Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Forgotten '60s films: Rapture

RAPTURE, 1965. This long forgotten ‘60s drama – we never got much of a chance to see it at the time -  has re-surfaced to some great reviews, on its Eureka dual-format dvd+blu-ray release, along with  20 page booklet, but I wouldn’t quite rate it a missing masterpiece. It seems it had a brief run here in London in 1967, which must have passed me by, though I remember "Films & Filming" magazine had a location report and photographs on it, back in 1965.
One of those marvellous 20th Century Fox Cinemascope productions this one has stunning black and white photography, and is directed by John Guillermin, scripted by Stanley Mann with an atmospheric score by Georges Delerue. It feels almost like a French film in English, set as it is on that wild Brittany coast. Cue lots of waves crashing on rocks and desolate landscapes as we get to know Agnes (Patricia Gozzi) who lives in that rambling farmhouse with her remote, strict father Melvyn Douglas, a retired judge, and their housekeeper Karen – Swedish actress Gunnel Lindblom. Is Agnes just a lonely child, with a fantasy world of her own, or perhaps retarded? She does not seem to go to school or have friends. We first see them at the wedding of her older sister. It’s a coming of age story, as we share the Gothic world of this troubled teenage girl.  She is finally allowed to create a scarecrow for the garden, with one of her father’s old suits, and this becomes another fantasy figure for her.

Enter man on the run Dean Stockwell as Joseph who escapes from police custody, who takes the scarecrow’s clothes and he becomes her new fantasy figure, she feels she created him …. He and Karen though get intimate to Agnes’ fury, causing Karen to leave after Agnes almost kills her, and finally he and Agnes also leave and end up in a noisy and busy Paris, which she cannot cope with ….
The earlier moment where the impatient father throws her doll over the cliff and it lies broken on the rocks is repeated at the end as the police close in on Joseph.  The moments of rapture are mainly at the start, particularly those overhead shots looking down on Agnes on the beach, from the perspective of those seagulls. Guillermin had done nothing like this before, he of course went on to THE TOWERING INFERNO and DEATH ON THE NILE among others, I like his 1959 sweaty, sadistic TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE. Its fascinating seeing the attractive Lindblom in an English-speaking role, she is surely the most earthy and sensual of the Ingmar Bergman actresses (THE SILENCE, THE SEVENTH SEAL) though Ullmann and Thulin got all the kudos …

1930s leading man Melvyn Douglas returned to movies in his old age with roles in BLLY BUDD, HUD, and more, he is equally used here, while child actor Dean Stockwell after roles in COMPULSION, SONS AND LOVERS, LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT essays another complex young man, he often seems an odd mix of James Dean and Monty Clift. We later got used to the older Stockwell in TWIN PEAKS and the like as the busy actor keeps working. The astonishing performance here is from Patricia Gozzi, (the equal of the young Jean-Pierre Leaud in THE 400 BLOWS). 
I have not seen her first acclaimed role, for Serge Bourguinon in 1962’s SUNDAYS AND CYBELLE (one I missed from that great year), she is certainly compelling here and would surely have been one of the main actresses of her time, had she not retired from acting. So in all, it is a fascinating discovery now, even if the plot melodramatics get rather tedious before the end. There are echoes of WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND another lyrical film of children aiding a man on the run, and even HUD where Douglas was also that strict father with an attractive housekeeper who also ups and leaves. With Sylvia Kay, Peter Sallis, Christopher Sandford, Leslie Sands. 

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