8 April 2016



This classic Ealing Studios film starts off one way, then it kind of veers off into a completely different direction, taking the viewer almost by surprise. Let me explain. At first, it seems like it will be a comedy of manners all about a Victorian paterfamilias by the name of Edward Sutton.

Mr. Sutton is your typical stiff-necked, stiff-upper-lipped Victorian Briton. An apothecary by trade, he rules his family with a rod of iron, though stopping short of actual physical cruelty. He believes in hard work, regular prayer and respectability above all things. He disapproves of loose women, booze, frivolity and fun. He's a bit of a pompous stuffed shirt, in all honesty.

He refuses to allow his daughter Victoria to pursue a career in music even though she's clearly cut out for it. He frowns upon his son David's writing of love letters to a girl he fancies. His wife Ellen looks every inch the long-suffering missus as she pleads with Edward to be a father that his kids can love rather than just fear. Edward is adamant, however, that fear is superior to love and is therefore the way to go. Typical Victorian head-of-household!

Then one fateful day, David Sutton, fed-up with his father's tyranny, wanders into a public-house and meets Pearl Bond, the unhappy wife of the pub's landlord. Pearl, wonderfully played by the even more wonderfully named Googie Withers, is being abused by her bullying drunk of a hubby. Also, for her sins, she loves a cheating rat called Dan Powell who for the record is completely unworthy of her love.

This is where the film, set in Victorian Brighton, 1880 to be precise, goes down a darker road. The chance meeting of David Sutton, the chemist's son, the chemist with access to poison, and Pearl Bond, the wife who's desperate to be rid of her abusive husband, has monumental consequences for both households. God alone knows where it will all end.

Will David Sutton rue the day he was drawn by the sight of an unblemished white bosom in a ruffled, tight-waisted low-cut gown? Will femme fatale Pearl Bond rue the day she ever heard of the words tetanus and lockjaw, words you certainly don't hear everyday in great old black-and-white movies? You'll have to watch the film to find out, folks...!

This excellent film, by the way, is the solo directorial debut of the chap who brought us KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, that marvellous cinematic enterprise in which Alec Guinness played all eight members of the wacky and eccentric D'Ascoyne family, including the strident suffragette Agatha D'Ascoyne, possibly the wackiest and most eccentric of all the D'Ascoynes.

I love the scene in which Victoria sings, completely off-the-cuff and as beautifully as a lark in the morning, to Madame Patti, and the judge at the start of the film wearing the black square of material on his head gives me the shivers, just like it does every time I see anything like that.

 Imagine being told that you're going to be 'taken from here to a place of execution' and then to be 'hanged by the neck until you're dead...!' It's just so chilling and Dickensian, somehow, isn't it? Like when poor old Magwitch is in the dock in GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

I also love any scenes with Catherine Lacey as the aptly-named Miss Porter, THE DOLPHIN's resident drunkard. She's drunk in a refined, ladylike way as opposed to a rowdy way. The way she describes her recent stay in prison (one of many!) as a sort of leisurely vacation in a genteel boarding-house is just so funny.

She reminds me of this dotty old boozy lady from the CARRY ON movies, who also starred with John Cleese as a dotty old lady in the film CLOCKWISE. I'm sure you'd know her if you saw her but she's great, a proper game old gal.

The costumes, settings and furnishings are just exquisite. There's an incredible amount of attention paid to the detail of the period. The dresses worn by Googie Withers as Pearl Bond in particular are so gorgeous that one can only wonder what they'd look like in full colour.

The tight black ruffled gown she wears when she receives a sceptical Edward Sutton in her sitting-room is immensely flattering to the female form. Feminine hips and breasts look as good as it's possible for them to look in a fancy frock like that.

Mind you, those were the days when women had tiny, waspish waists accentuated by painfully tight dresses and tighter corsetry and they didn't slob around in baggy sweatpants either, haha. It's probably not politically correct to draw attention to stuff like that anymore but hey, I'm a free spirit. I say and do what I like...!

A ridiculously young Gordon Jackson, who went on to play the butler Mr. Hudson in iconic 'Seventies drama series UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, does a grand wee job (use a Scottish accent for that bit because he's Scottish, see?) of playing the son David. The whole time he was on-screen, though, I just kept jumping up and down with excitement squawking: 'It's Mr. Hudson, look! Hey, Mr. Hudson, where's Mrs. Bridges...?' Mrs. B. was the amply-upholstered cook-cum-housekeeper, to the uninitiated.

The good news is that the nice folks from STUDIOCANAL are releasing this brilliant, infinitely watchable film on Blu-ray, DVD and EST on April 25th, 2016. It'll be the film's first ever time to be available on Blu-ray. And, if I told you that that's to commemorate the 2017 centenary of Googie Withers, you'd probably agree with me that that's as good a reason as any for a celebration of the film. It's chock-full of special features and is well worth shelling out a bob or two for, if you ask me. Not that I ever wait to be asked, haha. I give my opinion freely, as you guys well know.

One thing I didn't manage to find out for you is why the film is specifically called PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX. It's a quaint, obviously old-fashioned term but it's never actually used in the film. Maybe that's something for you film fans to tell me. I'm not to proud to learn stuff. Or to take bribes to review certain films and say that they're great, heh-heh-heh. Not that that's ever happened, sadly. I only wish it would...!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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