Adapted from a short story by Argentinian Marco Denevi, Secret Ceremony was a critical and commercial failure upon its release in 1968. An odd psychological thriller, Mia Farrow hot off her star turn in Rosemary’s Baby, plays Cenci a regressive 22-year-old, who while on a London bus, mistakes Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) an aging prostitute, for the mother she adores. In fact, Cenci’s mother has recently died after a mysterious illness leaving the psychologically troubled girl alone in a spacious Art Déco mansion. Cenci follows Leonora to church, and then to the cemetery where she watches the prostitute put flowers on the grave of her 10-year-old daughter. With nothing to lose, Leonora accepts Cenci’s offer to come live with her.
The two embark on a strange relationship, filling the roles of their deceased, respective daughter and mother. Leonora is passed off as a visiting cousin to Cenci’s aunts (Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Pamela Brown), who visit the mansion just to steal things. Things become far more sinister when Cenci’s stepfather Albert (Robert Mitchum, El Dorado) pays a visit. Sent away years earlier by his wife for making advances on young Cenci, Albert has returned from his college position in Philadelphia, armed with stories of seducing minors in America. Albert’s return is upsetting for both women and forces them to face reality. Leonora has made herself comfortable in the mansion and easily adjusted to the motherhood role as she learned about Cenci’s troubled past. However, unlike Cenci, Leonora understands that both women are living in a fantasy world. Staying in the mansion is a welcome respite from life on the street. On the other hand, Cenci can’t face the truth of her past.
Joseph Losey’s (Boom) direction is sure-handed and sets the proper downbeat mood, but the weird narrative laid out in George Tabori’s script is occasionally campy. Robert Mitchum delivers some of the nuttiest dialogue of his career while playing a loathsome character whose every word seems to drip with disgust. Everyone involved made the material better than it would have been in lesser hands, with particular thanks to cinematographer Gerry Fisher and composer Richard Rodney Bennett.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino’s 1080p transfer looks very good. Contrast appears strong. Colors look appropriate throughout. The image has a pleasing level of detail and a nice level of filmic grain.
The DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track offers clean, clear and concise, dialogue and allows Richard Rodney Bennett occasionally haunting score to come through clearly. There’s nothing spectacular about the audio setup, but it services the dialogue heavy film well.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- NEW! Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas: As always, Tim’s commentary is informative and extensive.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:03)
Secret Ceremony (1968)
Movie title: Secret Ceremony
Duration: 109 min
Director(s): Joseph Losey
Actor(s): Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, Robert Mitchum, Peggy Ashcroft, Pamela Brown , Robert Douglas
Genre: Drama, Thriller