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  • LDRose18 September 2005
    The Wicked Lady is a sumptuous tale of excitement, passion, danger and deceit. Margaret Lockwood plays Barbara Skelton, who engages in treachery almost from the outset by stealing her best friend's man. It becomes clear that she is a ruthless character who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, even engaging in highway robbery to enliven her dull existence. Soon she meets a notorious highwayman, Jerry Jackson, and sparks soon begin to fly between the two outlaws! In order to preserve her secret lifestyle, all manner of wickedness ensues. Margaret Lockwood is fantastic as the selfish, devious protagonist and James Mason smolders as the dashing highwayman. This is a wicked treat not to be missed!
  • The mid 40s were definitely the richest years for Gainsborough films - Madonna Of The Seven Moons, Love Story, Caravan, The Magic Bow, Millions Like Us, 2000 Women, The Man In Grey, Fanny By Gaslight, and the enticingly thrilling Wicked Lady. Of the main six Gainsborough players, four grace the screen in this latest - Lockwood, Mason, Roc and Kent (Calvert and Granger sitting out). Let's talk about Miss Jean Kent for a moment. Not the main character in The Wicked Lady, but her small part as Jackson's "Doxy" was integral to the plot and to Barbara's actions. Since I've seen the movie, I've noticed a fair bit of dispute over Kent's billing. On the box for the video, she was billed 5th - not bad! At this site, she's last. At the beginning of the movie, she was 8th, and at the end of the movie in the "full" credits list, she didn't even get a mention. Perhaps she was so highly billed on the box just because she *was* Jean Kent, and if some unknown girl had played her part, they would have remained in obscurity forever. The part of Doxy is not dissimilar to her Vittoria from Madonna Of The Seven Moons - the "other woman", the lover of the male lead, who eventually drives the female lead to murder. Though Barbara (Wicked Lady) was obviously a lot more jealous of Kent's charms than Rosanna (Seven Moons) was, and Rosanna's murder was because she thought her Nino was with another woman that wasn't her or Vittoria.

    But I digress. The Wicked Lady is a fantastic movie, and it's understandable how it was the highest grosser of the above mentioned. Margaret Lockwood is purely wicked, not even loveable, as Barbara, but she's thoroughly exciting and if you don't hate her you at least have to admire her spunk. 30 year old Patricia Roc is perfectly cast as 19 year old Caroline, all sweetness and innocence, trying to believe for as long as possible that her cousin Barbara is the nice, friendly playmate she had as a child. Barbara comes to visit at the time of Caroline's impending wedding, and it's not long before she's stolen the fiancee and married him herself. And that isn't the worst that the Lady Skelton does - not by a long shot!

    I read in Miss Lockwood's autobiography that they had to reshoot the entire film a year later with the only change being higher necklines because their low-cut dresses were deemed far too inappropriate for the censors to allow them an American release. After seeing the original version of the movie, I can see why a few old stuffies might have been a bit shocked - the entire movie absolutely sizzles, and the abundance of cleavage doesn't help cool it down. And that's another reason why I give this 10/10 - it's just too darn HOT! ;-)
  • At the end of World War II the U.K. Gainsborough Studios had a very fine reputation based on the production of a long string of successful films, and backed by a list of very well known performers on whom they could call. November 1945 saw the release of "The Wicked Lady" - a film version of a historical novel by Magdalen King Hall which featured four of their major stars, with Margaret Lockwood in the title role supported by Jean Kent, James Mason and Patricia Roc. Initially this film was panned by many of the critics, but it was immensely successful at the U.K. box office and has now certainly achieved the status of a major black and white classic. I first saw it at quite a young age soon after it was released, and (perhaps largely because of my impressionable age) thought it must be one of the most sexy films ever released. However a few years later I saw it again and this confirmed my first impression. Margaret Lockwood was a great actress who participated in some 50 films during a career which spanned over more than 40 years. The Wicked Lady was a mid-career film made at a time when she was at the peak of her powers and she gave a memorable, if chilling, performance in the part of Lady Barbara Skelton The performances of her co-stars were perhaps not quite so memorable, but this was largely because the premise of both the book and the film was that the wicked lady had a very much stronger character than anyone else with whom she interacted, and it would be hard to seriously fault any of the acting.

    For some reason this film never achieved comparable success in the U.S.A. Because the meticulously recreated seventeenth century costumes used for the original version displayed too much décolletage for the Hayes office, it was re-filmed a year after it was first released with modified costumes, specifically designed for the U.S. market. According to IMDb, Universal Pictures were the U.S. distributors; but the film does not seem to be widely known and may only have received a very limited distribution - IMDb do not even list a U.S. rating for this film. Thirty eight years later the film was remade under the same title in colour, with Faye Dunaway in the title role. As is so often the case in such circumstances I found the original version to be very much more memorable, but unfortunately it has now become very difficult to purchase in a form suitable for home viewing. A DVD in PAL format has been released in Europe, but I do not think it was ever produced in NTSC format - one hopes this was not because of continuing concern about the necklines.

    This year is the sixtieth anniversary of the original film (which was never released in the United States) and I am now submitting these comments to IMDb to suggest that the anniversary provides an ideal opportunity to release a North American DVD version of it. Many classic black and white films have been released on DVD in this way during the past few years and "The Wicked Lady" would be a worthy addition to this list. Some of the listed prices for such releases tend to be rather high, suggesting that large sales of monochrome films are not expected today. If this is a concern the original version of the film could probably be paired with the 1983 colour remake in a double release which would provide viewers interested in the development of the modern cinema with an excellent opportunity to compare the film making techniques of two very different periods.
  • That's the best British film I have ever seen, at least concerning those from the forties, which is a period that I am not particularly fond of. Margaret Lockwood is here absolutely outstanding, terrific as an evil woman who has nothing to envy from Gene Tierney's similar performance in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. A most possessive woman for sure. I saw it thirty years ago and I have it in my collection. That's a pure jewel, folks. British cinema industry is quite different from the US one. And many movies from this country remain to be discovered, even today.

    A real must see.
  • Not popular with the critics,and I agree the critical chorus had a certain amount of truth behind it. True, the plot is full-blown melodrama and the characters are pasteboard figures. But what does it matter? Is not extravagant plotting with all its coincidences, unlikely twists and larger than life surprises the stuff that escapist entertainment is made of? Are not players of the calibre of Mason, Lockwood, Rennie, Jones, Aylmer, Roc and Stamp Taylor sufficiently personable and charismatic to breathe life into one-dimensionally written figures? Certainly, I think so (even if Mason himself did not, although undoubtedly one of the causes of his dissatisfaction was the role's brevity).

    Leslie Arliss has written and directed with verve, pace and style, his script helped by a great deal of witty additional dialogue and catty repartee, his direction aided by Jack Cox's typically moody, gray-toned photography, John Bryan's magnificent sets, Elizabeth Haffenden's eye-catching Restoration costumes. (Perhaps some of the film's enormous success at the box office can be traced to its low-cut, period gowns. It would be hard to deny that Misses Lockwood and Roc fill their costumes most attractively).

    The Wicked Lady has an undeniable sweep and a vigorous dash that carries the audience right along. It may be too excitingly plotted for some, but it always looks so terribly authentic, it is hard not to be drawn into the machinations of villainess Lockwood or sympathize with the careless, carefree vigor of James Mason's full-blooded Captain Jackson. A welcome cast of deservedly popular support artists help round out the movie's terrific production values. Aside from some obvious process screen effects, no expense has been spared. In fact, this Wicked Lady is lavish to a fault.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    MARGARET LOCKWOOD became one of Great Britain's favorite actresses of the '40s with the sort of vivacious and headstrong roles she played in a number of British films, such as THE WICKED LADY. JAMES MASON also became an international star shortly after his work in this lusty Restoration tale about a woman, bored with her life as a housewife, who turns to highway robbery as a more exciting occupation.

    MICHAEL RENNIE is the man she really loves, even though he never suspects she is the highway woman until she reveals herself at the very end. Since she was a woman who had lied and stolen another woman's husband along with being a thief and murderer, she had to pay for her criminal past according to the British film code. Thus, the unhappy ending for Lockwood and Rennie.

    But GRIFFITH JONES and PATRICIA ROC find true love at the fadeout. It's a melodramatic romp, handsomely produced with lavish detail to period costumes and some especially low-cut gowns for the women. There are stories that for the American version, alterations in costuming had to be made to overcome too much exposure of Lockwood's bosom, but you'd never know it from the print shown on TCM. The revealing décolletage is especially noticeable on PATRICIA ROC as well as Lockwood. Both leading ladies play their roles with lots of heaving bosom revealed in low-cut costuming.

    The story is a lot of nonsense about the aristocratic Lockwood pursuing a life of adventure by becoming a highwaywoman, but it's highly enjoyable as entertainment of this kind. MARGARET LOCKWOOD looks very much like a British version of Hedy Lamarr, except that Lamarr had more perfectly shaped full lips.

    While JAMES MASON is good as the highwayman who falls in love with Lockwood, he was seen to much better advantage in other British films from this period and shortly afterwards migrated to Hollywood where his career was even more successful.
  • annalbin-126 March 2006
    Wicked Lady is quite the racy little melodrama! For its time, I can imagine it was totally scandalous, but quite tame by today's standards. Margaret Lockwood is delicious as the "bad" Barbara Worth, and James Mason is totally sardonic and witty as her bad boy companion. The times when the two of them are together on screen are by far the most wicked fun (except, of course, when Barbara is contriving some plot to bend everyone around her to her silly will). Honestly, you can see the wheels turning in her head. Her performance and character was the prototype for that queen of all heroines, Scarlet O'Hara. At this time the film was made, English ladies were all atwitter about this genre of Rank Organisations films (of which The Wicked Lady might be the best). I suppose during the war, this type of escapism fantasy must have been just the ticket.
  • Judging by the IMDb ratings breakdown for this film, sixty years after its production it remains very much "a women's movie" with female opinion rating it vastly higher than the male across every age group; fascinating to see how the divide still lingers! For my own part, I've always enjoyed the Gainsborough melodramas, and this is probably the best of them thanks to its wonderfully acerbic script.

    This style of film is basically the screen equivalent of the classic paperback 'bodice-ripper', with heaving bosoms, witty ripostes and dastardly deeds a-plenty -- which probably accounts for the sex divide. On the other hand, I'd have thought it had a good deal to appeal to the average male viewer... Frankly, I'm not surprised that this picture fell foul of the American censors (a fate shared with various other dramas set in morally dubious eras) in the 1940s: it's not just a matter of the amount of cleavage on display or of the protagonist's flagrantly shocking morals (since these are rewarded in appropriate fashion), but of the racy tinge to a lot of the dialogue.

    I think it's the dialogue that makes this film really shine. Where "The Man in Grey" has a tendency to moralise or lumber, "The Wicked Lady" has a sparkling streak of humour almost throughout; watching it in the cinema, you realise for the first time just how many laughs there are as they sweep across the audience. But it also benefits from a galaxy of strong female stars, from the minor parts to the two leading roles: Patricia Roc pulls off the difficult trick of making her gentle, idealistic character both sympathetic and believable when faced with the formidable opposition of Margaret Lockwood's beautiful, amoral Barbara. Barbara as anti-heroine almost takes over the film, and manages to attract our sympathies to the extent that we find ourselves willing her deception of old Hogarth to succeed -- but ultimately she goes too far. Too far for Jerry Jackson, and too far for this viewer at least to feel anything but vicarious satisfaction as her 'bittersweet' ending turns entirely bitter. The Wicked Lady is bad -- bad to the bone.

    My main gripe with the film, ironically, is with the happy outcome as shown, after the high emotions and dark ironies that have led up to the finale. I don't hold any grudge against the lovers at all -- it's obvious that all is going to turn out well once the truth is out in the open, and I'm all in favour of their union -- but the way that it is heavy-handedly interjected into the final frames of the picture creates a virtually bathetic anti-climax. That particular outcome really might have been taken for granted, rather than pasted on thickly at precisely the wrong moment...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "When she came," says Sir Ralph about his wife, Lady Barbara, "a dark shadow crept over our lives...but it's lifting." He's speaking to Caroline, who has always loved him with a passion that was pure and true. "We shall ride again in the sunshine," Sir Ralph continues, "...sing and laugh and know happiness...and love." For those who cannot foretell the fate of evil women, no matter how spirited and beautiful they may be, read no further. The Wicked Lady may be a lusty Restoration melodrama, detested by the critics yet Britain's highest earning movie in 1946, but it has enough interest to warrant watching all the way through. This is because of the story, which centers on a, well, a wicked lady, but a lady of great spirit and energy. She's as attracted to adventure as she is bored by respectability. Fiancé stealing, highway robbery, shooting and smothering are just the spices needed to keep her love alive, to paraphrase Lorenz Hart. The other element that makes the movie watchable is the actors, particularly Margaret Lockwood as Lady Barbara and James Mason as the charming, energetic highwayman, Jerry Jackson. Jackson knows he'll wind up kicking his heels with a noose around his neck at Tyburn, but he'd rather it be later than sooner...and in-between he'd just as soon enjoy Lady Barbara.

    You must picture the times. The men wear higher wigs than the women, and their hats sport more feathers than most ostriches. Dress is elaborate and décolletage is on ample display. In fact, some scenes in The Wicked Lady had to be reshot before the film could be released in the States. It was thought too many Americans would feel threatened by Margaret Lockwood's bosom.

    Barbara Worth is a beautiful, bored young woman who, as amusement, steals the fiancé of her best friend, Caroline, and marries him. But the life of a well-to-do country squire in the person of Sir Ralph Skelton turns out to be boring beyond belief. When she loses a treasured brooch gambling, she decides she'll get it back after she hears of the exploits of Jerry Jackson, a highwayman. She does...and she finds the excitement as addictive as a drug. "Think of the exhilaration, the excitement and the danger," Barbara says. "Once a man has taken to the road, all else must seem tame and insipid. I don't see how he could ever give it up." Then, while holding up another carriage, she finds herself facing the real Jackson. Of course, it's not long before they form a rollicking partnership in bed as well as on the road. One thing leads to another...a spot of smothering, high-stakes robbery, a betrayal, the usual things...and before long Lady Barbara has paid the price, a bullet in her side, and alone as she dies. As we all know, a beautiful woman's sins must be washed away in blood, hers.

    This may sound like a thousand other heavy-breathing romances, but The Wicked Lady after all these years still entertains. The plot's spice comes from the very idea of the heroine not being a heroine at all. Lady Barbara almost makes us sympathize with the boredom of her married life. Her husband, Sir Ralph (Griffin Jones), is a good-looking, honest man with all the charisma of a piece of toast. One of her husband's retainers, old Hogarth (Felix Aylmer), constantly spouts personal doom from the Bible. Barbara, taking to horse and pistol and robbing carriages at night, finds this activity not only spices up her life, but makes her too tired to spice up the life of her husband. Her evil (pronounced in the movie, "eee-viil") nature is highly entertaining, even when she holds down a pillow over a sick man's face.

    Most importantly, the two leads shine. Margaret Lockwood was one of the most popular British actresses during the Forties. She had great looks, but she also was intelligent, humorous and knew her craft. Whatever the thing is that makes some actors vivid through the camera, she had it. James Mason as Jerry Jackson just about steals the film every time he's on screen. "Do you always take women by the throat?" asks Barbara when Jack has his hands around her neck to demonstrate who's in charge. "No," says Jackson, "I just take them." Mason brings everything -- threat, romance, charm -- to those five words. The next year, 1947, Mason would star in Odd Man Out, one of his greatest films, then it would be on to Hollywood.

    It seems to me that older movies can be enjoyed best when a person first takes a little time to learn about the film and the actors. Take Griffin Jones, the actor who plays Sir Ralph. He's skilled playing a conscientious and honorable man who makes a bad decision in marrying Barbara but tries to make the best of it. It's not a performance, however, that will stick in your mind. But if you've had the opportunity to see him as Narcy, the thoroughly vicious gang leader in 1947's They Made Me a Criminal, you'll wind up with a good deal of appreciation for his skill. And when you learn he was the father of Gemma Jones, who played Louisa Trotter in the terrific television series, The Duchess of Duke Street, it's an added pleasure.
  • This Gainsborough Picture costume drama stars Margaret Lockwood and James Mason with Lockwood playing the title role of The Wicked Lady. If you think this film bear resemblance to Forever Amber you'd be right. But Amber St.Clair is a Girl Scout next to the beautiful and treacherous Lockwood as Barbara Worth.

    It all starts with Lockwood coming to live with Roc who is about to be married to the propertied and nice, but rather dull Griffith Jones. Lockwood sees security there and when she sets her cap for Jones he and Roc don't have a prayer.

    But after that this minx craves excitement that Jones who is not just a landed squire, but concerned with social issues and ahead of his time that way. Lockwood after losing a precious ruby at cards then impersonates notorious highwayman James Mason and steals it back. Mason catches her and he should have obeyed his first impulse to kill her. But Lockwood uses her charms on him and the dashing Dick Turpin like highwayman is also hooked.

    This film really belongs to Lockwood. I've not seen too many people as amoral as Lockwood on the screen. Beautiful and deadly this woman is the equal of other amoral females such as Jane Greer in Out Of The Past and Anne Baxter in All About Eve. Four men who trusted her meet death at her hands.

    James Mason also deserves a mention. He's got quite the swagger in him as highwayman Jerry Jackson. Sad in terms of acting is competing with Lockwood who gets the woman's role of a lifetime, but he more than holds his own.

    If you like Gainsborough's English costume dramas you'll love The Wicked Woman.
  • I grew up loving this film and its still amazing fun with drama, sex (1940s style)double crossing and corsets. Lockwood is at her best and looks stunning throughout the film. A great British cast with James Mason, Patricia Roc and Michael Rennie who looked incredibly sexy and when you consider his other work it hard to believe its the same man. Barbara Worth is in my opinion the most wicked lady ever put on film .

    What I'll comment on is that I got a friend to watch it recently and said this is the most wicked woman on film, which left her unimpressed until she watched and then agreed whole heartedly that Lockwood is the most wicked lady ever put on the silver screen. Its campy, overly dramatic and glamorous, what more could you want from a 1940s classic!
  • In the Seventeenth Century, in England, the naive and pure Caroline (Patricia Roc) invites her cousin and best friend Barbara Worth (Margaret Lockwood) to come from London and stay with her a couple of days before her wedding with her beloved bridegroom, the wealthy magistrate Sir Ralph Skelton (Griffith Jones). The selfish, evil and wicked Barbara uses her beauty and seduces the weak Ralph, who falls in love for her. Caroline calls off the wedding and Barbara marries Ralph. When Barbara loses a jewel inherited from her mother gambling with Lady Henrietta Kingsolver (Enid Stamp-Taylor), she pretends to be the famous highway thief Captain Jerry Jackson (James Mason), recovers her jewels and begins a career of crime, looking for excitement stealing travelers in stagecoaches. When she meets the real Jerry Jackson on the road, she becomes her passionate lover and also a killer. Meanwhile Ralph realizes that he loves Caroline, but it seems to be too late for their life together.

    "Wicked Lady" maybe naive, dated and moralist in the present standards of the society, but actually it is a delightful romantic adventure. Margaret Lockwood is an amazing villain, unable to adapt to the dull and boring life of a housewife in the country; James Mason is perfect as a witty and bon-vivant thief; and Patricia Roc is great as a sweet and innocent young woman, capable of sacrificing her love to please her beloved fiancé. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Mulher Diabólica" ("Evil Woman")
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The spoilers in this review are offered as a public service, because the only way to enjoy this costume melodrama is to know that our protagonist, the Lady Barbara Skelton, gets gunned down in the end. And not a moment too soon. I'd have shot the screen myself but I was afraid I'd hit James Mason.

    The original 1943 novel, called "The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton" (I guess people didn't whine about spoilers back then), was written by a woman who tackles shallow beauty head-on. Her heroine is devastatingly gorgeous (well, Margaret Leighton isn't my idea of a Venus, but never mind) and she seems to think that if you have beauty, nothing else matters. But other things do matter, such as the fact that Lady Barbara's immediate and only response when someone gets in her way is homicide. She murders three men in five attempts. A serial femme fatale, she's got a case of dissocial personality disorder that should have landed her in either Bedlam or Newgate.

