WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1978) THE BBC ADAPTATION BASED ON THE NOVEL BY EMILY BRONTE. DIRECTED BY DICK COLES. STARRING KEN HUTCHISON, KAY ADSHEAD, PAT HEYWOOD, JOHN DUTTINE, CATHRYN HARRISON, ANDREW BURLEIGH, DAVID ROBB, DAVID WILKINSON, BARBARA KEOGH, BRIAN WILDE AND CAROLINE LANGRISHE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath- a source of little delight, but necessary.’ Catherine Earnshaw.
Oh wow. I’ve seen a fair few film-and-TV versions of Emily Bronte’s classic novel in my time, but this one has by far the most rain, the most wind, the most mist, the most water-logged, treacherous moors, the most whipping, and the most destructive, messed-up inter-personal relationships you’ll ever see. I bloody well love it, lol, for all these reasons and more.
It’s the bleakest, grittiest, most depressing and most violent (emotionally and physically) version there is, I do believe, but this is a positive thing and not a bad one. It’s how this book was meant to be filmed, my dears. No Jane Austen light comedy-of-manners, this. This is a book about pain, obsessive love, revenge and endless suffering, and any screen version would do well to remember this as this version does.
In this version, the sins of the father (and mother) are not only visited on the children, but they (the sins!) have brought a mountain of bloody luggage with ’em an’ all, and announced their intention of occupying the back bedroom for the foreseeable future so forget what plans you’ve made for ‘t’ back bedroom, the sins are here to stay and there’s nowt you can get do about it, so you’d best put up and shut up, lol, and get ‘t’ bloody kettle on sharpish.
Wuthering Heights is the rain-washed farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors that houses the Earnshaw family, the family into which the young foundling Heathcliff is first brought by Daddy Earnshaw as an interloper, an outsider, the cuckoo in the nest. Hindley, the real son of the family, loathes Heathcliff with all his being, but the same can’t be said for Hindley’s sister, Catherine…
Catherine grows up mostly without a mother. She’s a tomboy, an expert rider and tree-climber, a free spirit with a wild, tempestuous nature as wild and tempestuous as the moors where she grows up. This wildness and longing for freedom in Cathy’s soul, this contempt for the conventions, finds an answering call in the boorish and brooding Heathcliff’s tormented being. Thus begins the love affair that flies in the face of God and transcends the years and even, eventually, Death itself…
Cathy and Heathcliff are perfect for each other, but that’s not to say that they’re perfect. Their relationship is a passionate, spiteful destructive one, in which two similarly selfish, self-willed, self-centred people butt heads and vie for mastery of each other. Cathy is particularly spoiled and wayward. Heathcliff, one supposes, is merely the product of his painful upbringing, in which Catherine Earnshaw was the only person to show him anything approximating love.
Cathy rejoices in making Heathcliff jealous, in watching him twist himself up in knots for love of her. It hurts him greatly when she discovers the Linton family of Thrushcross Grange across the moors, and makes a favourite of posh Edgar Linton, the rather sissified toff with the stiff upper lip and aristocratic bearing who nonetheless cannot hold a candle to Heathcliff’s enduring passion.
Cathy and Heathcliff bring pain and suffering to those around them. They should really be quarantined and kept apart from other people, the better to not taint them with their particularly vicious brand of twisted love.
But they seem to almost enjoy bringing hurt to others (Heathcliff in particular), and so their fates and fortunes become inextricably linked with those of the Lintons, Edgar of Thrushcross Grange and his younger sister Isabella, and the Lintons will be the worse off by far for it.
They’ll drag their children into it too, and make them good and miserable as well. There’ll be nothing but misery, in fact, for all who are tainted by this destructive affair or amour fou, a crazy, messed-up kind of love. (There’s so much inbreeding going on here, as well, that it makes mental illness in some of the protagonists a very real prospect.)
Throughout it all, Ellen (Nelly) Dean, Cathy’s nurse, stands true and faithful to her darling Catherine, Catherine’s lover Heathcliff and any of the various offspring who are placed in her care and clasped to her motherly bosom.
I daresay she’s frequently an enabler, too, for the most toxic and poisonous man-woman relationship that ever soiled the face of the earth, but at least no-one can question her fidelity to her mistress (Cathy) and master (Heathcliff).
This screen version of the book has the most capricious and temperamental Catherine, the most steadfast Nelly, the most tortured and tormented Heathcliff and the wettest, windiest moors. I remember enjoying my solitary bike rides as a child to a ruined castle on the outskirts of town, where I clambered over the uneven surfaces of the castle floor and looked out the glassless windows across the fields, imagining them to be moors and myself the much-loved and fought-over Cathy.
I couldn’t, at that age, conceive of anything more divinely romantic than a man who loved his girlfriend so much that he would dig up her rotted corpse some twenty years after her death and make love to it, at least with his lips. I guess a career in horror writing was already beckoning, lol.
Graveyards already held a special charm for me and, when I discovered a single unattended grave in the grounds of my ruined castle, well, of course, it just had to be Cathy’s, lying quietly awaiting the arrival of a Heathcliff with a good strong shovel. It might wait there still, for all I know. (Or, most probably, some poxy businessmen might have bought and ‘developed’ the land and turned it into ‘luxury’ apartments, boooooo!)
Kate Bush, my favourite singer of all time, male or female, had obviously felt a similar attraction to this gothic story of doomed love, because she wrote that timeless hit song that had more wildness and passion about it than most of the screen versions of same. This is the kind of story that appeals to people with a gothic, maybe even slightly flawed turn of mind, lol.
If you like the frilly, flouncy, fluffy kind of love that has a happy ending and ties up neatly with a big chocolate-boxy bow, you’d best stick to Jane Austen. But if you want your romance stories to end mainly tragically with only a little teensy-weensy bit of hope left for the future, then Emily’s your man.
Her own sister Charlotte nearly managed to out-romance her in the fabulous classic JANE EYRE, but Emily still pips her to the post. A book with a male character in it who wants, who begs, to be haunted by his dead lover’s ghost on the stormiest of stormy nights on the wiliest and windiest of wiley, windy moors would pretty much pip anyone else’s book to any mouldy old post.
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 Film-Making. 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:
You can contact Sandra at:
DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.
STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’
Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.
This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.
Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.
He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?
The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.
The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.
With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.
He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.
Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?
When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.
His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?
The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.
This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.
When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock.
Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.
It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.
What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.
It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.
Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.
Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?
I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.
He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.
What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?
You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.
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:
You can contact Sandra at: