You know, this wasn't that bad of a movie. It really wasn't. Sure, I wouldn't go as far to say that it was that good, but it did turn out surprisingly more bearable than I expected. Why? Four reasons:
1. Greer Garson in COLOR. Technicolor to be precise. And boy, does that red hair positively glow. She spends the entire movie actings as a Ms. Chips figure to this young boys in an exclusive private school (though you barely see her teaching anything in a classroom).
But that's beside the point: she looks radiant in color, with green outfits that match some of the walls in the school. Fashion choice, or did no other color go with her hair? We may never know.
2. A puppy. There is an adorable puppy in one scene. The boys try to hide the puppy, but to no avail, because Garson knows, sees, and hears all.
3. One of the students continually practices a tune from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which so happens to be one of my favorite operas. He then plays it with one of the Nazis from Hitchcock's Notorious. This actor, Ivan Triesault, portrayed a dictatorial director in The Bad and the Beautiful (1951). That film also co-stared Barry Sullivan (also as a director), who is in Her Twelve Men as an oil tycoon/concerned parent/Ms. Garson's wannabe love interest. Probably a coincidence, but kinda cool nontheless.
4. Robert Ryan is a good guy. I repeat: Robert "always seems to play a bigot or a crook or a hardass" Ryan plays a genuinely nice, kind, thoughtful science teacher. And he gets the girl, doesn't hurt anyone, and doesn't die to boot! And, surprise surprise, he makes a persuadable nice guy. Forget Lynch or Bunuel: the true face of the surreal is seeing Mr. Ryan strum a guitar around a campfire, surrounded by kids and Ms. Garson, and singing Christmas Carols.
Though I can't say that I would recommend this film to anyone not a fan of Garson or Ryan, I have to confess that I don't regret seeing it. It's a harmless, painless lark, with a few enjoyable perks.