Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

“We have borrowed a child, Billy — borrowed; borrowed.”

Synopsis:
A mentally disturbed medium (Kim Stanley) conspires with her husband (Richard Attenborough) to kidnap a wealthy child (Judith Donner) in order to bring fame to her psychic abilities by sharing where the girl is hidden.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Henpecked Husbands
  • Hostages
  • Kidnapping
  • Kim Stanley Films
  • Mental Illness
  • Psychic Powers
  • Richard Attenborough Films

Review:
Other than playing a Marilyn Monroe-esque actress in The Goddess (1958), Kim Stanley’s best-known cinematic role was in this film by director Bryan Forbes, playing a deeply disturbed “psychic” whose delusional mental illness causes not only distress but serious harm to those around her. The atmospheric film gets off to a somewhat slow and talky start, but then shifts into gear as the kidnapping proceeds, and we’re kept on tenterhooks wondering what in the world will happen next. Our primary focus is on Attenborough, playing the epitome of a co-dependent spouse whose sympathy for his wife’s grief upends all logic; he’s highly effective in the role and compulsively watchable. Stanley’s performance is equally convincing, but evokes horror more than sympathy; this is a woman willing to take the world down with her as she enacts what she believes to be the warped “truth”.

Note: The girl (Judith Donner) chosen to play the hostage only has this one film to her name in IMDb, but she’s suitably realistic.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Kim Stanley as Myra
  • Richard Attenborough as Billy
  • Atmospheric cinematography and direction

  • Effective use of real-life locales

Must See?
Yes, as an unusual and powerful film, and for the performances.

Categories

  • Good Show
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

Links:

One thought on “Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

  1. A once-must, for Forbes’ direction and for Stanley and Attenborough’s performances. As per my post in ‘Revival House of Camp and Cult’ (fb):

    “Oh, God. Oh, Jesus. Take her before it’s too late.”

    ‘Seance on a Wet Afternoon’: Adapted and directed by Bryan Forbes and starring Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough (in powerful performances), ‘Seance…’ is a story about a phony abduction plot – and that main narrative commands, with rich detail, the front of the film. But that narrative is also a bit of a phony, since there is something more sinister beneath it. Near the start of the film, we see glimpses of the film’s larger purpose… and those small giveaways grow as the film progresses. … What starts as a kidnapping tale moves into something like a horror story,,, and then becomes something sad as it spins out of control. … My favorite behind-the-scenes story about this film is one that Forbes told in an interview re: the search for the perfect home in England for Stanley and Attenborough as a couple. It was found and the home owner was asked if the production company could use it – and permission was given. The female owner asked questions about what kind of film it was and who would be starring in it. When Forbes mentioned the little-known Ms. Stanley (who was an American), the woman (Forbes said) just *stopped* in place. He asked if she knew Stanley. “Yes. We were very good friends, neighbors for about 17 years. But I haven’t seen her in a very long time.” … A spooky ‘coincidence’… for a film with psychic material.

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