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Seance on a Wet Afternoon

An acting showcase with haunting undertones, 1964’s SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON grabs you with a neat hook and never lets go.

Legendary stage actress Kim Stanley (The Right Stuff, Frances) is excellent as Myra Savage, a London medium who’s growing tired of her regular Monday group session. Her guide through the spirit world is her stillborn son Arthur, but he seems wasted on the everyday issues of her regulars. Myra sees herself as truly gifted and worthy of fame, so she drags her weak husband into a twisted kidnapping plot.

Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park) is terrific as her husband Bill, who can’t seem to work a regular job due to his asthma. But his more critical condition is permanent subservience to Myra’s dominating personality. He agrees to her plot, but not without serious reservations.

They plan to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy couple, somehow convince the girl that she has not been kidnapped, then return her and the ransom money after Myra serves as a medium to “find the little girl”.

The deeper that real-life intrudes, the more challenging the plot becomes in execution. The little girl is smarter than they plan for. The police are a little cleverer than anticipated. To say more would be a crime, as the film’s structure is a nearly perfectly acted and structured unwrapping of events.

There are well staged scenes of kidnapping, ransom payoffs and late night intrigue, all shot in noir black & white by Gerry Turpin (The Last of Sheila) and directed by Bryan Forbes (The Whisperers).

John Barry wrote the music the same year he did the score for 007’s “Goldfinger” the two couldn’t be more different, but they’re both great.

It’s a lot of fun watching this unwind. I found myself cheering for poor Bill and understood his fear of Myra. She is a force. Which makes the final fifteen minutes all the more powerful.

Myra says early in the film “It’s so bright after a séance. Brightness just seems to fall from the air.” Definitely not after the séance that concludes the film. Not at all.

SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON is the perfect English mystery for any weather, earning a suspenseful B.

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