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An extraordinarily racy movie for its time, The Wicked Lady was and still is as notable for its acres of heaving bosom as for its radical challenge to female stereotypes. This bodice-ripper about a bored aristocratic woman who turns highwayman just for kicks became a huge box-office success in post-war Britain, but Margaret Lockwood's eloquent bust proved a bit too expressive for Hollywood, so the film was expensively reshot for a sanitised US release. (From 1945 right up to Janet Jackson at the 2004 Superbowl, American audiences apparently have an enduring problem with those prominent parts of the female anatomy).This is the definitive Gainsborough picture, a period romp crammed with cads, in which the camera gazes lasciviously down (it's all shot from a male eyelevel) at the low-cut ladies' dresses. But this time the female anti-heroine gives as good as she gets... and then some. Lockwood's Lady Barbara Skelton is quite gleefully amoral--more so even than Thackeray's arch-manipulator Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair--failing even to pay lip service to the moral standards of the 1940s, let alone those of the 17th century. It is she who wears the trousers (quite literally, in her highwayman guise) while the weak-chinned and weak-willed men around her crumble under the weight of their conventionality. Only James Mason's handsome dandy highwayman can keep up with her, but even he has to draw the line somewhere. Ultimately, social mores reassert their grip and Lady Barbara gets her comeuppance, but not before she's overturned every contemporary movie convention about femininity.

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UK310 Wicked Lady DVD (1945/James Mason) 30% Off!
***Region 2 DVD.*** Will only play on computers or multi-region DVD players. Not made for playback on North American DVD players.

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