Audrey Rose (1977) – Film Review

Audrey Rose (1977) – Film Review

Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Marsha Mason, John Beck
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

Robert Wise. You may not know his name, but you’ll be familiar with many of the films he directed.

The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting, Star Trek: The Motion Picture… the list goes on and on. And if none of those impress you, the maybe the fact he was the editor of Citizen Kane will.

Audrey Rose (1977) – Film Review coverHe should be regarded as highly as the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and even later luminaries such as Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg. And yet to many, he’s largely unknown.

“Spiral out of control”

Perhaps that’s down to the fact that unlike many directors who become famous for working in a particular style or genre, Wise turned his hand to pretty much everything, so he never had a trademark. What he always seemed to manage to do, however, was get the best out of the screenplays he worked with; you certainly imagine that in lesser hands, Audrey Rose would have been regarded as nothing more than a pseudo-Exorcist horror movie.

Based on a novel by Frank De Felitta, who also wrote the screenplay and co-produced the movie, the story focuses on Ivy, an 11-year-old who lives a privileged lifestyle with her upwardly mobile parents Bill and Janice in Manhattan. They’re a handsome, devoted family, until a stranger called Elliot Hoover enters their lives.

Eleven years earlier – at the moment that Ivy was born – his wife and daughter, Audrey Rose, were killed in a car accident. After consulting with psychics, Hoover is convinced that Ivy is the reincarnation of his beloved child, and wants Bill and Janice to let him get to know their offspring. Obviously they think he’s lost his mind and refuse his request, but when Ivy’s nightmares spiral out of control and Hoover seems to be the only person who can soothe her, Janice begins to wonder if there’s something in his claim.

Bill, however, strongly disagrees with allowing Elliot into their lives, prompting the latter to pretty much kidnap Ivy, and a court case ensues. Ivy is sent for a session with a hypnotist which has shocking results for all concerned.

Audrey Rose (1977) – Film Review arrow

“Plucked from obscurity”

Marsha Mason, who made the film in the same year as The Goodbye Girl, for which she won an Oscar, is suitably maternal as Janice, alongside future Dallas star John Beck as her husband Bill. Mason claims she was attracted to the role due to its spiritual nature and links to Hinduism, having practised transcendental meditation since 1970.

But the two real stars of the show are Anthony Hopkins and Susan Swift. Hopkins was then regarded as a force to be reckoned with on stage, but was yet to find his footing in Hollywood. He’s utterly compelling as Hoover, a grieving father desperate to be reunited with his daughter. Swift, meanwhile, was plucked from obscurity to play Ivy, and she’s superb in the role – if she couldn’t deal with the demands put on her, the entire film would collapse.

Audrey Rose is no masterpiece – there are other child-centred horror movies out there that are far scarier – but Wise manages to squeeze as much tension out of its offbeat story as is humanly possible. The disc is also packed full of special features, including interviews with Mason and De Felitta, which make it well worth a look.

• Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-Ray presentation
• Original lossless mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by film critic Jon Towlson
• Faith and Fraud, a brand new interview with magician Adam Cardone about reincarnation and belief in Audrey Rose
• Then and Now, a brand new featurette looking at the New York locations used in the film
• I’ve Been Here Before, archive visual essay by Lee Gambin looking at reincarnation in cinema
• Investigator: The Paranormal World of Frank De Felitta, an archive interview with the author and scriptwriter of Audrey Rose
• The Role of a Mother, an archive Interview with Marsha Mason
• Hypnotist: Inside the score for Audrey Rose, an archive interview with film music historian Daniel Schweiger
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy
Audrey Rose is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99

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