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Lady Audley's Secret
Lady Audley's Secret
Actors: Steven Mackintosh, Neve McIntosh, Juliette Caton, Melanie Clark Pullen, Kenneth Cranham
Director: Betsan Morris Evans
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family, Television, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2005     1hr 48min

Deep in her sleep behind closed doors of the Audley estate, Lady Audley?s scandalous past haunts her dreams. Revelling in the luxury attained by marriage to Sir Michael Audley (Kenneth Cranham ? The Tenant of Wildfell Hall...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Steven Mackintosh, Neve McIntosh, Juliette Caton, Melanie Clark Pullen, Kenneth Cranham
Director: Betsan Morris Evans
Creators: Julian Court, Anne-Marie Casey, Jane Wellesley, Peter Hider, Rebecca Eaton, Donald Hounam, Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Family Films, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Bfs Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/12/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 48min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Kathleen O. (Kathleen) from WALDPORT, OR
Reviewed on 5/11/2010...
Lady Audley is haunted by a secret past. The past too often haunts her dreams. When her servants find out about some of her past, everything becomes unraveled. Great acting but very disturbing story.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

M'lady's shocking secrets keep you riveted to the end!
Lisa Ebeling | smalltown, USA | 10/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I missed the PBS premiere of "Lady Audley's Secret" in March of this year, but did see its encore performance this week. This episode of "Mystery" is certainly on my Christmas list. Oddly enough, the tape doesn't seem to be available through It is, happily, available here at!"Lady Audley's Secret" is a superb movie based on the bestselling novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the absolute pioneer of the modern mystery novel in Victorian England. Braddon's novel (same title), now considered a classic of Victorian literature, first published in installments in England in 1861-62, shocked readers/society because it glamorized crime. Interestingly, the character with the most corrupt heart is a woman, which was even more scandalous. In today's terms, Lucy Graham is a sort of "black widow," as well as a gold-digger and social-climber. She finesses her way from being a simple governess to mistress of the manor when she marries an elderly wealthy nobleman.Lucy keeps her colorful past secret until her husband's nephew brings a good friend of his to the estate to meet her. As Lucy's financial security and social position are threatened, she becomes desperate to keep her secrets buried. She's blackmailed, threatened with exposure, and finally lashes out. Her cunning, calculating, cool personality is portrayed devastatingly well by Neve McIntosh (who reminds me of American actress Karen Allen).The movie is extremely well-done, has a superb cast (Neve McIntosh, Kenneth Cranham, Steven Mackintosh, Jamie Bamber and Juliette Caton), beautiful costumes, and a gorgeous location at the manor which was author Braddon's model for the Audley estate.Whether you like really nicely-written mysteries or beautifully-filmed period pieces, "Lady Adley's Secret" is a must-see. Christmas is coming: put this VHS on your list--for giving OR receiving!"
Pretty Faithful Adaptaion of Braddon, in Plot and in Spirit
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 09/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Mary Elizabeth Braddon published "Lady Audley's Secret" as a serial publication from 1861 to 1862, and it instantly made her name as a popular author, which would last to her death in the early 20th century. Her books, then, were once almost forgotten, but, because of her considerable gift as a gripping storyteller and her fascinating heroines who dares to break the social codes, Braddon's books, after the 1990s, began to gather attentions in and out of the academic field. This British TV adaptation is, reflecting this tendency, a natural consequence.Lady Audley, formerly a governess