26 September 2015 | bkoganbing
Brodie family values
Although future mega stars James Mason and Deborah Kerr appear in Hatter's Castle, the film truly belongs to star Robert Newton. Most people today are familiar with Newton in his later pirate roles like Blackbeard or Long John Silver which allow full expression for his florid style. In Hatter's Castle Newton is kept in check by the director until the climax which calls for nothing less than what Newton was known to deliver on the screen.
Newton dominates Hatter's Castle playing a haberdasher with lots of pretensions. He's made a lot of money at business and that's what he's all about. His business, his family are all merely extensions of himself and his drive for what he considers respectability. He's going to have the grandest house for miles around, something they would call a castle back in the day, Hatter's Castle. With a house that would support a lord, can a peerage be far behind. That's what he's ultimately aiming for.
Newton's family, his props are his doormat of a wife Beatrice Varley who is dying from cancer and Newton wants to hear none of it and his children Deborah Kerr and Anthony Bateman. There are traces of incestuous longing for Kerr with Newton as he allows her no male companionship whether it's earnest young doctor James Mason who secretly treats Varley on the side and sneaky and sniveling clerk Emlyn Williams who also has ambitions. Newton also has mistress Enid Stamp-Taylor and their carrying on is an open scandal around the town. I'm sure Newton figures if that was good enough for all the lords and ladies in olden and modern times it's good enough for him. Of course they already had their titles, something he overlooks.
In the end it all blows up around him. Emlyn Williams really loses it all in the famous Tay railroad bridge disaster where a bridge over the Tay River to Dundee collapses and a train goes over with it with all crew and passengers lost. This might be the only film that deals with that tragedy and A.J. Cronin did incorporate it in his novel. Good special effects for its time in the British cinema.
The bare essentials of Cronin's work is incorporated here. The plot of the novel was shorn of several subplots and characters the most prominent was another son for Mr.&Mrs. Brodie. Speaking of which young Anthony Bateman should be given kudos for a very nice portrait of a shy young kid trying so hard to please his uncaring father.
After almost 80 years Hatter's Castle holds up well today. Honestly I can't think of a cast to match this one for a remake. Especially for Robert Newton.