EDDIE BRAZIL reveals the spooky coincidences behind the classic 1964 British thriller, Séance on a Wet Afternoon
TITLE: Séance on a Wet Afternoon
DIRECTOR: Bryan Forbes
CAST: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough, Nanette Newman, Mark Eden and Patrick Magee
Séance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 Review
Séance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 is one of the, great, unsung British movies of the 1960s. It’s directed by Brian Forbes and stars American Kim Stanley and Brit stalwart Richard Attenborough.
It tells the story of a neurotic, fraudulent, psychic medium (Stanley) who along with her ever faithful, but subservient, husband (Attenborough) plan to kidnap and hold for ransom the child of a wealthy businessman. The girl is taken and held at the couples gloomy Victorian house.
While the police frantically search for the child, the medium visits the distraught parents and tells them that through her psychic abilities, she has located their kidnapped daughter. She is in a woodland location. A place where her husband has subsequently left the unharmed, but drugged and comatose child. Yet, soon the couples plan to achieve notoriety and fame by Stanley’s fake psychic powers soon starts to unravel.
On the surface the film is a crime drama, yet, underneath their simmers a tale which has a melancholy, atmosphere of loss and regret infused with a brooding eerie ambience. The fraudulent couples spooky, gothic home is the perfect haunted house backdrop to a ghost story without a ghost.
During pre production Forbes and his crew toured London in search of locations to shoot the film, in particular the house where the séance of the title takes place and where the kidnapped child is held. They found what the wanted at a suitable gloomy pile in Wimbledon, South London. The house was just right for the director as it contained a top tower room which could be used for the séance.
Forbes asked one of his crew to go and see if the owner would give permission to film in the house.
The member of the crew returned some time later with a curious expression on his face.
“You’re are not going to believe this,” he told Forbes.
The owner of the house, a woman, consented to the filming, and enquired what the film was about. When told it was a drama which contained a series of séances, she smiled. She said that should be interesting as a previous owner of the house had committed suicide in the tower room by hanging himself and that his ghost was said to haunt the building.
However, it was when she asked who would be staring in the film that she went pale and nearly fainted. She already was aware of Attenborough, but when told that the other star was American, Kim Stanley she was deeply shocked.
She informed the crew member that Stanley had been one of her closest friends in the States and that they had lived next door to one another. She lost contact with her when she returned to England and hadn’t see her in years.
Brian Forbes could have used any number of similar houses in Wimbledon, but he chose the one where tragedy had struck in the room he wanted to film the séance, and where Kim Stanley’s old friend lived.
Given the nature of Séance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 is it possible that the director was drawn to the house by something other that chance?