Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon: Jane Eyre (1970)

Welcome back to another Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon post where I endeavor to watch and review as many Jane Eyre adaptions as possible. After my week long Summer Read-a-thon project, I decided to take a few days for myself and enjoy all of the freedoms of summer and of course do some more reading without keeping track of pages or brainstorming talking points. I couldn't stay away for too long, so time to reveal which adaption I'll be covering in this post.

Jane Eyre (1970)
George C. Scott as Mr. Rochester
Susannah York as Jane Eyre
This particular version has a run-time of 1hr and 50mins (give or take some minutes depending on whether or not you get a decent dvd copy that hasn't been botched)
Here is a link to the IMDb page:

When I started this particular incarnation of the Watch-a-thon series, I had no idea that this adaption existed. It was only after searching up a list of the Jane Eyre versions that I discovered filmmakers attempted to adapt this book in the 70s. As some of you may remember, I made a couple of disparaging comments in relation to this movie before my summer reading challenge and now is the time to reveal why I hated it so much...but before I get into all of the negative details (because there aren't any positives to this adaption) I would like to angrily comment on something. 

The whole point of releasing a new adaption of a classic book or even a remake of an older movie is to improve upon it and to introduce the newer and improved story to a brand new audience, yet so far in this watch-a-thon I've noticed a consistent trend where the new remakes/adaptions of Jane Eyre don't consistently improve upon the efforts of the adaptions before them. Instead, it seems that every decade we get a new adaption of Jane Eyre without too much thought put into the production. I'm saying this because after the train wreaks of the 1934 and 1943 adaptions, this 1970's version is so lifeless that it's a pain to even watch. So before I proceed to list out everything terrible about this adaption, I would like to say that I probably put more thought in this post than they did in the entire making of the 1970s adaption.  

  • In case you were wondering whether or not this adaption starts off on the right foot, I'm here to say that it in fact does not. The first of many plot cuts includes the majority of Jane's childhood where audiences aren't introduced to the feisty young Jane Eyre who endures the abuses of John and Mrs. Reed. This particular adaption starts with Jane heading off to Lowood School where upon arrival Mr. Brocklehurst informs everyone that Jane is a vain and deceitful child. Funny enough, since the audience isn't privy to any information previously regarding young Jane's behavior or upbringing, there is nothing to contradict his claims. For the audience member unfamiliar with the book, young Jane must be as ill behaved as Brocklehurst claims her to be. 
  • Next, the film introduces a teacher who I can only assume must be Miss Scatcherd, but the movie of course doesn't tell the audience. Yet again I find myself filling in the huge plot gaps left by the narrative. This incarnation of Miss Scatcherd is without a doubt the worst out of all of the adaptions. You'll marvel and feel a number of moments of disbelieve as she purposely singles out Helen again and again, punishing her for doing nothing wrong. It's like she feels that slowly killing Helen is her personal mission. I honestly was waiting for her to say "Burns, you breathed in a fashion I find detestable. Bring me the switch!"
  • Speaking of Helen, she is the only girl in the entirety of Lowood that's sick. This adaption completely omits the typhus outbreak and you're left to wonder what exactly she died from. Helen's singular role in this film seems to be to stand around and cough incessantly. There is no attempt made to build a believable and tender relationship between Jane and Helen. The two only have a few conversations together that is rife with wooden, emotionless dialogue. The cherry on top of this crappy childhood sundae has to be the representation of Helen's death, or should I say lack of representation. The audience doesn't get to see Jane's morning reaction to the realization that Helen is dead. Rather the movie chooses to jump forward in time to show us the now older Jane by Helen's gravestone.
  • In a moment that I'm still confused about, Brocklehurst talks about how Jane has been given the honor of being offered a teaching position at Lowood, which Jane rather forcefully refuses. If I heard correctly this means that Jane never taught at Lowood and as such she was given the governess position at Thornfield without any prior teaching experience? I call Bulls***.   
  • After magically getting her position at Thornfield, there are no scenes actually depicting Jane teaching Adele anything of consequence. It appears she is a governess in name only.

