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Seance on a Wet Afternoon

1 rating: 5.0
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Director: Bryan Forbes
Genre: Crime, Drama
Release Date: 1964.6.20
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Seance on a Wet Afternoon

Muted horror illuminating knockout performances

  • Aug 8, 2011
  • by
A deranged psychic (Kim Stanley) compels her spineless husband (Richard Attenborough) to kidnap the child of a wealthy couple, so that they can collect the ransom money for her return and garner recognition for her services when she conjures the details of the child's location and condition. Despite their sound and ably executed plan, the circumstances and consequences of their crime are exacerbated by greed, ambition and madness.

Bryan Forbes' adaptation of Mark McShane's cult novella possesses an understated power. In perhaps the best of her few feature film roles, Stanley is wholly absorbing and entirely credible as the twisted medium; her performance is imbued with such subtlety that she single-handedly sustains the story's more ambiguous elements. Though his role requires a less nuanced delivery, the always reliable Attenborough (who co-produced this picture) is equally impressive as her weak-willed, resentful husband. The supporting cast is also quite fine; in particular, Patrick Magee brings a sly, commanding presence to the film as a cunning police superintendent.

Too few crime dramas defy the conventions of the genre, and this is one of the best and most unusual known to me. Elegantly shot and superbly acted, this is film making at its very best: heart-wrenching, unbearably suspenseful and ultimately, quietly chilling.

Home Vision's DVD edition of this remarkable picture is austere and adequate. Although its print is only fair (some scenes sport wear lines), the transfer is exceptional, resulting in as sharp a picture as the format can facilitate. However, the sound mix is far too quiet; whatever your equipment is, you'll probably need to boost volume to hear all of the dialogue. The disc's feature set is sparse, comprised of only the film itself and two lists of titled scene selections. I prefer this to a bloated and tasteless presentation.

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