Based on Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest
Big tip of the hat to Noirish’s John Grant, who first tipped me off by writing about it a week or so ago, and then arranging for me to see it as I was so excited to hear of an adaptation of Jackson that I’d never seen before. He’s got some great photo stills, too, so be sure to check it out. In fact his detailed write up is so thorough go read it first. I’ll just add a couple things here that strike me in seeing it for the first time.
I do love the opening credits. I am easily charmed by simple movie magic, but somehow the inkblots just work nicely for me. They give a shortcut to the theme of revealing the hidden within the mind and yes, from childhood I was obsessed with these narratives of women going bonkers probably because I figured I was one of them since I realised early on that my mind worked differently from other people’s (took me a while to feel sure that ‘different’ didn’t have to mean ‘crazy’). And as Grant points out, before Three Faces of Eve Jackson had her finger on the nature of these coping mechanisms from trauma (I always suspected her mind worked a bit differently, too).
Eleanor Parker is fine but the supporting cast is so stellar she can’t really shine. Even Marion Ross in a small role as a co-worker outshines her on screen. It’s a tough role that fluctuates between the harsh ‘Lizzie’ and timid Elizabeth. And of course Joan Blondell is magnetic whenever the camera is on her, so there’s little chance of capturing the audience’s sympathy for Elizabeth/Beth. It’s great to see Richard Boone as a good guy for once, though I don’t recall the psychiatrist being all that appealing in the novel, but maybe that’s either 1) my bad memory or 2) seeing him from a different P.O.V. in the book. And wow, a shockingly young Johnny Mathis with the voice just as velvety smooth.
I’m really glad I heard of it and got to see it (thanks, John!). It’s in the rotation at TCM, so if you have the channel keep your eyes peeled.
Best of all, it makes me desperate to find the time to go re-read Jackson’s novel. And that’s a good thing.
Find other overlooked gems via Todd’s blog.