Happy Halloween Everyone!
So every year I have been trying to find a way to include Jane Austen in my Horrorfest posts. I lucked out with Death Comes to Pemberley as that gave me two years, (I posted in between as three years seemed a really long break.); and I was also able to review the Midsomer Murders episode “Death by Persuasion“. Then last year I came up with one of my better ideas:
Last year I reviewed the 2007 adaption (I also watched it with my niece and recorded her thoughts), but this year I decided to take a look at the 1987 adaption:
So Northanger Abbey is probably my favorite Jane Austen book as I just love Catherine, she’s so me.
I haven’t seen this adaption in over ten years. When I first read Pride and Prejudice back at the age of 16 I then went on to read the rest of Austen’s works and then watched every adaption I could my hands on. I remember not really being into it, there’s a lady with a heavily painted face and mole (why she is focused on I don’t remember), and that is about it.
So let’s see how this rewatch goes. And also joining me is my sister (R), my mom, and my 25 year old male friend (N).
So what is up with this music? It’s a weird dramatic rock opera. With some weird chanting going on.
We start off with Catherine in a tree reading a book.
She acts out the parts of the books, making different voices, but then imagines herself in the book. It was cute, but there are way too many of these scenes in this movie. It made it feel really, really dragged out. I like that the 2007 version kept that in, but made sure to do less and have them mostly be when she is dreaming instead of just randomly all the time.
This actress, Katharine Schlesinger, has really pretty eyes but she tends to just have them go dead.
I think she was trying to go for a wide eyed innocence look, but it comes off creepy, desperate, and shark like at times.
So Catherine gets asked to go to Bath and on the way we have another “imagination” scene where she is captured (again) and tied to a bed (again). My friend N who had never heard of Northanger Abbey was really shocked at this.
“N: She’s got an active imagination. She’s probably into bondage.
In his defense they have showed her being tied up in a majority of her imaginings. I guess the director was trying to go for sexy gothic fiction, but it was weird and it was Harding to have the film interrupted like every 10 minutes (it was probably more time between).
One thing that is really odd about this film is that on the way to Bath they have Catherine ass Northanger Abbey and is told about. I really didn’t like this because first of all why is Northanger Abbey down the block from her house? And secondly, her knowing of Northanger Abbey before meeting the Tilneys makes her seem like a gold digger as she already knows if their wealth and is enamored of the abbey. It’s a really weird choice to make and I’m not sure why they decided to do that.
As they pass by they also play this creepy horror music that is really out of place. It also makes it sound like vampires live there.
Me: What is with this music. Definitely sounds like a vampire is in there.
N: Might as well come out Vampires, they are playing your music.
We then get even more shots close up in her face. I really, really, really don’t like it. They are too big, too unblinking, and the director gets too close.
So they wait a day to go out as they needed to get more clothes. When they do go they meet Mr. Tilney and no offense to Peter Firth but he is no JJ Feild. I mean look at JJ Feild:
And now Peter Firth:
Me: He looks…kinda…weird.
My Mom: He looks an elf.
N: He looks like a creep.
To make things worse, this Mr. Tilney is pretty stiff and lacks charm. He also likes to philosophize a lot which didn’t bother the others viewing but it made me really uncomfortable as I felt that he was insulting and trying to educate Catherine to his way of thinking; instead of getting to know her. Maybe I’m off base but that’s how I felt about it all.
The next day they can’t go out because it is raining and Catherine stares out the window angry-again looking super creepy. She looks like she wants to burn the city down.
Like she looks crazy!
James arrives with John Thorpe and it feels like they are just flipping through this book. John Thorpe arrives and there is a clown horn sound effect, I’m not sure what it is and how it is made in the Regency era, but if that doesn’t fully encapsulate John Thorpe than I don’t know what does.
N: Here comes the Mad Hatter
R: He looks like a leprechaun.
N: He looks like a creep.
And to add to the creepiness of this scene the director decided to do lots of closeups on the face, filling the screen with them. I’m like can we back away please and give them some space.
The Thorpes are interesting characters. John is oozing creepiness and gives off that vibe of that one guy that is obsessive and controlling. Isabella is all smiles and it is all the same smile, 24/7. I think the director or actress was trying to have it be her facade, hiding her true nature; but to me it was unnerving to see her smiling all the time.
After this the two go on a ride in the gig, Catherine not being super into it, with the boys splitting up to be alone with their girls”. This scene is also weird as John Thorpe asks a few awkward questions to find out if she is rich or not but it is really strange way of questioning and he sound slike he suspects her of being a good digger. Which is odd because he IS one.
The other thing that is odd about this film is that it has been missing the Tilneys. Where are they?
The next day Mrs. Allen discovers that Mr. Tilney is there with his sister. She gets all happy that Mr. Tilney is single and goes into another fantasy.
N: Oh no, not again! Here is another bondage fantasy.
This fantasy/daydream is pretty gross as it shows a woman sewing her fingers together. Ew!
The next day Catherine and Isabella (or as the actress calls her, Isabeller) are spending time together and Isabella shares that she and James are in love and he went to ask his parent’s permission. Isabella is a little worried because her family doesn’t have money, and thanks to John Thorpe’s running of the mouth, they believe the Morland’s to soon-to-be wealthy, as they will inherit Mr. Allen’s wealth.
Catherine Morland: James and I think marrying for money is a very wicked thing to do.
My Mom: That’s because you are poor.
The next day they all go to the baths and everyone was surprised by the little wooden boards around their necks. I thought they held like bath salts or something, everyone else thought it was food. Does anyone know exactly what those are? I did a quick google search but didn’t find anything. I plan to go into more research later.
N: I like the snack tray hanging around their necks. I think it’s cool they have a little charcuterie to get their snack on.
So this scene is really weird as she hasn’t been introduced to Eleanor and just goes up to her and starts talking. It’s very much like when Mr. Collins approaches Mr. Darcy at the ball. It comes off very desperate and the in my opinion, if this film wasn’t based off a beloved book that I had read I would have thought that these people need to get a restraining order or something as Catherine comes off sooo crazy and almost obsessed with them.
So Eleanor and Catherine made plans to go walking and Mr. Thorpe does not want that at all. He wants to keep her with him, as does Isabella as they think Catherine is set to be an heiress. Catherine does not want to go with him, but he decided that would not do and cancels with the Tilneys for he. This John Thorpe is an extra creeping creep! When Catherine tried to leave he grabs her arm to force her to stay. Like he gets completely crazy
John Thorpe: I like a girl with spirit.
No, run Catherine! Run! She does, thank goodness, but when she runs she holds her skirts up really high that her knees are showing. I’m like girl, what are you doing?She runs all the way to the Tilneys and just barges in their house into their sitting room where they are together babbling about the walk and how she wants to be with them. She looks and acts crazy.
She meets General Tilney and while Eleanor explain the situation, Mr. Tilney low key tries to get an invite. Like this Mr. Tilney is trying to be sarcastic and silly, but something seems off. Like he’s a bit too grandiose and flamboyant in his interactions to me.
I really do not like this Mr. Tilney as everything he says is too mean spirited or the way he talks to Catherine feels as if he is mansplaining/talking down to her. The words aren’t bad, but the delivery he is just out there and there is no charm or chemistry between them. They share the same space but they don’t feel like they are inhabiting the same world.
So unfortunately I have not been able to finish transcribing my review from my notes. As I have to go to work I will pause her, and continue with part II tonight.
Sorry for that brief intermission. I am going to try and finish up what I can while on my lunch and then everything else tonight. Although it won’t be much as the power went out 15 minutes into my lunch and just came on.
