Review: Séance on a Wet Afternoon

Seance on a Wet Afternoon is a British Noir from 1964, written for the screen and directed by Bryan Forbes. The film is based on a book by Mark McShane. This film stars Richard Attenborough and Kim Stanley. Stanley was widely considered one of the best actresses of her time. You may not know of her or seen much of her work because she didn’t do many films. She much more preferred working live theater then working in the movie industry. She also did sporadic television work through out her career. She did love this script when she read it, but the reason she did this film is because of director Forbes’ involvement. Though she never gave any names, she once stated that if Forbes could make that dead fish look good, he could make anybody look good. Though she was only in a handful of movies in her 30 plus year career, she was nominated twice for an Academy Award for best actress, not a bad percentage. This film was one of those nominated efforts.

This film tells a story of a down and out couple, Myra and Billy. Myra is a psychic and Billy is sickly and out of work. Myra gets the idea to kidnap a rich couples’ young daughter and then have Myra “use her psychic abilities” to help find the child. This would make her séance business boom from the publicity. She talks Billy into doing all the leg work for the job, though he is very reluctant. The couple gets deeper and deeper into their own scheme as Myra continues to change the plan and outside forces continue to alter it. Will the couple get away with kidnapping or worse?

Though Stanley’s acting in this film is excellent, let us not forget about Attenborough’s performance. I actually enjoyed his performance better. His Billy is a man trapped in a marriage he can not get out of, for more than one reason. Does he do what Myra says because he has no other choice or is Myra his femme fatale who can use her charms to get him to do what she wants?

This film is worth a viewing just for these two performances. Are our main characters crazy or trapped…or maybe both?

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