“Wuthering Heights” (1970 UK Film)

(“Love me or else!”  James Bond meets Heathcliff; American International tries for UK literary respectability in 1970)

Well, with its plots within plots, Emily Bronte’s 1847 Wuthering Heights is way overwritten melodrama and mainly a physical, emotional, spiritual process for readers. 1939’s movie version with Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and David Niven which stops at chapter 17 is still the one to see if you see only one movie version of this book.

But now some praise for American International’s brief dip into non-Poe classics in 1970. Shot in Yorkshire at places long associated with the original novel, this take has a nice moody look about it; the cinematography and sets look appropriately realistic. Michel Legrand’s romantic music is likewise admirably suited for this unusual project by AI.

Spoilers: The screenplay by Patrick Tilley focuses on the main novel plot with some interesting changes including Catherine becoming pregnant by Heathcliff and Edgar’s sister killing Heathcliff. Otherwise, the screenplay captures the gist and main events of Bronte’s storyline.

Timothy Dalton (James Bond later twice) makes a good, somewhat nasty, rough Heathcliff throwing women around (when this was more acceptable before MeToo). Anna Calder-Marshall makes a good, moody Catherine. British actors playing the supporting parts are all uniformly good with the narrator-maid sympathetically standing out most of all.

And therein is the rub. This version though realistic-looking and relatively faithful to the original has an indefinable flatness about it with main characters who are oddly difficult to ‘get into’. Director Robert Fuest handles everything well, though, otherwise, and this is a nice visualization of Bronte country and the basics of Bronte’s classic. Recommended if the latter two features are important to a viewer and reader.

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