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John Chard
The Tremerrion Tribulations. The Sign of the Ram is directed by John Sturges and adapted to screenplay from Margaret Ferguson's novel. It stars Susan Peters, Alexandev Knox, Phyllis Thaxter, Peggy Ann Garner, Ron Randell, Dame May Witty and Allene Roberts. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography by Burnett Guffey. Wheelchair bound Leah St. Aubyn (Peters) manipulates everybody around her... "It's the sign of the ram. People born under this sign are endowed with a strong will power and obstinacy of purpose" The setting is a cliff top mansion, a lighthouse is nearby, its purpose is to steer ships out of the fog and away from harms way. This is the fictitious Cornish place known as Tremerrion, and our play unfolds in the mansion known as Bastions. It's film that has proved to be a bit illusive to pin down, for whatever reasons, and that is a shame because there are plenty things for fans of such devilish dramas to be excited about. The backstory of its leading lady is itself tragic, for Susan Peters would be paralysed from the waist down after a freak hunting accident, this would see her appear in her last film, she gave up on life, tortured by pain and the loss of her ability to walk, she would stave to death and pass away four years later. Thankfully, and it's not sympathetic praise here, she's excellent, leaving a fitting farewell to the movie world. "Haven't you sensed it? The undertone, like a warning drumbeat" Stripped down it's the story of a woman who manipulates everyone close to her, cunningly so, her reasons deliberately shaded in grey, and the question constantly gnaws away as to just how come her family and confidants can't see it? Sooner or later something is going to give, and it's the waiting that gives the pic an edginess that's most appealing. This woman has no shame, we are told by her loyal spouse that she's not bitter about her accident, but she so is, but wears it well. She's not only spell bindingly pretty, but she's pretty spell bindingly devious too. The fog rolls in, the waves crash against the coast to marry up with the psychological discord being set loose in Bastions. Salter's music swirls and bites, while genius cinematographer Guffey turns in some class frames (one scene involving criss cross shadows is film noir nirvana). "They will stop at nothing to accomplice their purpose - and sometimes meet a violent death" Pulsing with jealousies, betrayals, suspicions and a whole host of devious machinations, this be a crafty old devil, a pic deconstructing the human condition with malicious glee. 7/10

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