29 August 2000 | Red7Eric
Being a big fan of the book, I was avoiding this film for a LONG time. The first half hour of the film would lead a fan of Hawthorne to conclude that the screenwriter had never even READ the original novel.
However, the screenwriter in this instance simply wanted to spend the first 30 minutes dramatizing the 'back story' that Hawthorne only alludes to in the book. Jaffrey and Clifford are now brothers, not cousins. Clifford and Hepzibah are now lovers, not siblings ... and the details surrounding the murder of Clifford's father (his uncle in the book) are slightly different, but the movie is only 90 minutes long, and the film simplifies the plotline without erasing the POINT.
Some of the acting (Margaret Lindsay as Hepzibah, for example) is so brilliant, it makes you want to cry. The scenes that depict Phoebe's arrival to Seven Gables (Chapter 2 in the book, almost halfway through the film) are incredibly well acted. Other moments in the film are so badly and broadly acted, it's laughable. At the scene of the first murder, the camera actually does a quick pan to Margaret Lindsay in the doorway, biting her knuckle. Oy gevalt.
As is usual, reading the book is more of a challenge (not everyone enjoys Hawthorne's prose), but ultimately a MUCH richer experience. For a product of its time, however ... the film does itself justice.