Under Capricorn

1949

Crime / Drama / Romance

0
IMDb Rating 6.2 10 5372

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Reviewed by indrasnet 8 / 10

Watch it and try not to compare...

If your approach to reviewing this movie is to compare it with Hitchcock's usual style, Under Capricorn will surely not compare. If, however, you can suspend your expectations and view it with an open eye and mind, you might see that, in its own right, it is an excellent film of the type I refer to as the "Victorian soap opera." Being an aficionado of this "genre", perhaps I'm biased; but I enjoyed immensely the leisurely pace, extended dialog (which unlike other reviewers, I found to be intelligent, graceful, and poetic). I found it to be gently suspenseful, never really being sure who would get the girl in the end, or even who might survive to the end.

Joseph Cotton was appealing, even though his character throughout much of the movie seemed to be villainous, and his reasons for being that way were quite apparent by the end of the film. My suspension of disbelief centered around Bergman's casting as an Irish aristocrat: once in awhile she managed to say a word that had an Irish flavor, but mostly she just sounded Swedish. However, that did not detract at all from her usual thoughtful performance. Michael Wilding irritated me a little with his foppish ways, yet even he managed to come off as a human being with faults and virtues...just like the rest of us. Leighton was superb and she, like Cotton, seemed to be a treacherous yet sympathetic character. I think it was the portrayals of complicated people with no one being painted as totally good or bad, the nuanced characterizations that I found so artistic yet real.

If you approach this movie without preconceptions, you might be drawn into it and appreciate Hitchcock's genius in an entirely different way.

Reviewed by MartinHafer 4 / 10

Uninspired and dull...

Soon after this film began, it was obvious why this is one of the least famous of Hitchcock's films of the era. First, there really isn't any mystery or suspense--it's just a costume drama. Second, and I am surprised no one else seemed to pick up on this, but the film looked ugly despite the nice costumes and sets. This is because it looks like everything was shot in a sound stage--even the outdoor shots. In addition, the matte paintings are among the least realistic and ugly I have ever seen. It just too me out of the mood to see sloppy and flat paintings which were supposed to be mansions.

The film is set in 1831 in the colony of Australia. Oddly, the film stars an American (Joseph Cotton), a Swede (Ingrid Bergman) and an Englishman who plays an Irishman (Michael Wilding). Wilding is a poor relative of the new Governor and is looking for a way to earn his fortune in this new land. He meets up with the brooding Cotton--who is immensely wealthy and an ex-convict (of course, MOST of Australia was settled by convicts during this period). But, when he goes to dinner at Cotton's home, he sees that he knows the man's wife (Bergman). Sadly, she is an alcoholic--and a pathetic one at that. So, Wilding makes it his job to help rehabilitate her--and obviously falls for her in the process. Standing in the way is the contemptible Milly--the housekeeper who does a great job of keeping house but also seems to enjoy keeping the mistress of the house drunk and ineffectual. She is a viper--and much like the crazed housekeeper in "Rebecca". In addition, the husband is a deeply screwed up man--and this becomes obvious the more his wife tries to regain normality. In other words, he and the housekeeper both seem to be working very hard to keep her an emotional invalid.

This is a pretty dull and ponderous film from start to finish. While it could have been interesting, oddly it wasn't. Intense music and great twists, signs of Hitchcock, are strangely absent in this slow, slow, slow film. It just lumbers along to its conclusion. Truly a disappointment and indifferently made --and you just can't believe a director as talented as Hitchcock could make such an uninspired film. It's not terrible...just not very good or interesting.

Reviewed by greazyfingers 7 / 10

Underrated and beautifully photographed

While certainly uncharacteristic of Hitchcock's American films this film still has the Master's unmistakable imprint. Joseph Cotton is excellent in his role as a common man who resents the upper class of which he can never be a part. The rest of the actors do a fine job including Ingrid Bergman's turn as Cotton's drunk half mad wife. Perhaps the best and most interesting aspect of the film is the gorgeous Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff. Cardiff who is probably best known for his work with Powell and Pressburger does a great job bringing the rich color of this period piece to the screen. The camera work is also characteristically Hitchcock with many long traveling shots with wonderfully complex compositions. The pace is slow and lacking suspense, but the characters and the situations are interesting and make the film work despite the pacing problems. Certainly not one of Hitchcock's strongest films, but definitely worth watching.

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