Saturday, March 26, 2011

Under Capricorn

Title: Under Capricorn
Year: 1949
Studio: Transatlantic Pictures/Warner Brothers
Screenplay: Adapted by Hume Cronyn, Screenplay by James Bridie
Source Material: A novel by Helen Simpson
Running Time: 117 minutes

Saturday 26th March, 9:00am
I was hindered last weekend by technological issues. I had planned to watch this antipodean drama but my computer was infected with some evil Trojan virus thing. Thankfully, my genius friend Adam was able to give up his weekend in order to fix things like only he can. So, it meant I had to postpone the screening and write-up, but so be it. I'm not giving myself a strict schedule here. I'll get through it all in my own time.
Golly, it has been colder than one would have imagined for what should be the latter end of an Australian summer. I had to put an extra quilt on my bed last night. Madness! As I have now begun using the online delivery service for my shopping, I had no need to get up first thing and head to the shops as I used to do. No siree! No, I had breakfast in bed instead. In fact, as I type this, I am still in my jim-jams. Hoorah for weekend laziness.
With a lackadaisical notion in mind, I am going to force myself to be as brief as possible with the synopsis this week. (Particularly considering it's not the most exciting plot...)

Lady Henrietta Flusky - Ingrid Bergman
Samson Flusky - Joseph Cotton
Charles Adare - Michael Wilding
Milly - Maragaret Leighton
Governor - Cecil Parker
Mr Corrigan - Denis O'Dea
Winter - Jack Watling
Coachman - Harcourt Williams
Mr Potter - John Ruddock
Mr Banks - Bill Shine
Reverend Smiles - Victor Lucas
Mr Riggs - Ronald Adam
Major Wilkins - Francie de Wolff
Dr Macallister - G H Mulcaster
Sal - Olive Sloane
Flo - Maureen Delaney
Susan - Julia Lang
Martha - Betty McDermott

Sydney, New South Wales, 1931
A new Governer arrives and brings his Irish cousin, Charles Adare along with him.
Charles makes the acquaintance of Sam Flusky at the bank and the rich ex-convict helps Charles out with some money. He invites him to his home for dinner, much to the chagrin of the Governor who warns him against it.

At the dinner party, Charles is curious and slightly amused at the fact that, although invited, none of the wives of the male guests have turned up, either feigning illness or with reports of being 'detained at the last minute'.
Sam wants his wife to meet and socialise with local woman, but his reputation proceeds him and steers them clear. His home is called Minyago Yugilla which translates to "Why Weepest Thou?", which must be a slight deterrent too, surely.

During the meal, Henrietta descends from her room, she's a tad tipsy and acts a little barmy (and appears to be literally blind, which confused me for a bit) but she is so pleased to see Charles Adare whom she knew when she was much younger.
Later she calls for him to shoot an imagined creature in her bedroom and he merely humours her by shooting into the fireplace to remove the 'rat'.

Sam tells Charles about his story. How he killed Henrietta's brother and escaped the gallows as it was deemed to be culpable homicide. He was sent to Australia and his wife followed him after selling everything back in Ireland.

Charles goes to see Henrietta in her room and is found by the housemaid, Milly, who likes to imply that something dirty was going on.
Milly is disgusted by the goings on in the house and says she is leaving for good. Henrietta has to become more forceful within the house, egged on by Charles who thinks it is best for her to stand on her own two feet.

Charles pretends that Henrietta and Sam have been invited along with him to the Governor's ball, even though he himself is persona non grata with his cousin since disobeying orders.
Sam declines, but Henrietta attends. She dresses up beautifully and Sam is all ready to supply her with a beautiful ruby necklace, but he does not get the opportunity to present them as Charles and Henrietta mock the notion of red with her dress.

When Charles and Henrietta have left, Milly turns up to collect the rest of her things. However, she is there to stir and implies that there must be something untoward going on between Charles and Henrietta. Sam takes the bait and heads off to the ball.

At the ball, the Governor is swayed by Henrietta's beauty but when Sam blasts in, the night for her is ruined. She returns home with Charles and confesses that it was she who shot her brother and Sam just took the fall.
Sam returns and throws Charles out. Adare takes Sam's favourite mare and cripples it after not seeing a closed gate. Returning to the house with the bad news, Sam has to shoot his own horse and then in a temper attempts to attack Charles. The gun goes off and Charles is wounded.

With Sam's apparent 'second' offence, it is likely he will be hanged. Henrietta confesses her crime to the Governor to protect him, but Sam would need to confirm it and they wait for Charles to either die from his wound or recover and hope he says the shooting was an accident.

Back at the house, Milly has stayed on and she tries to drive her mistress further into insanity by leaving a grotesque shrunken head on her bed and then tries to poison her with an overdose of a sleeping draught. Henrietta calls for help and Sam comes to the rescue.
Milly was doing everything for her loyalty to Sam, but he sees her for what she is.

Charles recovers and as the true gent he is, says the shooting was an accident. Sam is cleared of his previous conviction and with new honesty between Sam and Henrietta they have a new life to lead. Charles gallantly returns to Ireland.

The End

Great Lines
The Governor is dictating a letter:

"...tell him the approach to the docks is the filthiest sight I've ever seen. Tell him I don't like old barrels and cartwheels and cabbage leaves and dead cats..."

At the dinner party, Charles is enjoying some chit-chat with the other guests:

Mr Riggs: "And how do you like Sydney Mr Adare?"

Adare: "Oh, I like it very much. I admire in particular the bandicoot, the rock wallaby and the duck-billed platypus. Don't take this preference as implying my derogation of the spiny anteater, the cockatoo or even the frilled lizard. There's always the kangaroo, Mr Riggs, always the kangaroo."

Mr Riggs: "I didn't mean that exactly; I meant the society."

Adare: "Is there any!?"

Jack Watling is the father of Deborah Watling who played Victoria in Doctor Who back in the 1960s. Just thought I'd mention it...

I have always regarded Ingrid Bergman as one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. She was also a highly accomplished actress. However, I think it is fair to say that accents were not her forte. She's not exactly Meryl Streep.

It's interesting to note that Alfred was very particular about historical accuracies so if anyone mentions the lack of heavy Australian accents, it would be worth pointing out that those particular tones did not evolve for another hundred years or so.

Joseph Cotton does a reasonable job of the stoic and domineering Sam, but extra credit goes to Michael Wilding who is the most interesting person on screen (and he's handsome too!)
Praise is also due to Margaret Leighton whose portrayal of the conniving and slightly evil Milly is wonderful.

Henrietta basically gets away with murder, unless I missed a major plot point. Admittedly, I was becoming a bit bored by the end, so I may have missed an integral part of the dialogue in which everyone says; "Oh, never mind, your brother deserved it anyway. La de da!"
Please feel free to let me know...

My Verdict
This is not one of Hitch's most thrilling movies and I feel at just under two hours, it's a tad too long. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a first time viewer of Hitchcock's oeuvre. 4/10

No comments:

Post a Comment