If Gothic romance is your thing, you won't find a more absorbing and intriguing tale than this adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's best-selling novel, MY COUSIN RACHEL. Not only is the atmosphere completely realized, but the elegant performances make the story even more compelling to watch as it unfolds a tale of possible murder and cunning deceit. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards for best costumes, B&W cinematography, art decoration and Burton's supporting role performance (which is actually a leading role).
RICHARD BURTON cuts a fine figure as the romantic hero of the piece--brooding, intense and passionate, reminding one of Heathcliff in the Bronte novel, "Wuthering Heights." He's an angry and impressionable youth who intends to accuse his cousin of murder based on his suspicious nature, but instead falls wildly in love with her the instant they meet.
OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND matches Burton scene by scene, her charming manners and poise as a woman of the world understandably provoking his interest. At first, he assumes she wants to claim her inheritance when she visits Cornwall. But soon he is able to see her in a different light and when he falls in love with her, he decides to leave his entire inheritance to her on his 25th birthday. It is then that the story becomes even more compelling when the ambiguous nature of Rachel comes at long last to the surface.
Franz Waxman has written a very dramatic and powerful background score that adds dimension to the Gothic tale that begins when a boy and his guardian walk across the moors and come to a gibbet where a man is hanging. "Always remember, Philip, death is the price for murder." And that's how the film's brief prologue begins.
It's richly scored, well directed by Henry Koster and features two outstanding performances from Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. Equally fine are John Sutton as Rachel's ill-fated husband, Audrey Dalton, Ronald Squire and George Dolenz.
Despite the ambiguous ending, it's an absorbing tale that is satisfying in its execution. The newly restored DVD includes an isolated "music score only" for those fascinated by Franz Waxman's wonderful background score.