I imagine this is Jane's teaching style until Rochester makes his presence known

  • I can't have a serious discussion about this movie without talking about the ages of both Jane and Mr. Rochester. Rather than making Rochester younger and having a slightly older Jane like the previous and subsequent adaptions, this version decides to throw caution to the wind and chooses two actors that are way too old for their parts. I'm tempted to refer to this version's incarnation of Mr. Rochester as Granddad Rochester and he in no way fits the part of the romantic lead. The actress playing Jane looks to be in her thirties and of course the dialogue of the movie doesn't seem to acknowledge this visibly apparent fact. Jane outright tells Granddad Rochester that she spent 10 years at Lowood and if the audience makes the assumption that she couldn't have been older than 10 yrs old when she arrived at Lowood, it stands to reason that this adult Jane should be around 20 years old. 
  • Additionally there is no chemistry between Jane and Granddad Rochester and because their relationship is the focal point of the movie, that makes the majority of the film emotionless.
  • Speaking of emotions, this seems like the perfect moment to transition to the topic of music before I return to critiquing plot elements. Many people feel that the saving grace of this movie is the soundtrack, which was done by none other than John Williams. Well I'm here to tell you that regardless of his name, his score still sucked horribly. *gasp* I don't know if it's because I've been spoiled by the amazing soundtracks produced by Hans Zimmer and Alexandre Desplat or if it's just the style of music in the 70s, but the soundtrack to this movie was garishly overwrought. I think its excess tried to create moods and emotions to make up for the poor acting, but that of course didn't succeed.
  • The production of this movie was also pretty terrible with shoddy or even non existent transitions between scenes. There were also a few scenes where the lighting was off, in particular the moment after Jane prevents Granddad Rochester from burning in his bed. When one of them walks away with a candle, it looks like someone just shined a bright spotlight on the character and the person operating it just couldn't keep up with the actor's walking. 
  • Also during this moment in the movie Jane accuses Grace Poole of setting fire to Granddad Rochester's bed, even though Rochester hasn't mentioned her up until this point in the film and her character hasn't made an appearance in the narrative. 
  • I do have to say though that my favorite moment in this film has to be the Mason incident and the events that follow it (and by favorite, I mean the most ridiculous). When going to care for the injured Mr. Mason, Jane distinctly sees Rochester push a screaming woman back into a room and lock the door. She never questions this moment and because of the extreme plot cuts to the film, Jane agrees to marry Rochester directly after Mason leaves. She sees Rochester hide an unknown woman and still agrees to marry him no questions asked!!

  • With the arrival of the botched proposal scene comes the realization that this movie cut out Mrs. Reed's death and the revelation that Jane has an uncle. As a result, there is no fortune for Jane to inherit, so the audience is deprived of any and all character development in Jane.
  • After the lack of discussion about Jane's torn veil, the failed wedding ceremony, and her subsequent wandering on the moors, the movie quickly transitions to Jane magically finding her way to the Rivers. How you ask? No idea because the movie doesn't tell you. Then we are presented with St. John's character who has the look and moodiness of an appropriately aged Rochester with just a dash of religious fanaticism thrown in to spice things up. I would say more about her time spent there, but it was incredibly short and not much happened. After the requisite St. John proposal scene, Jane makes her way back to Granddad Rochester where the movie ends at the lowest point possible.
  • This movie apparently didn't have any makeup artists or a special effects dept. because rather than making Granddad Rochester look blind or telling him to act like he was blind, he just kept his eyes closed for the entire reunion scene. Like the rest of the movie, this moment was completely emotionless and Rochester has no reaction to Jane's return. No joke, he asks: "Jane, are you here for a visit?" as if she decided to drop by for some coffee. What follows is some stiff dialogue, an awkward half hug, and then the movie end with an air of disappointment.

That about sums up my feelings regarding the 1970 adaption of Jane Eyre. For those wondering how many adaptions I have left to review, since it seems like this watch-a-thon has lasted forever, I have three more versions left to watch (or rewatch) and review. Now normally I don't reveal which adaptions I'm planning on covering in the near future, but I do want to call your attention to one of them. As a general rule these reviews have a lot of spoilers and I don't want to rob you of the chance to uniquely experience this adaption or to have you watch it later with my biases in mind. What I am referring to is a YouTube series called The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, which similar to the style of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, is a modernization of Jane Eyre where Jane vlogs parts of her life. In the hopes that you'll actually watch it, here's the first video in the series:

I probably won't even consider reviewing this series for at least a week, maybe even more. That means you have plenty of time to watch all of the videos. In the meantime, I have some book reviews already planned that you should check back for. That's all I have left to say, so as always Best Wishes!!
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