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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 November 2005
This is an exquisite little movie, made unforgettable by its two talented stars. Kim Stanley plays Myra, a woman who became delusional years ago when her only child was still born. She now claims that she's a psychic medium and that Arthur, her son, speaks to her from beyond. She's married to Billy (Richard Attenborough), a weak and brokenhearted man who knows his wife is mentally ill, but is unable to help her. They decide to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy couple, collect the ransom, and then Myra will offer her psychic services to the couple to help "find" the little girl. Billy knows it's a bad plan, and he's even more worried when Arthur "tells" Myra that he wants the little girl to join him.
Set in a big, dark house in London, the movie is certainly creepy and suspenseful, but more than anything, it is achingly sad. We feel for the suffering parents of the girl, for Myra, who doesn't know she is insane, and especially for Billy, who has lost control of his life completely. Richard Attenborourgh's performance is a master class in the art of acting. A sobering, insightful study of two unhappy people.
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on 3 October 2009
I caught this one afternoon on tv and was gripped; the acting is unnerving, and the script and photography first class, and very atmospheric. I found the film frightening as it moved along, and the heartbreak of the Parents whose child the couple have kidnapped could really be felt. Made in 1964, the film is in B/W, and shows a London that has gone now-this adds to the atmosphere of the film , and Ive ordered it on a dvd to keep. You will not be disappointed with this pyschological thriller. First class all the way.
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on 20 December 2008
Currently the only opportunity to see the genius of Kim Stanley on DVD. She was the greatest american actress of her generation and Bryan Forbes plays suitable tribute to her in the dvd extra interview. Her performance is extraordinary even the brilliance of Richard Attenborough seems dimmed in her presence. A truly wonderful British film, great script, photography, direction and truly unbelievable performances from the 2 lead actors. A great piece of cinema, wonderful.
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on 22 July 2013
This is one of those films that clearly falls into the "hidden gems" category. Although it was nominated for (and won) a fair number of major awards in its day, it is one of those films that seems to have slipped into obscurity, despite having Richard Attenborough as the male lead.

I won't go into the plot - which is intriguing and totally sinister - but the performances from Attenborough and Nanette Newman are sublime. However, it is the performance from Kim Stanley as Myra Savage that draws the breath from you, it is so perfect and commanding. The calculating, sinister menace that she exudes so effortlessly is disturbing and lies very much at the heart of this murky thriller. Stanley was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, yet lost out to Julie Andrews for 'Mary Poppins' - unbelievable! John Barry's soundtrack is spot-on, demonstrating the continual sense of urgency that underlies the plot. Forbes' direction is sharp and focussed.

I found the DVD transfer to be very good - there were no real marks or damage to the print that distracted me. However, I did find the mono soundratck very 'flat' and quiet; in fact, I was actually astonished at how high a volume I needed to have my television! The case that the DVD came in was, it has to be said, the flimsiest I have even seen! But these are minor quibbles: 'Seance' is an amazing film and demonstrates the outstanding quality of some of the films the British film industry has produced over the years.

Highly recommended.
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Seance on a Wet Afternoon, 1964, is a taut, 115 minute black and white classic of British film making, a riveting crime drama/ thriller that was unfortunately little-seen at its release and is even little less known now. It was written by well-known director Bryan Forbes, based upon a novel by Mark McShane, and directed by Forbes, Chaplin [DVD], The Stepford Wives [DVD], King Rat [DVD] [2005], with his usual economy, precision and dispatch. The crisp black and white cinematography was by Gerry Turpin.

The film stars the American Kim Stanley, who made only a few movies, including The Right Stuff [1984] [DVD] [1983], Frances [DVD], and The Goddess (1958) (Region 2), and this one, for which she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And the Oscar winning British Lord Richard Attenborough, winner of two Oscars, nominated for many more, esteemed for both his acting and his directing skills, (Gandhi [DVD] [1982], The Great Escape [DVD] [1963], Elizabeth : Special Edition [1998] [DVD], Jurassic Park [DVD] [1993]). Nanette Newman and Patrick Magee also appear in this nearly-tragic "folie a deux"; the evocative score is by John Barry.

The psychologically unstable London psychic Myra Savage (Stanley) believes she has not received her due in recognition and wealth. So she convinces her weak-willed husband Billy (Attenborough, wearing a distracting prosthetic proboscis) to help her devise a plan to kidnap the young child of a wealthy couple. They plan to secretly collect the ransom money, while they get publicity for helping the terrified couple locate the child, supposedly using Myra's psychic abilities. Their plan will fall apart ... but not as it would have in Hollywood.

