Northanger Abbey – Movie 1987

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I’m trying to catch up with these movies!  The pile of Jane Eyre adaptations really threw me for a loop!  Well, today we’re talking about Northanger Abbey.  This version stars Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland, and Peter Firth as Henry Tilney.

I was not wowed by any of the characters in this movie.  They all seemed lacking in one way or another.  Catherine was young, naïve and happy.  At times her emotions were not nuanced enough and came across as shallow.  Henry Tilney didn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he did it was difficult to discern his feelings and motivations.  I think they wanted him to come across as somewhat of an enigma, and in that they thoroughly succeeded.  Isabella Thorpe was silly, simpering, flirtatious, shallow, and constantly seeking flattery.  Her method of speaking was inane.  John Thorpe was creepy and lecherous.

There were a couple of characters whom I liked.  Elinor Tilney’s acting was natural, which made it a wonderful relief.  General Tilney’s character was strange, but well-played.  I like how Robert Hardy gave him a very distinct manner of talking and behaving.  He was more eccentric than forbidding.

This adaptation added a character who was a bit strange–General Tilney’s friend from France and her young servant.  If you watch the movie, you’ll see exactly what I mean about her being like a neon light stuck in a film about table lamps.  You just want to say, ‘Huh?’

The look of the movie was alright, but there were a few things that were off.  Look closely at the ball scenes–there is a profusion of tall feathers.  I think it was a little overboard.  You can also see the 80’s style enter into some of the hairstyles and clothing.  And please don’t get me started on the cheesy 80’s music.  Oh Mylanta–saxophone music and mermaid singing!  Are you kidding me?

The beginning of the film is rather strange–starting with Catherine’s daydream of a Frankenstein-like villain preying on a young, helpless heroine.  Catherine’s dreams continue throughout the movie, changing as she meets new characters.  They are melodramatic and feed right into her overexcited imagination, which has been fueled by sensational gothic novels.  The end of the film is not quite to my liking.  I take issue with Henry and Catherine having a make out fest before he has even proposed to her.  Not realistic at all.

In closing, I don’t recommend this film to anyone.  View it at your own risk and be prepared to laugh heartily or groan as appropriate.

I’m curious now to get my hands on an authentic gothic novel to see if they are really that sensational.  Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Possible Objections:

  • The d-word is said several times.
  • Mrs. Allen is shown sewing through her fingers in one of Catherine’s dreams.

Rated: NR

Rating: 1 1/2 Stars

Until next time…




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