Monday, January 18, 2010

Wuthering Heights (1967)

Year: 1967
Rated: NR (PG)
Run Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes 

First Viewing - Fall, 2009 on DVD.

Adaptation Accuracy/Dialogue - At 3 hours and 20 minutes, how could it not be accurate? Well, certainly compared to WH '39 and other versions, it is. This version is a BBC miniseries split into four 50 minute episodes. The story covers both generations, spending the first two sections on the exploits of Heathcliff, Cathy, Edgar, Isabella, and Hindley, and the last two sections on Hareton, Catherine, and Linton.

Interestingly, WH '67 goes in chronological order, beginning not with Lockwood's arrival, but with Mr. Earnshaw bringing Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights. Several versions cut Lockwood out, so I was surprised to see him pop up in the fourth episode, near the end of everything. I rather liked it. His appearance was as shocking to me as it was to the inhabitants at the Heights.

Finally, a lot of the dialogue is word for word, with the natural exceptions here and there, so that's appreciated. The "I am Heathcliff" scene could have been longer, as could any scenes involving Hindley and Frances. 

Heathcliff -(Ian McShane, age 25) Ian McShane is a fairly rough Heathcliff. As a stable boy, he is too quiet and passive and as a gentleman, there's just something not quite right. He really shines in the second half while being the puppet master of Linton and Hareton. As the movie goes on, his characterization gets stronger and stronger. I can't decide if it's because by the end of filming McShane had a real handle for the character, or if he better understood Heathcliff in that stage of life. 

Cathy Earnshaw - (Angela Scoular, age 22) This is probably my favorite Cathy...or at the very least, the most accurate Cathy. Age has a lot to do with it, methinks. But I also want to believe that Angela Scoular knew that Cathy should be played as a bratty, immature teenager rather than a passionate and dramatic lover. She understood that Cathy isn't a likable character but managed to play her with such passion and accuracy. 

Edgar Linton - (Drewe Henley, age 27) Edgar...meh. There isn't enough Edgar in this one. He's just kind of there as a plot device to keep Cathy and Heathcliff apart and then to produce Catherine. In fact, Edgar doesn't become remotely sympathetic until he is a father and attempting to protect his daughter from Heathcliff's evil plans.  

Isabella Linton - (Angela Douglas, age 27) Isabella, like her brother, is equally forgettable and doesn't have the opportunity to strengthen her character in the second half. Again, she is a means of torturing Cathy and baring Linton. 

Hindley Earnshaw - (William Marlowe, age 35) In comparison to WH '39's Hindley, this one has far more development and motive. Bringing in Frances creates sympathy for him. He's also much more active and involved in the story.  

Frances Earnshaw - (Maureen Beck, age 33) I believe Frances appears in just one scene of this movie, right after Mr. Earnshaw has died and Hindley has returned. Even though she appears in just one scene, her very presence is still better than none. In that one scene, she is perky, yet likable, making us believe that Hindley didn't marry a bitch. 

Nelly Dean - (Anne Stallybrass, age 29) Although Anne Stallybrass is the youngest actress to portray Nelly, she doesn't do much with it. She is introduced as a child, along with Hindley and Cathy (a rarity!) but once everyone is grown, Nelly seems to have aged ten years older than her charges. A personality is never developed. She is a little more feisty when it concerns Cathy's tantrums, but she perpetually suffers from "nursemaid syndrome." 

Hareton Earnshaw - (Keith Buckley, age 26) Hareton is one of my very favorite characters of Wuthering Heights and until this version I had been pleased with every portrayal of him. He is supposed to be rough, temperamental, and uneducated, but, for lack of a better word, retarded. Behind his shy exterior, Hareton is supposed to be intelligent and kind, but this version of him makes him out to be exactly what Catherine thinks he is: a lowly, dumbass stable boy. 

Catherine Linton -(Angela Scoular, age 22) I had always thought WH '92 was the only version to have the same actress play Cathy and Catherine, but I was delighted to see that this version does the same. It also furthers my theory that Angela Scoular knew her characters, as Catherine is played with a refined, yet naive calm that her mother always lacks. 

Linton Heathcliff - (Michael Wennink, age unknown) The actor does a good job of portraying Linton as a simpering, spoiled weakling, but he looks too old to make it believable. He's too masculine as well. Linton should be effeminate.  

Joseph - (John Garrie) This is perhaps the creepiest looking Joseph, and the most menacing. He seems to enjoy carrying out Heathcliff's evil bidding despite being devoutly religious. Therefore, he's probably the most memorable. 

Lockwood - (Jeremy Longhurst) Lockwood appears in voice over at the beginning of each episode to sum up what happened in the previous episode. In fact, I wouldn't know if the narrator was Lockwood if the end credits didn't have Jeremy Longhurst listed as "Lockwood's voice". It's a simple, straight forward recitation with no characteristics of Lockwood. However, in the fourth episode, Lockwood shows up suddenly and plays his part as confused visitor. Since he is usually introduced at the beginning with more important characters, his personality is never developed. In WH '67, Lockwood is Lockwood and not a confused observer. 

Costumes/Character Appearances - Because this is an accurate adaptation, the costumes are from the right era. However, they are quite simplistic but that is to be expected because of the sparse TV production. Heathcliff is dark and not handsome, so thumbs up. One of the issues of having the same actress play Cathy and Catherine is that they are not suppose to resemble one another. Catherine is supposed to be fair haired (which she is in this version) and look more like the Lintons instead of the Earnshaws. Again, ages are an issue, but this film is more forgivable. Both Edgar and Linton are too old and sturdy. 

Sets/Filming Locations - As a TV production, the sets are small and cramped, kind of like a play. In fact, I don't think we ever see and exterior of Thrushcross Grange and for Wuthering Heights, we get only a fuzzy shot.

Music -Interestingly, there is no music. The wind acts entirely as the soundtrack. I wonder if this was simply a cost thing or if the director wanted realism or a constant reminder that we are out on the wild and windy Moors. I like music though and I think it would have helped more than hindered. 

Overall Likes - Dual generations; Angela Scoular's Cathy; Nelly as a little girl; Heathcliff demanding Hindley's horse; Nelly's surprise at Frances; Hindley crying over his wife's death; Nelly not putting up with Cathy's shit; Heathcliff's abuse of Isabella; Heathcliff taunting Hindley while he's dead; Heathcliff in the second half; Lockwood showing up suddenly. 

Overall Dislikes - Black and white; Too simplistic camera shots and production values; Nelly's lack of personality; Too little Frances, Edgar, and Isabella; Hindley demanding to kiss Hareton while he's bathing; Hareton too stupid; Linton too old/strong; Too sudden ending. 

Final Thoughts - Wuthering Heights (1967) has a lot of good qualities and yet several bad ones that are too huge to be ignored, particularly the characterization of Hareton and Linton. Like I said before, Angela Scoular's performance as Cathy is my favorite and by far the strongest part of this movie. 

Since it was originally a miniseries meant to be viewed over the course of a month, and not in one sitting, it does feel a little long and a little slow at times. And it's dated of course. I'm really glad it's been released on DVD though, because I do enjoy having it on in the background while I'm doing my homework. But it's not that entertaining. It's not a good movie...but a good movie adaptation of Wuthering Heights. I wouldn't recommend it for any slumber parties, but for someone who would rather watch a film version than read the actual book for English class.

As you may have noticed, many of the character pictures are not from WH '67 but I still wanted to give a basic idea of the actors' appearances.

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