“Victorian gothic melodrama based on the novel by Sheridan Le Fanu from a screenplay adapted by Aldwych farceur Ben Travers. This creepy chiller is saved from the doldrums by Robert Krasker’s atmospheric cinematography, and fine performances from the ensemble cast. The BBC later filmed the story for television in 1987.
In 1845, 17-year-old Caroline (Jean Simmons) is nursing her dying father. He has enough faith in the reform of his reprobate brother, Silas (Derrick de Marney), suspected but in the clear of murder, to place her under his wing after his death. The hitherto naïve heroine soon learns that scheming Uncle Silas is planning to kill her in order to get his hands on the family fortune, aided by the equally corrupt governess Madame de la Rougierre.” – britmovie.co.uk Continue reading
“Her name is Jo Armitage, and at the beginning of the movie she’s wandering aimlessly around her comfortable London house, dressed to go shopping but too moody and distracted to make it out the door. Flashbacks reveal some of her history. Years earlier she lived in a ramshackle barn with her second husband, a violinist named Giles, and their five rambunctious children. One day Giles invited his friend Jake to visit, and amid all the tumult in the crowded, noisy home, Jo and Jake fell instantly in love. Typically for the film, which moves at a leisurely pace but doesn’t waste a moment on unnecessary material, we skip over the dissolution of Jo’s marriage to Giles and pick up her story as she and Jake get ready to tie the knot. Jake is a screenwriter trying to establish his career, and while he’s obviously crazy about Jo, it’s not clear he’s equipped to handle the five energetic kids who come along with her. Sure enough, he starts finding reasons for working away from home, and when a friend-of-a-friend named Philpot needs a place to stay, Jake not only lets her move in but has an affair with her. Jo grows so depressed that when she finally does go shopping on that gloomy day, she breaks down in the middle of a posh department store and winds up in a mental hospital. Continue reading
Unlike Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky probably won’t pick up many awards. It’s not a film with a ‘big statement’ and it signals a return to Leigh’s low-key films in the Nineties, such as Life Is Sweet and, in particular, Career Girls. But whereas those two films were only intermittingly successful, Happy-Go-Lucky’s vivid, absorbing and truthful portrayal of thirtysomething London life shows how far Leigh has developed his craft over the past decade.
There’s also a sense that Leigh’s brand of compassionate realism has become more engaging as cinema and drama becomes overly negative about the human condition. A refusal to rise above the banal and mundane was always Leigh’s glaring weakness as a film maker. But when ordinary people’s everyday life and behaviour has become politicised and problematised, Leigh’s ringing endorsement of free individuals enjoying the good life in twenty-first century Britain has never been more welcome. Continue reading
Three talented screenwriters collaborated in adapting Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford’s play The Haunted Light to the screen as Phantom Light. This British chiller-diller-thriller begins with the mysterious murder of a lighthouse keeper. After his death, the region is plagued by shipwrecks, each heralded by a “phantom light” beaming from the lighthouse. Female detective Binnie Hale teams with new keeper Gordon Harker and navy officer Ian Hunter to solve the mystery. Directed with a sure and steady hand by Michael Powell, The Phantom Light is infinitely superior to the quota-quickie melodramas then flooding the British film market.- Hal Erickson Continue reading
In the 1920s, political activist Jimmy Gralton built a dance hall in rural Ireland. As the hall grew in popularity its free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close.
A decade later, at the height of the Depression, Jimmy returns from the US. The hall stands abandoned but as Jimmy sees the poverty and growing oppresion in the village, the leader and activist within him is stirred. He decides to reopen the hall, and so takes on the established authorities of the church and the government. Continue reading
The storyline cleverly blends all the ingredients that defined the Northern Soul scene in the 1970s – from the obsessive record collecting, dancing and drug taking to the deeper aspects such as… well, the consequences of all of the above.
If you went to all-nighters at the time, it’s an emotional roller coaster ride that will hit you with the highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies all over again. If you didn’t go, it’s the closest you’ll get to ever understanding. Continue reading
Jack Clayton’s celebrated screen adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) is a brilliant exercise in psychological horror. Impressionable and repressed governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) agrees to tutor two orphaned children, Miles and Flora. On arrival at Bly House, she becomes convinced that the children are possessed by the perverse spirits of former governess Miss Jessel and her Heathcliffe-like lover Quint (Peter Wyngarde), who both met with mysterious deaths.
The film’s sinister atmosphere is carefully created – not through shock tactics, but through its cinematography, soundtrack, and decor: Freddie Francis’ beautiful CinemaScope photography, with its eerily indistinct long shots and mysterious manifestations at the edges of the frame; an evocative and spooky soundtrack; and the grand yet decaying Bly House.
Deborah Kerr gives the performance of her career and makes The Innocents an intensely unsettling experience. Are the ghosts the products of Miss Giddens’s fevered imagination and emotional immaturity, or a displacement of her shock at the sexually precocious behaviour of ten-year-old Miles? Is she the protector or the corrupter? Continue reading