Philippe Mora's "Snide and Prejudice," about a mental patient indulged in his belief that he is Adolf Hitler, might work on the stage but is merely tedious on the screen.
Mora starts out on a satirical tone, as a psychiatrist (Rene Auberjonois) with a posh only-in-L.A. clinic explains to The Times' Patt Morrison that he's embarking on this radical new program that's supposed to produce miraculous results. Later on, Morrison aptly observes that what he's doing seems more like running a summer stock company, and she wonders whether he envisions taking it on the road.
In any event, the doctor has surrounded his subject (Angus Macfayden) with other Nazi-obsessed patients, a clutch of therapists plus some out-of-work actors to play key figures in the Fuhrer's life to enable Macfayden's Michael Davidson to act out Hitler's rise and fall, drawing from his notorious speeches and other historical documents. The idea is that Davidson et al. will get so into their roles that the Third Reich will come alive for us, but this doesn't happen because the film is too stagy to come alive itself.
"Snide and Prejudice" has been filmed primarily at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis-Brown House in the Hollywood Hills, an inspired setting augmented by other actual locales, some them poorly matched. It's possible to imagine "Snide and Prejudice" being staged at the Ennis-Brown House or the Hollywood American Legion Building, where "Tamara" was such a tantalizing hit, or any viable performance space with dramatic, monumental '30s architecture.
The drama's problems, however, extend beyond that of appropriate medium. The film's satirical tone fades, and the distinct possibility emerges that Auberjonois' Dr. Samuel Cohen may be a bit nutty himself and not just another dubious therapist whose methods make him the latest passing fad to sweep over Southern California. Macfayden and Auberjonois are fine actors, undercut by the circumstances. The large supporting cast, headed by the late Brion James, is uneven.
Hitler's crazed psyche has been probed more effectively elsewhere, notably in Hans-Jrgen Syberberg's epic "Our Hitler: A Film From Germany." "Snide and Prejudice" means to heighten our understanding of Hitler's pervasive, demented evil, but it ends up leaving us to speculate on just how much Davidson's elaborate psychodrama treatment costs.
Unrated. Times guidelines: complex adult themes.
'Snide and Prejudice'
Angus Macfayden: Michael Davidson/"Adolf Hitler"
Rene Auberjonois: Dr. Samuel Cohen
T.C. Warner: Patient/"Eva Braun"
Mena Suvari: Patient/"Geli Rabaul"
A Focusfilm Entertainment presentation in association with Bombastic Pictures. Writer-producer-director Philippe Mora. Executive producers Michael Luers, Mark Schouten. Cinematographer J.B. Letchinger. Editor Robyn T. Luers. Music Allan Zavod. Costumes Ann Lambert. Production designer Pamela Mora. Running time: 2 hours.
Exclusively at the New Beverly Cinema for one week, 7165 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 938-4038.