Fraught with the kind of tension that makes breathing difficult, this frighteningly eerie story of a middle-aged couple unable to cope with the loss of their own child has won numerous awards and is now available for the f... more »irst time on DVD. Myra (Kim Stanley, The Right Stuff) is a mentally unstable medium that believes if she kidnaps a child of wealthy parents, she can prove her psychic abilities by 'finding' the child. Award-winning performances from Stanley as the disturbed Myra and Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park) as Billy the meek, apologetic husband combine with tension packed location shooting to make this mid-sixties thriller an enduring portrait of madness.« less
"Stunning film of the staged kidnapping of a child by a demented medium and her cuckolded, guilt-ridden husband. Beautifully photographed in b&W, the film has a grey, somber feel to it that illustrates the emptiness of the childless couple's lives. The plan is to kidnap the child then stage a seance to help "find" the child to further enhance the medium's reputation and career. The husband trembles with fright and guilt while the medium is convinced that this is the "answer". She is "guided" by Arthur---her "spirit" guide---that is actually the child they lost at birth as stillborn. ASTOUNDING performances by stage actress Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough as the couple carry this film brilliantly to it's gripping conclusion. The subject matter is sensitive (especially today) but the film is a powerful masterwork of mood and psychological character study. I strongly recommend this for true cinema explorers. The DVD transfer is nice and crisp and the sound is clear. It's not for everyone---especially sensitive types---but it's still a must see for those who like engrossing and fascinating films that just don't come along that often. Filmed in 1964, it's as fresh and riveting now as it MUST have been back then. A true classic."
Greatest Film Performance to Date
David B. Franklin | Young Harris, GA United States | 11/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen well over a thousand films--including all the most critically acclaimed--but I have yet to see a film performance equalling Kim Stanley's in Seance on a Wet Afternoon. It is truly compelling and to highlight all the other many attributes of the film would detract from what is Stanley's astounding achievement. And just to think that Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins won the Academy Award over Stanley should give everyone pause to assess the real meaning of "Oscar". What more can be said?"
"An unsuccessful psychic and spiritualist has grown frustrated with her lack of celebrity--and so devises a plan to bring herself the fame she craves. She and her husband will kidnap a child. When the police are baffled and press coverage has reached a fevered pitch, she will have a "vision" that will lead to the child's recovery and the reap the rewards of publicity. But no sooner is the plan underway than there are complications--and in this instance the complications are the characters themselves.Everything about Brian Forbes' SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON is understated yet oddly moody. The story, although unusual, is told in a direct sort of way; although it offers an occasional twist, the plot avoids tricky devices. The script is very natural sounding, the black and white cinematography avoids undue cleverness, and the background music is discreet. This throws all attention on the characters--and Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough offer amazing performances, with Stanley the very personification of rising madness and Attenborough painfully accurate as her emotionally dependent husband.The interplay between Stanley and Attenborough is justly famous, and the two stars are well supported, most particularly by Judith Donner as the kidnapped child and Nanette Newman as her distracted mother. The film has a dreamy, claustrophobic quality that many will find fascinating; some, however, may consider it a bit talky and its conclusion an anticlimax. But if you are in the mood for a psychological thriller that really is psychological, you couldn't pick a better choice for rainy day viewing. Recommended."
Great atmosphere--and the best performance on film
C. Heinrich | Oyster Bay, NY USA | 05/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I coincidentally watched this along with the excellent "Repulsion". These two films go together very well. They were both filmed in beautiful black-and-white, showing the incredible power and atmosphere that color film cannot capture. I suggest getting these two films together. If you enjoy one, you'll probably enjoy the other. This film features one of the most stunning pieces of acting I have ever seen. Kim Stanley is extraordinary, walking a tightrope throughout the whole film. She is truly breathtaking. You can watch her facial expressions and mannerisms shift within a single sentence, as her character veers from lucidity to absurdity in one breath. Richard Attenborough is brilliant, too, as her weak and spiritually deadened husband. The atmosphere in this film is so striking. It's a combination of the black-and-white photography, John Barry's eerie score, and, of course, the acting and direction. I don't want to say much about the plot, but it's basically about an unbalanced woman that has an absurd means to her desired end of a lifetime of shattered dreams. The house is filled with her ghosts, and she is hopelessly caught up in her past. And her spineless husband gets dragged down right with her. It's always interesting to see films where a male is subservient to his woman!The climactic seance scene is fantastic, solidly convincing me that Kim Stanley gave one of the greatest film performances I have ever seen. This is especially an amazing feat considering Kim Stanley is a revered stage actress that has been in very few films. She has said that working in film is too awkward a medium, that she didn't like its starts and stops. But her painstaking attention to detail is evident throughout this film, and she easily worked around whatever she felt her limitations might be in filmmaking. This film is a must-see. It makes for good suspense as it does for good drama. The whole experience of watching this film will not be soon forgotten."
Loses a star for the DVD features
M. J. Howell | Portland, OR, USA | 01/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a 5 star film across the board: terse screenplay, stunning performances, haunting John Barry score, wonderfully understated cinematography, but the transfer was terrible. The audio transfer is the worst. The television had to be turned way up and, as the other reviewer said, then certain parts would be very shrill and make the set vibrate. The little hairs and other things that appear when transferring old film negatives don't bother me as much as poor audio. I really wanted to hear commentary from anyone on this disc, I am also a big fan of subtitles (I don't know why). All that being said, I still have to give it 4 stars. This movie is just that good. I found myself literally on the edge of my seat at times, that's a very rare and wonderful thing.M"