Romantic Getaway – Rediscovering ‘The Walking Stick’ (UK 1970 – 96 mins).

Posted in Rediscover by - January 21, 2014
Romantic Getaway – Rediscovering ‘The Walking Stick’ (UK 1970 – 96 mins).

Based on the 1967 novel by Winston Graham, the enjoyable romantic drama ‘The Walking Stick’ is a quiet gem that appears to have fallen off the radar. Boasting a couple of engaging performances from its then popular stars, this vastly underrated and lovely little movie deserves another lease of life.

Due to her childhood polio, auction-house worker Deborah Dainton has withdrawn into her own shell, keeping people at arms length, and afraid of falling in love. Meeting young Leigh Hartley at a party one night, their initial awkward encounter soon develops into a tender romance. Deborah’s new found happiness however, soon fades as she begins to suspect that Leigh is being dishonest about his past. It transpires that Leigh and his friends are planning to rob the antiques house where Deborah works, and that he has been seeing her just to get information about the place.

I think 31 Year old Samantha Eggar has her finest role here as polio sufferer Deborah Dainton. Acting since 1961, Samantha came to prominence when she co-starred in William Wyler’s cult 1965 thriller ‘The Collector’ alongside Terence Stamp. Eggar’s movie career declined during the seventies and after appearances in controversial horrors ‘The Brood’ (’79) and ‘The Exterminator’ (’80), she settled into mainly TV movies and guest spots. One cult movie of this period was the creepy, if uneven Canadian horror ‘Curtains’ (’83) with John Vernon and Linda Thorson.

29 year old David Hemmings is suitably affable as aspiring painter Leigh Hartley. A former soprano and child actor, David became one of the fashionable set in the Sixties following his lead role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s ground-breaking ‘Blowup’. Subsequent notable films included Dario Argento’s ‘Deep Red’ (’75), and ‘Islands in the Stream (’77) with George C. Scott. Turning later to producing and directing, Hemmings made a welcome comeback in Fred Schepsi’s 2000 film ‘Last Orders’, reminding us just what a talent he was. Aged 62, David Hemmings died after a heart attack in December 2003, while filming in Bucharest.

‘The Walking Stick’ was ably directed by Eric Till, who two years earlier had made the excellent comedy heist movie ‘Hot Millions’ with Peter Ustinov. There was good support here, with Ferdy Mayne and Phyllis Calvert good as Deborah’s snobbish parents, and a young Francesca Annis as her party-loving sister Arabella. The familiar British faces of Emlyn Williams, Dudley Sutton and John Woodvine also appear in small but memorable roles.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about the movie however, was the score by prolific composer Stanley Myers. The beautifully simple, yet moving guitar piece, “Cavatina” was of course made hugely popular eight years later when it was used as the theme for the Oscar-winning film ‘The Deer Hunter’ (’78).

An engrossing sleeper that cleverly mixes drama, romance and thriller, ‘The Walking Stick’ is an entertaining, though sadly forgotten movie, considering the talented, likable leads and the now famous theme tune.

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2 Comments on "Romantic Getaway – Rediscovering ‘The Walking Stick’ (UK 1970 – 96 mins)."

  • Tim Roberts

    I am utterly amazed to find this long-forgotten gem discussed here. It was certainly hard to catch on its limited theatrical release. I was lucky to catch it on the Army/Air Force Movie Circuit when I was a serviceman. It played ONE DAY at the base theatre before the film cans were shipped to a different Pacific island. Thank you for your fair treatment of it. May it be seen by many more!

    • admin

      Thanks for sharing your memories Tim. I only caught the movie for the first time a couple of years ago and was thoroughly engrossed in its story. A quiet gem indeed!

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