25 August 2005 | Moor-Larkin
British costume Melodrama in full colour
I have only managed to get an Austrian-dubbed version of this film. As Losey is quoted as saying he preferred to view his movie as a 'silent film' I flatter myself that I am seeing the Directors Cut! The quality of the cinematography is as stunning as the sight of McGoohan in his full russet-haired glory in 1958. With full beard he bounds through his scenes with the carefree abandon of a man completing a contractual request. His bullying and abusive treatment of Melina Mercouri also forms a neat contradiction to his gallant Danger Man persona of a few years later.
One or two dialogue-ridden scenes had me struggling to guess what sub-plot was being hatched but as Losey predicted, you can pretty much follow the story by watching the moving pictures! The famous 'Porphyria' ending that leaves McGoohan to make his watery escape from justice emphasises the utterly anti-hero approach to all the main characters. Keith Michell is dissolute and craven, Mercouri is utterly domineering over her weak-willed victim but then equally craven when dealing with the ruthless McGoohan. He, meanwhile is a physical coward when confronted.
Dame Flora evidently helps the put-upon sister to retrieve her inheritance (at least, I think that was what was going on!) but to be honest you are more interested in the evil-doers than the do-gooders by then.
The quality of the scenery, costume and set designs never flags. 1958 was probably not the year to launch a film with no romantic hero or happy ending but this high quality colour epic has given a snapshot of McGoohan to be treasured.
UPDATED 8/6/06. Finally got hold of a copy with the original dialogue. Have to admit it's even better when you can understand the words. McGoohan is utterly amoral, Belle becomes slightly more vulnerable - she adores him so. The subtlety of the lawyers sub-plot becomes more apparent too and explains the imprisonment of the sister in the Folly on the lake, which I was always a bit puzzled about. McGoohan got some good lines. I like his very first where he comments to Belle that he prefers horses to women because he could rely on horses :-)). The music was a bit silly in the one or two chase sequences but mostly there just wasn't any - so I don't know why Losey was so upset about it. Maybe the video-releases didn't include the cinema music. With the dialogue the plot is so obviously Losey working out the angles for his famous movie: "The Servant".