Review: The Chalk Garden
Blu-ray: The Chalk Garden (1964)
Based on Enid Bagnall’s 1955 play of the same name, The Chalk Garden stars Deborah Kerr as Miss Madrigal, a mysterious and seemingly detached unemotional woman who turns up one day at Mrs Maugham’s (Edith Evans) country home, with the hope of becoming governess to her granddaughter Laurel (Hayley Mills).
Laurel is ‘disturbed’ (naughty and spoilt), hates her mother for leaving her father and marrying another man and lives with her controlling grandmother. Oh and John Mills is the butler.
Laurel is intrigued by Miss Madrigal’s lack of a past, and tells her she will get rid of her by exposing her deep dark secret. Of course we all can guess what that secret is as the mention of murder throughout the film gets Kerr to widen her eyes and go a bit stiff.
The thing is, this film is so very ‘play-like’ that you do feel like its being performed on a stage, but its saving grace is some of the cracking dialogue between Kerr and Hayley Mills, and Kerr’s acting. She does “Ice maiden who’s about to erupt” to perfection, and dare I say…she is somewhat repressed-sexy in this film. Her clothes are very tight, her hair is up in a French knot, but she always has lipstick on and seems very available in a frosty way to John Mills.
Hayley Mills is a bit annoying but that’s more to do with the character than Mills herself, and of course Edith plays herself as usual.
I have to admit I was glued to it despite guessing all the shocks and outcome.
It’s a great package too with a fabulous array of extras, especially the great commentary from Lucy Bolton and Jo Botting, which was entertaining as well as informative.
- High Definition remaster
- Original mono soundtrack
- Audio commentary with film historians Lucy Bolton and Josephine Botting (2021)
- The BEHP Interview with Ronald Neame (1991, 107 mins): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the acclaimed director in conversation with Roy Fowler
- Fertile Ground (2021, 8 mins): assistant production accountant Maurice Landsberger remembers filming at Eastbourne
- 8mm Location Footage (1963, 1 min): excerpts from John Mills’ home movies shot at Beachy Head during production
- Clever Conversation (2021, 22 mins): appreciation of Malcolm Arnold’s score by author and musician David Huckvale
- Loved and Envied (2021, 11 mins): Josephine Botting on the life and career of Enid Bagnold
- Original theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Melanie Williams, extracts from interviews and autobiographies, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.