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I hadn't seen any of Losey's films for years, so I was intrigued to catch this one on late night TV a few weeks back.
What a melodrama! The story is set in 18th century rural England. A gypsy couple decide to wheedle their way into the favors of an English country gentleman, Sir Paul Deverill (Keith Michell) with the express purpose of milking him for all that he's got. Trouble is, Sir Paul is nearly broke and he plans to marry into a nearby rich family so as to bolster his fortunes.
The femme fatale, Belle (Melina Mercouri), seduces Sir Paul and eventually becomes the lady of the house, squandering and stealing all that he has, and ably supported by her true lover, Jess (Patrick McGoohan), whom she loves passionately. Trouble is, Jess doesn't care too hoots for Belle he just wants all the money.
A sub-plot then surfaces: Sir Paul's sister, Sarah (June Laverick) is bequeathed a fortune by their great aunt but only if she marries before the age of twenty-one. Sarah is madly in love with a brilliant young medical student, John Patterson (Lyndon Brook) and he wants to marry her now, already, but she hesitates. That's her undoing, because Sir Paul rascal that he is spirits her away to a secret place to hold her prisoner until she is over twenty-one. Trouble is, Sir Paul doesn't reckon on Patterson's determination to find his lost love...
Does Sarah succeed in escaping from her prison? Will Sir Paul get the fortune illegally? Will Belle find true love with Jess, or will she remain with Sir Paul? Whew...sounds like something from The Bold and The Beautiful, huh?
Very nicely photographed in brilliant colour, and the fast pacing of the narrative tends to leave one mentally breathless as it races to the denouement. While the stereotypical characters, the costumes, and the over-the-top dialog and acting, all tend to reinforce my thought that Losey's objective was to provide a satire of that period. I think he succeeded.
Not as good a film as other Losey efforts but worth a look.
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