Under Capricorn (1949) C+
Returning to his old Elstree Studios in England, Hitchcock directed Hume Cronyn’s adaptation of the James Bridie novel, “Under Capricorn,” one of his few weak films..
Historical or costume dramas were not Hitchcock’s strength, as proven by his disappointing “Jamaica Inn” (1939), the last film Hitchcock directed in England before relocating to Hollywood, where he would do his best work.
Set in Australia in the early 19th century, the tale centers on the tribulations of Lady Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman), who was driven out of her home in disgrace after eloping with unkempt stableman Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten).
Accused of the murder of Henrietta’s brother, Flusky has been transported to Australia, where he starts life anew as a prosperous businessman, even while his wife descends into alcoholism and.
When her cousin Charles Adare (Michael Wilding) comes to visit, Henrietta falls in love with him. She also confesses to him that it was she, not Flusky, who’s responsible for her brother’s death.
In the dramatic climax, Lady Henrietta redeems herself at the cost of her own happiness.
The acting of the lead is decent, but not great. The film’s best scenes belong to Margaret Leighton, cast as Lady Henrietta’s spiteful housekeeper, Milly.
Technically, “Under Capricorn” was shot by the same “ten-minute takes” that Hitchcock had utilized in “Rope,” a much better picture.
There’s one impressive, uninterrupted dialogue sequence, played against the backdrop of a spectacular Technicolor sunset, shot by the cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who later became a director himself.
Running time: 117 Minutes.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
June 17, 2003
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