A penniless woman meets a strange girl who insists she is her long-lost mother, and becomes enmeshed in a web of deception, and perhaps madness, in this powerful psychological thriller.

Director:

Writers:

(short story "Ceremonia secreta"),
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Leonora
...
Cenci
...
Albert
...
Hannah
Pamela Brown ...
Hilda
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Storyline

Leonora, a prostitute, mourns the death by drowning years earlier of her daughter. She encounters a strange waif-like girl, Cenci, who bears a strong resemblance to her lost child. Cenci is herself struck by the great resemblance of Leonora to her own mother, whose death the mentally unstable Cenci has been unable to accept or even acknowledge. The two women quickly develop a symbiotic relationship, moving in and out of the illusion that each is the lost loved one of the other. The complicating factor is the arrival of Albert, Cenci's stepfather, whose incestuous attachment to her may well be the cause of her mind's unbalance. With Albert's arrival, no one in the strange trio is safe. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's time to speak of unspoken things... See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

23 October 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ceremonia secreta  »

Box Office

Budget:

$3,200,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Most of the film was shot inside and outside Debenham House, in London's affluent Holland Park district. The house, located at No. 8, Addison Road, was designed by the eminent architect Halsey Ricardo for Ernest Debenham, the department store magnate, and was built between 1906 and 1907. Much of the baroque decoration of the house's interior was actually there before filming started. However, the large bathroom and adjoining bedroom used by the Elizabeth Taylor character were constructed on a studio soundstage. See more »

Quotes

Cenci: My virginity is the only thing I possess.
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User Reviews

 
Creepier than a horror film
19 October 2008 | by (Chicago IL) – See all my reviews

This movie is a tad pretentious and muddled, but it'll get under your skin. All the characters are either so deluded (crazy rich girl Mia Farrow), desperate (middle-aged hooker Liz Taylor) or demonic (scummy pedophile Robert Mitchum) that watching it is like spending two hours in a psych ward with no attendants on duty. Also gripping is the atmosphere created by director Joseph Losey, who was considered as a genius in the 60s and is pretty much forgotten today. With wide-angle shots and a minimum of noise, Losey reinforces his characters' isolation and solipsism by making London, one of the most crowded cities in the Western world, seem as empty and quiet as a tomb.

The plot is a psychological inversion of the classic haunted house story -- Liz and Mia take shelter from an outside world that threatens their relationship. And that relationship is, to put it mildly, weird. Mia lures Liz into her huge, empty home because she resembles her late mother. Liz indulges Mia's fantasy because as a homeless prostitute she's in need of shelter, plus, she lost a daughter who looked a lot like Mia. This arrangement could be sweet to the point of treacly if these two grown women didn't enjoy doing things like bathing together and discussing ex-lovers. And Mia has a particularly repulsive ex-lover in Mitchum, her former stepfather who started molesting the girl in her early teens. Though the experience clearly ripped Mia to shreds, the creep still has some power over her and the film becomes a battle of wills between Taylor and Mitchum. Along the way there's a fake pregnancy, a nightmarish seaside holiday and a visit to Mia's two horrid old-maid aunts. The movie isn't particularly pleasant or coherent, but it does pull off the impressive feat of telling its story the way its characters are experiencing it, and that's pretty damn disturbing when you're dealing with a bunch of warped people. See it, then watch a romantic comedy or something so you're able to sleep that night.


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