Someone in Hollywood might well be considering a remake of it now, for all I know, which might work well, but would be a bit of a pity, as, at its heart, the picture presents us with a duel of two fine actors, neither of them young and beautiful at its making, and we know Hollywood's ways in these matters. Best to catch it here if you can.
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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2005
Myra (Kim Stanley) knows she is distend for greatness and the second rate psychic she seems to be. She enlists (heavily influences) her week-willed husband Billy (Richard Attenborough) into a scheme that seems perfectly innocent; they will barrow a child Amanda (Judith Donner) and then Myra will use her psychic ability to find the child for the parents. Myra gets fame, her husband will get a new car and everyone will be happy.
Every thing will go as planned if you do not take in account that there is something strange going on. And it is snowballing.
The film was shot in black and white which gives it a spooking and depressing feel. There is sixties English background music including "Hear my Prayer" Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Then again there are plenty of places where they do not play any background and the natural sounds or lack of can also be spooky.
Kim Stanley was nominated for two Oscars - one for portraying the medium with a secret.
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on 16 May 2013
A fake medium enlists the help of her husband, played by Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough, respectively, to kidnap a child, in an attempt to prove to the outside world that she's real. Her theory is, is to lead the police to the child, but as the film progresses, the story gets even darker. After kidnapping the child, and sending a ransom to the parents, the child is then kept prisoner at their house.

This is a really good British film from the 60's directed by Brian Forbes, made by Beaver Films, which Brian Forbes and Richard Attenborough co-owned.
If you enjoy old British films from this period, you will enjoy this one.

Filmed in Black & White, the Picture Quality is very good, and the image is sharp.
The transfer is in 1.78:1, which is almost the same as the films original aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
The sound is presented in it's original mono.

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on 2 March 2016
A somewhat incredulous plot set in a London of the 1960s. The acting from Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough more than makes up for any shortfalls in the plot itself.

Myra Savage (Kim Stanley) is married to a devoted husband named Billy (Richard Attenborough). (The couple would appear to be in their thirties.) Myra fancies herself as a professional mystic, and in an attempt to gain wide recognition of her powers she has devised an intricate scheme that involves kidnapping ("borrowing" in her language) a young girl of rich parentage.

The ransom asked for the child's safe return is secondary to the status she hopes to earn for herself when she demonstrates her insight into the fate of the young girl. It could be said, therefore, that the film is a multi-layered thesis.

Putting the conspiracy to one side, this is a study in psychic phenomenon, the interfaces between sanity and insanity, the credible and the incredible. "You'd need to be mad to want to be sane in a mad world". Work that one out!

Attenborough's devotion takes the path from blind obedience to enlightenment, or at the very least resignation as to his wife's bizarre fancies and behaviour that evolve over the few days of the conspiracy.

The facial close-ups are remarkable in detail and nuance. From a purely visual point of view Attenborough's "fake" nose takes a little bit of getting used to but this is a minor quibble and in no way detracts from his performance.

A well paced "drama" of close on two hours with excellent picture and sound quality, fine production and sets. I found no problem with the sound as reported by another reviewer, but then I listen on headphones via a laptop.
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on 20 January 2010

The only reason I'm giving this film five stars is because I can't give it six.

If ever a film excels on every level, this is it. Part of its ingenuity is that the plot and characters reveal themselves slowly rather than being spelled out from the offset - this helps to create the intrigue and suspense that, in part, make this dark and unsettling 'thriller' so powerful. As the disturbing nature of what is actually occurring unfolds one is helplessly drawn to the heart of the drama.

The use of black and white photography augments the subject matter and cinematographer Gerry Turpin brings emotion and narrative to life with inventive and skilful camerawork. He depicts the twists and turns of the plot with exacting angles and appropriate and measured use of camera movement. Director Bryan Forbes (best known for Whistle Down the Wind, King Rat and The Stepford Wives) knew exactly how to pace and manage the drama to devastating affect. He lays down clues but keeps you guessing whilst all the while reminding you that you are watching a very human tragedy.

What makes this all the more impressive, and arguably more convincing than many other films of this genre, is that it was made on a very low budget and entirely on location - i.e. in a Gothic house in South London, around Leicester Square, Piccadilly and on the London Underground system. These scenes, involving a ransom demand, are among the tensest and most gripping of any British thriller. Furthermore, they were a foray into Cinéma Vérité and guerrilla film making - not only did the budget constraints necessitate these measures, but London byelaws dictate that tripods can't be set up on pavements. Hence Forbes and Turpin filmed some of these scenes handheld from the back of a car and with a zoom lens from a roof top in Leicester Square. The result is tense, gritty and outshines similar scenes in myriad high-budget thrillers filmed in studios.

Added to this technical innovation and excellence are some of the greatest screen performances I have ever seen. Richard Attenborough's understated delivery perfectly compliments Kim Stanley's dynamic and vivid performance. The synergy between their characters is tragic and tortured yet somehow still manages to engage our sympathy. It is the foundation upon which the rest of the film is built. In their climactic argument you feel as if they have dispensed with the script and are actually living the scene - helped, in part, by Stanley's commitment to the American school of Method Acting. The fact that Stanley did not win an Oscar for her performance proves that awards are not a true measure of quality.

These performances make Hitchcock's characters look like cardboard cut outs. The final scene is devastating and Stanley's performance here is one of the finest moments in 20th century cinema - I kid you not.

I always thought that the term 'jaw-dropping' was a figure of speech until I watched this film. Do yourself a favour - stop reading this review and buy the DVD.
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on 6 April 2016
This was a film I heard about when trying to google the name of another similar film. It's a great movie, albeit slightly dated, and well worth a watch. We watched it on a Sunday afternoon with tea and cakes and it was perfect for that but would be equally good on occasions such as Halloween!
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