|Faye Dunaway having a Horrible Hair Day|
In this remake of The Wicked Lady, Caroline (Glynis Barber) is about to marry the wealthy Sir Ralph Skelton (Denholm Elliott), when along comes her cousin Barbara (Faye Dunaway) who steals away Skelton, marries him, and retains poor Caroline as her domestic. When Barbara loses a treasured heirloom in a card game to witchy sister-in-law Lady Kinsclere (Prunella Scales), she decides to disguise herself as a highwayman and steal the jewelry back. Barbara realizes that she finds great excitement as a robber and decides to continue her career, meeting up with the notorious Jerry Jackson (Alan Bates) ... This is not quite a black comedy version of the original, but it does border on the burlesque, especially with the portrayal of Dunaway during one part of her campaign to come off like a drag queen having a Hideous Hair Day. There is no subtlety whatsoever to Dunaway's performance, but then no one comes off that well under Michael Winner's direction, despite some of the noted players. Barber makes little impression as Caroline, and even the great John Gielgud as the pious servant Hogarth can't hold a candle to Felix Aylmer in the original. It's hard to believe that Caroline would prefer Ralph as portrayed by Elliott over Kit Locksby (Oliver Tobias). That being said, The Wicked Lady retains its great story and those who are unfamiliar with the Margaret Lockwood-James Mason version may at least find it entertaining. This is almost a scene-by-scene remake but it adds a kinky, gratuitous cat fight between Barbara and Jackson's girlfriend (Marina Sirtis), with the former taking a whip to the latter's naked breasts at a public hanging. Alan Bates [Georgy Girl] does what he can with the Jackson role, but he hasn't that perfect style of Mason. Dunaway is almost photographed as badly in this as she was in The Eyes of Laura Mars.
Verdict: Unless you like seeing bare breasts being whipped, skip this and stick with the far superior original. **1/2 out of 4.