Darling [1965]

Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, José Luis de Vilallonga, Roland Curram
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 128 minutes

In the tradition of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Hammer Studios drew aging Tallulah Bankhead out of retirement to play the fanatical matriarch of Die! Die! My Darling! (in Britain the film was simply titled Fanatic). Stefanie Powers, fresh from a string of juvenile and ingenue roles, plays her first adult, a thoroughly modern (and sexually liberated) woman who steps out of her time and into Bankhead's decaying mansion, a bit of southern Gothic nestled in the rural England countryside. Her courtesy call to the mother of her deceased lover turns into a cat-and-mouse thriller as the dotty, scripture-reading old lady dedicates herself to "cleansing" the befouled girl in memory of her son. Richard Matheson's smart screenplay (from the novel Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell) gives Powers a scrappy character, defying Bankhead and struggling to escape at every turn, while Bankhead's increasingly deranged campaign is given a delicious dimension with a marvelously schizophrenic backstory. Director Silvio Narizzano tends to overplay his hand at times and at one point steals a scene right out of Psycho, but he happily makes the battle of wits the central focus, letting the gothic elements stand as flourish. Peter Vaughan costars as a sleazy, salacious caretaker who can't keep his paws of their captive and Donald Sutherland has a small role as an idiot odd-job man devoted to his bizarre little family. --Sean Axmaker

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