• Wuthering Heights

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: December 19, 2017.
    Director: Robert Fuest
    Cast: Anna Calder-Marshall, Timothy Dalton, Harry Andrews, Pamela Browne, Ian Ogilvy, Hugh Griffith
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    When most of us think of American International Pictures, the name conjures up images of Vincent Price, Edgar Allan Poe, greasy bikers, and psychedelia. Perhaps trying for a slightly more respectable image, AIP decided to kick out an adaptation of Emily Jane Brontë's classic novel, "Wuthering Heights", on a very modest budget; still targeting their predominantly youthful market, but going for a literary approach.

    Remaining more faithful to the novel than the 1930's film adaptation in some areas, while veering off in others, this film version starts off by introducing us to Mr. Earnshaw (Harry Andrews), returning to his estate (Wuthering Heights) from business in Liverpool, with a filthy young lad at his side. Introducing Heathcliff as a found homeless boy to his other children, Hindley and Catherine, it quickly becomes apparent, courtesy of a rather annoyed Mrs. Earnshaw, that the newcomer is one of Earnshaw's business trip-related illegitimate offspring. Hindley, seeing his new brother as a threat, turns his back on him, but Heathcliff finds a willing friend in Catherine, who pledges eternal allegiance to the boy.

    As the family grows together, they are visited upon by their first tragedy as Mrs. Earnshaw passes away; and after some prodding, Mr. Earnshaw decides that Hindley should amount to more in the world, and sends him off to college. And when Mr. Earnshaw grows fatally ill, an educated and now married Hindley returns (as Julian Glover) to not only lay claim to Wuthering Heights, but to mandate that Heathcliff (now played by Timothy Dalton) should be worked as hard as the other servants in the house. Hindley's ride atop the turnip truck doesn't last for long, though, as his wife falls fatally ill giving birth to their child, and he takes a trip to the bottom of the bottle.

    Despite all of the blackness falling upon Wuthering Heights, however, Heathcliff and Catherine's (Anna Calder-Marshall) vows to each other remain true, as the two spend all of their time together. But as Catherine grows, she begins to speak of living the life of a lady, in health and wealth, and vocalizes her plans to wed the local magistrate's son, Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange. Horrified by the betrayal, Heathcliff flees from the house for three years, returning to Wuthering Heights as a well-dressed and wealthy gentleman, but finds his plans to be with Catherine thwarted by her new husband and drunken step-brother.

    Points for trying something different must go to AIP and the film makers responsible for this version of Wuthering Heights, but that's about all that this reviewer is willing to afford. AIP's offering starts off decently enough by setting up a rather shady premise, but falls apart quickly. "Silly" best describes the over-long remainder of the running time, and that silliness extends throughout; the performances by the supporting cast, the plot devices, and the connections between each character. Sillier still is Dalton's idiotic performance as Heathcliff; perhaps reading too much into Heathcliff's description as vampiric in Bronte's knowledge, Dalton goes full Lugosi in portions of the film, generating laughs instead of fear.

    Nothing about Fuest's direction suggests that he's capable of anything more than pointing a camera, which is shocking considering his other works (calling Dr. Phibes), and any foothold over the original film version gained by using the countryside as the setting instead of a studio is lost in the blandness of the surroundings. The original film version may catch flack for being a glossy Hollywood production that ignores the rotten spots of the novel, but this outing is bland, boring, silly; and considering that it already plays as far too long at 104 minutes, one shudders to think of how the heavily truncated screenplay would have played out in it's original three-hour format.


    Twilight Time brings this 1970 adaptation of Wuthering Heights to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer that many will find represents the look of AIP films of the time, but maintains barely adequate levels of quality throughout. Black levels are average, detail in some scenes is fine, but largely lacking, and although the grain structure makes the picture satisfactorily film-like, the number of instances of dirt, debris, speckling, strobing, and judder also help maintain that film-like quality in a negative way; one particular scene appears to not have been restored at all. While it's far above the level of just watchable, this presentation will not dazzle.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio mono English track does an okay job of carrying the program audio, with a hint here and there of peak distortion, but otherwise carrying the dialogue adequately with no major blemishes. Twilight Time's usual Isolate Music Track is also available, as are English Subtitles for the Deaf And Hard of Hearing.

    A feature-length commentary with "Film Historian" Justin Humphreys comes across as both dryly scholarly and immensely informative; Humphreys talks in depth of the editing of the screenplay and the background of American International, while getting into the minute details like the opening titles. Filming locations are also discussed, but as Humphreys states, the anecdotes don't come until the last act. Though gaps do occasionally pop up in the conversation, Humphreys is well-versed enough in the subject to keep it rolling throughout the running time.

    A Trailer, the Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, and Booklet Essay by Julie Kirgo are also included.

    The Final Word:

    It's hard to imagine anyone not finding this film to be a waste of time, when the sole source of entertainment provided can be narrowed down to Dalton's ridiculous facial expressions. The commentary provides some insight into the film itself, but the transfer is lacking and otherwise barebones, not indicative of the premium price that these releases command.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!