TV film review: Jane Eyre (1970), directed by Delbert Mann
During the credits at the beginning, we see a coach driving through the countryside, and finally pulling up at Lowood Institution. Who needs Gateshead? Lowood is awful – ice in the water where the girls wash in the morning, bullying teachers, coughs and misery and an over-zealous Mr Brocklehurst. Bravo! I’ll forgive you for Jane looking like she’s a lot older than ten.
Helen Burns is wise and ill, she dies, cut to adult Jane (Susannah York) by her grave. Red-headed and far too pretty Jane. And far too old as well, what is she, 30?! Like Grease all over again! And she’s too tall. And her dress looks wrong – buttons on the front? That sort of collar? In the 1830s? The bannisters and clothes and setting just look as if they’ve been lifted from a 1960s spaghetti Western, not from a dreary old England. What’s with Grace Poole’s cheffy style hat?
Mr Scrooge, sorry, I mean Rochester (George C Scott), has a strange accent. Parts are very American. “Miss Eyrrrrre” … bah. At least his trousers aren’t baggy. Takes too long for Jane to answer the handsome question. “You’re no prettier than I am handsome” – eh, say what? Susannah York is beautiful, George C Scott is, well, Scrooge. (That’s what I thought even before looking him up on IMDb only to find out that he has actually played Ebenezer Scrooge!)
He doesn’t wake up from her vigorous shaking, but when a couple of drops of water spill on him, he wakes up? WTH? Waving the candle about looks like someone’s tracking them with a torch/flashlight. Jane’s nearly as tall as Rochester as well, so yeah, too tall was correct. Well, that’s one post-fire bed scene that wasn’t smouldering, even though it tried. It very nearly made me take to this Rochester though, so it must’ve had been good in some way!
The rest isn’t too engaging. Part of the problem might also be that the copy I haven isn’t very good, I should try and find it on DVD, really. Some costumes feel too modern and out of place, Scott is more soft-spoken than Hinds, but he doesn’t do the character justice. He’s okay, especially where he’s talking to Bertha after the wedding – showing the tender side, but the rest? There’s no real passion there, no real angst. There’s no real fight in Jane either. She’s a passionate character, ever since childhood, but where’s her feisty spirit?
I’m liking Ian Bannen as St John Rivers. No Mr Fluffy here. He’s pious and cold, although … woah, hugging?! Where did that come from? Okay, so he’s trying to be Mr Fluffy but he fails spectacularly. He talks of marriage and learning to love, but he doesn’t know what it means.
They’re into talking about God a lot. There’s even a scene where St John Rivers is preaching in a church. “You can’t love just God alone!” cries Jane and returns to a burned-down Thornfield. Oh, and Pilot looks like a big, brown Great Dane or something. I preferred the ’97 Pilot. Fwuffier.
You don’t have to have your eyes closed when you’re blind, Rochester. In fact, ’tis a little bit silly. And he’s too old as well! Or at least he looks too old. And it doesn’t end with Jane saying that he regained his sight so he could see his first-born. It finished with her leaning on him on a bench in the park at Fearndean. Huh.
Nice landscaping in the garden and at Fearndean (a place they visit twice or more over the course of the film) but over-all, I’m not taken by this version at all. It’s just off. Characters aren’t what they’re supposed to be and neither are the clothes. Thornfield looks okay from the outside but looks strange on the inside. No, I much prefer the other versions. Even if they do have moustaches.