25 April 2015 | Leofwine_draca
Good-natured and atmospheric children's adventure film
THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE is based on a story by the great and spooky children's author Joan Aiken. In it, a pair of children are holed up in a remote mansion in a snowy locale surrounded by the titular wolves. They're in the care of scheming governess Stephanie Beacham and unscrupulous lawyer Mel Smith, and the story becomes a battle of wits between child and adult as each attempts to dispose of the other.
The film's visual style is what makes this so distinctive and indeed I remember loving it as a children. Carriage rides through the snowy landscapes with wolf accompaniment bring to mind the delights of the BBC's THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, while the cast of seasoned performers add plenty to the entertainment value. Richard O'Brien is unrecognisable as the butler and Geraldine James is delightfully ghoulish as the owner of a laundry which utilises child labour.
Inevitably it's Beacham who dominates proceedings as the villain of the piece, although I found her pantomime acting to be far too over the top; she's much more believable when she plays it straight as in the likes of ...AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS! The child actors give efficient turns here and the screenplay has a delightfully macabre streak with some gruesome deaths for some of the characters. Certainly for fans of vintage children's drama who don't mind overlooking the shortcomings of the production (such as the dogs in costume), THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE is a good-natured and atmospheric story.