Greta's Dance of Love
There are a variety of startling things about "White Mischief", there is a brief but early appearance from Hugh Grant, there is the depiction of the swinging Happy Valley set in Kenya where bed hopping and drug taking was part of the norm and there is plenty of nudity as Greta Scacchi's exquisite looks and perfect body dominate proceedings. But sadly what I feel should be the most startling and interesting aspect of "White Mischief" doesn't so much get lost but plays second fiddle to the dramatization of these decadent times away from the war raging in Europe. So whilst "White Mischief" is based on the true story of the murder of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, the acquittal of Jock Delves Broughton and the relationship between Broughton's young wife Diana and Josslyn it never feels like this unsolved crime is the centre of attention but the murder mystery vehicle for a stylish and erotic movie.
With war waging in Europe, millionaire Jock Delves Broughton (Joss Ackland - Operation: Daybreak) and his young wife Diana (Greta Scacchi - Defence of the Realm) move to Happy Valley in Kenya where other expats are enjoying freedom away from the war living a party life style of drugs and infidelity. It doesn't take long for the stunning Diana to grab the attention of renowned womanizer Josslyn Hay (Charles Dance) who despite being an old friend of Jock's goes after Diana. Knowing full well than Diana married him for his money Jock accepts that his young wife would seek excitement elsewhere but with everyone knowing that Josslyn and Diana are having a very public affair it becomes too much for Jock to bare. When Josslyn is found murdered in his car the attention of the law concentrates on Jock who had the most reasons to murder him.
Now I didn't know the true story behind "White Mischief" before watching the movie but this must have been quite a notorious crime for someone to consider turning this unsolved crime into a movie. And I can see how this true story could be notorious especially with it being set in what I understand was the scandalous Happy Valley with the drug taking, partying and bed hopping. But the actual crime, the unsolved mystery of Josslyn's murder ends up playing second fiddle to the recreation of Happy Valley and the decadent life style of the expats living there.
What that means is that whilst the first half of the movie establishes the story of Diana marring Jock for his money, her affair with Josslyn and that Jock knew very well they were having an affair it seems more about being startling as it focuses on the life style. As such an early scene quickly establishes this as a woman having a bath in the middle of a room full of men and women stands up and asks whose going to have her tonight. What follows from there is a brilliant recreation of the place and era with scenes suggesting drug taking, quirky cross dressing parties and a fair amount of nudity.
Now on the subject of nudity it has to be said that Greta Scacchi is exquisite and eye catching, erotic, sensual and to be honest perfect in look as the young wife who falls for a playboy. But Scacchi's performance is a lot more than just being about her look and she does a nice job of growing the character of Diana especially when she stops even trying to hide her affair with Josslyn, showing contempt for her husband when he confronts her. Scacchi's performances is not the only good one and the cast which features Trevor Howard, John Hurt, Sara Miles, Geraldine Chaplin, Charles Dance and Joss Ackland all deliver solid an interesting characters.
What this all boils down to is that as a recreation of a true story "White Mischief" didn't really get me gripped. But as a recreation of the lifestyle of those living it up in Happy Valley during 1940 it was brilliant with a simmering eroticism which makes up for the other half of the movie.