By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Life after mother dies.
Seven children live with their mother inside a large English house. She is sickly and when she dies they decide to keep it a secret by burying her body in the back garden and then continuing on as normal as they fear they will otherwise be sent off to an orphanage. Things go surprisingly well for the most part, but then their alcoholic father Charlie (Dirk Bogarde) reappears after a long absence, which sends everything spiraling out of control.
Director Jack Clayton lends an amazing amount of control and freedom to the child performers and the result is fantastic. The kids give solid performances and really carry the movie. Margaret Brooks as Elsa is a standout and shows great maturity especially with the way she stands up to the Bogarde character. Phoebe Nicholls is also terrific and looks like a young Sandy Dennis. Mark Lester did this just before doing his star turn in Oliver and he is cute, but his stuttering is annoying.
Although the character is obnoxious, one-dimensional and predictable Bogarde does a fine job as always in his part in what was a bit of an offbeat turn for him as he doesn’t appear until about forty-five minutes in. Yootha Joyce is entertaining with her bit as the children’s callous nanny. She has interesting facial expressions and voice tones, which makes the most of her otherwise small role. She is probably most famous for playing the equivalent of the Mrs. Roper character in the British version of ‘Three’s a Company’, which was ‘Man about the House’ and it is a shame that alcoholism cut both her career and life short.
The film weaves an interesting atmosphere and this is the type of story where you have no idea where it is going. I also liked some of the side diversions that Clayton incorporates including having the children take a boat ride around the famous Dinosaur Court in the Crystal Palace Park. Erected in 1854 these were the very first dinosaur sculptures ever made in the world.
I also found it interesting that there are scenes showing the children praying and even reading Bible verses. This is not a spiritual film in any way and I personally have no stand on the issue, but it brought to mind how mainstream films today never show anyone ever praying even though a lot of regular people still do it and by putting it into the story it makes it more realistic instead of less.
The only real issue that I had with the movie that otherwise has some very intriguing elements is the ending, which comes pretty close to being a copout and leaves way too many loose ends open.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: October 9, 1967
Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes
Director: Jack Clayton