Sunday nights aren't the same without Downton Abbey. Sure, the plots are flimsy as erasable bond but it's a soap opera and nothing more. Jullian Fellowes certainly had lots of inspiration but I find these three films, okay, two... but more on that later, these films will fit nicely into your Sunday nights and into Jullian's Final Draft software. Problem is, once seen, it might be hard to go back to Downton. I like to think of The Hireling as Henry Poole compared to Downton's Tommy Hilfiger.
The score of this 1973 picture, directed by Alan Bridges, is eerily similar to Downton. The plot, also very similar, centers on a relationship between a working class Robert Shaw (who's so good) and a lady of property and title played by one of the most underrated hotties ever, Sarah Miles. A crazy hottie but a hottie nonetheless. Unlike Downton, Hireling is dark, painful and empty of bizarre conflict resolutions. There are no resolutions in Hireling. But then, it's a helluva lot more interesting. There's beauty in the dark. Watch it tonight since the entire picture is on You Tube...
Evil Under the Sun, 1982
"Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."
Downton Abbey, 2012
"Vulgarity and coarseness have become
substitutes for wit and taste."
Evil Under the Sun, 1982
It can't be easy cranking out a series with a lot of unknown actors who come into tall cotton and give notice. I understand Mrs O'Brien is leaving DA and there's talk Fellowes might be as well. Man, these people must be raking it in. I steal lines from movies all the time but I don't get paid. Anything. That Downton has a line from an obscure '80s picture that no one has ever seen, and if they did, they don't remember it, strikes me as odd. Then again, Maggie Smith starred in this Poirot mystery with Peter Ustinov so maybe she contributed the line...without knowing it.
Not that Downton took much else from Evil Under the Sun. I was never a Poirot fan but Ustinov brings much needed sloppiness to the detective who's, "so precise in his appearance." Hey, I just stole that line from another movie. It's a fun Sunday night flick with a bitchy Roddy McDowall delivering that line up there with typical bitchy, Stoke on Trent, aplomb. There's even a gigolo who planks Diana Rigg. Diverse stuff for Rod fans or gigolo wannabes.
Best for last. My hero, and he might be dead for all I know, that's the problem with on-line acquaintances, Jamm Good, turned me onto The Shooting Party shortly after I started the Trad. Jamm, aka, Ta'er, was an encyclopedia of obscure apparel trivia and I have suspected he was, and still might be, a big Kahuna in the industry. Alan Bridges directed this as well and I've had a thing for James Mason since I was 12. Throw in Edward Fox and John Gielgud and the cast at Downton seem a bit...soap opera.
It's a beautiful film because they were still using film back in 1985. It's Mason's last picture and it seems like it was a template for production designers on Downton. The end of an era, what. The costumes will slay you. The story moves it all along quickly what with a brace of pheasant, shotguns, dogs, whiskey and filter-less cigarettes. Not to mention no one thinks about money.
I suppose that's why the world is so in love with Downton Abbey...Like the Busby Berkley musicals during the depression, we long to escape economic fear and for an hour, sometimes two, we are aristocracy. Still, someone told me years ago that having money just means you can pay the bills on time.