Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Article 2177 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2007
Posting Date: 7-29-2007
Directed by Bryan Forbes
Featuring Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough, Judith Donner

A mentally unbalanced woman, convinced that she has powers as a spiritual medium, emotionally manipulates her weak-willed husband into kidnapping a young girl; the woman hopes that she will become a celebrity by solving the case.

The more things stay the same, the more things change. The concept of a spiritualist trying to gain fame by illegal means is the stuff of b-movies from the thirties, but this movie ups the ante considerably. It is more concerned with the psychological reasons that drive the various people involved than it is with the mechanics of the spiritualistic scam, though it doesn’t stint on the details of the kidnapping. Both Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough give excellent performances as the dysfunctional couple, but it is Attenborough’s character that most fascinates us; it’s very easy to relate to this relatively normal man who finds that his love for his wife and his desire for her to live a happy and comfortable life end up causing him to commit crimes that would be unthinkable to him in other circumstances; we feel his every fear, frustration, and even his relief in the final moments of the story. It’s also interesting in that the woman truly believes she is psychic; she spearheads the kidnapping not to convince people of her abilities, but for the fame that will result in more clientele. It’s fascinating to watch how these people try to outthink the police in their investigation, and how they adjust the plan when things go awry. It is also fascinating to watch the woman descend deeper and deeper into madness as the story progresses. This is truly an excellent and memorable movie.



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