Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
User avatar
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing

Re: Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsbor

#26 Post by MichaelB » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:51 am

I'm normally a fan of Glenn Erickson, but this bit alone contains two glaring factual errors:
Having been excluded from the class of production deemed suitable for awards or critical acclaim, the Gainsborough pictures have been bypassed by film critics despite featuring interesting casting choices, including the debut of star James Mason.
Actually, a number of critics have written insightfully revisionist pieces about the Gainsborough melodramas (Pam Cook is probably the most prolific, but there have been plenty of others), and Mason made his screen debut a full eight years before The Man in Grey - he was playing leads as early as 1936.

He does, however, confirm that Eclipse's version of The Wicked Lady is indeed the original British cut, several minutes longer and considerably racier. I'd have been astounded if it hadn't been, but a very small part of me regrets that they didn't throw in the US cut as well - though obviously that's not Eclipse's style, and if the film had been bumped up to full Criterion status I suspect eyebrows might have pointed heavenwards.

User avatar
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:06 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsbor

#27 Post by Yojimbo » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:57 am

Jeff wrote:
Madonna of the Seven Moons


A lurid tale of sex and psychosis, Madonna of the Seven Moons, directed by Arthur Crabtree, is among the wildest of the Gainsborough melodramas. Set in Italy, it begins as a relatively composed tale about a respectable, convent-raised woman (Phyllis Calvert) who is haunted by the memory of being raped as a teenager. When her grown daughter returns from school, her life begins to crack up in monumentally surprising ways. Stewart Granger also plays a prominent role in this sensational tale.

I've just been perusing the 'Double Bills' thread; perhaps this set is worth getting for the opportunity to watch this film on a double-bill with a suitably lurid Japanese 'nunsploitation' classic.
I have it under consideration for a 'Barnes & Noble' purchase, unless a more reliable purchaser can offer me a competitive price.

I've seen 'The Wicked Lady', which is fun; this set, overall, looks like fun also

Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:24 am

Re: Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsbor

#28 Post by boywonder » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:52 am

Jeez, I wasn't quite ready for Gainborough's wild ride in "The Man In Grey", but the loopy travel was more than amusing. I am not quite sure how this company gets away with its racy, devil take attitude. I guess setting the story in the prim and proper present makes up for pinning the film to the nasty past by a nifty little plot device. Margaret Lockwood plays her evil character all sharp with razor blades, and is a dead ringer for Wallis Simpson. Clever casting, to be sure ... She's so easy to hate! Phyllis Calvert looks looks like Glenda, the good witch. Double smart!

I can't pin down how this film get away with being so amusing and wrenchingly pleasing without falling totally into camp, but this studio seems to manage it. Who the hell cares if the story is so predicable when the minutes are flashing by and you're rolling on the floor in disbelief that this studio can get away with such preposterous fluff. Evidently they get wilder. I'm all set to watch the next one.

User avatar
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 10:58 pm
Location: Tokyo, Japan

Re: Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsbor

#29 Post by manicsounds » Wed Jun 04, 2014 10:27 am

User avatar
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsbor

#30 Post by movielocke » Thu Sep 10, 2015 7:12 pm

The Man in Grey plays like a 1930s hollywood melodrama with a lot more explicit bite than usual. The sexual content of the film, such that is, casually taking lovers and an "open" marriage being central to the plot, is far more salacious than your typical Now Voyager or Mr. Skeffington films ever allowed themselves to admit to being. Early on, James Mason makes everyone in the audience dislike him when he refers to a wife being nothing more than a "brood mare." The frankness is startling, but it's also startling to see such a spot on class depiction of that era.

Structurally, the film takes a tact not uncommon to these unrequited love stories of using bookends to
have a future generation creepily consummate the relationship for the poor lovers. Here we have a ten minute prologue in an auction, the Rohan family estate is being liquidated as the last son died in Dunkirk, and his surviving, single sister couldn't possibly be allowed to own property (!) She is seated next to an ass who wants to bid on some memorabilia for his mother, who believes an old romantic story about their family's connection to the Rohan's. the final scene returns us to the present, with the two modern day iterations walking into the sunset together.
So we naturally fly back in time to learn all about that box of memorabilia, which is the main body of the film, we open at a girl's school, a snowball fight is going on and two girls are about to arrive at school for the term. The first is a dark girl, Hester, she's had a troublesome past and there's some exchange of favors that has resulted in her being at the school with the rich girls, she's to be trained as a junior teacher, not be a student, and she clearly resents all the rich girl flouncing and comraderie. Right on her heels is Clarissa, our nominal protagonist, although she does not explain it all, she's rather clueless about everything, but tremendously good hearted and winning. She immediately pledges her affection and friendship to Hester despite the latter's rudeness and definite rejection of these overtures. Clarissa seems not to notice and decides she is her dearest and bestest friend in the world in spite of all this.

So eventually, we get to a ball and meet the titular character, the above mentioned James Mason in a deliciously cruel and nasty performance. Clarissa is married off to him and has a rather miserable time of it. He keeps her separated from him and them both from their child, he wants nothing to do with a family other than the heir she produced and she's useless to him.

The final piece of the plot drops into place about forty five minutes in, when Rokeby accosts Clarissa's carriage on the road at night, one thinks he is a highwayman. But the scallywag is merely playing, in fact he's playing Othello in the play Clarissa is going to see, and who is Desdemona but Hester, of course. With some brief finagling, all of the quadrangle are living together in the Rohan estate and things play out as they must in a melodrama, with an escalated ending that is somewhat surprising in it's unflinching finality.

The performances are stellar and the script is sharp and fairly witty. The frankness of the 'arrangement' is rather startling, but the film seems to be held back mostly by keeping Clarissa's character imprisoned within the saintly (and ignorant) confines of being a good girl. If she were written just a little bit more self aware--as Hester is--the film would not feel so horribly unbalanced. That said it's a very fun film, better than most of the hollywood entries within the female melodrama genre. And I may be mistaken, bu the plot is very close to the recent Keira Knightly awards vehicle, The Duchess, is it a remake or just an incredibly similar story and characters?

Post Reply