Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Woman of Straw - film review

To my astonishment, I find that almost six years have passed since I reviewed Catherine Arley's suspense novel  Woman of Straw on this blog in its early days. Arley is an interesting French writer, and having enjoyed the book, I've been trying for ages to track down the film version, to no avail. Recently I chanced upon a Spanish DVD version, available on Amazon, with the facility to switch off the Spanish language and hear the original actors' voices. So I grabbed it.

I'm glad I did, because it's a very watchable film, set partly in a very grand English mansion, and partly on a private yacht cruise of the Med. The fact that the stars are Sean Connery and Gina Lollobrigida makes it even more watchable. The film was first screened in 1964, when Connery was already anxious to avoid becoming typecast as James Bond, and he has a quite hypnotic screen presence here.

Ralph Richardson plays Connery's odious uncle. He is racist, sexist and incredibly rich. You are already guessing that he is a prospective victim, aren't you? Well, you are right. He hires a new nurse, the lovely Gina, and soon the nasty old man falls for her. But what about his nephew? His motives seem equivocal, and before long he is encouraging Gina to marry the old man. What's he playing at, and who can be trusted?

At one point, there appears to be a glaring legal error in the script, but this is subsequently explained as representing one of the numerous plot twists. The direction, by Basil Dearden, is extremely competent, even if the characters' motivations aren't explored in any depth. Some commentators suggest that Hitchcock would have shown more flair, given the melodramatic potential of the story. However, the evidence of Marnie, first screened in the same year, and also starring Connery, suggests otherwise. Personally, I enjoyed the film, and felt my long search for it was worth while. The book is superior, but both are entertaining, and a little bit different.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Wow, that took me back - they used to show this film all the time in Italy when i was growing up (well, la Lollo is still a celeb there) - I must see it again now, thanks Martin.

RJS said...

One of my favourite non-Bond Sean Connery movies..

Alexander Knox who later played Control in the TV adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has
an important role towards the end of the film.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, RJS. It's certainly an under-rated movie.