Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Casablanca the Series: Jenny Review


With Jenny, Casablanca may have finally gone beneath the barrel and shown that perhaps the people behind the television adaptation may not have actually SEEN the movie they were basing the program on.  It served as a terrible disservice to both Ilsa Lund and Ingrid Bergman, making a mockery of both in a way that strikes one as almost sad.

Jenny Delany (Shanna Reed) is a brassy American adventuress who lives by her wits and goes from town to town, man to man, in order to move ahead.  She is accused of prostitution at Rick's, but in what is now-characteristic move, Rick Blaine (David Soul) protects her, saying she is now a hostess at his café.  This is news to everyone, and Sam (Scatman Crothers) senses Jenny is no good.

Well, Jenny soon starts to have feelings for Rick, but since he's too bossy about her private life she opts for Werner Faber (Daniel Pilon), a German involved in ferreting out spies.  Rick, apparently, has decided that Jenny reminds him of Miss Ilsa from Paris, much to Sam's concern.  Jenny attempts to leave Casablanca, but rummaging through Werner's wallet she inadvertently takes some plans he had taken from a German soldier who had intended to sell them to the British.

In a surprising move Rick all but begs Jenny to stay, but she won't hear of it.  Werner, for his part, is furious about the plans being stolen, for I think he planned to sell them himself to make a major profit.  If he's discovered, he certainly will be executed, and so he's desperate to get the plans.  If killing Rick is necessary, then that's just a bonus.  As it happens, Rick helps Jenny escape and manages to outwit both Werner and Major Strasser (Paul Horgan), and Werner commits suicide.  Jenny, for her part, just happens to keep the plans, which the British will be so happy to take.

What is really shocking, if not repulsive about Jenny is Sam's assertion that Jenny is reminiscent of Ilsa Lund.  Let's see: an American prostitute, thief, and adventuress is like the elegant, sophisticated, classy, intelligent European.  I can't understand how Sam could possibly imagine that Jenny could be the same as Ilsa.  They don't have any resemblance in terms of temperament, of style, of manner, so where would anyone think they could in any way be similar.

They do have one thing in common.  Jenny and Ilsa are both women.

I also note that Arthur Malet's Carl is not the S.Z. Sakall of the original film.  There is nothing that indicates Malet would be thought of as "Cuddles" (Sakall's nickname in Hollywood).  Instead, he's a bitter, angry Underground operative.  I just figure that this change is perhaps the least of Casablanca's problems, but it doesn't help.  You can't care all that much if one of the characters is basically crabby.

What makes Jenny perhaps worse is that Rick is now almost pathetic.  No matter how much Jenny reminds him of Ilsa (a rather dubious claim), I can't believe Rick would basically beg any woman to stay with him.  This makes our lead into a pathetic wimp, and that is something that, divorced from the film itself, makes a mess of the television series.

Scatman Crothers has both an extended and diminished role in Jenny.  He basically is there to sing songs and nothing more, but here at least he served as some sort of conscience to Rick (which if this had been both developed earlier and been more consistent would have helped the series a bit). Pilon gave a good performance and was perhaps the first time we have a potential antagonist to match Rick.  It obviously isn't the cartoonish Strasser, and it's too bad Pilon or Werner Faber couldn't be a recurring villain or a longer story.

Well, Jenny didn't lift Casablanca at all.  It indicates how bad Casablanca as a series was.  Still, it did make me think of a good song...    


Four Out of Five: The Cashier and the Belly Dancer

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