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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

This town ain't big enough for the both of us.

Under Capricorn

Plot Overview

In 1770 Capt. Cook discovered Australia, the land down under, austral meaning southern as in: below the Tropic of Capri­corn, whence the title “Under Capri­corn.” In 60 yrs. Sydney has become a thriving city in the middle of what's turned into a penal colony for England. In 1831 King William IV appointed a new governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard (Cecil Parker) who arrives in pomp and ceremony ("WELCOME") along with his younger cousin the Hon. Charles Adare.

Charles being ambitious but penniless is approached by an emancipist (“You murderer, you”) Sam (“let bygones be bygones”) Flusky (Joseph Cotten) to be his straw man in the application for a land grant, Sam having exhausted his allotment from the Crown. Accepting a dinner invitation to Sam's home, Charles perceives, “There's some­thing queer about that place.”

The lady of the house Flusky's wife, Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman) is in a profound funk having followed her husband to seven years of trans­por­tation in this strange land, then never regaining her social bearings from having married him below her class in Ireland. When she and Charles recognize their old country ties (“Mr. Adare and I are very old friends”), Sam seizes the opportunity to enlist Charles's help to get his wife off the booze and back into good graces “among all you swells.” Uppity head servant Milly (Margaret Leighton) has other ideas.


“Under Capricorn” having to do with the past remembered or forgotten, one can't help but be struck with artifacts of the Christian gospel in people's every­day speech. The plaque at the entrance of Sam's mansion reads: “Minyago Yugilla?” meaning “Why Weepest Thou?” a direct quote from John 20:13 concerning the resur­rection. The insur­mount­able class difference between husband and wife was referred to as a “great gulf fixed,” derived from a reference in Luke 16:26 to the separation of the good and bad after death. The keys to the house­dom are given to the lady, reminis­cent of those given Peter in Matt. 16:19. Milly's take on the house­hold's set­backs is, “The Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform,” à la Isaiah 55:8-9 but with her­self promoting calamity rather than repenting per the previous verse, Is. 55:7. Henrietta remarks on her and her husband's sacrifices, “All along we've sacrificed our­selves for each other,” as could be supported by John 15:13. The table grace is a sincere, “We thank thee for thy mercies,” mercy being at the heart of the Gospel, (Sirach 2:11a) “For the Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long­suffering, and very pitiful, and forgiveth sins.” And of course, there's living by faith, “Tomorrow will look after itself”—see Matt. 6:34.

For all that the Gospel is only a backdrop for the main thrust of the story being the additional care Sam and his proxy Charles render to the distressed Henrietta, along the lines of, (1Thes. 2:8) “So being affection­ately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” Tension is introduced when Charles's attentions border on the excessive as cautioned against in, (Sirach 9:9) “Sit not at all with another man's wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.” At the society ball was a new dance, very contro­versial, “The waltz; so seductive yet so respectable.” The way it works is, “Men and women dance in each other's arms until they're giddy.” Due to Milly's machinations, that whole relatively innocent relation­ship got spun out of control until the parties were at a loss what to do, any logic seeming to go in circles.

Henrietta held a high view of marriage despite its difficulties: “Sam is part of me, and I'm part of Sam for­ever and ever.” This is consistent with what Maria Valtorta reports Christ as saying:

Woman: the masterpiece of goodness near the masterpiece of creation, which is man: “And now I will make Adam a help­mate that he may not feel alone,” [Gen. 2:18] must not abandon the Adams. Take there­fore that faculty of loving and make use of it in the love of Christ and for Christ amongst your neighbours.

Charles, however, gets so turned around that he feels Henrietta has put up with as much as any woman could ever be expected to (“There must be an end to it.”) How this plot will turn out after having been knotted into a vicious circle is enough to give a movie consumer a head­ache … and to recognize the master of suspense at work once again, though I'm still a little mad at him for having put me through all that.

Production Values

“Under Capricorn” (1949) was directed by Alfred Hitchcock who wanted to demonstrate his versatility, but the advertisers improperly sold it as a mystery/thriller disap­pointing the audiences. The play was by John Colton and Margaret Linden, based on Helen Simpson's (b. Sydney, 1897) novel, Under Capricorn. It was adapted by Hume Cronyn who had the screenplay finished by James Bridie with Peter Ustinov and Joseph Shearing. It stars Joseph Cotten, Ingrid Bergman, Michael Wilding, Margaret Leighton, and Cecil Parker. Audiences loved Ingrid Bergman partly because of her aura of innocence, so when after the filming she being married, had an affair with Rosellini, they didn't forgive her, the film flopped and the bankers repossessed it taking it out of circulation for 20 years until it appeared on TV. The camera work was good, but this film has been neglected, so until some­body restores it properly, the colors look washed out.

Hitchcock used the same challenging trope of adapting a stage play to film with the illusion one is watching some­thing in real time: the long take that he used in “Rope,” but audiences failed to appreciate it. He shot all the inside scenes in England, in 63 days, because that's how long he had to work there with­out paying taxes. The French loved it, because with sub­titles they didn't have to follow the boring dialogue, just watch the roving camera shots.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I liked “Under Capricorn” because I'm used to reading and can follow long slow dialogues. I could also appreciate the master of suspense shining through, but you may like some­thing harder hitting. The movie is good in its own right as long as you are not expecting standard Hitch­cock fare, or some­thing fast paced for that matter. It could be that I'm just easy to please.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age Special effects: Average special effects Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day Overall product rating: Three starsout of five. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apoc­rypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.

Valtorta, Maria. The Gospel as Revealed to Me. Translated from Italian by Nicandro Picozzi, M.A., D.D.  Revised by Patrick McLaughlin, M.A. This 2nd English Edition has now replaced the First English Edition, The Poem of the Man-God. WEB.