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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Wicked Lady (1983)


Starring: Faye Dunaway, Alan Bates, John Gielgud, Denholm Elliott and Hugh Millais
Distributor: Second Sight
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 04 July 2016

When Barbara attends the marriage of her sister Caroline to Sir Ralph; she manipulates both Ralph and her sister, ending up marrying Ralph herself. Following the wedding she finds herself rich, but bored. She takes to the road as a highwayman, meeting the attractive highwayman, Jerry Jackson. As the two continue their exploits suspicion starts to arise about what Barbara is getting up to...

The Wicked Lady (1983. 1 hr, 34 min, 56 sec) is a period melodrama, directed by Michael Winner and is a loose remake of the 1945 version of the story, based on the novel, The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall, which was supposedly based on the real life exploits of Lady Katherine Ferrers.

In truth the 1945 version was the superior film, if Ken Russell built his reputation on experimentation Michael Winner built his on appealing to the lowest common denominator, with the inclusion of violence and nudity, which rarely were required by the plot.

The film contains some great British actors including, Denholm Elliott (Sir Ralph Skelton), Sir John Gielgud (Hogarth), Alan Bates (Jerry Jackson) and Faye Dunaway (Lady Barbara Skelton). It’s also worth looking out for Prunella Scales, Oliver Tobias and even Marina Sirtis engaging in a girl on girl whipping session, the sort that make your clothes fall off and all the men shoot their pistols.

The costumes and locations are nice, but the film has an identity crisis. Is it an exploitation piece - like many of the latter Hammer films were - adding nudity for the sake of nudity, at least the Hammer films knew the violence and nudity were deliberately exploitative.

On the other hand, as a costume drama, the film fails to live up to movies like Witchfinder General (1968), which has many of the same elements, but much better constructed. Likewise although the film contains many good English actors, most appear to be phoning home their performances. The best bit about the film is the unexpected twist at the end.

The print is pretty good, for the film's age, and you get a stereo 2.0 audio track, but no extras apart for subtitles. One odd thing to note is that the music was composed by Tony Banks, the keyboard player with Genesis.


Charles Packer

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