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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"In the lawless times of which I write a band of outlaws lived in the wilds of Exmoor. Their savage cruelty struck terror into the peaceful countryside so that mothers would hush their babes with the cry: The Doones are coming!" See more »
I was hoping this would be a better version than the 1950s "Lorna Doone", which was memorably described as having been directed "like a Western" and which I remember as basically a cut-price Ivanhoe/Robin Hood clone.
But with names like Roger Livesey and Miles Malleson involved, this 1930s production really ought to have been better. Alas, it set my teeth on edge in the first scenes -- featuring some unconvincing child actors -- and somehow didn't seem to improve; I never found myself caring much about the fate of the characters, and by the time we got to the immense and prolonged assault by the villagers on the Doone valley (apparently including large numbers of women waving flaming torches) I was actively resenting it. I'm not quite sure why.
Carver Doone is annoying, with his ho-ho-I'm-a-villain laugh, and Victoria Hopper's Lorna is sweet but unmemorable. Towering John Ridd is a bit of a clodhopper, which I suppose makes sense but makes the character hard to identify with as the hero. The Doones' backstory is largely lost, so that we don't get a sense of the honest commoners versus the gentlemen gone to the bad; in fact, there's very little hint that these Doones were ever noble at all. The script, with the exception of a few acid asides, really doesn't seem to show the Malleson touch, and while a lot of money has clearly gone into the sets and staging it felt self-consciously 'period' rather than being a natural setting for the characters. The local accents (especially those of John and Annie Ridd) come and go in a way that is more distracting than if the yokels simply spoke the King's English like everybody else -- couldn't somebody have kept an eye on vocal continuity? -- and the whole thing just didn't involve me the way it should. I got off to a bad start and never really recovered.
It's only fair to say, however, that the film does contain some adventurous and striking visual compositions, in particular in the various night battle sequences of the second half. Effective camera angles and bold lighting effects produce a memorable effect; it's just a pity that this didn't contribute more to the overall success of the production.
The "Lorna Doone" that I would recommend to date is the TV adaptation of 2000, about which great fuss was made at the time over the authenticity of the longhorned cattle, etc; I couldn't answer for that, but what it does have is a vivid set of characters and an absorbing version of the story, which this one seems to lack. I came in with great expectations of the 1934 version, which came highly recommended, and ended up totally unengaged by it.
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