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DVD: Pink String and Sealing Wax | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Pink String and Sealing Wax

DVD: Pink String and Sealing Wax

Sub-texts galore in grade-A Ealing melodrama

Googie Withers as femme fatale Pearl Bond in 'Pink String and Sealing Wax'

Although the Ealing Studios’ melodrama Pink String and Sealing Wax was set in the 1880s and based on a play first performed in 1943, the film hit cinemas in late 1945 when World War II was barely over. The war saw a fundamental shift in the role of women in British society and the film’s scenario reflected this in how it revealed a devastating female reaction to an abusive relationship.

After the empowered Pearl Bond takes matters into her own hands, it was clear that her husband Joe will not come out of it well.

Pink String and Sealing Wax is also a drama of class as well as gender. Pearl is a Brighton publican’s wife and regulars in the hostelry include prostitutes. Her unwitting and unknowing accomplice in the scheme to deal with her husband is the young and naive David Sutton, who is expected by his fine and upstanding father to go into the family chemists’ business. Sutton Sr. is also abusive, and a pillar of society who lip-smackingly relishes the death sentences handed out in cases where he has been called as an expert witness. Despite the difference in status between the two households, what goes on within the walls of each is equally appalling.

While there are sub-texts galore, this is a Grade-A film overall. As Pearl Bond, Googie Withers balances the wily and the vulnerable and takes the chances she is offered: she is magnetic. Gordon Jackson’s borderline-doltish David Sutton is looking for a way out, but is under his father’s thumb, and so easily swayed by Pearl. Ultimately, he is bound by her into a seemingly inescapable web. There are film noir edges and the whole could easily be transposed from the Victorian British south coast to a then-contemporary American setting.

This was Robert Hamer’s first film as a director. An Ealing Studios staple, he went on to direct It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), which also featured Withers, and the immortal Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Pink String and Sealing Wax is not as great as either, but it comes close. Relationships are finely drawn, the dialogue is presented in settings which maximise its significance and tension is high when it needs to be. Interior scenes of family interaction forcefully trace domination and suppression. There is no flab. While the extras on this first-time Blu-ray release (on DVD, too) include an interview with Withers’ daughter Joanna McCallum and a discussion of the women of Ealing by academic Melanie Williams, it is the film itself which shines.

'Pink String and Sealing Wax' is a drama of class and gender

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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