6.5/10
1,568
37 user 21 critic

Secret Ceremony (1968)

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:

Joseph Losey

Writers:

Marco Denevi (short story "Ceremonia secreta"), George Tabori (screenplay)
Reviews
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Elizabeth Taylor ... Leonora
Mia Farrow ... Cenci
Robert Mitchum ... Albert
Peggy Ashcroft ... Hannah
Pamela Brown 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 | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

No one admitted the last 12 minutes. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 October 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ceremonia secreta See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During filming. Robert Mitchum persuaded Mia Farrow to turn down the Mattie Ross part in " True Grit " by telling her that director Henry Hathaway would be too difficult to work with. See more »

Quotes

Leonora: [singing] Hush little baby, cry no more. Father's gone fishing, mother's a whore. Back in the morning, to guard your life, with two short prayers, and a carving knife.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) See more »

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User Reviews

Haunting Classic!
22 June 2017 | by jery-tillotson-1See all my reviews

After winning an Oscar for her role as the shrieking, voluptuous, vicious harridan in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?", Elizabeth Taylor felt encouraged enough to look for riskier parts where her beauty and star power were deliberately played down. In SECRET CEREMONY, she had one of her most cutting-edge, risky role as the aging, down-trodden prostitute whose little daughter drowns. She meets a strange, mad girl, Cenci (Mia Farrow) who's convinced Liz is her recently dead mother, Leonora and takes her home where both women play a game: Elizabeth becomes Leonara and Cenci has found her mother alive and well. Director Joseph Losey creates a sumptuous world where most of the action occurs in this fabulous Victorian mansion, jammed with striking lamps, toys, dolls, furniture, lighting,etc. IT all contributes to making this an A Plus horror film where madness rules. A haunting musical score, outstanding lighting and camera-work and an unforgettable wardrobe for the star all combine to make this a true cult movie--which was lambasted by critics and audiences at the time of release but has since grown in stature as a treasured art-house classic.


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