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Eclipse Series 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough Pictures (1945)

Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert, James Mason, more...
Director: Leslie Arliss
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Drama, Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Costume Drama/Period Piece, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 116 min.

Synopsis
During the 1940s, realism reigned in British cinema--but not at Gainsborough Pictures. The studio, which had been around since the twenties, 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, Margaret Lockwood, Stewart Granger, and Phyllis Calvert. Though the movies were immensely profitable in wartime and immediately after, Gainsborough did not outlive the decade. This set brings together a trio of the studios most popular films from this eraflorid, visceral tales of secret identities, multiple personalities, and romantic betrayals.

The Man in Grey (1943)
Leslie Arliss

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.

Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945)

Arthur Crabtree

A lurid tale of sex and psychosis, Madonna of the Seven Moons, directed by Arthur Crabtree, is among the wildest of the Gainsborough melodramas. Set in Italy, it begins as a comparatively sedate tale about a respectable, convent-raised woman (Phyllis Calvert) who is haunted by the memory of being raped as a teenager. But when her grown daughter returns from school, her life begins to unravel in monumentally surprising ways.

The Wicked Lady (1945)

Leslie Arliss

Margaret Lockwood devours the screen as a tightly wound seventeenth-century beauty with loose morals, who steals her best friends wealthy fiancÚ on the eve of their wedding. And thats only the beginning of this piece of pulp from director Leslie Arliss--there are no depths to which this sinful woman wont 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.




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