So I have been thinking about this all day and I really think the reason why I don’t like this portrayal of Mr. Tilney is that he is too much like Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton. He has grandiose manners and a interacts (body language) like Mr. Collins and then his way of talking and uppityness (although he’s supposed to be making fun of people) is too reminiscent of Mr. Elton. One of the reasons Mr Tilney is so enjoyable is that he is different from the other Austen characters. I really feel this actor did not understand the character he is supposed to be playing.
So everything is going well, but then Captain Fredrick Tilney enters the picture. My friend N had a few thoughts about him:
N: He [Frederick Tilney] looks like the guy from Pirates of the Caribbean.
I don’t think so, I mean they both wear a wig. That’s about it.
N: [Talking about Captain Tilney] I can’t believe these cheesy lines.
Me: He’s like that frat guy who has his set of lines that he uses and just goes down the line of girls until it works on someone. Plus he’s the first son and rich.
N: So he’s a Regency frat guy?
Catherine watches Frederick and Isabella together and is worried. She wants Mr. Tilney to do something but he won’t as he has tried before and his brother won’t listen. I guess if I had to choose one thing that this adaption does really well is that I like how it shows the brother’s relationship. Although, while it shows their relationship well, it doesn’t show his and Eleanor as well as the 2007 adaption. He and Eleanor have a few scenes together, but he talks more about her than spends time with her.
Catherine and Mr. Tilney then have what would have been a cute scene, Mr. Tilney sarcastically echoing her words from before telling her that Isabella has a choice and Catherine giving it back to him, except she peters out and ends her sentence with dead eyes.
She convinces Mr. Tilney and he goes to his brother where they both take snuff! Snuff! No wonder Mr. Tilney is acting so weird, he’s been up on cocaine.
Catherine gets invited to go to Northanger Abbey and is super excited as she thinks it will be just like in her novels she has been reading. But what is sad is that Catherine Moreland wishes she was in a gothic novel, but Eleanor is trapped in one. She’s in a dreary old home with an abusive father, stuck there alone until she gets married. She’s had a wealthy life but an emotionally poor one, in contrast to Catherine who grew up not with riches but with parents who cared more about her than what they could broker with her.
So they get to the Abbey and Catherine is told that General Tilney is very particular about time and to not dilly dally. She reads her book and is late, later getting lost/exploring the abbey. These scenes were probably the best in the film as it was nice to see her wander through the mysterious manor.
She then goes to a random room and we have the weirdest exchange I have ever seen. So Catherine is looking at a canary in a cage when Mr. Tilney comes upon her. She’s looking at a bird in the cage and Mr. Tilney tells her that it is a canary. Catherine remarks how sad it is that it is in a cage and then Mr. Tilney tells her that’s all it has ever known. He then asks her if she has a stout heart or can handle being stuck her in a really, really creepy voice.
This scene is so creepy! Mr. Tilney sounds like a psycho! Like the way the scene is done with the cage it makes it sound like he is planning on making her a permanent fixture, and not in a good way-like buried in the walls or locked in the attic. N said that he thought he was playing up the gothic points but even he agreed with me this whole scene was creepy. If I was in this situation I would run and that is what I would tell Catherine to do.
You know an adaption is bad when it makes you afraid Mr. Tilney is going to murder Catherine.
That night at dinner General Tilney is super controlling and gets angry when his son doesn’t propose to him over the soup.
There is a definite shift in characters when leaving Bath for Northanger Abbey. In Bath Catherine was acting all crazy, while in Northanger Abbey it is Mr. Tilney. We also have the general shifting from genial to controlling, uncouth, and rude.
N: I don’t understand why they have such a big table for just a few people.
Me: That’s because you’re poor .
N: [Laughs] You’re right, that is something a poor person would say.
That night Catherine is in her room looking through the writing desk for clues when she hears Eleanor and Tilney outside her room, Eleanor having a breakdown. I know they want to give character development, but it seems odd that they would do this outside their guest’s room.
They also sound like they are planning to murder General Tilney, it’s like Northanger Abbey became the murder house or something.
General Tilney acts like a vampire. Like I forget at times what he is saying as he looks like he wants to suck her blood.
