REBECCA. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

REBECCA. (2020) DIRECTED BY BEN WHEATLEY. BASED ON THE 1938 NOVEL BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER.

STARRING LILY JAMES, ARMIE HAMMER, KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, KEELEY HAWES, ANN DOWD AND JANE LAPOTAIRE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m not crazy about this re-make, to be totally honest with you. Let’s get something clear from the start. It could never have hoped to rival the original 1940 movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier as the bride and groom respectively.

That original film is a masterpiece of gothic romantic horror and mystery combined, with superb acting, tension building and wildly beautiful Cornish scenery. It was one of Hitchcock’s finest films, and probably Joan Fontaine’s best performance ever.

She has a genuinely believable air of naivete and gullibility about her that makes us really see her as the frightened Mrs. de Winter Mark Two who doesn’t come close to her predecessor for sophistication and worldly-wise confidence, but that’s exactly why she appeals to tormented widower Maxim de Winter.  

Where was I? Oh yes. Harrumph. This re-make was never going to be fit to polish the boots of the original, but that’s okay. As long as it showed us something a bit different in it, we’d be okay with it, or as long as it presented some aspect of the original in a new light, say.

But it just plods along really, in a rather dull and pedestrian fashion, changing a few things here and there for the sake of change, and because it’s change for the sake of change, it kind of comes across as annoying and superfluous.

The handsome and muscular Armie Hammer is a bit wooden as the millionaire husband, and Lily James is whingy and irritating as the gauche, lower-class bride he brings to Manderley on the Cornish coast, a year or so after the death of his wife Rebecca. We know the plot inside-out by now.

The new Mrs. de Winter sees the deceased Rebecca’s stamp of ownership all over Manderley and her new husband, Maxim de Winter. Mrs. Danvers, Manderley’s austere, forbidding housekeeper, is still devoted to her now-dead mistress, having known her from a child, and she takes every opportunity to rub the new bride’s face in the fact that she isn’t a patch on Rebecca and never will be, so she might as well kill herself… Good old Danny, always looking on the bright side!

Socially, a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon yawns fearfully between Maxim and Wife Number Two. He lives in a fabulous mansion on inherited wealth and she is an orphan, reduced to providing companionship to sour, embittered old biddies whose glory days are long behind them. Maxim and his bride are sexually attracted to each other, at least, but their sex scenes are far from electrifying, sadly, more like a damp squib.

All the main checkpoints are still here. The dreadful Mrs. Van Hopper, for whom the nameless bride is ‘a friend of the bosom.’ The old boathouse, and the crazy old man who says, ‘she’s gorn, isn’t she, into the sea? She won’t come back no more.’

The ill-fated costume ball, in which the bride plays right into the hands of Mrs. Danvers and wears a costume guaranteed to repulse Maxim, not delight him. The shipwreck with the decomposed corpse on board. The coroner’s inquest. The fire, but the person you think should die in it doesn’t die in it. They have something else in mind for themselves as a grand finale. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.

We really miss the smooth, suave, sardonically self-serving Jack Favell as played by George Sanders here. We miss his eccentric, half-hopping entrance through an open window, the way he taps his cigarette on the case before lighting up, and the air of sleazy sexuality that surrounds him permanently and that allows him to have a forbidden love affair with his beloved cousin, Rebecca, who, by all accounts, what quite a wee goer in her day.

Sam Riley as Jack Favell in the 2020 adaptation might cut it in a modern version of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS or DOWNTON ABBEY, but is somewhat lacking in the sex appeal needed to produce a good performance as the louche Favell.  

The one thing that’s completely new- and good!- is the addition of veteran British actress Jane Lapotaire (THE ASPHYX, LADY JANE) as Maxim and Beatrice de Winter’s Aged Grandmother. She shames the new bride most dreadfully by telling her stridently, more than once, that she’s ‘not Rebecca!’ The very idea that she could be the mistress of the house! The Aged Crone cackles mirthlessly at the notion.

There’s some lovely scenery and settings in the film, but it’s still a cheap, clunky imitation of one of the best mystery movies ever made. Watch it if you like out of curiosity, or if you like Armie Hammer (I do!) or nice views of the cliffs and the sea, but there’s not a lot else here to sea, I mean, to see, to be quite blunt. I don’t like being so negative about a film but I think that here we have a distinct case of all style and no substance. Sorry…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE BOUNTY. (1984) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bounty girl

THE BOUNTY. (1984) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘CAPTAIN BLIGH AND MR. CHRISTIAN’ (1972) BY RICHARD HOUGH. EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: DINO DE LAURENTIIS. DIRECTED BY ROGER DONALDSON. ORIGINAL MUSIC BY VANGELIS.

STARRING MEL GIBSON, ANTHONY HOPKINS, LIAM NEESON, DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, PHILIP DAVIS, NEIL MORRISSEY, BERNARD HILL, EDWARD FOX AND LAURENCE OLIVIER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I will probably always prefer the Marlon Brando-Trevor Howard version of this story to any other. It has that hilarious scene in it where Marlon Brando, hand tucked regally Nelson-style into his naval officer’s jacket, sails off from his anchored ship to the island of Tahiti to have sex, for King and country, of course, with the Tahitian king’s beautiful daughter. Talk about it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it…! That’s a great version of this gripping story, but the Mel Gibson-Anthony Hopkins pairing isn’t half-bad either.

It’s late in the eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth, and a committee of really high-up naval officers, the main two played by Laurence Olivier and Edward Fox, are meeting to decide the fate of one Captain Bligh, who had his ship, the HMS BOUNTY, taken from him forcibly during a mutiny by some of his crew members. Bligh tells them the story of what happened aboard that fateful ship. Here is his story, in my words, if you get me.

