A murky, moody psychological scare story with more holes than a Swiss cheese, SECRET CEREMONY was so ill conceived that a few scenes had to be shot later for the TV version, using actors who were not in the film, to straighten out the story line. Made at Elstree Studios in London, it
features Taylor in a banshee parody of her role in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Farrow in a macabre follow-up to ROSEMARY'S BABY, and Mitchum in an unusual satyrlike role, wearing an Uncle Sam beard. The film is based on a short story by an Argentine civil servant who won $5,000 for writing it.
It was edited severely when shown on TV, and Taylor's role, that of an aging whore, was rinsed to make her a wig model now employed as a seamstress. Additional scenes with psychiatrist Strong and attorney Douglas explained some of the plot contrivances. Many scenes were deleted later because they
were too steamy--particularly, a massage sequence, a nude bath, and the suggestion that Farrow and Taylor were having an affair and that Mitchum was a child molester. For the record, the feature story begins as Taylor, a blowsy hooker, is on a London bus; she sees Farrow (wearing a black wig to
hide her light hair) and is stunned by the resemblance between Farrow and her late child. Taylor is on her way to the cemetery to visit her daughter's grave, and Farrow follows her there. Once they begin talking, Farrow admits that Taylor more than resembles her late mother, and a symbiosis begins
between the women. Farrow asks if Taylor would like to stay at her house, an old dark place Vincent Price might have enjoyed. Taylor and Farrow become even closer there and wind up in a mother-daughter relationship, thereby satisfying each's needs. Farrow's two aunts are Brown and Ashcroft, and
Farrow tells them that Taylor is her late mother's sister, hence the resemblance. The two greedy women accept that, and Taylor becomes more comfortable in her maternal role. She learns that Farrow's stepfather was chased from the house for attempting to seduce the girl and that her mother was
nuttier than a two-pound jar of Skippy's. Taylor is out one day and comes home to find Farrow shivering with fear. Her stepfather, Mitchum, has returned, and Farrow claims that the old goat has raped her. Taylor immediately takes her "daughter" to the seashore to get away, but Mitchum catches up
with them. He tells Taylor that Farrow is as crazy as her mother was and that she is a nymphomaniac who actually tried to seduce him. Taylor is confused by the conflicting stories, but when she sees Farrow stuff the front of her dress with a toy doll in an attempt to appear pregnant, she realizes
that Farrow's elevator stops several floors short of the penthouse. Farrow finds Mitchum on the beach, uses her wiles to seduce him, and later tells Taylor that she doesn't want to see her anymore. Heartbroken, Taylor leaves, but she comes back soon afterward, desperately wanting to continue the
mother-daughter life she's been so happy leading. Farrow won't hear of it, tells Taylor to exit, then overdoses on sleeping pills and dies. At the funeral, Mitchum is there to pay his last respects when Taylor walks in, pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the chest. The picture ends--not soon
enough. Mitchum's role is more a cameo than a costarring one, and he was replaced by Taylor later in the bathtub scene with Farrow to give the picture a lesbian slant. Evidently the producers knew they had a huge turkey on their hands and were attempting to change the stuffing.
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- Rating: R
- Review: A murky, moody psychological scare story with more holes than a Swiss cheese, SECRET CEREMONY was so ill conceived that a few scenes had to be shot later for the TV version, using actors who were not in the film, to straighten out the story line. Made at E… (more)