Movies/Television

The Allure of ‘My Cousin Rachel’.

Some years ago, I listened to the audiobook of ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and like her previous work, I was drawn into Daphne du Maurier’s world. As Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 104th birthday this month, I felt it appropriate to watch one of her films.

One of the things that drew me in straight away was seeing Richard Burton as Philip Ashley, which was his first Hollywood role. I’ve always liked Richard Burton and absolutely love his voice and he does well in this role. He plays a convincing angry, tormented, even obsessed character which shifts from revenge to love and back again. Olivia de Havilland portrays a friendly, charming widow, where on occasion, the audience sees another side to her, leaving one to question if she is all she appears to be.

Suspicious of his cousin, Philip enters Rachel’s bedroom, searching her drawers for evidence. Here he discovers seeds. Sadly, though, I think more could have been made leading up to this discovery. Perhaps the hints were too subtle, like when Rachel makes tea. Other than the mention of a tree in Italy in passing towards the end of the film, there is no indication of Rachel’s interest in botany or of laburnum and its poison.

I was impressed with both the film’s costumes and set design. The sets include a couple of scenes in Italy, but mainly those of Ashley House in Cornwall. The architecture within Ashley House, with its timber and stonework, give it a very Gothic atmosphere.

Overall, though, my takeaway from the entire film was Richard Burton’s performance. Perhaps it may also have to do with the fact that he is the main character and the story is told from his point of view. We see his anger and mistrust turn into an obsession so that at times he verges on madness.

This 1952 film version is a good adaptation of the novel, filled with atmosphere and suspense. I just think more could have been made of the possibility of poison to further heighten the suspicion towards Rachel for the viewer, as it had done for Philip Ashley.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

Netflix has resurrected this series I used to watch in the 1980s, once hosted by Robert Stack. This season of six episodes involves disappearances, shocking murders, and UFO encounters. I love a good mystery and I binge-watched this show. I’m really looking forward to a second season. It’s made me want to revisit the original series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Dark Angel (Amazon Prime Video)
This is a drama miniseries, based on the life of Mary Ann Cotton. Played by Joanna Froggatt (of Downton Abby fame), she portrays Britain’s first female serial killer. I enjoyed this show, and Froggatt does well in the role. Maybe it’s because I have seen her in other more ‘nicer’ roles, seeing her in this one made me feel uneasy.

Doc Martin, Season 8 (Netflix)

For something a bit lighter this month, I returned to Portwenn. I really like the Doc (his lack of social skills included), and this fictional Cornish town with its quirky characters. I especially enjoyed the final episode, with a special appearance by Sigourney Weaver, and her interchanges with Mrs. Tishell. 🙂

Do you enjoy watching old movies? What have you been watching this month? Have world events inspired you to watch something lighter or has it made little difference to your viewing habits?

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Rebecca’.

A few months ago, I listened to the audiobook of Rebecca, which was the perfect excuse to watch the 1940 film version all over again. This film introduced me to the book when I was a kid and has been one of my favourites ever since.

The film stays reasonably close to the book, where the young, nameless protagonist marries Maxim de Winter, owner of Manderley. Here she is witness to constant reminders of Rebecca, his former wife so that she believes Maxim is still in love with her. The constant reminder of his first wife is strengthened by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Played by Judith Anderson, she does a brilliant job of portraying a cold, vindictive, and jealous character. Mrs. Danvers is loyal to Rebecca, almost to the point of obsession.

This obsession is revealed in its full glory during the scene where Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs de Winter around Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time. The room has not changed since the day Rebecca died and is immaculate. The curtains, the furniture, even down to the embroidery, it truly is a beautiful room. Like many of the other sets, a lot of work went into making this one. So much so, I wouldn’t have minded a room like that myself. 😉

Joan Fontaine does a great job as the shy, tormented Mrs de Winter and Laurence Oliver also portrays a convincing Maxim de Winter. Perhaps it was due to his portrayal that I have always seen Maxim and the new Mrs de Winter in a father/daughter relationship, rather than any great romance.

The suspense in this film has a slow, gradual build, heightening the tension and the mystery surrounding Rebecca. You do not see any images of her, but one does not have to because the characters help to build a picture in the viewers’ minds, adding to the suspense. This is what Alfred Hitchcock excelled at.

The special effects are of-course dated, but it still helps with the overall mood of the film, especially when it comes to Manderley itself. Despite this, I think the film is a masterpiece of the Gothic genre and one of Hitchcock’s greatest works.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Supernatural, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

This series follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they search for their missing father, who is on the trail of the daemon that killed their mother over twenty years ago. I had watched this season of Supernatural some years ago, but then somehow forgot all about it. I enjoy the stories, which include urban legends, as well as the banter between the brothers, and the efforts they go to when it comes to involving themselves in investigations. I now have a lot of catching up to do with the Winchester brothers!

Deadwater Fell (Foxtel)
After a house fire kills a mother and her three children, the only remaining survivor is her husband. Investigators discover all five were drugged, and that this ideal family was far from happy. There are a few twists in this show so that the viewer questions who is responsible. With David Tennent in the lead role, he plays a character I was not at all expecting.

Downton Abbey, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

The first series of this popular drama follows the lives of the Crawley family and their staff after the sinking of the Titanic, leading up to the events of WWI. I have watched the first five seasons of this show before, but have never seen the sixth, and final season. I am watching them all again for this very purpose, as well as taking note of the first couple of seasons for research. My favourite characters were always Sybil Crawley and the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith.

What have you been watching this month? Have you been re-visiting some old favourites? Do you have a favourite character from Downton Abbey or Supernatural?