I rented this because I'm interested in the subject of reincarnation, and because even in the many terrible films that he's starred in, Hopkins is usually quite impressive. Unfortunately, Audrey Rose squanders quite a lot of talent on a story that wastes its novel premise.
Mason and Beck portray a happily married couple whose daughter (Susan Swift) suffers from nightmares and violent outbursts during her birthday. They soon find themselves to be the subject of unwanted attention from a stranger (Anthony Hopkins) who claims that their offspring is the reincarnation of his own daughter, who died in a fiery car accident.
Although it bears more resemblance to a soap opera than a horror film during its first half, Wise frames melodrama in the context of the supernatural quite capably, and the results are impressive. Then, Hopkins' character does something uncharacteristically irrational and inexplicably stupid, which transforms the story into a courtroom drama. I swear to god, this actually happens. At the start of the first courtroom scene, I asked, "Are you kidding me?" out loud. This first scene degenerates into a vapid advertisement for Hindu metaphysics, and while the movie has many redeeming dramatic sequences, just think about this: in court, the defense's case rests upon the belief in reincarnation. I'm sure that it would be interesting to see a case like that tried in court, but it wouldn't, and this isn't a comedy.
As in all of his films, Wise's composition here is immaculate. It's furnished by Victor J. Kemper's pristine cinematography, which affords this film the crisp, vibrant appearance that he provided to other features like Coma and Eyes of Laura Mars.
Most of the cast is merely adequate. Swift is disappointingly stiff throughout most of the movie, but her performance in the penultimate hypnosis scene is extraordinary, and far beyond what most child actors are capable of. Unfortunately, Hopkins is quite hammy, despite his winning presence and impeccable diction. Despite his overacting, there's no denying that the man's oratory gifts are worthy of any stage actor - he almost makes the hokiest of the script's lines sound stately.
Despite some of the more predictable plot twists, I was impressed that this film ended fairly rather than happily. The ending is meant to be enlightening, but it's really just depressing. Wise crafted another beautiful film, but his talents - and that of his cast and crew - were wasted on a second-rate story. I don't intend to read the novel that this was based on.
Unfortunately, MGM only invested minor effort in the production of this flick's DVD. In spite of its faults, such an attractive film deserves a transfer from a print that isn't so grainy, and its soundtrack is so poor that much of the dubbed dialogue is quite conspicuous. This disc's only special feature is an underwhelming theatrical trailer, but its language options are impressive, providing French and Spanish dubbed dialogue and subtitles.