Hungry Hill Film Details
Overview: Story of a feud that has gone on between two Irish families for more than 50 years.
Review: The family saga is a popular literary genre, but one which can be difficult to transfer to the cinema. It tends to work better on the small screen; “The Forsyte Saga” and “Poldark” are two of the landmark series of British television history, but I cannot think of any feature films based upon their source novels. George Stevens’s “Giant”, based upon a novel by Edna Ferber, has its admirers, but to me it stands as an object lesson in the perils of trying to adapt family sagas for the screen, especially if they involve characters who age several decades in the course of the story. Try as I might, I just could not accept Liz Taylor (at the time a stunningly beautiful twenty-something) as a grey-haired grandmother or James Dean, that enduring symbol of youthful rebellion, as a middle-aged businessman. “Hungry Hill”, based upon one of Daphne du Maurier’s lesser-known novels, is a British attempt at a cinematic family saga. It is set in 19th century Ireland and follows the fortunes of three generations of the Brodrick family. In each generation the head of the family is named John Brodrick, but the three Johns are very different in character. The first, “Copper John”, is an autocratic patriarch and industrialist who makes a fortune by sinking a copper mine in the hill of the title. His son, “Greyhound John”, is a gentle young man whose main interests are his dogs and horses and who has little interest in the family business, preferring to train as a lawyer in London. He is, however, reluctantly forced to take over when his elder brother Henry is killed in a riot. His own son, “Wild Johnnie”, is, as his nickname would suggest, a wild young man, a spendthrift, drinker and womaniser. A theme which appears throughout the film is the long-running feud between the Brodricks and the rival Donovan clan. The Donovans were once wealthy and influential, but have long since sunk into poverty, and resent the fact that the Brodricks have supplanted them as the leading family of the district. The Brodricks have to face two riots at the mine, in both of which members of the Donovan family are involved. The first is in protest against Copper John’s opening of the mine, the second against Wild Johnnie’s threat to close it when it is no longer making money. Another rivalry is that between Henry and his brother John for the love of the same woman, Fanny Rosa. I have never read du Maurier’s novel, but it seems clear that it must contain a lot of material which was omitted from the script for the film, because the storyline seems contrived and jerky, moving forward by fits and starts with a lot of unexplained gaps. This is true even though du Maurier herself worked upon the screenplay. Even she must have found it impossible to tell in ninety minutes a story which really required a lot longer to explain everything. The film stars some of the leading lights of the British acting profession of the period, including Margaret Lockwood, Dennis Price, Michael Denison, Jean Simmons and Cecil Parker. There are, however, no outstanding acting performances, with the best probably coming from Parker as Copper John. The make-up department do, however, deserve some credit for making Lockwood (in her late twenties at the time) as Fanny Rosa look convincing as an elderly woman, something their counterparts working on “Giant” never succeeding in doing with Taylor. Now that we are so used to “heritage cinema” films being made in sumptuous colour it comes as something of a shock to realise that up until the sixties black-and-white was the default position in Britain for this particular genre, and, indeed, for most others, although there were occasional exceptions such as the Gainsborough melodrama “Jassy” and the Oscar Wilde adaptation “An Ideal Husband”. The reason for this was financial, but given that the makers of “Hungry Hill” were prepared to spend money on other matters, such as travelling to Ireland for location shooting in County Wicklow, it seems a pity that the money could not have been found for colour film. More importantly, however, it is a pity that the decision was not taken to make the film a longer one. A two-hour running length rather than an hour and a half might have enabled the film-makers to fill in some of the many gaps in the storyline and we could have had a more satisfying film. 4/10
Country: United Kingdom
Duration: 92 min
Also known as: Les monts brûlés,Vendetta,Frutos de odio,O lofos tis symforas,Der Fluch,Hungry Hill,O Morro Voraz,狂乱の狼火,Colina do Ódio,Nälkävuoren kosto,Der kupferne Berg