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Australia 1985
Directed by
Lex Marinos
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Indecent Obsession, An

Lex Marinos is better known as a theatre director and his adaptation of Colleen McCullough’s novel shows the reason for this. Much of the film is given over to set pieces that one can imagine working on a stage but come across as rather stilted on screen.  Wendy Hughes gives a strong performance as Honour Langtry, the nurse in charge of Ward X, a psychiatric ward for traumatised soldiers in Papua New Guinea (the film was actually shot on Lord Howe Island) at the end of WWII. She is a caring, surrogate mother on whom her charges depend profoundly for their sanity.  But when good-looking Michael Wilson (Gary Sweet) arrives, Sister Langtry’s libido kicks in and everything goes to hell in a haycart. Sweet has the looks (very much in the Mel Gibson mold) and physique (plenty of bare torso is featured, Hughes, as usual for this period, joining in) but his boyish voice tends to undermine his commanding appearance (Bryan Brown would have been a much more effective) .

Marinos has tried to invest the material with substance but dramatically it fails to excite, with the characters failing to emerge beyond much the pot-boiler stereotypes of the original text. The rather plotless script is padded out with too many scenes depicting the “cuckoo’s nest” environment of  the ward and Marinos, in underplaying the potential for steamy, tropical melodrama and the salaciousness suggested by the film's title,delivers a rather passionless film which perhaps most disappointingly squanders its denouement with what amounts to a throwaway resolution. Originally devised as a teleplay, on the back of McCullough’s success with The Thornbirds it was released theatrically but failed to ignite public enthusiasm.

DVD Extras: Interview with Wendy Hughes


Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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