Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Sarah Parnaby
for Gone to Earth (1950)
- The New Statesman and Nation, September 30, 1950, p.324
- Of Gone to Earth there is not a great deal to be said, except that Powell and Pressburger have approached Mary Webb with unrelenting seriousness. The novel was a rustic anecdote of a beautiful and simple-minded Shropshire girl who loved a tame fox, was chased by a nice little clergyman and caught by a lecherous squire, and finally, like her fox, hunted to death; the film gives it allegorical overtones, with spiritual and carnal love struggling for possession of the innocent primitive. The handling is slow and stilted, the colour over-ripe; it is, I fear, the worst bit of kitsch its makers have yet produced.
- Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1950, Volume 17, Number 201, p.149
- [ Film credits omitted]
In outline, Gone to Earth is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Mary Webb's novel, with one or two highlights shaded here and there. Its story is of Hazel Woodus, a Shropshire primitive at the end of the last century, a wild girl living with her wild father, harpist and coffin-maker, devoted more to her pet fox cub than to human society. She is chased, however, by the lascivious local squire, Jack Reddin of Undern, and though she decides at the last moment to resist him his image haunts her as the embodiment of unrealised possible pleasures. She marries an ineffective clergyman, who loves her for her soul, and makes no demands on her body; their marriage is consummated by her baptism (immersion in the local pond). She makes an assignation in the woods with Reddin, who seduces her, and takes her back to his country mansion, where he dresses her in splendour. When her husband comes to reclaim her, she goes back to him because Reddin ill-treats her fox-cub. Married bliss now seems possible, but Hazel, trying to rescue her fox from a hunt led by Reddin, goes to earth down a disused mineshaft.
It is difficult to know what to make of this film. The original novel is absurd enough, but Mary Webb had at least a passionate absorption in her weird rustic world, and attempted no more than a tragic little story of a pagan child of nature hunted, like her pet fox, to death by human beings. Powell and Pressburger appear to have inflated it to an allegorical statement of spiritual and carnal love fighting it out over an innocent being, and their slow, stilted, portentous method makes the slight story seem even more ridiculous than perhaps it is. Over-rich, sophisticated experiments in colour and a cold treatment of the improbable are further incongruities. The barefoot, bedraggled appearance of Jennifer Jones is negated by her carefully made-up face and uneasy variations of local accent: David Farrar gives a brutish but wooden performance as Reddin.
[Presumably Gavin Lambert again]
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