The Pumpkin Eater (1964)-the final Indicator release of 2017

Drama | USA, 1964 | 12| 4th December 2017 (UK BD) | Powerhouse Films | Dir.Jack Clayton | Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch, James Mason, Yootha Joyce | Buy: Limited Edition Blu-Ray [Region Free]

An unusually fertile woman tries to deal with yet another pregnancy while her third husband begins having affairs while away on business. I’ve been really excited to see this picture for a while. There’s a piece called “Love” by Australian artist Tracey Moffatt at the Wichita Art Museum currently which shows a few clips from this, and, based on one particular clip (“He said you love her. You said you’d make her sick with your love!”), I knew I had to see this.

Anne Bancroft is an absolute marvel in this film. It’s a towering piece of physical work that’s more in line with silent film. Bancroft’s body language and controlled eyes are the stars. Everyone else in Harold Pinter’s fantastic script gets to do all the talking whether it’s a terrific Peter Finch being despondent and apathetic or Yootha Joyce in her incredible one-off scene in the salon where she berates Bancroft for what she thinks are condescensions. Bancroft stays quiet (because what good is talking into a vacuum?) and creates arguably the best performance of her career here.

And credit to Jack Clayton for managing the cast so splendidly and for creating such an unusually beautiful movie. Cinematography isn’t one of the best aspects of these bleak British dramas of the ’60s, so to see something so visually impressive instead of a cascade of close-ups made me happy. The scene where Jo (Bancroft) lashes out physically at Jake (Finch) is a whirlwind of editing and shot selection. And the slow fade over to Bancroft lying in bed reliving the moment is a classic touch to underline her inner tempestuousness.

Even a mustachioed, glasses-wearing James Mason (almost unrecognizable if it weren’t for that voice) is good in “The Pumpkin Eater.” It’s a great social drama on the expectations of women and men and parents and lovers. Bancroft is an absolute firecracker. Clayton crafts an Antonioni film for his own countrymen.

Peter Fletcher

Special Features
• Selected scenes commentary with author and film historian Neil Sinyard
• Jeremy Mortimer on Penelope Mortimer (2017): the son of the celebrated author gives a fascinating biographical overview of her life and work
• Brian West on ‘The Pumpkin Eater’ (2017): the film’s camera operator recalls his time working with Jack Clayton and celebrated director of photography Oswald Morris
• Dinah and Fergus (2017): actors Frances White and Fergus McClelland remember playing their roles as children in The Pumpkin Eater
• Original theatrical trailer and Image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Melanie Williams, an archival interview with art director Ted Marshall, extracts from Penelope Houston’s ‘Keeping up with the Antonionis’ article, contemporary reviews, and film credits