with no family, marries rich Sir Michael Audley, leaving behind many envious eyes of the people. But when Robert, her husband's nephew, brings his old friend George Talboys, her behaviours suddenly start to change. And one day, all of sudden, George disappears, and Robert starts his own investigation, collecting circumstantial evidences to reveal one secret.You may find this secret is too easy to guess, but as I point out later, you're mistaken. The film is a melodrama, not a detective story, and as such the film is very good. Actors including Steven Mackintosh (of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") are all good (but maybe a bit wooden, some of them), and costumes are beautiful. The location (in Essex) is very convincing, and readers of the original book will be surprised to find that even the clock tower of Audley House is there (though the well has to be built). Now, here's a common misunderstanding among the readers and viewers of Braddon, so let me correct it. The "secret" of the title, deadly and mysterious as it sounds, is NOT the secret you can easily guess in the first 25 minutes of the film. It is a repeated mistake concerning this book, but this "Lady Audley's Secret" actually refers to something completely different. This is the part I cannot disclose, but I can tell you that the fate which this "secret" leads her to the building in the continent still causes a debate among Braddon readers. Is she really so? Or is she not? -- the final judgment of the book on her is still vague.So, the film has altered ending, reflecting the present PC mood -- a bit longer than the book -- and this reviewer finds it very interesting, though not perfect. Maybe fans of her books are dismayed at that, or other changes (about Talboys' family, for instance), but this ending is resonant with Braddon's social consciousness about the roles of women in Victorian society. "A bird in cage" is a good metaphor that is the undercurrent of the original book. After all, the original is written with the heroine's tradedy in mind, so if Robert's behaviour, which goes between love and hate towards his aunt, seems inconsistent (it is), it is because Lady Audley is the main character, not him. This is a film that clearly attempts to show something more besides its melodramatic plot. The original book is a first-rate thriller still now, but the film tries to show its sub-texual side in the repressed women at that time. Whether or not it is a wise decision, you should see for yourself. But for any avid readers of Braddon like me, the film is more than satisfactory, and offers some insight into the book."
Exploring the Dark Side of Victorian "Respectability"
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 10/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Though this has been called a mystery (and it is, in part, that) its really much more than that. Through its many twists and turns this labyrinthine novel is really an expose of the countless hypocrisies and double-standards concealed beneath the polite veneer of Victorian society. Whats most exciting is that this novel is proof that not all of those alive during the time subscribed to the notion that Victorian England actually was the shining isle of virtue and respectability that many claimed it to be. "Morality" and "respectablity" were mandatory in the England of the 1860's and though very few people could actually live up to these high standards the rich could at least afford the semblance of respectability. Those with money could conveniently hide their own imperfections and sins behind thick castle doors or send proof of their sins off to the colonies in order to keep them out of sight and out of mind. The poor were not so lucky, for them the slightest mistake or even the slightest hint of scandal was instantly made public and scandal spelled instant ruin. Tucked comfortably away behind ivy covered walls the rich lived however they wanted to. But the poor lived under the watchful eye of the public and the wealthy landowners that were exploiting them and ready to discipline them if they stepped out of line; thus the poor lived in fear of both material blight and in fear of censor from their supposed "betters".

