Director: John Crowther
Writer: Nicholas Delbanco (novel)
Stars: Katina Paxinou, Takis Emmanuel and Marc Fiorini
Music: Manos Hadjidakis
Shawn Phillips did the lyrics and sang “The Martlet’s Tale” song*
* Later renamed “The Ballad of Senses and Illusions” with another lyrics (and not sung by Shawn). There is also an instrumental jazz version of this music called “The ballad of feelings and Hallucinations”.
Comment: Ordinarily, a new venture into filmmaking attracts some attention, but when the son of a famous film critic braves the vicissitudes of such a realm, the results can be exceptional. John Crowther has created a beautifully made, intricate motion picture about an emotionally embattled family on a Grecian isle. The locale resembles Rhodes, and the major protagonist is a youth, Sotiris, who rejects the self-centered avarice of his relatives, all members of a wealthy family who are dominated by Orsetta, their vindictive matriarch. Orsetta’s power lies in her often-repeated reminder that she alone knows the whereabouts of a secret treasure that is hidden on the island. The tensions involved with this atmosphere causes Sotiris to run away to a large city, where he loses himself in an international dropout society. The rich decadence of this Mediterranean port almost destroys the boy, despite the blandishments of a seductive girl, already corrupted by the hashish-haze of life. When Sotiris flees back to his family’s island, he discovers that Orsetta has died, but not without revealing that Sotiris also knows the secret of the treasure. Gradually, the relatives turn toward the boy with the same repressed hostilities they had displayed toward the old woman. From these brief outlines, one can see the scope of Crowther’s milieu—he observes youth as a period of dramatic adventure and he places characters in subtle situations that enhance the actor’s part. The performances are quite true and memorable, particularly the great Katina Paxinou as the indomitable Orsetta. She symbolizes the story’s theme of the ungrateful dead, sending their mocking laughter from the grave, to torment the haunted living.