Review: Secret Ceremony
Blu-ray: Secret Ceremony (1968)
Secret Ceremony is one of those films I’d heard about but never seen. Directed by Joseph Losey of ‘The Servant’ fame, this could have equally starred Dirk Bogarde and James Fox and the female roles replaced by males.
It’s an odd film, disjointed and on reading up on it I think there is a ‘directors’ version, as apparently the ‘are they lesbian?’ bits were removed before release (if you google the film there are pictures of Farrow and Taylor sharing a bath which isn’t in the film).
Elizabeth Taylor plays Leonora, who again on reading up on the background to the film it states is a prostitute, which came as a surprise as she just seems to be a hysterically grieving (overacting) Liz Taylor. No hint of prostitution.
Also starring Mia Farrow as Cenci…at this time Farrow was married to Frank Sinatra and was about to star in her most famous film straight after this one – Rosemary’s Baby.
The film is more or less silent for the first 8 minutes while Cenci stalks Leonora because she looks like her dead mum. Leonora somehow ends up living with poor little unhinged rich girl Cenci and they play mummy and daughter until Cenci’s stepfather Albert (a not very menacing Robert Mitchum) arrives to cock it all up, literally. Is he a paedophile who’s been abusing Cenci leading to her mental state or … Ummm I don’t know.
The real star of this film is the amazing Arts and Crafts style house its filmed in. Wow its beautiful (Debenham House, Holland Park district of Kensington and Chelsea) and its worth watching just to roam around the rooms with Liz.
This is such an odd film, it’s not like Losey was trying to be weird on purpose, and the actors really do amp it up to camp, but I was absolutely glued to it, along with the extras including the very strange top and tail additions of a psychiatrist talking to a detective to ‘explain’ the ending.
Powerhouse Films/Indicator do have this ability to find the most extraordinary films to release, and this is another one. Bonkers but somehow entertainingly good.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
- High Definition remaster
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with authors and critics Dean Brandum and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (2019)
- Archival Interview with Joseph Losey(1969, 15 mins): extract from the French television programme Cinéma critique, featuring the celebrated director promoting the release of Secret Ceremony and an appreciation by critic Michel Mourlet
- The Beholder’s Share (2019, 25 mins): interview with Gavrik Losey, son of Joseph Losey
- TV version: additional scenes (1971, 18 mins): unique epilogue and prologue produced for US television screenings, with Robert Douglas and Michael Strong
- Original theatrical trailer
- Larry Karaszewski trailer commentary (2015, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, an archival location report, Joseph Losey onSecret Ceremony, a look at the source novella, an overview of contemporary reviews, and film credits
- World premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies
Secret Ceremony will be released on November 25th, 2019.
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.
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