5 July 2006 | bob the moo
An acceptable melodrama but sadly not much more
It is 1831 and Irishman Charles Adare travels to the forming country of Australia with his cousin who is taking up the position of Governor. Seeking his fortune, Adare settles with "bad company" when he meets the former criminal-made-good, Flusky and accepts an invitation to his home. When Adare meets Flusky's wife he remembers her as a child growing up in Ireland. However it appears that "Lady" Flusky is disliked an avoided by her peers because she is an alcoholic and her own house is run by maid Milly while she hides in the corners. Adare's attempts to get Henrietta to return to her former self causes tensions and buried secrets to be unearthed.
I leave the debate over whether this is Hitchcock's worst film to those that debate such things and try to list everything comparing apples and potatoes seemingly for the sake of it. As surprising as it may be, I'm not one of those but I can understand why this film has been labelled such by others because it is surprisingly run-of-the-mill for that great director. The story is soapy etc on the surface but it had great dark potential with so many threads and emotions floating around. It is surprising then that none of them are made more of and the film just sticks with the genre by becoming nothing more than an acceptable period melodrama. There is still just about enough about it to make you remember that this was from Hitchcock but I was disappointed by how straight-down-the-line it actually was in the end. The direction is still good though, with nice camera movements and shots, and the sets are colourful enough to fit the genre (if not the spirit of birthing Australia).
The cast try hard but nobody can lift the material all by themselves. To his credit, Cotton tries hard with a brooding and dark performance but he can't do it alone. Bergman is good and could have done wonders with a much more complex character, in the end what she has to deliver is nothing special and just melodrama. I didn't care for Wilding; his performance wasn't up to much and I dn't think he eld his own that well alongside Cotton and Bergman. Support from Parker and Leighton is solid but they aren't given that much to do.
Overall then this is a serviceable enough melodrama but it is easy to see why fans of Hitchcock would be forgiven for expecting more to have been made of it. The cast is good and the potential is there in the story but, aside from a steady hand and a few interesting touches, this is really just a genre melodrama that could have been more than it was.