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White Mischief 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars (85) IMDb 6.3/10

If there was a paradise untouched by the war in the winter of 1940, it was Kenya's Happy Valley. There the tall, blond and impeccably groomed Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Errol, enjoyed a decadent life of pleasure with his fellow aristocrats.

Starring:
Greta Scacchi, Charles Dance
Runtime:
1 hour, 43 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Thriller, Crime, Romance
Director Michael Radford
Starring Greta Scacchi, Charles Dance
Supporting actors Joss Ackland, Sarah Miles
Studio Sony Pictures International
BBFC rating Suitable for 18 years and over
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In 1941 Kenya, a group of jaded and decadent British expatriates indulge in orgies, casual adulterous affairs as well as drugs. But when of their own (Charles Dance) is found murdered and the husband (Joss Ackland) of the deceased's mistress (Greta Scacchi) is arrested for the murder, even the decadent community is shocked. Based on an actual incident known as the Happy Valley murder case, Michael Radford's (IL POSTINO) film is a wry look at the casual moral rot of a dying colonialist society. There's no one to empathize with, not even the murder victim which distances us from the proceedings so that we're merely observers, nothing more. Visually, the film gets everything right but it's just not a film one can warm to. Scacchi looks terrific but her character is too ambiguous to make much sense of while Ackland and Dance aren't interesting enough to make us care. Fortunately, the supporting performances pick up the slack, especially Sarah Miles as a drug addled whack job who attends cocktail parties with a snake draped around her and has the film's best lines. Also with Trevor Howard, Geraldine Chaplin, Hugh Grant, John Hurt, Ray McAnally, Murray Head, Jacqueline Pearce and Susan Fleetwood.

The Sony DVD is a nice anamorphic wide screen (1.85) transfer with optional English subtitles and features a making of documentary.
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The movie is great.
However, for those expecting a reasonable quality DVD you will be disappointed. The sound quality is poor and the movie looks as if it was shot through a net curtain - more like a camcorder ‘rip’ from the back row of the local flea pit.
This seems to be a recurring problem as other DVD’s I’ve bought from the BBC (Gormenghast was of remarkably awful quality), and from “4”, have repeatedly failed to be of an acceptable standard.

If you can grin and bear the woeful recording quality, and still enjoy the wonderful story and acting in this movie, it’s worth a couple of quid – but I’d rather have seen it on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Having such a poor quality DVD in my collection is like having a cuckoo in the nest.
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A star-studded cast, an amazing location, scandal, high-society, a genuine murder mystery, copious sex and drugs, And Greta Scacchi naked! What could possibly go wrong? It should have been the film of the year.

What went wrong (apart from making little use of the glorious location) was that there was nobody to like in the entire film. Characters were two-dimensional, and no effort was made to explore the personalities of any of them. All were nasty.

It would perhaps have been possible to make something of the character of Diana Broughton, though I think she was still alive at the time the film was being made, and it might have been difficult to do so. A sympathetic central character would have made all the difference.

As it was, one finished the film thinking "Thank God that's over".
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Having known a lady who was in Kenya from 1943 (3 years after the events on which this film is based) and having an English wife born in British East Africa a dozen years later, White Mischief was of huge interest to me quite apart from its intrinsic merit.

Jock Delves-Broughton (Joss Ackland) is in financial trouble and has left 1940 England with creditors pressing (not surprising: he spent up to £120,000 annually, equivalent to perhaps £5 million or even £10 million today!). He buys a place near Nairobi and settles with his much younger and very beautiful (especially but not only when unclothed) wife Diana (Greta Scacchi). She has been "bought" by him in return for an allowance of £80,000 annually, for 7 years. She, however, falls in love with the dissolute local landowner and part-time (it seems!) officer Errol (Earl of) (Charles Dance). They wish to marry. Jock pretends to agree, then suddently, Errol is found shot in the head on a country road. Delves-Broughton is tried for murder and acquitted. The plot reaches its denouement from there.

There is too much of an attempt to mix this story with the admittedly connected tale of the wifeswappers of "Happy Valley", a set based in a glen in the Aberdare Mountains, where fornication, adultery, drinking and some drug-taking took place in the 1930's and early 1940's. Although the middle and upper ranks of white settler society did contain a higher proportion of louche characters (remittance-men, the idle rich, war-evaders, more or less available women etc) than might have been the case back in England, the Happy Valley set was always a small minority.

Although not mentioned in the film, the Earl of Carnarvon (cf.
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White Mischief (Michael Radford, 1987, 107')

Screenplay by Michael Radford, Jonathan Gems, based on White Mischief by James Fox.
Starring: Greta Scacchi, Charles Dance, Joss Ackland, Sarah Miles, John Hurt, Alan Dobie.
Music by George Fenton, Cinematography by Roger Deakins, Editing by Tom Priestley.
Studio Nelson Entertainment/Goldcrest Films/BBC. Produced by Simon Perry, Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

White Mischief dramatises the events of the Happy Valley murder case in Kenya in 1941, when Sir Henry "Jock" Delves Broughton was tried for the murder of Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll. Based on a book by the Sunday Times journalist James Fox (originally researched with Cyril Connolly).

A total surprise, is much better than the Agathe Christie Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express whodunits of the same filming period. Great technical competence at all levels, notably editing. Highly recommended.

211 - White Mischief (Michael Radford, 1987, 107') -Excellent entertainment - 1/12/2012
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