- Actors: Dirk Bogarde, Jon Whiteley, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern
- Directors: Phillip Leacock
- Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen, Dolby, Mono
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: Not RatedNR
- Studio: VCI Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: October 1, 2013
- Run Time: 97 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B00D49E8GG
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,281 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
The Spanish Gardner
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British diplomat Harrington Brande (Michael Hordern) takes up his new post in Spain accompanied by his son Nicholas (Jon Whiteley). Depressed over his wife leaving him and the lack of an expected promotion, Brande tries to make the best of his situation. Nicholas sees it all as something of an adventure and soon becomes fast friends with the new gardener, Jose (Dirk Bogarde). As Nicholas begins to spend more time with Jose, his father takes offense and is concerned at the boy's loss of affection for him, or so he perceives. Tensions build between Brande and Jose that could tear Nicholas from his Dad.
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Top Customer Reviews
At the time, Jon Whiteley's parents were concerned about the implied sexual relationship between Jose and Nicholas in Cronin's novel and were assured by the director, Philip Leacock and the producer and screenwriter, John Bryan, that "the darker side of Cronin's novel would be omitted and the film designed for family consumption." One scene from Chapter 15 of the novel that was cut entirely from the film was where, at Brande's insistence, his friend Professor Halevy (the character changed to Doctor Harvey for the film and played by Geoffrey Keen) has a "man to man" talk with Nicholas as the boy lyes on his bed in his semi-darkened bedroom and talks to Nicholas about the boy's sexual feelings and tries to get him to admit to having a sexual relationship with Jose...especially when he and Jose went fishing together in the isolated countryside...something which, much to the consternation of Halevy, who is convinced that there is something of a sexual nature going on between them, Nicholas will not admit to. Even though all this was left out of the film, the film still comes across as ambiguous and the viewer is left to put their own interpretation on the relationships between Jose and Nicholas and between Nicholas and his very possessive father.
Overall, the performances are uniformly fine, only in one instance coming across as contrived...the scene where Nicholas runs into Jose's arms and sobs. Good as he was within his range, Jon Whiteley just couldn't handle this scene and comes across as the worst sounding and most unconvincing sobber in film history. Whether or not he could have handled the scene of the "man to man" talk about his character's sexual feelings and his feelings for Jose if it had been left in the film is a debatable point. Certainly, he had the right director in Philip Leacock to help him through such a scene, as it was Leacock who, three years earlier, had directed him in "The Kidnappers", for which Jon had won an Academy Award.
THE VCI REGION 1 DVD: This is a major disappointment. The aspect ratio is listed as being 1.85:1, which, on the face of it, gives the customer the impression that they will at long last be able to see on this DVD the original, full width VistaVision wide screen image. But things are not as they seem. All they have done is to take the old 1.33:1 heavily cropped at the sides version as seen on the Region 2 DVD (a transfer made for television decades ago) and simply cropped that image top and bottom, to make a false wide screen shape. So even less of the image is visible now than it was on the old cropped at the sides 1.33:1 transfer and we still have the scene where Jon Whiteley is lying on the doctor's couch and his head and neck are cropped off on the left of the frame. Shocking! Added to that, the image on the VCI transfer is far less sharp than on the earlier Region 2 DVD. To be quite frank, it's a mess and it totally spoils what is, otherwise, an excellent film. The only thing to do here is stop messing about making old 4 x 3 transfers into fake looking wide screen ones and go back to the original 35mm VistaVision negatives (if indeed they still exist after 57 years) and transfer the film properly at long last. Such a newly remastered transfer would be expensive to do, but the result would be worth the trouble.
Give it a try.