Tam Lin (1970) aka "The Ballad of Tam Lin", aka "The Devil's Widow" Based on a Scottish song the film stars an aging Ava Gardner as a wealthy elite who uses (magical powers?) her cult of personality to keep a group of jet setter twenty and thirty somethings with her web of influence. Truly a product of its time this wandering tale of the lover, Tom Lynn (Ian McShane) who tries to get away is a weird trip of LSD induced paranoia and interpersonal game playing only a star like Gardner could pull off. In his Directorial debut and what ended up being the only directing credit he would get Roddy McDowall delivers a strange hallucinatory experience of inter and codependency. This film is a departure from the normal horror fair that gets reviewed here at Soresport movies but there is a connection that can be explained. Last Christmas I received as a gift the wonderful Hammer Glamour, pictures and bio of the women of hammer films. Recently looking through that book gave me the idea of seeing some of the actresses in roles other than those from the Hammer studios. Since this had so many great actors in it I decided that this was the first to see. The connecting actress is Stephanie Beacham who we will also talk about in future review.
In this film she plays Janet Ainsley a local village girl near the estate where Michaela Cazaret (Ava Gardner) has taken up residence with her troupe of groupies. Her favorite at this time is Tom Lynn a young dark and dreamy man twenty years her junior. When Janet and Tom meet there is a sluggish connection that eventually becomes love. Michaela always attentive to those caught in her web does not miss the attraction and uses her alluring persona to attempt to keep her pet boy from straying. Like in the song it gets its name from the story of love found and lost and the witchery of Michaela play out to a satisfying ending. McDowell for his part make some interesting choices in the filming. There is this bizarre sequence where both Tom and Janet are wandering in the countryside and cross paths at a stream. The film then switches to images of the two and their encounter like snapshots every twenty second or so. I thought that the CD was skipping at first except that the music played through in perfect sync so it was an intentional choice. Later in the climax sequence a more interesting LSD driven set of scenes with hallucinations that I think worked much better.
The plot showing the web Michaela has weaved getting the young group to love and worship her while in her head putting off her own reality of aging by staying with the young. The codependency of the group with her and she with then plays like a sad commentary on how money can buy anything and anyone. She is an entitled and arrogant woman with the desperate need to feel young and beautiful and uses her money and considerable charisma to get what she wants. When Tom falls for Janet and decides to leave Michaela for the younger woman it is more than the senior can bear. A woman scorned she plots a revenge on the couple that fills the third act with an amazing sequence where drugged and hallucinating Tom fleas the group as the young pack hunt him. Janet finds Tom first and as they flee together with the hunters on their tails we see how her love of him can get him through the ordeal. Not the greatest of films it drags early but recovers in the third act and was definitely worth viewing. For her part Beacham pales in scenes with the amazing Gardner, but then most people would fail to compare to such a powerful actress. Janet does though hang in there and in the end wins her man through trial of fire. So much of this film screams the late sixties and it is a interesting look at what we may think as strange ideas. It also though in our current reality of income inequality a glaring light on the wealthy and how they use and abuse those around them as commodities. Money being power and power that always needs exercising by the selfish wealthy without regard for the harm they do to those in the path.