The sixth-and-a-half Powell movie I’ve shown to Katy. I always think of Powell/Pressburger films as the kind of thing she’ll love, despite the fact that she hasn’t loved any, and has roundly disliked at least three. This one was going well, with a strong-willed female lead until, cornered by her confusion and desire, she falls down a well to her death. Sorry, Katy.
Hazel (Jennifer Jones) is lovely with a disconcerting gypsy accent, lives with her father Esmond Knight (just saw him in Contraband), who doesn’t seem blind at all in this movie. Rich asshole David Farrar (also kinda an asshole in Black Narcissus) hotly desires her, but she hides away from him and finally marries meek minister Cyril Cusack (Odd Man Out, Fahrenheit 451). They sleep in separate bedrooms and he can’t bring himself to touch her – shades of Smiles of a Summer Night – and so she ends up back with David Farrar, shaming her husband and outraging his mother (Sybil Thorndike) and congregation. Hazel is attracted/repelled by Farrar all along, and he seems like the love ’em-and-leave ’em type but obsesses over Hazel for years, so it’s unclear just how this is going to work out. Of course it doesn’t – she tries to run from everybody at once, wild like her pet fox (thanks, Katy) towards certain doom.
Jennifer Jones and David Farrar:
We knew that the fiery pagan girl wouldn’t be easily domesticated by her mild Christian husband, and would’ve known very well that she wouldn’t live through the movie if we’d paid attention to the signs: the film’s title, the bottomless pit shown in the first act, and the fact that the first time we see her at home, she’s framed inside a coffin.
Strong, deep colors and expert production design, as expected from a Powell/Pressburger/Heckroth picture. My favorite character was Andrew Vessons (Hugh Griffith) as Farrar’s contemptuous coachman. Movie was cut down considerably by David O. Selznick for the U.S. release with added close-ups and explanation, doing nothing for the film’s reputation.
A couple of characters: Hugh Griffith above and Esmond Knight below