Produced by Michael Svab. Co-producer, Martin Dejdar.
Directed by Kenneth Berris. Screenplay, Steven Moses, Berris, based on the play “Ravenscroft” by Don Nigro. Camera (color), Vladimir Smutny; editors, Alois Fisarek, Petr Svoboda; music, Martin Svoboda, Michal Dvorak; production designer , Martin Kurel; costumes, Simona Zapletalova. Reviewed at Galaxie Multiplex, Prague, March 7, 1999. English dialogue. Original Czech title: Panstvi. Running time: 110 MIN.
With: Martin Dejdar, Greta Scacchi, Gabrielle Anwar, Laura Harris, Edie McClurg, Fay Masterson, Peter O’Toole, Matt Hantley.
Agatha Christie sendup “The Manor” is mainly notable for being the first wholly Czech-financed production made in English. Handsome turn-of-the century period pic relies on top local tech staff, and the largely English cast turn in pro perfs. But the story tries for a precarious balancing act between whodunit and comedy, with the ending derailing into farce minus the laughs. Vanity production by popular Prague actor Martin Dejdar will find offshore theatrical release a tough sell.
Bohemian-raised Scotland Yard detective Tomas Hatcher (Dejdar), sent to remote Ravenscroft Manor to investigate the death of a stable boy, Patrick (Matt Hantley), finds skeletons in every closet. Most notable is the recently deceased Mr. Ravenscroft (Peter O’Toole, holding on to his dignity by a thread), whose hobbies included dressing in white gown and veil for a midnight waltz with Patrick. Between times, Patrick serviced Mrs. Ravenscroft (Greta Scacchi, tongue-in-cheek) and rest of the female staff, apart from teen daughter Gillian (Laura Harris) and governess Charlotte (Gabrielle Anwar). Anachronistic dialogue misses the mark and Dejdar overshoots its nuances. Not reined in by helmer Kenneth Berris, he plays a theatrical drunk too big for film.