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Based on the work by Jerzy Skolimowski, the film is a dramatization of the Victoria Thompson murder case in 1880s New Zealand. A teenaged orphaned girl marries an older man and decides after years of abuse to kill him through hypnosis. An unengaging drama, though the lovely New Zealand landscape serves as a fitting contrast to the film's ominous tone.

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Available on Running time 90 minutes. Originally from British, New Zealand, Australian.

Cast and Crew

Genres
Period Piece: 19th Century, Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse
Screenplay
Michael Laughlin
Cast
John Lithgow, Jodie Foster, Michael Murphy, Dan Shor, Harry Andrews
Cinematography
Louis Horvath
Director
Michael Laughlin
Music
Georges Delerue
Producer
Challenge, RKO

Visitor Reviews

Mesmerized
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Jim Davies

This is a strangely haunting drama, well enhanced by the Maori choir that accompanies the opening and closing of the movie. I was riveted, watching it twice over right out of the box. Acting is excellent, with Jodie Foster in the unfamiliar role of a prim young Victorian lady speaking English as it is spoken by the English, exploring the world outside her orphanage tentatively but with firm resolution. Lithgow is convincing as a hard drinking, uncouth but successful businessman devoid of social and even sexual grace. The drama unfolds relentlessly, to keep us where we belong - on the edge of our chairs. The New Zealand accent isn't easy to imitate and only Lithgow does a passable job, but I doubt if that matters because immigration to that colony from Britain at the time would mean there was a wide mix of dialects. The murder would have been easily avoided had the idiotic lawyer whom the heroine consulted given her better advice, and that's a condemnation of Victorian attitudes towards marriage and probably justifies the movie's billing as a member of the "domestic abuse" genre. However it goes much further, for the manner in which Victoria escaped her trap gave Oliver a dreadfully cruel death, and the film is honest about its portrayal. The movie therefore left me surprised: I sympathetically identified with a woman who had with malice aforethought cruelly caused the violent death of her husband and benefactor - for no better reason than that his inadequacies left her unsatisfied in love. I'm glad she was acquitted, and hopefully lived happily ever after with George; for punishment never, ever solves anything but is the antithesis of true justice. The story left me nonetheless with a strong sense of moral ambiguity, which is no doubt just what the director intended.