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With: Jennifer Jones, David Farrar, Cyril Cusack, Sybil Thorndike, Edward Chapman, Esmond Knight, Hugh Griffith, George Cole
Written by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, based on a novel by Mary Webb
Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 11/06/1950

Gone to Earth (1950)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Spell Check

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Masters of color and space and movement, with images so beautiful they bordered on the unreal, Englishmen Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were unlike any other filmmakers. I'd watch just about anything of theirs, but this movie, which came between two masterworks, The Red Shoes (1948) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), is kind of a dud. (Its bracing imagery still makes it worth a look, however.)

Kino Lorber has newly released in on Blu-ray (in June of 2019), and, weirdly, their official title is The Wild Heart (1952); this is the title of a drastic re-edit ordered by producer David O. Selznick. Both that 82 minute version and the original 110 minute version are here, and I'm not exactly sure why Gone to Earth isn't the primary choice.

In any case, the story concerns Hazel Woodus (Jennifer Jones), who lives in Shropshire, in the late 19th century, with her father, a coffinmaker and musician. She keeps a pet fox and reads regularly from a book of spells her gypsy mother left for her. One day she heads to town for a new dress and emerges looking radiant, the green material making her gorgeous eyes shine.

The men in town respond to her, especially Jack Reddin (David Farrar), a cruel lothario who wishes to possess her, and a kindly Baptist minister Edward Marston (Cyril Cusack). She marries Edward, but Reddin keeps pursuing her; one night her spellbook tells her to go to Reddin, causing all kinds of scandal.

The movie opens with Hazel framed within the edges of one of her father's coffins, so it's no surprise how her story turns out. (It's not exactly a movie about female empowerment.) Given that the male characters are meant to represent extremes, and given that Jones was more beautiful than she was charismatic, the movie just never catches fire.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray, in addition to the two cuts of the movie (both nicely restored), also includes film historian commentary tracks for both (Samm Deighan on Gone to Earth and Troy Howarth on The Wild Heart), plus a selection of trailers for other Jennifer Jones movies.

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