Vanessa Redgrave (in an Oscar nominated performance) is luminous as ever as the wealthy Olive Chancellor, while Christopher Reeves catches the chauvinist who wants to marry the girl; does he see her as a trophy to wrest away from his distant cousin Olive? He makes it quite clear he wants to keep Verena at home, for his pleasure. They both try to gain control over the destiny of the spirited young woman. Battle is joined and for Olive the struggle with prove an odyssey that forces her to acknowledge her true nature - but does it?
Is Olive a repressed lesbian or just a spinster who despises Basil and all he stands for? Verena (Madeleine Potter) is depicted as such a ninny and not that charismatic that it is hard to see what they see in her. The women get close but the lure of a handsme man proves too much for Verena, as Olive discovers she too can deliver a powerful speech. Jessica Tandy Nancy Marchand, Linda Hunt, Wallace Shawn and Wesley Addey again provide sterling support, I just wish I had enjoyed it more. Again it looks agreeably pleasing with interesting costumes and interiors.
And THE AMBASSADORS? Not a Merchant-Ivory, but a BBC 'Play of the Month' from 1977, as I have written about here before - Lee Remick labels. This fascinating sounding Henry James adaptation with Paul Scofield, Remick, Delphine Seyrig and Gayle Hunnicutt was shown once, and does not seem available at all now, though other BBC costume dramas are available in BBC boxsets, like those Oscar Wilde dramas and the like.
Henry James, like E.M. Forster, seems ideal for the cinema. We think fondly of the 1949 THE HEIRESS and its 1997 WASHNGTON SQUARE remake (with Albert Finney and Maggie Smith); and there have been several productions of THE ASPERN PAPERS. The BBC also did a GOLDEN BOWL, and of course THE TURN OF THE SCREW has been a great film (THE INNOCENTS - see Deborah Kerr label) and opera by Benjamin Brittan with the young David Hemmings as Miles.