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6.91 h 54 min1950U
David Lean’s film of an infamous 19th-century crime of passion stars his then-wife Ann Todd as the society lady on trial for murdering her lover.
David Lean
Ann ToddIvan DesnyNorman Wooland
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Supporting actors
Leslie Banks
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4.4 out of 5 stars

130 global ratings

  1. 64% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 21% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

J. McDonaldReviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 February 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
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Apparently a film David lean himself wasn`t entirely pleased with, this is based on the infamous real-life Glasgow murder case of 1857.

“Madeleine” is a very watchable 1950s historical drama which strives for authenticity with only partial success; Ann Todd, despite a good performance, is seriously miscast as Madeleine Smith – at least in the eyes of those of us acquainted with the case; she is too old, blonde and both she and the Smith family as a whole are probably a little too Anglicized in their speech to be completely convincing. I should think most Scottish viewers will have a healthily sceptical regard for the typical “Scottish” clichés that abound elsewhere in the film, but take them in their stride – it is otherwise a decent enough attempt at telling the tale.
It is a beautifully lit and atmospheric film, quite noirish and in keeping with the gas-lit setting; the story is well-paced, though perhaps lacking in the intensity of the affair (though a fine musical score by William Alwyn works hard to convey the romantic emotions). What Todd does capture well is the apparently enigmatic nature of Madeleine's character, especially in the closing scene; it is no surprise that many rate this as her finest performance - despite the reservations I've already mentioned.

For those seeking an entertaining, romantic Victorian intrigue this should fit the bill nicely; seekers of a more accurate dramatisation may well be a little disappointed – the case has been the subject of drama/documentaries on TV a couple of times, most recently as an episode of the 4-part “Scotland`s Murder Mysteries” (2014, Series 1, 44 minutes.) but nothing is currently available on DVD as far as I know.
This DVD release is beautifully re-mastered with a nice sharp print in the original screen ratio; the mono sound is crisp and clear; there are English subtitles, but the only extra is a picture gallery.
13 people found this helpful
Sh_BReviewed in the United Kingdom on 02 March 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Elegant and Enigmatic
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A dark romance full of passionate intrigue is perfect subject matter for melodrama, and director David Lean's sympathetic treatment in this beautifully crafted film doesn't disappoint - despite his own opinion that this was his worst film.

Each scene is an atmospheric shadow play of style: although much detail is omitted, Lean stays largely true to the historical facts, using lavish costumes, evocative sets and thoughtful dialogue to capture the mood of an era.

The supporting cast deliver good performances – look out for a cameo from John Laurie (Private Fraser in Dad's Army) as a fire-and-brimstone preacher. But it is Ivan Desny's subtle performance as scheming social climber Emile that shines. For all Ann Todd's glacial beauty, her portrayal occasionally has too mature and restrained an air for it to be authentic. Nevertheless, she gives a skillful performance of a complex character.

The ambiguous ending leaves the final verdict to the viewer: was Madeleine Smith an innocent victim led astray by a devious lover - or a shameless murderer? You decide.
2 people found this helpful
S.M. JohnsonReviewed in the United Kingdom on 09 March 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
A grim life.
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I watched this on International Women's Day 2020. This film is grim. Life a century and a half ago. The total domination of the father figure of all the women in the family. What ghastly lives they led. Frightful dresses. How did they wash them? The older women totally stupid and Ann Todd's character? I have always thought of her as a theatre actor. I saw her play Lady Macbeth to Paul Roger's Macbeth in the Scottish play when the Old Vic opened after the war. It was a classic performance. But in this part? Not for me. A lot of closeups and her face is too strong and always expressionless. No softness: I simply could not see her show any passion. It was a very well made film but why was it made? No one smiled no one really related to anyone else. A technical success and if that is what life was like for women then I am glad I am living now.
Dominic SwayneReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 February 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not proven
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A wonderfully shot and acted film. Very atmospheric and suspenseful. Curious that director David Lean was never happy with it. I found the very sympathetic presentation of Madeleine Smith of particular interest. All the evidence in the real-life case points to her being L'Angelier's killer, yet the film is ambiguous on that point. The real villain seems to be Madeleine Smith's martinet father who cut a truly forbidding figure and might well have been the reason for the line of action taken by his daughter.
One person found this helpful
The ObserverReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 January 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A rather forgotten gem
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David Lean is associated with epic films such as 'Lawrence of Arabia' or 'Dr Zhivago', yet he was also a master of the film equivalent of chamber music. Some of his early films are just as good as anything he made later, and this is one of them. It is the story of one of the more unusual criminal cases of the nineteenth century - one which has not ever been satisfactorily solved.
This is a film noir, but set as a period piece; one might also say it is a period piece set as a film noir. Fine acting, wonderful camera work, and a gripping story make this one a classic. It stands in the tradition of 'The Lady Or The Tiger?', posing a tricky problem for us - I reveal no more. Lean manages to make the emotional part of the story just as gripping as the rest, which only adds to the effect.
The transfer is high quality, with crisp sound.
Highly recommended for all who like whodunnits, romances, crime stories, court dramas... well, for just about everybody.
3 people found this helpful
John M.Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 December 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Delivered on time and well packed.
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This is an excellent old movie with all the twists and turns to make it quite memorable.
WellfieldReviewed in the United Kingdom on 09 January 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Well worth seeing.
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Absolutely corny but wonderful. Ann Todd is far too old to play a twenty year old but that adds to the fun!!
Plot remains pretty true to the historical facts but a lot of things are missing. Truly execrable film-making at its worst but please don't miss it - it's worth the money.
CairncraigReviewed in the United Kingdom on 04 February 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
Service and definition...
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Really disappointed as it wain Spanish...nouse toe pensioners group in Glasgow's East End.
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