Top positive review
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excellent film, awful music
on 10 August 2011
Hammer continued their trend of giving over the top monstrous roles to great Hollywood actresses passed over on their home turf for younger models. Tallulah Bankhead is magnificent as the obsessed and repressed Mrs Trefoile, relishing the outpourings of grief and visciousness, but also showing dignified restraint in the character's composed moments. Elsewhere, it's a good job Stephanie Powers is a good actress able to convey her character's mental and physical collapse so well, as the make-up department seem determined to keep her looking pristine at all times (apparently Mrs Trefoile's abhorrence of make up does not extend to eyeliner). She skillfully plays out the undermining of her character's confidence without ever sinking into bathos, and her suffering at the hands of Mrs Trefoile and her employees is well played. The four supporting characters are all excellent, although Maurice Kaufmann has little to do. Peter Vaughan and Yootha Joyce work wonders with underwritten parts. Vaughan adds depth of character to what could have just been a cardboard cut-out creep. While his character's motivations are fairly clear, Anna's are far less clear. You could wonder why she does what she does, were it not for Yootha Joyce's subtle looks and gestures. It's clear Mrs Trefoile has some sort of psychological or religious hold over her that she is powerless to resist. Last but not least, Donald Sutherland makes a good job of the young man with learning difficulties, again steering clear of the stereotype of the day.
The setting is both drab and menacing without being overdone, the tension builds nicely and the production values are high. As another reviwer says, the music is awful - Wilfred Josephs must have either completely misunderstood the brief or had a really off day. But don't be dissuaded from giving this film a go.