The Wicked Lady-attachment0

The Wicked Lady

Movie Information

In Brief: No perfidy is too perfidious for Margaret Lockwood in — and as — The Wicked Lady, and it's a good thing because the film pretty much rises or falls on the depths of her depravity. Everyone else — with the exception of James Mason as a highwayman — is pretty bland in this nicely produced film that's too genteel for its own plot. It obviously suffers from the pitfalls of its era, but somewhat makes up for this with the thievery, adultery, duplicity and even murderous hijinks of Ms. Lockwood having a fine melodramatic time.
Genre: Period Drama
Director: Leslie Arliss
Starring: Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Patricia Roc, Griffith Jones, Michael Rennie
Rated: NR

Leslie Arliss’ The Wicked Lady scandalized and delighted audiences in 1945 (the critics were considerably cooler). It tells the tale of Barbara Worth (Margaret Lockwood), a lady of absolutely no morals whatever. It doesn’t take long in the film before she has stolen her best friend’s (Patricia Roc) fiancé (Griffith Jones) for no reason other than she could — and the fact that he has a lot of money. Worse, she mocks her predecessor’s fashion sense by noting that the wedding gown that lady had chosen is something she “wouldn’t even be buried in.” She’s just plain not nice. No sooner is she married — by which I mean at the wedding reception — than she’s fallen for and in the process of seducing another man (Michael Rennie). From here it’s a small step to becoming a highwayman (mostly for the thrill of it) and becoming a highwayman’s (James Mason) mistress — with time out here and there for the odd murder. It’s amusing melodramatic trash, yes, but it’s rather lost its edge to shock. (I suspected this when Chip Kaufmann kept telling me what a great print this was — and, yes, it is — rather than answering my question about how it stood up against Michael Winner’s outrageous R — nearly X-rated — 1983 remake.) Despite all the perfidious doings, the original just feels too proper. What makes it hold up is mostly attributable to Maregaret Lockwood. She manages to seem a lot more wicked than the film itself manages — not in the least because she truly appears to enjoy her villainy.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Wicked Lady Sunday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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