    Lockwood plays her as a narcissistic vamp, wearing so much makeup that I thought of her as a Restoration-era Joan Rivers (or a restoration- era Joan Rivers, ha!). Yet Lady B. is irresistible to all three principal male characters-- Michael Rennie, James Mason, and Griffith Jones, all of whom do good work, as does Patricia Roc. Of course, all three admirers realize in short order what a psychotic bitch Barbara is, but the plot keeps them all in her orbit until one of them finally does gun her down - accidentally, in what is meant to be either irony or just desserts. Given the dramatic death scene with a boom lifting the camera out through the windows and heavenward, I presume we're meant to give a damn about her death. Which I guess I did, if "give a damn" can be expressed in a rousing cheer.
  • This romantic adventure must have seemed shockingly subversive in its day. A wealthy upper class English woman schemes, plots and manipulates everyone around her for her own satisfaction. She uses her privileged position to embark on secret activities of a decidedly anti-social kind. There's a clever sex-role reversal as her activities prove her more daring and dashing than most of the male characters. But naturally there's a tall, dark and handsome stranger to keep up the love interest, and this wicked lady is not backward in coming forward when she meets the right man.

    The wishy-washy weakness and gullibility of every other character make the plot unconvincing in the extreme, but those who thirst for Romance will overlook that.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Margaret Lockwood portrays a real 17th century tramp in this 1945 film which really has some amateurish writing when you think of it.

    Ms. Lockwood steals her cousin's fiancée on the day of the latter's wedding. She does it in faster mode than when Scarlett O'Hara stole Frank Kennedy from Sue Ellen in "Gone With the Wind."

    Barbara (Lockwood) could never be satisfied with one man. She goes from man to man. The woman has more lust in her life than can ever be imagined. She even cavorts with Michael Rennie on her wedding day.

    When she loses a brooch to her stuffy sister-in-law, she embarks upon a career of crime as a highway robber to get it back.

    This is a story of a woman who could not be with a man for a moment. James Mason appears as her new lover and fellow thief.

    Patricia Roc is sympathetic and overly sweet as Caroline, the cousin who lost her fiancée and stays on in the house. To think, we thought that Olivia De Havilland was such a sap in "Gone With the Wind." Roc even has her beat here.

    Of course, we can't allow for Barbara to get away with a life of crime as well as murder. She gets better with a gun than Annie Oakley did and kills 2 people along the way. Poor old, Felix Aylmer, she does him in via the poison route. What a fool he plays, quoting from the bible while actually believing that Barbara will reform.

    The ending is of course that Barbara gets what she deserves so that husband Griffin Jones should be able to go back to Caroline, the woman he should not have ditched to begin with. Imagine, Jones and Rennie were willing to switch women, but this was unknown to Barbara so she plots to put a bullet in Jones but instead, she gets shot by lover Rennie in her disguise as a robber!

    Come on. The writing here is actually churlish.
  • Wonderfully entertaining rogue adventures set in the British countryside in the 17th Century. Scheming, cunning woman steals away the sweetheart of her insipid cousin, only to find marriage and her life of leisure a bore. Longing for excitement--and determined to get back a brooch she lost in a bet--this very wicked lady impersonates the legendary Highwayman, horse-riding robber of coaches at nightfall. Margaret Lockwood initially appears to go over the top in her breathless histrionics...until it becomes clear she's been deliberately directed towards broad villainy (a smart decision since the whole enterprise has an infectious sense of naughty fun). Adaptation of Magdalen King-Hall's novel "The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton" nearly borders on camp, yet is held in check by a great narrative, fabulous locations, and a first-rate cast. Lively, funny, engaging, with an ironic ending and lots of eye-popping décolletage! Remade in 1983 by Michael Winner, but this version would be hard to top. ***1/2 from ****
  • "The Wicked Lady" is a fabulous old film and is well worth seeing. I especially appreciate the writing, as the characters of Barbara is consistent and thoroughly captivating from start to finish.

    Margaret Lockwood stars as Barbara, a woman who is truly evil. When her best friend is about to marry a rich and handsome man, Barbara maneuvers to steal him away from her. While this is very nasty, the vileness of Barbara soon becomes apparent. She cannot take being bored and country life can be dull. On a lark after losing a bet, she decides to pose as a highway man and steals back her jewels. And, in the process, she finds that it's exciting and fits the bill, for now, for adventure. She also discovers a new lover, a famous thief named Captain Jack (James Mason)...but even an affair with him isn't enough and he need for evil and excitement is only just begun! By the end of the film, she's murdered several and committed countless crimes...and hasn't learned a single thing from her experiences!

    I have a different perspective about this film than the average person because I am a trained psychotherapist. When I saw "The Wicked Lady" I quickly realized that the writers created a fabulous portrait of what would today be labeled a Borderline Personality with strong Antisocial features. And, unlike many films of the era that try to write in a ridiculous conversion experience (where the evil person will inexplicably see the light!), they did NOT do this and remained consistent with her character. Overall, a magnificent film with a lot to commend it....excellent writing, acting and direction.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Surely that must be apparent to even the most Pre - Freudian student of humanity in 1680. James Mason's smiling psychopathic criminal is another one. All the men are dazzled by Miss Lockwood's assets,the women just hope she'll leave their men alone. A burst of "Jolene" on the soundtrack would give them a hint. I lost track frankly of who was married to who,but found none of them very simpatico. I mean,Griffith Jones?Nice - but - dim doesn't even get near to covering it. Ditto Michael Rennie. A splendid hanging scene is the highlight with Mr Mason as insouciant as a man who knows.....well,I won't spoil it for you. A splendid breathless performance from Miss Lockwood holds this amusing trifle together. I wasn't allowed to see it in 1948 but my mum thought it was great. A reccomendation indeed.
  • AAdaSC15 October 2016
    Margaret Lockwood (Barbara) is the wicked lady in question and there is no doubt that she is wicked. She is brilliant and very funny in some scenes. As is highwayman James Mason (Jackson). Lockwood is ruthlessly driven by wealth and excitement and she is brutal when it comes to revenge or getting what she wants.

    Mason's entry into the film is a cracker as always. In this film, we have him watching dumbfounded from a hill as Lockwood robs a stagecoach on his patch. She's pretty good at it and an alliance is struck. The rest of the cast all do well in their roles – perhaps Patricia Roc (Caroline) is a bit too gentle in her reactions given how Lockwood is treating her.

    The dialogue is entertaining as is its delivery by all concerned and we get great costumes and settings. Hooray for Gainsborough!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I first saw the original (black and white) film on TV when I was a kid and have never forgotten it, especially one scene in particular which I shall come to later.

    The later film follows the plot of the first film closely. The dialogue is often word-for-word. The main difference action-wise is that several doses of nudity have been added to the 1983 version, including an embarrassingly tacky cat-fight with whips. In IMDb's trivia section for this movie it is stated, twice, that the whip scene was already in the 1945 version but it certainly was NOT in the one that I saw.

    The original film is wonderfully cast: the mild-mannered but sympathetically dignified Sir Ralph (Griffith Jones) the gentleman-rogue highwayman (James Mason) the irritatingly pious butler Hogarth (Felix Aylmer) the dashing Kit Locksby (Michael Rennie) and sweet Caroline (Patricia Roc).

    Interestingly, Patricia Roc (the supporting actress) is actually more beautiful than Barbara Lockwood, but Lockwood, in the role of the scheming and danger-loving wicked Lady, carries the film with ease and one feels that nobody could have played the role so perfectly! All this, however, is far from the case with the remake. Sir Ralph is played by a far, far too old and unattractive Denholm Elliot.

    Kit Locksby is played by a totally undashing and wooden Oliver Tobias.

    Glynis Barber is OK as Caroline and Geilgud is pretty much the same as Aylmer in the butler role.

    It is clear that the producers have been very careful to make the supporting actresses much less attractive than 'star' Dunaway! This can be seen not only in the Carolines but in Ralph's sister Henrietta who, in the first film, is attractive and arch (Enid Stamp-Taylor) but plain and peevish in the second (Prunella Scales).

    Alan Bates manages the highwayman role OK, until the speech-before-the-hanging scene. Here you can't help but compare him to Mason and I'm afraid he falls very far short.

    But all this would be sort of acceptable if the lead could carry the most important role, the wicked Lady herself. But Faye Dunaway is just not in the same league as Lockwood. And because so many scenes are exactly the same as the original, you can't help but compare them.

    Add to this the fact that Winner has added several instances of gratuitous nudity along with a tacky sex-by-an-open-fire scene between Tobias and Barber. To avoid confusion let me emphasise that the following concerns the original Wicked Lady film and NOT the remake! This film succeeds because it precisely balances all our conflicting sympathies. Yes, we DO feel sorry for Caroline that Barbara comes and steals the love of her life, Sir Ralph; but we also understand that Barbara soon gets bored with his staidness. She may be wicked but she's FUN and we enjoy seeing her impose her own terms upon the household: opening the locked room with the secret passage and moving in there to have both her independence and an escape route to freedom and excitement.

    When she begins her wild affair with the highwayman she cuckolds Ralph and yet we don't feel very sorry for him because we know that he was not only foolish to have married her in the first place but in doing so he spurned and humiliated the gentle Caroline.

    Eventually Barbara's lawlessness leads to harm: her killing of the coachman, Ned (for which she seems to feel genuine remorse) and then the poisoning of the butler. When Hogarth discovers Barbara's wicked ways she realises all will be lost if he talks. Quickly understanding the only way to get round him, Barbara appeals to his spiritual pride, begging him to help her 'reform'.

    And so begins a regime of 'goodness' and 'good works'. This is rather comical and we sympathise with her trials, and, strangely, continue to sympathise with her, even when she uses poison to get rid of her tormentor. But when the dying butler threatens to talk, Barbara must deal with the situation quickly, and deal with it she does.

    In the movie's, for me, most unforgettable scene, Barbara presses the pillow on Hogarth's face to finish him off. I don't know quite why the director felt obliged to make an insertion at this point but we are given a sudden extreme close-up of her eyes looking shifty, perhaps intended to remind us of her wickedness or possible simply to remind us that Ralph and the others are just beyond the curtain. Whatever, but after this insert we are given a shot so beautifully framed and lighted that Lady Barbara looks almost angelic. And as she finishes the deed she gives a little sigh of accomplishment that is almost orgasmic! The film manipulates our sympathies so deftly that we don't really grasp how immoral it all really is.

    Caroline is united in the end with her Ralph and we think this is only right and good. After all, Ralph is the one who, in a key scene, stands up to all the other landowners and judges and even berates them for their treatment of the poor, showing that, though mild at home, he CAN be tough when it comes to fighting for justice.

    Note how, in this scene in the later movie, Ralph's speech is severely curtailed, making him seem far more weak and ineffectual.

    The remake in fact handles everything very coarsely. Winner and Dunaway make Barbara so grotesque that we can neither identify with her nor feel sympathy for her.

    So, if you're planning to watch The Wicked Lady (1983) please don't bother. Hunt down a copy of the original from 1945. You won't be disappointed!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    And that so far usually means down. Margaret Lockwood is the beautiful but conniving cousin of Patricia Loc who is engaged to wealthy landowner Griffith Jones, but not for long. Once Lockwood is married to him, she turns her eyes on wealthy Michael Rennie, a wedding guest, revealing boredom no sooner than the cutting of the wedding cake. The stage becomes set for Lockwood to turn Jezebel as she becomes bored as a country wife and becomes a "Highwayman" (masked bandit), beginning an affair with an already notorious bandit (James Mason) but destroying herself in the process by continuing her lust for Rennie right under the nose of the entire household.

    An artistic triumph perfect under the Gainsborough trademark, this is costume comedy/drama with class, morality lessons, some witty bitchy dialog (especially between Lockwood and wise-cracking Enid Stamp-Taylor as Jones' suspicious sister) and an ingenious ending you won't see coming. Felix Aylmer is excellent as the extremely religious butler to the manor who takes Lockwood under his wing to reform her but ends up paying for it dearly. Mason is suave and romantic as the bandit who reveals scruples while Lockwood reveals none. Everything about the movie is exquisite, whether being the breathtaking art direction, the ultra-modern crisp photography, or the wonderful leading lady you won't be able to take your eyes off of.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ah, The Wicked Lady...Gainsborough's most wickedly enjoyable film of them all! While my favourite Gainsborough (and the one I believe is the best) remains Madonna Of The Seven Moons, The Wicked Lady is endlessly enjoyable.

    Here we have, set in Regency England, a completely amoral, deliciously BAD villianess, Lady Barbara Skelton, flaunting every social convention and loving it! She steals her best friend Caroline's (the lovely Patricia Roc)husband-to-be Sir Ralph (the milksop Griffith Jones), marries him, takes to life as a highway woman for thrills (and there she meets an even bigger thrill in the form of Captain Jerry Jackson, a deliciously sexy James Mason), murders a few people (one of Ralph's tenants, her bible-quoting servant Hogarth and Mason-after a couple of attempts, perhaps as payback for her whipping from Mason two years earlier!), all the while pining over Kit (Michael Rennie), the man who "would have married her if he had met her the day before her wedding"- and she ends up shot by Kit, dying in the ultimate act of ironic justice, in his arms as she makes a dying confession of her numerous sins.

    Sounds like a riot, doesn't it? It is! It's completely outrageous and so, so much fun! I never get bored watching this film. Here's why:

    -Lockwood's Barbara is just so darn enjoyable to watch. The raven-haired villianess (symbolically clothed in black) sweeps into and ruins young cousin Caroline's life after the girl makes the biggest mistake a pretty young damsel has ever made in pictures; inviting Lockwood to her wedding. Lockwood, after her success as the social-climbing Hesther in The Man In Grey, became Gainsborough's chief villianess, perhaps by virtue of her raven locks and buxom appearance. And she's good here too- the Gainsborough actors could actually act, and it is a credit to their abilities and screen charisma that they make these outlandish plots work, but make them so darn watchable! Trust Barbara at your peril, folks!

    -James Mason's sexy highwayman. Let it be said that I love Mason- I know that he hated his Gainsborough years, and the terrible scripts he got, but he actually is damn good in these films! Here he is sardonic and witty and even though he may have hated the film (he punched director Arliss on the nose on the first day of filming) he looks as if he is having a good time, spitting out racy lines of dialogue with relish. Those encounters with Lockwood at the inn and by the lakeside in the moonlit are HOT! If I was Barbara I would forget about Rennie altogether, turf her wedding ring back at Ralph (which she never wanted anyway, she never loved him, only his money!) and run off with Jackson! Any normal female would want to be his Doxy for all time...

    -The set design and costuming. Ah, Maryiot Cells looks lovely and the controversy over the girl's plunging cleavage is always a fun story to tell

    -The unusually racy dialogue, and it's frank awareness of sex. You've got to love Mason's retort to Barbara when she complains, on their first meeting "Do you always take women by the throat?" "No, I just take them". And it gets better! At the inn, between Barbara and Jackson...

    Barbara (after Mason takes off his mask!): You remind me of a man I knew Jackson: A lover? Barbara: We met but once...and the moment was not...proficious

    And when Lockwood starts spending her nights robbing the highways with her lover... Griffith Jones: "I don't like this lying in bed half the day Lockwood: Why should it worry you, as long as I am always unaccompanied?"

    -Patricia Roc and Jean Kent. Two great actresses. Oh, Lockwood is decent too, but I feel Kent was the most talent of the Gainsborough girls, and, unfortunately the most under-used (she only really gets a chance to shine under the Gainsborough banner in the fun Caravan as a sexy Spanish gypsy girl). Here she gets but two minutes of screen time, but, as always, makes a lasting impression as Mason's original doxy. There is a lovely story about Kent and Mason whilst making the film....

