In the early part of this century, Maddelena a teenage Italian girl, is attacked whilst walking in the woods. The attack leaves her mentally scarred and our story flashes forward to the ... See full summary »
Returning to 1870's London after finishing at boarding school, Fanny witnesses the death of her father in a fight with Lord Manderstoke. She then finds that her family has for many years ... See full summary »
A new man joins the civilian firefighters at a London unit during the Second World War. He meets his fellow firemen and firewomen, manages to enjoy some leisure time with them, and then ... See full summary »
At an estate auction in WWII England, two strangers meet and muse about their families' history and possible connections. Flashbacks reveal the story of the sweet, rich, and beautiful Clarissa Richmond and her friendship with bitter, impoverished Hesther Snow. Their fates are intertwined even as their paths diverge. Clarissa marries the handsome but cruel Marquis of Rohan while Hesther becomes an actress. Eventually, the two women meet again and Clarissa brings the scheming Hesther into her household. As Clarissa searches for true love, Hesther plots to take away everything that belongs to her.Written by
A film which has a lot to answer for, since it started both a trend for Gothic romantic melodramas in British cinema which proved ideal escapist fare for a country at war, as well as starting off various star careers (notably James Mason and Stewart Granger). The former, in particular, cornered the market for a while in brooding anti-heroes whose sadistic streak women seemed to find perversely attractive; incidentally, his part here was smaller than I had anticipated – since the protagonists were really the two ladies who suffered at his hands i.e. Margaret Lockwood and Phyllis Calvert (both of whom would likewise become fixtures in this type of film). Still, this being the prototype, its makers utilized modern-day book-ends – with the conveniently look-alike descendants of the 'good' couple, Calvert and Granger, having better luck coming together – as a safety-pin (not to mention adopting such anachronistic devices as having Calvert's "nigger" servant-boy played by a white child in black-face!). With this in mind, the film is somewhat halting as entertainment when viewed today, but it nevertheless yields pictorial felicities aplenty (courtesy of cinematographer Arthur Crabtree, who would almost immediately graduate to director and dabble in the costume genre for himself), as well as considerable interest throughout. For the record, the latter arrives by way of the occasional powerful scene (Mason and Granger's night-time scuffle in a public garden, Lockwood's come-uppance at the hands of the doting but honor-bound Mason) or humorous incident (a stock-company performance of Shakespeare's "Othello" in which Granger and Lockwood discuss attending aristocrat Calvert, a mutual acquaintance, during the all-important murder scene of Desdemona). Among the film's more notable (and commercially successful) follow-ups, then, were FANNY BY GASLIGHT (1944; which re-united Mason, Calvert and Granger) and THE WICKED LADY (1945; again directed by Arliss and featuring both Lockwood and Mason).
JAMES MASON: THE STAR THEY LOVED TO HATE (TV) (Mike Healey, 1984) **1/2
This adequate, if hardly comprehensive, look at one of the most revered actors of the 20th century (one I greatly admire myself) probably amounted to his last ever interview – since the versatile British thespian would die before the program had even aired! With a career spanning some 50 years, it necessarily skimps over score of titles (even some very good ones) and, given the title, tends towards discussion of his sinister roles (which is actually how he rose to stardom: see my review of THE MAN IN GREY  elsewhere and on whose R2 DVD this documentary was included, albeit in abridged form) rather than being a broad overview of his entire body of work – though, curiously enough, there is no mention at all of Alfred Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) in which the actor did play villainous and is possibly the best film he was ever associated with! Mason, graceful as ever, is quite candid in his recollections – from the peculiar circumstances surrounding his first marriage (actress/writer Pamela Kellino would leave her cinematographer/director husband Roy for him, yet the three would form a lasting if not very successful film-making alliance!), his famous criticism of the British movie industry in a series of articles (what was seen as career suicide at a time when it had basically peaked did lead to a move to Hollywood, though his beginnings there were inauspicious) and when it came to choosing the three pictures he was least fond of, namely LADY POSSESSED (1952; one of the Kellino collaborations), FOREVER DARLING (1956; in which he appeared as an angel alongside Lucille Ball) and KILL! (1971; Romain Gary's bizarre thriller about drug-smuggling). In direct counterpoint, then, the two roles he had singled out over the years as his favorites – ODD MAN OUT (1947) and LOLITA (1962) – are likewise given their due. All in all, a nice record of one of filmdom's most compelling and intelligent presences in rare self-appraisal mode.
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