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SPANISH GARDENER, THE (director: Philip Leacock; screenwriters: from the novel by A.J. Cronin/John Bryan/Lesley Storm; cinematographer: Christopher Challis; editor: Reginald Mills; music: John Veale; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Jose), Jon Whiteley (Nicholas Brande), Michael Hordern (Harrington Brande), Cyril Cusack (Garcia), Maureen Swanson (Maria), Lyndon Brook (Robert Burton), Josephine Griffin (Carol Burton), Bernard Lee (Leighton Bailey), Rosalie Crutchley (Magdalena), Ina De La Haye (Jose’s Mother), Geoffrey Keen (Dr. Harvey), Harold Scott (Pedro), Jack Stewart (Police Escort), Richard Molinas (Police Escort), Susan Lyall Grant (Maid), John Adderley (Taxi Driver), David Lander (Policeman); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Bryan; Rank Film Distributors of America; 1956-UK)
“None of the slow developing dramatics touched me as much as it was supposed to and the concluding happy ending seemed predictable from almost the onset.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Philip Leacock (“Reach for Glory”/”The Little Kidnappers”/”Appointment in London”) directs this character study of a very bright minor diplomat who is pained by his own marital and career inadequacies and comes across as an unlikable turd. It’s based on the 1950 novel by A.J. Cronin. It offers a fine performance by Michael Hordern, playing the rigid Brit who acts as if he had a stick stuck up his rear-end. There’s also some beautiful scenery of Costa Brava in Spain (most of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios in London) to take in when tedium might set in. None of the slow developing dramatics touched me as much as it was supposed to and the concluding happy ending, about dad coming to his senses and asking for forgiveness, seemed predictable from almost the onset.

Stuffy, overbearing and unobservant British consul in Madrid, Harrington Brande (Michael Hordern), is passed over for the plum top position in Madrid and transferred to a minor post in the rural St. George region of Spain despite his excellent academic qualifications. Wifey left the cold fish with his adolescent delicate son Nicholas (Jon Whiteley), who is babied by dad and not allowed to attend school or play with boys his age. The lonely boy is befriended by the new athletic gardener, Jose (Dirk Bogarde), and the two have fun together in the garden. Their easy-going friendship irks dad and he jealously forbids conversations between the two.

The film’s very likely homosexual relationship between the virile gardener and the effeminate youngster never materializes, even though it lays there like an omelet that never rises. All we get here is a main villain, an untrustworthy, oily and sneaky valet named Garcia (Cyril Cusack), employed by Brande, and whose character remains undeveloped so we know little of his back story. In order to keep the gardener from calling him out as a thief, the valet frames him by stealing the kid’s watch and placing it in his coat. Dad, so full of dislike for Jose, refuses to see what’s happening and against the advice of others presses charges against the innocent gardener and thereby turns his son against him.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”