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In 1828, the bankrupt Pyncheon family fight over Seven Gables, the ancestral mansion. To obtain the house, Jaffrey Pyncheon obtains his brother Clifford's false conviction for murder. Hepzibah, Clifford's sweet fiancée, patiently waits twenty years for his release, whereupon Clifford and his former cellmate, abolitionist Matthew, have a certain scheme in mind.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Vincent Price and George Sanders are reasons enough to see any film on their own, and were often high points in their lesser films. Seeing them in the same film together, like in 'The House of the Seven Gables' is even more of a pleasure. The source material is wonderful, wordy but very richly immersive and compelling.
'The House of the Seven Gables' may not be the greatest film in adaptation terms, there is not a whole lot of Hawthorne here, but as a film on its own terms it's well worth your while as long as it's not constantly compared to the book. 'The House of the Seven Gables' did need a longer length, would have given it at least another thirty minutes myself, to do justice to a story that is pretty complex even in the film and give the characters more depth, because parts did feel rushed.
Could have done personally without the abolition subplot, or at least made it less prominent, it was intriguing enough at times but it seemed to be there only to make Jaffrey more loathsome. That wasn't necessary as it is blatantly obvious that he already is even without it. While the acting is very good actually, there are a few individual moments where it is somewhat dodgy. The biggest offender is Jaffrey's final scene, which was wildly over-acted (rather unusual for George Sanders) and overly-melodramatic (even for a melodrama).
However, 'The House of the Seven Gables' has a sumptuous Gothic look throughout, particularly in the photography and lighting, with the house suitably mysterious and imposing and with elegant costumes. It may not have been made on a huge, lavish budget, but it was not that kind of film really, and there is nothing in the production values to betray that the budget was not a large one. The music is like its own character, adding so much to the mood of the film while also being a wonderful score on its own. The song Vincent Price sings (yes it is him singing and he sings pretty beautifully here) is a charming touch.
Direction is efficient and a vast majority of the time is in complete control of the material, with a few parts where the control is lost a little (Jaffrey's final scene especially). The script is thought-provoking and literate, Hawthorne's prose is compressed but the script here is no less interesting. Although rushed and in need of a longer length, the characters lacking depth and one subplot in need of a trim, the story has a rich atmosphere and is very absorbing.
With a few individual scene exceptions, the acting is very good. George Sanders is deliciously caddish, Sanders was an unparalleled master when it came to acting playing cads. Vincent Price has the more rounded character and is more restrained, and all the better for it. Margaret Lindsay is a knockout, her character transformation (of the three leading characters she transforms the most) is beautifully done, and more than holds her own against the two masters.
Overall, well worth your while. Just judge it as a film on its own rather than as an adaptation. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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