Monday, February 22, 2010


Rich Griffith Jones is set to marry his ward, the young Patrica Roc, but her visiting friend Margaret Lockwood (at left) sets her sights on Jones as soon as she sees him and soon enough, Jones marries Lockwood (and poor Roc, who manages the house, has to take part in the ritual of preparing the wedding bed). However, a placid life is not to be hers: on her wedding night, she has her breath taken away when she dances with the dashing Michael Rennie and soon she is bored with her life of leisure. When she discovers a secret passage in the house, she remarks that it will come in handy if she takes a lover, but first she winds up using it for a secret life of crime; inspired by stories of a daring highwayman, she disguises herself and robs back some jewelry she lost gambling. She gets such a thrill, she decides to keep it up. One night she meets the real highwayman (James Mason) and they become lovers. A string of melodramatic events follows, including an arrest, a trial, the slow poisoning of a household servant who knows too much about Lockwood's double life, and a hanging followed by a resurrection.

This period-piece adventure is great fun and Lockwood (who looks a bit like a more vivacious Olivia de Havilland) is very good as the sexy amoral anti-heroine; Roc, as the good girl, and Jones as the good guy, don't have a chance with the audience, and neither does anyone else, really, except Mason as the man who is almost her match. There are some fun supporting characters, including Felix Aylmer as a slightly addled Bible-quoting servant and Martita Hunt as a cousin. There are also great sets and smart dialogue. This British film was a big hit in its day but has been difficult to run across so I was happy that TCM has aired it. Don't get this confused with an 80's remake. [TCM]

No comments: