U.K. • 1958 • COLOUR • 35MM • 103 MIN.

A Regency rake (Keith Michell) becomes besotted by a gypsy (Melina Mercouri), who is a very wicked lady: they marry, and disaster ensues. ‘I wanted to make a melodrama,’ said Losey, ‘but also try and present something of the feeling of the Regency period which was cruel and dirty and not just lovely and elegant.’ In the event he fell out with his producers; his contract with the Rank Organisation was terminated; and he more or less disowned the film, complaining particularly about Hans May’s music (which is not that bad). Admittedly, the plot ingredients—foppish aristocrat, femme fatale, a stolen inheritance, crooked lawyers, incarceration in a madhouse — become steadily indigestible, but the critique of the gentry, inverted power relationships, and characters who become slaves to their passions, will all be future Losey concerns. Moreover the visual style, inspired by Rowlandson prints of the period, is extraordinary, and the commingling of sexuality and violence quite daring for its time, particularly in the normally pallid cheeks of British cinema.

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