On paper this 1983 remake of the 1945 film The Wicked Lady sounds like a fun and interesting plot, but unfortunately due to various reasons this does not transpire across to the screen. Faye Dunaway is the lead character Lady Barbara who seduces her cousins future husband so that she can gain the title and his wealth, but she soon finds herself unhappy and turns to a life of crime to get her excitement.
The film starts with some beautifully shot scenes and gives off the impression of a nice, peaceful, easy watching film. This is then shattered where in the first five minutes you are introduced to the first part of nudity in where a man and woman are having sex in a stable and are chased out. The women is completely naked and runs around rather aimlessly for a while so that you can see her in her full glory. Its not the unnecessary nudity that puts a bitter taste in the mouth however, its the fact that the actress looks directly down the camera. Considering this is within the first five minutes, it sets the tone for the whole film.
There is a lot of nudity in this film, from the maids and footmen having sex with each other at parties, to walking the corridors of the big house naked having just had sex when they hear a commotion. There is also a sex scene between Caroline (Lady Barbara’s cousin) and her future husband where by they are both naked for a rather long time. Its not the nudity that is a problem, sometimes nudity is vital to a film but in this film it has no place and seems to be included only for controversy. It really adds to the feel that a lot of scenes are just ‘put together’ and don’t really flow that well. The sex scene starts with the two actors on the floor having sex but then they stand so you can see everything and then go back to the floor again, the shots don’t fit well together and don’t add anything to the story.
As well as the flow of the film not working very well, the acting isn’t particularly great either. Faye Dunaway is very over the top at trying to play a vindictive ‘bad girl’. A point is made at the very beginning about her ‘amazing green eyes’ so there are a lot of close up shots of them and her staring when she is up to something, unfortunately it turns out to be one shot too many and as a viewer it becomes somewhat tedious. There are also other moments where it is clear that the footage was not checked, more looking down the lens shots and in particularly a scene where there are two men hanging as Lady Barbara comes into shot on her horse, its a good camera shot ruined by the fact that the ‘dead’ hanging man moves his feet so as not to kick the actress in the face as she rides through.
It is easy to see why it caused controversy with a whipping scene. This scene is captured quite well and although again it feels a little as an excuse for one character to show her breasts, it is done well and the welts on the victim do look realistic. However, it is plagued with bad acting and one good scene is not enough to save a film that is riddled with poor ones. The story is interesting but is poorly executed and not enough to keep the viewer engaged throughout.
Dir: Michael Winner
Scr: Leslie Arliss, Michael Winner
Cast: Faye Dunaway, Alan Bates, Denholm Elliot, John Gielgud, Martina Sirtis
Prd: Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan
DOP: Jack Cardiff
Music: Tony Banks
Runtime: 98 mins
The Wicked Lady is out on DVD now.