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Hazel Woodus is a beautiful but innocent country girl who loves all the creatures around her, especially her pet fox cub. She is given a rough time by her father but can escape to run barefoot through the woods when her harsh life gets too much for her. It is there that she is found by the local squire, Jack Reddin, finds her and is struck by her beauty. The obvious conflict develops when the squire leads the local hunt and tries to kill Hazel's pet fox. The title "Gone to Earth" is taken from the huntsmans cry when the target is no longer obtainable.Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A Magnificent Classic of British Cinema, Lost for 51 Years
This amazing film was made in 1950 but was never released and has apparently never been shown in a commercial cinema. A mangled form of it minus 35 minutes, reedited, and with some extra linking scenes was released in 1952 as 'The Wild Heart'. This was because Jennifer Jones, the star, was the wife of the control freak David Selznick, who could not bear the fact that this masterpiece had been made without his supervision and represented something authentic, of which he himself was incapable. For the film which Powell and Pressburger really made, it was necessary to wait until 2001 when it was released in a restored version, with the most beautiful Technicolor cinematography, on DVD as part of the Powell and Pressburger retrospective revival. Of this film for more than half a century, therefore, one could truly say it had 'gone to earth', as the huntsman's cry has it in the final devastating scene. The film is based on a novel by Mary Webb, who died in 1927 aged only 46. Another novel of hers, 'Precious Bane', has been filmed more than once, and helped make the reputation of the British actress Janet McTeer. Jennifer Jones is totally stunning in this film as Hazel, a semi-wild half-Gypsy girl with a pet fox named Foxy, a pet raven, rabbits, and a small menagerie of other creatures. She lives with her Celtic harp-playing father in an isolated cottage. He is wonderfully played by Esmond Knight, with true country humour. The wild gypsy girl who roams the hills was a motif well known to Mary Webb from Theodore Watts-Dunton's fictional Welsh gypsy characters Sinfi Lovell and Rhona Boswell, who were based on real people. This film is shot on the Welsh borders as they were in 1949, and in Shropshire. The landscape is wild and wonderful, magnificently filmed, and the movie is like a paean to the wilds. The story is like a Thomas Hardy tale, though less sophisticated and with more than a touch of Victorian melodrama. Cyril Cusack does a superbly restrained job of playing a quiet vicar who cannot express himself and is paralyzed by inactivity, like the main character in John Cowper Powys's novel 'Wolf Solent'. He marries Hazel but 'respects' her too much to touch her and so does not consummate the marriage. That kind of thing often happened in those days. Along comes the monstrously egotistical and unrestrained squire, played to full effect by David Farrar, who becomes obsessed by Hazel, with dire consequences all round. One of the finest performances is by Hugh Griffith as Farrar's valet. It was one of the greatest moments of that fine character actor's career. Jennifer Jones is entirely magical and captivating, with her weird looks and her expression of always seeing the fairies. She does a superb job, as does Edmond Knight, of speaking a genuine rough country dialect. Since British viewers have to put up with Brooklyn and other mangled and horrible accents, it seems only right that Americans should have to try to decipher Welsh Border dialect for once, but of course they are too spoilt to try, and this has been a cause of complaint. However, the film has full authenticity and is a miraculous preservation in aspic of a lost world. The sets are very good indeed, and all the locations are genuine. This is no fantasy, it is real in what it portrays, only the story is a bit over the top melodramatically. Otherwise, this was then, and now is now. This film can be watched repeatedly by those who want to comprehend a world that is gone forever, like that of the film 'Owd Bob' (see my review of it). It would not be fair to refrain from pointing out that Foxy the fox deserved an animal Oscar, as he is in nearly every scene.
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