MOVIE REVIEW: The Wicked Lady (1983)

Faye Dunaway stars in this period drama and adventure about a society lady who yearns to have everything in life.  Directed by Death Wish Director Michael Winner.

When anyone says Michael Winner to me the first thing I think of is my Father, he died 20 years ago, and as I’ve talked about before we had little in common.  I do think that I get my love of action movies from him, and I remember that one of the few times we would have a conversation would be when I came home from the cinema and would talk about the film I just went to see.  Dad would always watch Death Wish movies, as he just loved Charles Bronson.  One of the first films we ever rented back in the 80’s, I think I was about 9, was Death Wish 3.  If you’ve ever seen these movies you know it’s probably not a film that a 9-year-old should be watching, but Dad and Mom were very liberal about violence on TV.

THE WICKED LADY, Faye Dunaway, 1983, ©MGM /

Here we have the beautiful Faye Dunaway playing the title character Lady Barbara Skelton, who is invited to her sister’s wedding and ends up marrying the man instead.  This is only for the money that the man has and the position.  After losing a cherished piece of her family heritage on a bet Lady Barbara embarks to reclaim the item by becoming a Highwayman.  The robbery is successful and the blamed on a notorious Highwayman called Captain Jackson.  It’s not long before Barbara and Captain Jackson join forces and live a double life.

It’s over 30 years since this has been made and has the feeling of the 1980’s Scarlet Pimpernel movie.  If you think Dick Turpin meets Jane Austen you can see what Michael Winner was going for in this film.  Lavish costumes and the manners of the period add to the world that they present to us.  The quality of the picture here is fantastic and whoever did the restoration of the film for the DVD release should pat themselves on the back as it looks beautiful.  Too many of the movies that get released on DVD/BluRay now are just copied and pasted, at least it feels like that, onto the disc and released.  Here they have taken the time to make the film look as good as they can and they have done.  The cast here includes John Gielgud, Alan Bates, Denholm Elliott, and Prunelle Scales.

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The sensibilities of the time that the film is set make this more about the manners and the expectations of the citizens and the nobility.

While it’s not a great film it’s truly enjoyable.  The sets and the costumes ring true of the best costume dramas and you have the excitement of the robberies.  What Michael Winner manages to do, and this is true of all his movies if you watch them, he injects a casual sense of humour into the most sensitive situations.  Even in the harrowing moments that you can imagine Winner’s films just ring with the man’s natural ability to show the funny side of people interacting with other people.

I know a lot of people who will enjoy this film, it’s a great romp to sit back and let yourself go along for some fun.  You don’t take it too seriously as it’s clear from nearly the first moments of the film that it’s all about the entertainment.  If you liked the 80’s Scarlet Pimpernel and enjoy a good tongue in cheek costume experience then it’s worth getting this DVD for your collection.

Director: Michael Winner
Writers: Leslie Arliss, Michael Winner, Gordon Glennon, Aimée Stuart, Magdalen King-Hall
Stars: Faye Dunaway, Alan Bates, John Gielgud

Full Cast List HERE+

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