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Eclipse 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough Pictures: The Man in Grey, Madonna of the Seven Moons, The Wicked Lady (Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

During the 1940s, realism reigned in British cinema—but not at Gainsborough Pictures. The studio, which had been around since the ’20s, 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 (Lolita), Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes), Stewart Granger (King Solomon’s Mines), and Phyllis Calvert (Indiscreet). Though its films were immensely profitable in wartime and immediately after, Gainsborough did not outlive the decade. This set brings together a trio of Gainsborough’s most popular films—florid, visceral tales of secret identities, multiple personalities, and romantic betrayals.

THREE DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:

THE MAN IN GREY 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; meanwhile, Clarissa’s conniving best friend, Hesther (Margaret Lockwood), secretly plots against her for her own nefarious ends. The Man in Grey, directed by Leslie Arliss (The Wicked Lady), was such a box-office success that Gainsborough used it as a template, launching a cycle of increasingly rococo films. 1943

  • 116 minutes
  • Black & White
  • Monaural
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

    MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS

    A lurid tale of sex and psychosis, Madonna of the Seven Moons, directed by Arthur Crabtree (Fiend Without a Face), is among the wildest of the Gainsborough melodramas. Set in Italy, it begins as a relatively composed tale about a respectable, convent-raised woman (Phyllis Calvert) who is haunted by the memory of being raped as a teenager. When her grown daughter returns from school, her life begins to crack up in monumentally surprising ways. Stewart Granger also plays a prominent role in this sensational tale. 1945

  • 110 minutes
  • Black & White
  • Monaural
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

    THE WICKED LADY

    Margaret Lockwood devours the screen as a tightly wound seventeenth-century beauty with loose morals, who steals her best friend’s wealthy fiancé on the eve of the wedding. And that’s only the beginning of this piece of pulp from director Leslie Arliss (The Man in Grey): there are no depths to which this sinful woman won’t 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. 1945

  • 104 minutes
  • Black & White
  • Monaural
  • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

  • Special Features

    None.

    Product Details

    • Actors: James Mason, Margaret Lockwood, Phyllis Calvert
    • Directors: Leslie Arliss, Arthur Crabtree
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
    • Language: English
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 3
    • Rated:
      NR
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: October 9, 2012
    • Run Time: 330 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B008MPQ0NG
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,588 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    During World War II the British government looked to its film industry to provide for a little bit of much needed distraction on the homefront, and Gainsborough Pictures did its very best to deliver. Although beyond tame by today's standards, and in some ways serving as a good lesson that you don't have to get too graphic to still have fun, the studio put out many soap opera type melodramas dealing with wealth, love, lust, and betrayal. Storylines that featured opulent mansions, costumes, and jewels no doubt helped to break up dreary days while still providing subliminal messages on the dangers of excess during a time when rationing was of utmost importance.

    The "Man in Grey" was the first, but comparably weakest, of the three films featured here (Gainsborough went on to make many works in this genre). It was however a commercial smash that laid the groundwork for the better films yet to come. The tale also made bigger stars out of the likes of James Mason, Margart Lockwood, Stewart Granger and Phyllis Calvert, and focuses on the repurcussions of a morally bankrupt nobleman who marries a young women, rather openly, only for purposes of gaining an heir. As both husband and wife search for true love in what quickly becomes an open marriage, obvious complications arise as suitors battle over wealth, jealously, and the avoidance of public scandal. The ending performance is fantastic, but overall what was to become known as the "Gainsborough formula" does not quite have all of its hinks worked out of it yet. This film is very watchable in terms of graphics, but it is not quite as cleaned up compared to most Criterion offerings. The audio suffers from being muffled in parts as well. 3 stars ***.
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    Format: DVD
    The privations of war often lead to a fascination with excess: thus the success of the Gainsborough melodramas, a series of films produced in the UK between 1943 and 1946 that displayed an opulence in their sets, their costumes, their treatment of sex (for the time), their treatment of sin, their use of narrative (there are always multiple plots crisscrossing), and especially their use of emotion. Starting with THE MAN IN GREY, based on a Regency romance by Margery Lawrence, the films then relied on a stable of excellent and very attractive actors (Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc being the most prominent) to adapt some of the wildest and naughtiest period novels of the day. The results were always entertaining, and show so much ingenuity they're quite fascinating, especially when compared to the other British films of the day. (Only the films by the Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, were generally better.)

    THE MAN IN GREY, with its plot which in large part basically recapitulates VANITY FAIR (with especially baroque twists), is the dullest of the three, but had to be included for its path-breaking importance (it made an international star out of James Mason in the title role as a sneering rakehell). Much more fun are the other two in the collection. THE WICKED LADY was the most successful of all the Gainsborough films, and it's immediately evident why: Margaret Lockwood displays all her charms in Restoration décolletage as the thoroughly and enjoyably rotten Lady Barbara Skelton, who disguises herself as a highwayman just for kicks and who seduces her best friend's fiance (and forces the friend to humiliate herself as her bridesmaid) just for spite.
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    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    If you love James Mason, you will not want to miss out on this early, English collection of Mason from Gainsborough Pictures. They certainly are Three Wicked Melodramas! Each of the films is a treat and a excellent representation of wonderful English cinema, screen plays, and the language as it should be spoken; and a language spoken so well by Mr. James Mason. This package is a must have for James Mason fans, or simply for fans of English films for the forties and fifties!
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    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    "Madonna of the Seven Moons" is an example of the psychologically oriented films that started to be made shortly after WWII. But its also a good melodrama with an extremely charismatic performance by Phyllis Calvert. If you aren't familiar with her work this will be a revelation. Calvert and Patricia Roc develop depth in their characters. And wow are these two ladies attractive and watchable.

    James Mason is believable and dominates "The Man in Grey" which is nevertheless essentially a straight melodrama with little shading or nuance. It might seem like fluff at first but it takes some hard digs at the Victorian plight of women and their station in life.

    What can I say about "Wicked Lady" other than Whoa! what an over-the-top film that you need to see to believe. Margaret Lockwood is bad to the bone in a truly wicked portrayal. She's a female train wreck who you can't stop watching. On a lighter note it is somewhat of a who-can-go-lower cleavage contest between Ms. Lockwood and the beautiful Ms. Roc.

    Think that old studio melodramas are boring or dull? Not these- they will grab your attention and make you watch.
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