Faye Dunaway is a wicked lady indeed, seducing her sister’s fiancée on the eve of their wedding, going on to marry him and become the Lady Skelton, before soon getting bored of the life of a Lady and becoming a highwayman instead; along the way, she picks up a number of extra lovers, kills several inconvenient people, and just generally has harmless sort of larks, really.
The picture is a remake of the 1945 film of the same name, itself an adaptation of the novel The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, which is based loosely in true events. On initial release in 1983, this version of the story failed to make any particular stir, and, despite its new rerelease on DVD by Second Sight, it’s unlikely to cause much of a stir this time around either. Directed by Michael Winner, the film comes off exactly as if it was directed by Michael Winner, with all the curious flatness of that director’s visual style, and all the can’t-quite-place-your-finger-on-it sense of nastiness that you come to expect, too. There is plenty of gratuitous nudity, even within the first thirty seconds of the picture, though it rather galls that none of the many, many breasts we see onscreen are even particular nice examples of their kind. Most infamously, there is a whip fight between Faye Dunaway and a nude Marina Sirtis. Well, she isn’t nude when the whip fight begins, but apparently back in the 17th Century clothes weren’t really made to last, and they’d just fall right off after a couple of lashes.
Well, if you like the sound of a nude whip fight, then this is probably the film for you. If not, it does offer some charms, mostly in the sheer pleasure it takes in its own immorality, but it’s too camp to work as a melodrama, and too slow to work as a swashbuckler. An excellent cast has been assembled here, but only Sir John Gielgud as Hogarth, a Malvolio-like butler, really works. Perhaps it’s because Gielgud played the real deal onstage at the Old Vic, or perhaps he was just too much a consummate professional to turn in anything less than his best work. Either way, it was good of him to give it his all, but the film around him is basically a Sunday afternoon television movie, except with added gratuitous nudity and foul language.
The Wicked Lady comes to DVD for the first time today (4th July), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!