JE70 stars George C. Scott as Rochester and Susannah York as Jane; it also features Jean Marsh as Bertha and Angharad Rees as someone named Louise. In addition, Sophie is played by Anna Korwin, who also played her in JE73.
St. John Rivers was played by a man named Ian Bannen. I’d never heard of him so I looked him up. He was born in 1928, meaning that he was in his early 40s when this movie was made. George C. Scott was born in 1927, meaning he was only a year or so older than the man playing St. John. Susannah York was born in 1939, making her 30+ as Jane. Interesting tidbit – the music was written by John Williams. Yes, “THE” John Williams. So it’s a given that the music is wonderful. It’s a shame that the print isn’t very good because the music sounds a bit tinny. But then, this is a 40+ year-old production, so I don’t have high hopes for any of the sights or sounds being very good.
The film is only 100 or so minutes long, and the opening credits take up almost 3 minutes. I’m not sure why they thought this was a good idea.
Jane is never at Gateshead. We first see her in a carriage heading towards Lowood, which is suitably gruesome. We see a girl chopping up the ice in the pitcher that is used for washing up. Mr. Brocklehurst brings up Mrs. Reed, but we never meet her or any of the Reed children. We know immediately which girl is Helen, because she coughs almost constantly.
We’ve seen Mr. Brocklehurst complain about the girl with wavy hair, but in this version it’s Jane he’s complaining about. That really doesn’t make much sense to me. Brocklehurst says his lines in a very weird way. I almost think the actor is drunk.
Miss Scatcherd is truly evil – possibly the most evil Miss Scatcherd yet. She makes Jane stand on a stool for the crime of having wavy hair, and makes Helen stand on a stool outside for not obeying her. Of course, given how much Helen coughs, it’s pretty obvious something bad is going to happen to her. Helen isn’t as religious as she ought to be, but they do include the fact that Helen dies in Jane’s arms.
Approximately 15 minutes has been spent on Jane’s childhood which, given that the movie is only 100 or so minutes long, is pretty good. We know that Jane’s childhood is over because, all of a sudden, we see Susannah York laying flowers on a grave, Mr. Brocklehurst is calling out “Jane,” and Susannah York responds to him. There is no way in the world that Susannah York could ever be called “plain.” Even in simple clothes and a not-very-flattering hairdo she’s beautiful. She’s also much taller than Jane should be. Brocklehurst is actually not unpleasant now. But he still sounds drunk and Jane tells him off.
Next thing we know, Jane is at Thornfield. One day, she’s out walking and admiring the view and the music sounds like a heartbeat. All of a sudden, the heartbeat changes to horses’ hooves and we see George C. Scott get thrown by his horse. Finally, a Rochester who is not good-looking. I am actually quite pleased with this. But, oddly enough, we never get the scene where he asks Jane if she thinks he’s handsome.
Unfortunately, this copy must have been taken directly from US television, because it’s pretty obvious where the commercial breaks are. In fact, at the 30:20 mark, it’s very noticeable that something is missing.
Scott is very brusque and downright rude at times. More so than in the book, I think. Or maybe I’m still affected by the charms of the various Rochesters I’ve seen during this project.
We don’t get to hear about Bertha until Edward has been home for a bit. After putting out the fire, Jane asks Edward if the laughter came from Grace Poole, and Edward says yes. This is interesting, because I don’t remember hearing/seeing anything about Grace Poole before this. Perhaps that’s what is in the missing clip. I’ll have to wait until I can rescue my own copy of the DVD from storage. But who knows when that will be.
Blanche is attractive, although a bit long in the tooth. If IMDb is correct, she was born in 1936, making her 34 years old in 1970. Blanche tells Edward that the governess is plain, and I just had to laugh. As I said earlier, I don’t think it’s possible for Susannah York to ever be anything but lovely. As a result, Jane’s speech later on about being plain is unintentionally funny. She does dress better after they get engaged, and she’s never anything resembling plain. I know it sounds as if I’m harping on this, but at least in the 1973 and 1983 versions, they tried to make Jane look as plain as possible. They don’t seem to have tried here.
We do not get the gypsy scene in this version, which does not surprise me at all. 1973 is the first version that has it, and it’s plain that this is a difficult scene to pull off well. Jane never goes back to Gateshead, so we never learn about the rich uncle in Madeira. It is quite rushed – the scene with Bertha and Jane’s veil takes place after about 64 minutes. Bertha doesn’t tear the veil – she just lets it fall onto the floor, but nobody says anything about it. Why bother keeping the scene? The wedding is at 65 minutes, leaving us 35 minutes to meet Bertha, meet the Riverses, find out that Bertha burned down the house, etc. When Jane does meet the Riverses, she tells them her real name, and they are not her cousins, nor does she turn out to be an heiress. Edward goes blind from the fire, but he does get to keep both his hands. Instead of not blinking, George C. Scott just keeps his eyes closed. He doesn’t look injured at all; he just looks as if he’s sleeping.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this was the first JE adaptation I ever saw (if it’s not, then JE43 was, and I didn’t retain much). This was made a year earlier than P71, yet the costumes are so much nicer. There are no icky green plaid dresses or beehive hairdos to be found. The sets are suitably dark and gothic. Except for the fact that St John seems to be more empathetic than he should be (his proposal to Jane is way too passionate), the characters do resemble those in the book.
To be honest, while I went into this willing to be snarky about this film, I found that there was really no need to be. It’s actually quite decent, given the circumstances. There’s obviously a reason I remembered it, even after all these years. Whenever I can get my DVD out of storage, I plan to watch it again.