Catherine also is super insensitive in this adaption. When talking to Elinor about her dead mother she refers to Mrs. Tilney as “the corpse”.
The Tilney have a party and Mr. Tilney sings in a flamboyant way with another girl. He looks silly and horrible, but Catherine looks worse as her eyes bore into the woman and she looks as if she would like to murder her.
The other guest is, Marchioness de Thierry, who shares the same backstory as the real life person, Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Eliza de Feuillide.
The makeup and costuming is ghastly and this character doesn’t even really add to the story.
N: She [Marchioness de Thierry] looks like Dr. Frank N. Furter.
Then we have the weirdest scene. A little servant boy leads Catherine outside during the performance WHERE HE DOES CARTWHEELS and she has another fantasy/daydream. Like what is even happening?!!
So later the General invites Catherine out riding. She agrees but after questioning the maid decides she would much rather try to investigate Mrs. Tilney’s room, she and Elinor had tried to see the picture earlier but failed. As soon as all have ridden away she snoops to the mother’s room and looks around.
Mr. Tilney interrupts her as he wanted to check on her. Again, he really creeps me out in this scene as he is angry, but says everything calm, quiet, and over the top. He makes me think of Hannibal Lector when he talks to Clarice. It also doesn’t help that he has a riding crop and blocks the door, giving even more creep vibes.
He leaves and Catherine, sad, goes to her room and destroys the book by ripping it up and throwing it in the fireplace. NOOOO! NOT THE BOOKS!!!
Catherine cries the day away and falls asleep. She is awoken by Eleanor who falls asleep. She is awoken by Eleanor who brings a letter from James? Catherine’s brother. He shares that Isabella had broken their engagement for Captain Tilney. Catherine is upset but then Eleanor shares that her brother will not marry Isabella.
Apparently, General Tilney has gambled all their money away and needs his children to marry rich people (even though Eleanor is in love with a poor man and seeing him secretly.) I felt this weakened General Tilney as a villain as him being rich and still a money grabber was worse than a degenerate gambler.
Catherine’s trip ends with General Tilney returning home and sending Catherine packing. This scene wasn’t bad but they didn’t really show the fear and the danger of her going home alone.
Then we have the “romantic” end scene. This weird ‘80s music chanting plays as fog rolls in. Mr. Tilney rides in on a dark horse, and says:
Mr. Tilney: “I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”
Not only did we all go huh, but Catherine Morland does to. Like what does this mean?! I think he has been taking too much snuff that his brain is is not connecting right.
So I think they were trying to do a storybook/gothic ending but because there are so many fantasy/daydreams it really just feels like one. I guess the director could have been trying to do her fantasy has come to life but it didn’t really work. I also did not like the freeze frame ending. As a whole, I did not like this film
Costumes: The wigs and hair are really bad. Like hardly anyone has a good one. It’s really bad. The costume colors are as well, they are accurate pieces but not as nice as in the later adaptions.
Actors: The only actors I really enjoyed was Googie Withers as Mrs. Allen and Ingrid Lacey as Eleanor Tilney. Robert Hardy as General Tilney was good but a bit inconsistent in his manner. Peter Firth as Mr. Tilney was too stiff and Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland was very inconsistent as at times she was animated but other times like a sleepwalker and she had those dazed/dead eyes.
Set: I liked the set design a lot. I really enjoyed when they were in the Abbey and wish we spent more time there. I just wish they had utilized better lighting and angles.
On a while I did not enjoy this adaption, but prefer the 2007 version instead. Although this one did have a lot more horror elements as Catherine had creepy stalker vibes and Mr. Tilney gave off murder-y vibes.
For more Northanger Abbey, go to North by Northanger (Or, the Shades of Pemberley)
For more Northanger Abbey (2007), go to Storybook Ending: Northanger Abbey (2007)
For more Northanger Abbey variations, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan
For more films based on Jane Austen, go to Sense and Sensibility (1995)
For more Jane Austen variations, go to The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)