Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Wuthering Heights" misses whole point

Cleveland Press March 11, 1971

Emily Bronte's novel about haunted lovers once again makes it to the screen, this time in an English production filmed on the Yorkshire Moors. You can't beat using the actual wild and forbidding setting for the picture. Too bad the moviemakers didn't do something better with it.

The screenplay is a flat rendition of the novel. In bare outline "Wuthering Heights" is the grandaddy of all soap operas, and this is the way the screenplay comes out. The narrative moves along haphazardly.

Sometimes the passage of time is poorly indicated, one scene following another in quick cuts.

There is no sense of character and it is difficult to believe that all that emoting is coming out of these card board figures.

The movie has an aura of incest hovering over the relationship of Cathy and the brooding Heathcliff with an explicit suggestion early on that Heathcliff is the natural son of Cathy's father.

Anna Calder-Marshall proves to be a good actress and is acceptable as Cathy though she never suggests the strange and poetic beauty of a heroine that would turn several men's heads.

Timothy Dalton plays Heathcliff, and one suspects that he was picked because of a resemblance to Laurence Olivier who played the part in the 1939 screen version. The resemblance is purely physical. Looking dour and menacing is not enough.

Like many British movies this one is rewarding in smaller roles -- James Andrews as Cathy's father, Hugh Griffiths as a country doctor. The cast has bench strength and every now and then one of these stalwarts in lesser roles is called on to carry the ball and does.

The movie concentrates on the early part of the novel, then chops it off half way along. Cathy and Heathcliff are a couple of children playing in the dirt. Later on they are a couple of adolescents playing in the dirt. Mud smudged faces do little for romance.

The ending not only misses the brooding, haunting quality of the novel -- it also misses the point. Instead of Heathcliff living on for years being haunted by the ghost of Cathy, the picture opts for a scene out of a spooky movie for fast conclusion.

No sooner is Cathy dead than her ghost returns to lure Heathcliff back to Wuthering Heights where her brother, egged on by Heathcliff's unhappy wife, is waiting to shoot him down.

Then the two ghosts go strolling across the moors, happily reunited in death.

Gone are the years of Heathcliff's anguish, of Cathy's spirit wandering over the moors. Gone is the note that even in death their misery will continue.

Gone, in short, is the whole point of "Wuthering Heights."