Away with the fairies


RELEASED OUT NOW! 1970 | 15 | Blu-ray

Director Roddy Mcdowall

Cast Ava Gardner, Ian Mcshane,

Cyril Cusack, Richard Wattis

The latest BFI Flipside rarity takes its name from a 16th century ballad about a man captured by the queen of the fairies, earning it a folk horror tag. But everything here is explicable by the power of money, not magic.

Ava Gardner, resplenden­t in an array of fabulous frocks, is Michaela Cazaret, reigning over a “coven” of hippy lotus-eaters in a Scottish country house. Ian Mcshane is the beguiled Tom Lynn. Stephanie Beacham’s local innocent catches his eye, but can he escape Michaela’s clutches?

Actor Roddy Mcdowall’s one directoria­l credit, it’s a visually ravishing affair, which luxuriates in both the natural grandeur of the Borders and the bone structure of its beautiful people. Mcshane is almost supernatur­ally handsome; the camera lingers on long loving looks between him and Beacham.

Ultimately it’s too arch a confection to induce genuine anxiety over Tom’s fate. But it will still leave you rueing what could have been if only Mcdowall had continued down a directoria­l path.

Extras Flipside’s co-founders provide well-prepped commentary. Coven-kid Madeline Smith rambles adorably (and candidly) (32 minutes). Pentangle’s singer discusses their evocative songs (27 minutes). Audio interviews record recollecti­ons by Mcshane and Beacham (21 minutes), plus Hans Zimmer on his mentor, composer Stanley Myers (20 minutes). Mcdowall’s biographer talks through stills (12 minutes). There’s also a grandiloqu­ent 1998 intro by the director (18 minutes). Three archive shorts provide portraits of a hippy commune (34 minutes) and Borders life (26 minutes). Plus: trailer; booklet. Ian Berriman

During the cast’s stay at a Peebles hotel, Sean Connery (there playing golf) hit on Madeline Smith. She turned him down.

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