Secret Ceremony (1968)

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Released 1-Nov-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-Secret Ceremony
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 104:59 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joseph Losey
Ovation Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Mia Farrow
Robert Mitchum
Peggy Ashcroft
Pamela Brown
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $14.95 Music Richard Rodney Bennett

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    American born director, Joseph Losey spent much of his career working in the UK. This wasn't a decision of choice, but rather necessity, after he was blacklisted by Hollywood studio heavyweights during the McCarthy era. His years in exile were somewhat of a blessing though, producing some excellent films relating to British society. During the sixties, in collaboration with writer, Harold Pinter, Losey made three of his most respected films, The Servant (1963), Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1970). He made quite a few films in that decade, including the unusual 1968 film, Secret Ceremony.

    While Secret Ceremony never quite reaches all that it aspires to, it's still well worth a look. The casting of the film was an obvious enticement to audiences in 1968. While the rather eclectic combination of Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum seemed to be a decent lure, this alone failed to bring the film guaranteed success. Instead, the eccentric and ambiguous nature of Secret Ceremony divided critics and audiences alike.

    While travelling on a London bus, young Cenci (Mia Farrow) becomes instantly infatuated with a mature prostitute, Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor). Her likeness to Cenci's recently deceased mother is uncanny and in her unstable mind, Cenci actually believes Leonora is her mother. Leonora is also trying to come to terms with the death of a close family member. She recently lost her ten-year-old daughter in a drowning accident and also sees similarities of her in Cenci.

    Out of curiosity, Leonora accepts Cenci's offer to accompany her home and it isn't long before she sees an opportunity to exploit the situation. Cenci lives alone in a stately mansion and is obviously very well off financially. Soon Leonora is living in the house and has deceitfully assumed the role of Cenci's mother.

    However, Leonora isn't the only person chasing financial benefit. Her plans are somewhat hampered by the interfering aunts, Hannah (Peggy Ashcroft) and Hilda (Pamela Brown) who also have their eyes on the prize.

    The sudden appearance of Cenci's step-father, Albert (Robert Mitchum) ignites past issues of forbidden lust. It also brings suspicion that Cenci may not be as completely naive and innocent as first thought. Revelations of dark family secrets conjure acts of immoral deception with deadly consequences.

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Transfer Quality


    Secret Ceremony is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.80:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. I believe the correct aspect ratio for the film is actually 1.85:1.

    Sharpness levels varied throughout the film. In general terms the transfer has a slightly soft look; however, I didn't find this particularly distracting. Blacks were clean and shadow detail was quite good.

    The colour palette used in the film is really quite diverse and features sombre colour in stark contrast with vibrant splashes of colour. This works well in the film and thankfully they are beautifully balanced in the transfer. The best example of this is the vivid red on a bus, which appears early in the film.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were well contained, with the most obvious issue being the appearance of reel change markings. The first of these was noticed at 17:43 and they appeared at approximate twenty minute intervals thereafter. They were all minor in nature and not overly distracting. This print was also much cleaner than I expected. As such, film artefacts were negligible and infrequent.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on the DVD.

    This is a DVD 9 disc. The layer change occurs at 76:08 and was easily noticed, but not distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio track available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)   

    I had to increase the volume on a couple of occasions to hear some dialogue, but generally it was quite good.

    There were no apparent issues with audio sync.

    The original music score is credited to Richard Rodney Bennett. Although it isn't the type of score you would sit down and listen to, it does add to the suspense level of the film.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



The main menu is animated with 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.

Theatrical Trailer - Secret Ceremony (2:02)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In the absence of a R1 edition of Secret Ceremony, I will compare this local DV1 edition with the UK, R2 version released by Universal Home Video in May 2006.

    Naturally both are PAL transfers. Although the UK edition is in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced. The UK version is also totally void of extras. At the very least, the local, DV1 edition has the meagre inclusion of the original theatrical trailer.

    Although there isn't a lot between these editions, the local DV1 release appears to be the version of choice.


    Although it's not totally successful, Joseph Losey's journey into gothic suspense is worth a look, especially if you enjoy films with an unconventional edge. Despite the lack of extras, it's great to see Secret Ceremony get a fairly decent local release on DVD.

    The transfers are both quite good.

    The only extra is the theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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