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During the 1940s, realism reigned in British cinema—but not at Gainsborough Pictures. The studio, which had been around since the ’20s, found new success with a series of pleasurably preposterous costume melodramas. Audiences ate up these overheated films, which featured a stable of charismatic stars, including James Mason (Lolita), Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes), Stewart Granger (King Solomon’s Mines), and Phyllis Calvert (Indiscreet). Though its films were immensely profitable in wartime and immediately after, Gainsborough did not outlive the decade. This set brings together a trio of Gainsborough’s most popular films—florid, visceral tales of secret identities, multiple personalities, and romantic betrayals.
THREE DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:
THE MAN IN GREY This tale of treachery put both the Gainsborough melodrama and actor James Mason on the map. The star-to-be plays Lord Rohan, a cruel nobleman who marries the naive and sweet-natured Clarissa (Phyllis Calvert) for the sole purpose of producing an heir; meanwhile, Clarissa’s conniving best friend, Hesther (Margaret Lockwood), secretly plots against her for her own nefarious ends. The Man in Grey, directed by Leslie Arliss (The Wicked Lady), was such a box-office success that Gainsborough used it as a template, launching a cycle of increasingly rococo films. 1943
MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS
A lurid tale of sex and psychosis, Madonna of the Seven Moons, directed by Arthur Crabtree (Fiend Without a Face), is among the wildest of the Gainsborough melodramas. Set in Italy, it begins as a relatively composed tale about a respectable, convent-raised woman (Phyllis Calvert) who is haunted by the memory of being raped as a teenager. When her grown daughter returns from school, her life begins to crack up in monumentally surprising ways. Stewart Granger also plays a prominent role in this sensational tale. 1945
THE WICKED LADY
Margaret Lockwood devours the screen as a tightly wound seventeenth-century beauty with loose morals, who steals her best friend’s wealthy fiancé on the eve of the wedding. And that’s only the beginning of this piece of pulp from director Leslie Arliss (The Man in Grey): there are no depths to which this sinful woman won’t sink. James Mason costars, and nearly steals the movie, as a highwayman with whom our antiheroine becomes entangled. This nasty, subversive treat was the most commercially successful of all the Gainsborough melodramas. 1945