Kim Stanley received a well deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance as Myra Savage, a lonley middle-aged, highly disturbed woman, who conspires with her weak and submissive husband (Richard Attenborough) into kidnapping a little girl.
She is a practicing medium, holding afternoon séances in the shabby Victorian villa. She is able to connect with the other side through Arthur, her late, stillborn child. Unlike most stories about kidnapping, the goal is not just ransom money, but also (or mostly) honor, the chance to prove her skills to the police, and thus win the respect she thinks she has always deserved.
Utilizing simple but effective means, the suspense is sustained throughout this erie tale by director Bryan Forbes, who adapted to the screen the novel by Mark McShane, though “Séance on a Wet Afternoon” is not exactly a thriller. It’s more of a domestic melodrama about a stagnant and stifling marriage between two deluded, co-dependent individuals.
Attenborough, who later on became a famous, Oscar-winning dircetor (“Gandhi” in 1982, “Cry Freedom” in 1987) is heartbreaking as a weakling, a man whi knows that his troubled wife walks a very fine line between sanity and madness, but out of love and devotion succumbs to her demands.
Kim Stanley, a Method actress and graduate of the Actors Studio, fulfills the promise she had shown in her very first film, “The Goddess,” in 1958. Stanley didn’t work in movies again for nearly two decades, but had a successful comeback in the early 1980s, received a second, this time Supporting Oscar nod, for the biopic,”Frances,” as Jessica Lange’s disturbed mother.
The tale was remade, with significant changes, by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa as “Séance” (aka “Korei”) in 2000.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Best Actress: Kim Stanley
Oscar Awards: None
The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Julie Andrews for “Mary Poppins.”
Myra Savage (Kim Stanley)
Billy Savage (Richard Attenborough)
Produced by Richard Attenborough
Written and directed by Bryan Forbes, based on the n novel by Mark McShane
Camera; Gerry Turpin
Editor: Derek York
Music: John Barry
Art Design: Ray Simm
Running time: 115 Minutes