It’s a few years earlier now, and the good ship HMS BOUNTY is sailing from jolly old England to Tahiti, where the crew will pick up a cargo of bread-fruit plants to bring back home with them for some reason. I forget what they’re going to be using them for. Like, are they food or what? Are they bread or are they fruit?

Anthony Hannibal Lecter Hopkins is the captain of this happy ship, Captain Bligh, and he can count Mel Gibson and Daniel Day-Lewis amongst his officers. He’s not aristocratic like them though, see, which rankles a bit with old Bligh. He can’t do the talking-with-a-mouthful-of-plums thing like they can or the easy aristocratic confidence that comes naturally to real toffs like them.

A ridiculously young-looking Bernard Hill (BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF, King Theodan of Rohan in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS) is the man who whips people when Captain Bligh tells him to, and excuse me if I think that he seems to enjoy his job. He certainly never shirks it, at any rate.

Liam Neeson, the Liam Neeson, and a very young Neil Morrissey (MEN BEHAVING BADLY and some other stuff) are two trouble-making and rebellious young crew-members. Personally, I think they’re just lazy.

They don’t like having to attend Captain Bligh’s on-board compulsory dance classes (‘We’re sailors, not dancers!’), which proves my point. If they could get away with it, they’d spend their years at sea swilling down grog and telling dirty stories about women, but there’ll be none of that nonsense on Captain Bligh’s watch. He runs a tight ship.

Captain Bligh is actually quite reasonable in this version, I feel, until they get to Tahiti, or Big Titty Island if you prefer, because the women here are all fetchingly topless as well as dusky and uniformly beautiful with long glossy dark hair. The sex-starved men of the HMS BOUNTY go nuts for the titty and the totty.

What’s really surprising is that the native males of Big Titty Island don’t seem to mind one bit that their women are being bonked senseless and even impregnated by these English sailors.

In fact, they even seem to encourage it, and the king of Big Titty Island even sends one of his many wives over to the ship to have sex with Captain Bligh who, in a very witty little scene, spurns her attentions.

This is because Captain Bligh is quite uptight and strait-laced in matters of the flesh. Also, he might even feel guilty about it because he’s got a wife and kids at home. A moral man? Mein Gott. Do those even exist…?

The real problems for Captain Bligh arise when he and his crew are obliged to drop anchor at Big Titty Island for several months, in order to wait for the bread-fruits to grow and flourish.

His crew have pretty much said goodbye to naval discipline and hello to sexual excesses, lazing around smoking and drinking in the sunshine and getting native tattoos on their scarcely-clad, sun-bronzed bodies. Captain Bligh is sickened by their animalistic behaviour.

They’re meant to be restrained, reserved and stiff-upper-lipped Englishmen who most certainly do not copulate with native women on the sand in full view of anyone who might be looking. Goddammit, they’re English, aren’t they?

Bligh seems to have a problem with Mel Gibson’s Fletcher Christian, his supposed good friend from way back, most of all. Fletcher has found love (it looks like sex to me, but whatever) on the island with the king’s beautiful daughter, and he wants nothing more than to lie in her arms on the beach forever, making love until the tide comes in and wraps their naked, writhing bodies in its foamy caresses. Told you it was just sex, didn’t I…?

Bligh orders Fletcher back to the ship and away from his girlfriend, and makes him cover his new and still very painful tattoo with his uncomfortably hot and heavy naval jacket, in the sweltering heat of the cabin where the officers’ have dinner on the dot of six every night. Bligh is determined to impose rigid discipline upon his raggle-taggle crew, who have grown soft and sloppy after several months on Big Titty Island.

After three deserters are caught (Liam Neeson amongst them, the little rascal) and severely lashed by the whipping arm of an enthusiastic Bernard Hill, morale is dreadfully low amongst the crew, who all miss their- probably- pregnant girlfriends back on the Island.

Fletcher Christian has already been informed by the king that he’s impregnated the king’s daughter, so there will be a lot of mixed-race babies born before the year is out. The weird thing is that the king, along with all the men on Big Titty Island, are totally fine about these little ‘ooopsies.’ I guess people in different places do things differently.

When Bligh informs his crew that he’s taking an extremely dangerous short-cut home to England, and that a crew-member who objects is to be lashed on the morrow (that’s just an olde-timey way of saying tomorrow, lol), Fletcher and the lads have had enough of his brutal tyranny. They take the ship away from him in an act of mutiny that will remain a blot on their characters, not to mention their naval copybooks, till the end of time…

Anthony Hopkins is such a good actor that he can totally take these younger actors to school, and he certainly does this here. He’s just brilliant as the so-called despot who has a wife and two children at home and who’s just trying to do his job and get his ship from A to B and then back to A again without damaging too many of the precious bloody bread-fruits.

Yes, he’s too heavy-handed with the lash and he’s even a bit petty-minded at times as well but, overall, I think he’s less despotic than Trevor Howard was as Captain Bligh in the Marlon Brando version of the film.

Bligh’s obsessive quest for personal glory- all that ‘going around the Horn’ and trying to ‘circumnavigate the globe in x amount of time’ stuff is bang out of order once it starts affecting the men, but apart from that, I think he’s a genuinely decent guy who’s just trying to get home to the wife and kids in the fastest way possible. And if he happens to get into the Guinness Book Of Records for doing it in the quickest time ever achieved, well then, so much the better.

Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian (‘I. AM. IN. HELL…!’) has astonishingly lovely eyes, and he has other nice things as well but, unfortunately, you don’t get to see much of them in this film. Booooooooo!

It’s a great little maritime movie, though, with some gorgeous scenery and views of the horizon. Christmas is a terrific time for watching this kind of epic swashbuckley film, so check it out if you can. And take a jacket if you ever find yourself on Big Titty Island. It can get a bit nippy…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor