Monday, February 23, 2009

Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Director: Bryan Forbes

Starring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough

More Info: IMDB

Plot: Myra, a self-styled psychic in London, concocts a scheme to gain celebrity. She convinces Billy, her weak-willed husband, to kidnap the young daughter of wealthy parents. She and Billy will demand money, and then she will go to the parents with extra-sensory messages that will help the police find the child and the ransom. The plan unfolds beautifully until...

My Rating: 8.5/10

Would I watch it again? You bet, Guv'nah!

I was not expecting this. But then again, I didn't know what to expect. WOW! Excellent film. The B&W widescreen photography is outstanding and it wouldn't have worked nearly as well in color.

I really dig how this is initially treated innocently as a married couple discussing what seems like their mundane lives until you discover that they're talking about the kidnapping of a small girl. Now this is my kind of movie, taking something horrible and looking at it from the rational (to their way of thinking) viewpoint of the criminals. Without spoiling anything I will say that it plays out with a balance between innocent/well-intentioned and sinister. There are quite a few tense moments (I seem to be encountering more and more films with moments like these lately - very nice) that will have you on the edge. Watch this one in the dark with no interruptions, please.

Nice score by a long-time favorite, John Barry. Underplayed at times and very effective.

Myra: Why did I ever marry you, Billy?
Billy: I don't know, Dear, why did you?
Myra: Because you're weak...and...because you need me.
Billy: Well, those are two good reasons.

We hear about a child that the two principles had that died young. Myra talks about him frequently and the conversations they have (as a psychic she speaks to the dead). At times I couldn't help but be reminded of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966) which explores a similar theme but in a different way. And like WOOLF, the performances here, notably Stanley and Attenborough, are outstanding. As the film progresses your perceptions of the two leads change, culminating in a nice climactic finale.

SEANCE feels very much like a stage play and it could easily be adapted to one. If you like your thrillers on the "blanket pulled up to throat" variety, this one will serve you well. It's a pleasant deviation from the other stuff Hollywood puts out and you'd do very well by giving this one a go. I'm certainly glad I did.

No comments:

Post a Comment