive who comes to a small town to tell them, well, the railroad ain't gonna be workin' here no more. Which is a problem, because there's no other work to be had in town. Naturally there's a kink in the plan -- he falls for local gal (Wood), and her erstwhile beau (Charles Bronson) takes it out on Bob's face. Wood's mother (Kate Reid) won't have anything to do with her daughter's affair with the city slicker, rousing the whole town against the new duo.
What sounds like interesting small-town politics is actually a pretty tame and cliched story of star-crossed lovers... including, well, West Side Story. But the cityfolk-countryfolk story has never been done terribly well, and This Property Is Condemned (ugh, again with that title) ranks somewhere below Doc Hollywood.
For megafans of its lead actors only. (After all, they do a capable job, though the material is way subpar.)
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th October 1966
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Natalie Wood as Alva Starr, Robert Redford as Owen Legate, Charles Bronson as J.J. Nichols, Kate Reid as Hazel Starr, Mary Badham as Willie Starr, Alan Baxter as Knopke, Robert Blake as Sidney, Dabney Coleman as Salesman