I haven't watched this film in probably 20 years and I had forgotten a lot of the plot but I watched it again recently and it reminded me that this was one of the most unique and interesting mysteries I have ever seen. Story starts out with a young doctor named Robert Graves (Tim Curry) who comes to an insane asylum to help keep score of a cricket match between the inmates and the staff and sitting beside Robert is a man named Crossley (Alan Bates) who starts to tell him the story of how he ended up there. Crossley was in Devon, England and meets Anthony Fielding (John Hurt) who plays the organ in church but is always experimenting with music and sounds and Crossley invites himself over for lunch. He meets Anthony's wife Rachel (Susannah York) and during lunch he tells them he spent 18 years with the aborigines in the outback and that he had killed his own children and learned some of the aborigine black magic. He spends the night but early the next morning Crossley and Anthony walk out to a secluded area because Crossley mentioned that he learned "The Shout" that can kill anything in the general area. Anthony puts wax in his ears and Crossley does his "Shout". It kills a local sheep herder and the sheep and Anthony is saved by the wax. Crossley possesses Rachels buckle from her sandal which he uses to put a spell on her to possess her as well. These scenes are shown in flashbacks and we're not sure if this is just a made-up story from a crazy man or the real deal. We know some of it is made up because we see York's character as a nurse. The film is directed by Jerzy Skolimowski and along with the Jeremy Irons film "Moonlighting" he shows good patience in the way he tells the stories in his films. This is a very effective mystery and their are lots of images that flash during the film that are cause for discussion and one that pops in my mind is that in Anthony's work room there is a photo tacked to the wall of someone or something on all fours. Later, Rachel is nude in the bedroom waiting for Crossley and she gets on all fours that mirrors the image in the photo! The performances are excellent and Bates brooding nature is put to good use here. His quiet but demanding persona is totally believable. I really enjoyed York in this film and the nudity that she is asked to do here reminded me that English actress's have an entirely different attitude toward nudity in films. York was always an excellent actress and she was very popular in the sixties and seventies and her performance here shows why. This is a film that is intended for mature audiences who are not afraid to view something that leaves some questions. This reminded me of two other films, "Don't Look Now" and "The Wicker Man" which didn't cater to a less sophisticated mindset. Well made and extremely effective.
Bored while officiating a cricket match at a psychiatric hospital, Crossley tells Graves (a visitor) the tale of a mysterious stranger (also named Crossley) who invades the lives and home of a local musician and his wife. The stranger claims knowledge of real magic, which he uses to displace his host and dominate his wife. The musician must find a way to combat Crossley and his seemingly implacable powers. Graves doubts Crossley's claim that the story is true, and begins to believe that Crossley is actually one of the patients.
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