Greece, 1947, and Noelle Page (Marie-France Pisier), the movie star wife of big shot millionaire Constantin Demeris (Raf Vallone), is on trial for murder. Her husband visits her in her cell and asks her if she really did kill Catherine Douglas (Susan Sarandon) and she hesitates, then assures him that she did not, recalling her life up until this point. She was originally from Marseilles, but after she was effectively sold by her father to a middle-aged women's fashion shop owner (Sorrell Booke) she could not face being his sexual plaything and fled to Paris. Alas, it was 1939 and war was brewing, so how would she survive?
When a film has Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard featuring in a sex scene in its opening ten minutes, you know you're in trouble, and so it is with The Other Side of Midnight, the adaptation of the bestelling novel by Sidney Sheldon. Sheldon had made his name writing scripts until he was bitten by the book bug and began crafting his tales for cheap thrill-filled blockbusters which were lapped up by the public, but looked down on from a great height by the critics. Say what you like about him, he knew what his substantial audience wanted and he was very popular - not something you could claim for this film version.
Although a story has emerged around this that it was intended to be the Twentieth Century Fox's biggest movie of 1977 when it was utterly overshadowed by another of their efforts, a certain sci-fi adventure called Star Wars, it didn't do quite as badly as its reputation would have you believe - there was definitely an audience for it, if only among those curious to see how the book they enjoyed had translated to the big screen. What it does resemble all too closely is one of those miniseries that would dominate the television schedules, only with trashy sequences that would not have passed muster with the T.V. censors.
So despite the leading lady taking her clothes off, which you would not have got in a miniseries, there's an undeniable flat look to this film that doesn't particularly speak of the potential a cinema rendering could have benefited from; director Charles Jarrott seems unbothered by the opportunities to make the period settings appear more authentic than the average studio backlot sets. It doesn't help that to suggest romance he falls back on lengthy montages around three times, typical of the lazy approach here, so we are supposed to know that Noelle and her American pilot boyfriend Larry Douglas (John Beck) are having a great time thanks to the amount of Paris landmarks they visit.
Larry leaves Noelle behind and doesn't get back in contact with her when the war heats up, so she fears the worst until she meets one of his friends who tells her that he is back in America and won't be returning - he got some English girl pregnant, you see. But he also got Noelle pregnant, and she is forced to perform an abortion on herself in the bath, a part which offered the film a measure of notoriety at the time. The other bit that had everyone talking was when Noelle implemented a handful of ice cubes on her lover to increase his pleasure, as by this time she has loosened her morals and is willing to sleep her way to the top. It's funny that a story that includes such torrid incident and heightened emotion should leave the viewer so unmoved, as the best this can do is update an old forties "women's picture" to a more permissive age to very little satisfaction. Sarandon is a bright spot as the wronged woman, but even she cannot do much against a movie behemoth such as this, which crushes all entertainment potential under its monolithic bad taste. Music by Michel Legrand.