Braddon focuses her keen attentions on a young and beautiful 22 year old who was born in a mining town. Realizing that the only way that she can escape living in the same squalid conditions as her parents "Helen" decides to improve her prospects in the only way that is available to a woman in the 1860's: she marries for money. But her first marriage to George Talsby doesn't turn out as planned (because of the marriage George is cut off from his families wealth) and though the union produces a child she knows she cannot love a man who cannot "make her comfortable" and so she abandons him and then tries the only other way she can think of to escape from poverty: she changes her name and gets a job working on a wealthy estate. This turns out rather well for "Helen" (now calling herself "Lucy" and posing as a single governess) because the wealthy Lord Audely for whom she is working, though a good thirty years her senior, just happens to be in the market for a young bride and cannot help but notice the striking beauty working in his house. When he proposes she accepts and becomes Lady Audley and is forever freed from the prospect of having to earn a living, or so she thinks.

But, alas, her good fortune does not last as her estranged husband George Talsby (who is still trying to find her) just happens to be friends with Lord Audley's nephew, Robert, and when the two of them return from a stint in Australia and arrive at the Audley estate Lady Audley must do everything in her power to avoid allowing this particular "secret" from her past (and, yes, there is actually more than one) to be revealed. To avoid her estranged husband she simply faints every time she hears him approaching and rushes off to her room. Interestingly Lord Audley never asks Lady Audley about her past even when she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming in horror from the memory of it and from the fear of being found out. To Lord Audley Lady Audley is merely a showpiece; she is no more alive to him than a painting. And Lucy's relationship to the portrait that Lord Audley commisions is an especially interesting and telling one. Once Robert and George get a look at this portrait they are both filled with a need to possess her. The nephew is filled with lust and the estranged first husband, realizing for the first time that his friends stepmother is actually his runaway wife, wants her back (although he keeps her true identity a secret). And all of this happens while lightning crashes around the house and guadily lights up the room. Braddon is not above sensationalistic moments, and because of this you are never for one moment bored for every time you want something to happen it does, but despite a series of sensationalistic moments she is sincerely interested in the plight of women in Victorian society. Victorian England offered very little in the way of career opportunites for women and the Victorians seemed to value women's reputations more than they valued women as actual living & breathing individuals with their own complex identities. But Braddon, thankfully, is not afraid to tell it like it is and with "Lucy" we get a devastating portrait of a woman's fate in such a male dominated society. Lord Audley's niece, Alicia, comfortably inhabits Victorian England simply because she has no knowledge of the world outside the estate that she grew up on and so she actually does appear to be the prim Victorian ideal; Lucy, on the other hand, has seen the world and is intimately familar with its realites and she has a complex identity and complex views on just what those realities are. Nonetheless due to strict social surveillance of women and their behavior she has learned how dangerous this society can be to a woman with strong views and she has learned to keep her true views and her true self hidden away. Lucy is forced to be an excellent actress although on occasion the true Lucy does burst through the social facade and on these occasions the real Lucy really lets her oppressors have a piece of her mind. This is admittedly "sensationalistic" fiction and Braddon's heroine is a sensationalistic character but it is also obvious that Braddon is genuinely interested in investigating a society whose social codes require women to live secret or double lives.

Once they get a glimpse of the real Lucy the men all view her as "cold, rational and remorseless" but it is clear that its the injustices of this lop-sided male dominated society that force her to become the self-preserving and calculating survivalist that she becomes. Upon hearing her justification for doing each thing that she's done a psychiatrist deems her "mad"; the Victorians with their oversimplied views on women are not equipped to understand a creature like Lady Audley.

As Lucy's past, and Victorian society's moral authorities (including the scorned and smitten nephew turned into a wanna-be Sherlock Holmes who busies himself gathering clues with which to convict her), begin to catch up with her we see her in more and more cramped spaces until she is finally held in her room like a prisoner by her husband and the smitten nephew. Lord Audley fears for the damage that would be done to his reputation were his wife's many "secrets" to be revealed, but the nephew is more interested in exacting revenge and punishment on Lady Audley for refusing his own amorous advances. Thus Lucy becomes a symbol for what happens to women in a repressive society that cannot see or value women as individuals but can see them only as embodiments of the virtue that they themselves aspire to or of the vices that they cannot escape.

So although this is a sensationalistic film with a lurid twist or a salacious turn every 3-5 minutes and with an ending as unexpected as it is unfaithful to the original novel on which it is based; both film and novel (each in their own way) effectively turn that prying Victorian lens back on Victorian society itself and implicate the entire society in creating Lady Audley. Once she is found out Lady Audley strikes out not at Victorian society nor at the men who made her what she is but at her own portrait. The implications of lashing out against her own portrait are threefold: 1)her dream of wealth has been ruined, 2) the portrait represents the fiction that she was forced to play in order to survive in Victorian society, and 3) the realization that she is not the person in the portrait makes her face what she really might be (mad). This last fear is a fear instilled in her from childhood when her father told her that her supposedly dead mother was actually mad and that this madness was hereditary. This is the real "secret" she has concealed from the world. And the real innovation of the book is that it offers the Victorian definition of madness. For the Victorian "madness" becomes a term used against those that fail to follow conventions. Thus among everything else that Lady Audley must contend with (unjust social conditions, extremely narrow definitons/expectations of Victorian women, mens arbitrary exercise of power over women) she must also deal with a primitive pre-Freudian Victorian psychology which chooses to see unconventionality, and especially unconventionality in women, as a disease of the mind.

This is certainly a fascinating side of the Victorians that we would not get were we to confine ourselves to reading only the more conventional literature of the day."