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High drama, set in the English moorland of the 1600's. John Ridd wants revenge on the criminal Doone family, but falls in love with the daughter of the family, Lorna. Written by
Steve Crook <email@example.com>
I was not sure whether I should include two adaptations of the R.D. Blackmore classic (out of three I own) in the current Epic Easter marathon, but various factors decided in their favour. If anything, this British version is well regarded by both Leslie Halliwell and Leonard Maltin unlike the 1951 U.S. remake but, then, I did already check out two works by the latter's director, Phil Karlson (and have a couple more vehicles lined up by its male star i.e. Richard Greene)
Anyway, I had been forewarned that the quality of the print for the title under review would be problematic but, while there was frequent shakiness to the image, it did not prove too distracting all things considered. Incidentally, the IMDb lists this among a number of films revolving around the figure of the English King Charles II but James II is actually stated as being the royal at the time of the events (mid- to-late 1600s)! While the narrative was perhaps not terribly compelling (I do own a "Classics Illustrated" edition of it, dating from 1946, but I had long since forgotten its content!), the movie undeniably evokes the era being depicted through both pictorial (it was lauded for the outdoor location sequences) and aural (characters have a tendency here to burst into quaint singing, especially the titular heroine!) means.
The plot deals with a boy farmer intent on avenging his father's death at the hands of bandits, but his life is saved one day near a waterfall by a girl member; when they grow up (he being played by John Loder and she by the unfamiliar Victoria Hopper) and he keeps seeing her against his understandably disapproving mother's wishes the two naturally fall in love! Opposition to their union, however, also comes from her camp since she is coveted by leader Roy Emerton, in an impressive performance of ripe villainy that comes complete with diabolical cackle! His climactic come-uppance in the marshes at the hands of Loder constitutes the obvious highlight of the film, particularly in view of its abandoning natural sound and being accompanied solely by dramatic underscoring.
Complementing the central romance (which has an agreeable "amour fou" element to it, down to Lorna's unlikely survival from a gunshot wound at her wedding ceremony by the jealous Emerton!) is a secondary one, ironically by actors still in the early phase of their career but who would rise far above what the nominal leads ever achieved, namely a debuting Margaret Lockwood and a young Roger Livesey (years before he became a Powell and Pressburger staple)!! Incidentally, the IMDb lists Jack Hawkins as having an undefined role here but I certainly did not spot him! If there is a failing to the film, it is in the fact that the revelation of Lorna being blue-blooded after all (that is, she had been kidnapped by the Doones as a child and raised as one of their own vilified kind) does not quite carry the impact it certainly ought to have!
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