Fans of British teledramas, and of talented actor Ian McShane (Lovejoy
), will not want to miss this impressive BBC version of Wuthering Heights
, from 1967. McShane apparently cultivated his dark, brooding persona early in his career, as he makes for a sultry, deep Heathcliff and is absolutely mesmerizing in this production. Wuthering Heights
opens when the papa of the wild Earnshaw estate, Wuthering Heights, returns from Liverpool with a street urchin so wild, the wee lad can't speak. The young foundling is dubbed Heathcliff, but is referred to as "it" by the rest of the household, including young Cathy and her resentful brother, Hindley. Over the years, Cathy and Heathcliff develop a bond, but Hindley never outgrows his resentment--so that when Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley inherits the estate, he expels Heathcliff from the home and forces him to be a stablehand.
The eternal and very English collisions of class and propriety are shot through the story of Wuthering Heights, and are shown in their extreme in this admirable production. The acting is uniformly splendid, though it's McShane who steals the show, giving a far wilder, darker, more threatening performance than Laurence Olivier's more famous, but far more polished, one. Angela Scoular, a veteran British TV actress, is appropriately dewy and heartfelt in her love for Heathcliff, as well as in her conflict of loyalty to him and to her brother and the class system. William Marlowe is a true scoundrel as Cathy's brother Hindley, though he lets just enough vulnerability show through to indicate how threatened he is by Heathcliff's mastery of the wilds of Yorkshire.
And here is another highlight: For a TV production, the utter desolation of the Yorkshire moors is portrayed unflinchingly--and very hauntingly. The winds never seem to quiet down, and the trees are barren, the horizon foreboding. All of which gives this Wuthering Heights its affecting torment a stunning claustrophobic feeling--despite, or perhaps in spite of, the enormous open, desolate spaces. --A.T. Hurley