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Sunday, June 1, 2008

THE SPANISH GARDENER (1956)

Rapt storytelling from the A J Cronin novel, is overly simplistic in plot & character psychology, but Philip Leacock’s dry filmmaking style beautifully matches the prototypical British emotional reverse. Michael Hordern (grafting Noel Coward to Trevor Howard) is the cold father who blames everyone but himself for disappointments in marriage, job & career. Worst of all are the when his lonely, over-protected son and his gardener don't measure up. His gardener? Dirk Bogarde, still in the blush of his dashing early stardom, is the oddly British sounding eponymous yard man who forms an easy bond with the diplomat’s boy. Add jealously, false accusations, knife wielding butlers (a truly scary Cyril Cusack, also sans Spanish accent) and a fresh water trout to the expected plot points and you get an oddly involving film all out of proportion to its actual achievements. Superbly shot by Chris Challis & lovingly scored by John Veale, the film stands along side all those intense Brit/kid pics from ‘48's FALLEN IDOL thru WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND in ‘61.

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