    "During The Wicked Lady, we were sitting in this cart going to the execution. They (the producers) wanted me to be pale and wan, and so I didn't have any make-up on. He looked across at me and said, 'You should never wear make-up. You look so wonderful as you are.'" (Jean Kent)

    And Roc is no slouch either! Noel Coward called her a "complete actress" and she, like De Havilland in Gone With The Wind, brings so much belief and quiet skill to her roles as the second-lead good-girl that you wholly believe her character (Calvert had this quality too). She got the chance to diverge and play the bitch twice at Gainsborough to Lockwood's heroine in Jassy and Love Story but she was always the erstwhile second lead. The girls fare much better than the guys (Mason excluded, he is always great!) here. Jones and Rennie seem swamped by their colourless roles and Lockwood's dominant bitch performance. Maybe Stewart Granger would have worked better in Rennie's role...I'm sure he would have!

    -The supporting cast. Alymer is a hoot as Hogarth (taking more than a few leafs from Wuthering Heights Joseph), Enid Stamp-Taylor is priceless as Henrietta and the inimitable Martita Hunt is fun as one of the servants, noting sagely (before Barbara's arrival) "Cats have green eyes. I don't like cats". Needless to say, Barbara has green eyes!
  • I was looking forward to viewing this old British costume drama,after hearing a lot about it. I was a little disappointed.James Mason was my reason for seeking out this film,but he does not appear that much.His dashing highwayman is fun to watch,but he has too little screen time to make him memorable.Griffith Jones is a bore along with the other male actors except for Felix Aylmer.His turn as the bible-quoting servant is the best thing about this movie.Margaret Lockwood's wicked lady is way over the top.The whole movie is filled to the brim with melodrama and racy dialog.Some of the dialog must have been quite shocking 60 years ago.Today it is amusing,and makes a rainy afternoon pass enjoyably.
  • I came to this film with reasonable expectations after watching the slightly earlier Gainsborough Films feature "The Man In Grey", which I found to be very entertaining if lowbrow entertainment, with its historical high-jinks and added sadism, sex and death. This too is based on a popular Recency-romp novel of the day and just for good measure featured two of its main stars in its cast, James Mason and Margaret Lockwood besides being likewise directed by Leslie Arliss.

    It would be wicked of me however to make the same claims for this one. Actually, watching it I was reminded of nothing so much as the classic "Black Adder The Third" episode "Amy and Amiability", which also featured a cross-dressing dandy highwayman only at times this was even funnier, if accidentally so.

    Lockwood was the baddie in "The Man In Grey", but she's even more evil here. First she breaks up the impending marriage of Griffith Jones and Patricia Roc's Sir Percy and Bob/Amy, sorry, make that Sir Ralph Skelton and Caroline by flashing her eyes and decolletage at the simpering knight and it has to be said right here and now that this movie takes ladies' neck-lines to a new low.

    Then, just as she's snared her very wealthy but gormless prey, she claps eyes on Flash-heart, sorry that should be Michael Rennie's handsome, gentlemanly Kit Locksby which mishap combined with her crushingly boring life as the idle lady of the manor, sees her promptly falling in with James Mason's dashing, popular Dick Turpin-type highwayman Jerry Jackson. A young fellow-me-lad is then introduced to the viewer solely for the inevitable purpose of bestowing blood on Barbara's hands before the old family retainer, the god-fearing Hogarth whose endless biblical quotations had me in unintentional fits of laughter, next begins to suspect her, which soon has Lockwood reaching for a pillow again just like in "The Man In Grey".

    Also as per the previous film there are conflicting interests in what I last calculated as a love pentagon as the action gallops ahead, taking in a rape, another murder and a hanging before reaching its breathless conclusion where just desserts are duly dished out to the deserving principals.

    The most successful film at the U.K. box office in its year it just goes to show what a wartime audience will lap up to escape their daily travails. Me, I mostly hooted with laughter at the hammy acting, florid language and ludicrous plotting.

    Wicked it certainly was, but not in the modern, laudatory sense of the word.
  • The Wicked Lady is directed by Leslie Arliss and Arliss adapts the screenplay from Magdalen King-Hall's novel. It stars Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc, Griffith Jones, Michael Rennie, Felix Aylmer and Enid Stamp-Taylor. Music is by Louis Levy and cinematography by Jack E. Cox.

    Plot finds Lockwood as the wicked lady of the title, a woman who has absolutely no guilt in stealing her friend's man, in cheating, gambling and much much worse...

    An absolute riot out of Gainsborough Pictures' juicy melodrama period, pic finds the studio pushing one of their female lead characters to a devilish edge. Here we have Lady Barbara Skelton (Lockwood) pushing way over the boundaries of social acceptability, all while deliciously thumbing her nose at feminine stereotypes. She has the men dangling from her strings of puppetry power, regardless of if they are morons or the ones who would happily give her the world.

    Things go up a further gear once Mason's dandy highwayman joins the fray, for Skelton and Jackson seem a match made in rouge heaven. But there are twists and turns throughout, some truly surprising sequences, plenty of racy thunder for 1945 (laughably the pic was edited in America as the Hays Code objected to Lockwood's cleavage) - mind you it is a sight to behold, no wonder Captain Jackson slides in for a good snog every chance he gets!

    Unsurprisingly the era of film making dictated there has to be some sort of moral ethic in how the picture finishes, and yet it's actually not disappointing. There's a noirish kink to it, a sort of society sick joke getting back at the woman who has so readily flipped the bird at the society around her. Cast are bang on form, so much so it would be unfair to single one of them out (ok, maybe Mason since his gallows shenanigans is something to be joyful about), while Arliss (The Man in Grey) blends the various larks, lust and ligatures with consummate skill. 8/10
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