In 1831, Irishman Charles Adare travels to Australia to start a new life with the help of his cousin who has just been appointed governor...
Alfred Hitchcock is known as “The Master of Suspense.” It is rare to see a movie made by him without much suspense in it then. Typically the movies that he made without suspense did not do well with critics or at the box office. It was something that Hitchcock had to live with his whole career. He wanted to do more than suspense movies, but he knew audiences would reject them. He learned this tough lesson after making Under Capricorn (1949).
The movie is set in colonial Australia. That might be all you need to know about what type of movie this will be. It is a costume drama. It is similar in some respects to Rebecca (1940). Rebecca of course won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Under Capricorn did not. Based on this alone, there must be a big difference in the quality of each picture.
Under Capricorn doesn’t suffer because of its cast though. Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotton star. It would be the last time each appeared in a Hitchcock movie. Bergman and Hitchcock got into a dispute over her character. This dispute led Hitchcock to never call her again when he was casting a movie. Cotton would appear in a few Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes in the 1950s, but didn’t get another shot in a full length Hitchcock movie.
Michael Wilding plays Charles Adare, the nephew of the governor of Australia. He is visiting the English colony. At this point in time Australia was being used to hold convicts. One of the convicts, who has done well for himself since coming to Australia, is Cotton’s character, Sam Flusky. Flusky has become a respected businessman in the colony and is married to Bergman’s Lady Henrietta, a wealthy woman.
Flusky has been banished to Australia because he has murdered Lady Henrietta’s brother. At this point in time the caste system was in effect, so Flusky and Charles, members of the upper-class, would attend the same parties and host dinners for each other.
Since Charles has arrived in Australia he has heard about Lady Henrietta. He is disappointed when at Flusky’s dinner party she is unable to come down to eat because she is sick. Midway through the meal Lady Henrietta makes an appearance, in probably one of the best entrances in all of Hitchcock. She is an alcoholic and ends up embarrassing herself and her husband at the dinner. This doesn’t stop Charles though, as he has become smitten by her.
Housekeeper, Millie, is not smitten with Lady Henrietta. She acts like she is taking care of her, but she is slowly killing her. First mentally, by blaming all of the household’s problems on her because she is unable to be the lady of the house. Then she begins killing her physically, by giving her poison.
This does not stop Charles from taking an interest in Henrietta’s affairs. He believes that he is capable of reforming her. He seems to be making some progress. The two begin to fall in love. This doesn’t sit well with Flusky. Spurred on by Millie, who is in love with Flusky, he takes a gun and shoots Charles.
Charles doesn’t die, but enough sympathy is stirred in Henrietta that she leaves Flusky for Charles. Things seem like they will end happily for Charles and Millie, as they will both get what they want. Then Henrietta reveals that it was she, not Flusky, who murdered her brother and Flusky took responsibility for the act.
This act by Flusky stirs something in Henrietta and she wants to go back to him. Charles is reluctant to let her go, but he finally does. As a parting gift, Charles tells Flusky that Millie has been poisoning his wife. Flusky takes care of Millie. Henrietta and Flusky finally are able to live a normal life.
Under Capricorn is not a good movie if you expect to see an Alfred Hitchcock-type story. But if you enjoy historical costume pictures, this might be for you. There is enough here to keep you entertained, just ignore the directed by credit.