Updated: Jul 17, 2022
A camp-tastic hazard to my heart
Couple: Serena & Justin from "A Hazard of Hearts"
Le Moment: "The Unexpected Pretty"
So, you ever have a bored day and find yourself in the black hole that is YouTube? Yup, me too. On one of those black hole expeditions, I ran into this little gem. A Hazard of Hearts, written by Barbara Cartland, who was a British author who wrote this little baby in 1949! Her bibliography is fascinating, expanding about seventy-six years, and this doesn't included the unpublished manuscripts that were published after her death in 2000. Makes me wish I had her touch to crank out that many novels.
But I won't go into the novel. I've yet to read it so it wouldn't be fair, but what I am going to discuss is the awesomely camp movie that came out in 1987. It differs from the book where they added a villain to the plot to enhance the danger. Plus, I enjoyed the movie because it was so interesting to see a very baby-faced Helena Bonham Carter in this, especially in comparison to what we all known of her later in her career, from acting in Tim Burton flicks or Bellatrix LeStrange. So seeing her in a light romance movie is quite refreshing.
Serena Staverly (played by the beautifully talented Helena Bonham Carter) is living her best life at Staverly Court. She enjoys horse rides, playing with her huge hound of dog and conversing with her dear maid. But what she doesn't expect for her entire life to be uprooted. Her father, (played by RIP Christopher Plummer) is a notorious gambler with no self control. He gambles away not only his estate but also Serena's hand in marriage and her very hefty trust fund to the add-a-villain of this piece, Lord Wrotham (played by a man who's good at playing a-holes, Edward Fox). Lord Wrotham has been hardcore lusting after Serena. Literally, two minutes into the film, he watches Serena riding her horse, swearing to have her. So now he's at these gambling tables, preying on her father's weakness to get her. Sir Giles Staverly is so distraught by what he had done, he excuses himself from the table.
Now up walks the hero, Lord Justin Vulcan (played by so handsome but determined to make single brows work Marcus Gilbert). He wagers 100,000 guineas against Wrotham for the house, Serena and her trust. Wrotham foolishly thought he'd win. Of course, he doesn't. He's the villain. So Justin ends up being the winner of all. And Sir Giles, not wanting to face Serena for what he had done, kills himself.
Justin and his crew decide to go up in a spur of a moment trip days after the incident to inspect the house, and most importantly, Justin's fiancée, even though he has no interest in her. But he's in for a surprise when he first sees her which brings us to...
Le Moment: "The Unexpected Pretty" (Oh, and spoilers)
Before they had gotten there, Lady Isabelle, who has been thirsting heavily after an uninterested Justin, says that the girl may be "a bald freak with a wooden leg, and the house a ruin." But of course, she's jealous that Justin is "engaged" to this girl when she's the one who still wants him. So they all go to feed their curiosity, and they are so
tickled when Serena's maid, Eudora, walks down the stairs. She's older and has a limp so they mistakenly believe she's Serena...until the real Serena descends the stairs.
With a swell of romance strings in the background and her dog, Warrior, in tow, the very beautiful Serena makes quite the impression, leaving the men in the group enraptured and Isabella immediately on edge with jealousy. But Justin's gaze zeroes in on her and it's intense. It's a look that pretty much says "damn, she's prettier than I thought. I really didn't think this one through." Even though he had said that he hadn't thought much on her or the house since he had won, her being young and pretty changes matters completely.
After offering the group some wine, Justin detains her to talk. He admits that she is younger than he expected and with that, she can't stay in the house which he plans on selling. He arranges for her to stay at his estate of Mandrake where he'll send Eudora and Warrior ahead to welcome her once she arrives. He also warns her to not be afraid of his mother.
Oh, and his mother is something else! Lady Harriet Vulcan (played wonderfully by the late, great Diana Rigg) is the other villain in the story. She's against her son marrying anyone, and the woman does every criminal act you can think of for the love of money. So we have two villains in the story who are contriving to keep Justin and Serena apart but their actions only help in pushing them closer together.
The two mains have great chemistry, even if their scenes together are very brief sometimes, but it's 90 minute movie so what can you say in that amount of time. Marcus Gilbert brings intensity in his looks and actions while Helena Bonham Carter brings strength and spirit in her characterization of Serena.
I highly recommend for anyone who'd like a good gothic regency romance movie to watch. Diana Rigg brings on the camp as Lady Vulcan who doesn't give two damns about anything past her own pocketbook. It's entertaining to watch her pour it on. It's mostly pristine and clean but there is a part in the middle with some sexual violence in it.
Where to Find It:
You can buy it but who wants to do that? YouTube is the best way to go. Definitely worth the watch on a lazy afternoon.
Read & Ship On. :)