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BLESSED: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Unable to conceive babies in the conventional way, Samantha (Heather Graham) and Craig (James Purefoy) try IVF and are soon rewarded with a healthy pregnancy. At the same time, budding novelist Craig receives an unexpected cash advance from wealthy publisher Earl Sydney (David Hemmings), who takes a special interest in the expectant couple. A keen student of occultism and of its place in ancient history, Sydney frightens Samantha with tales of a slain angel, whose blood is said to have been stored in a vial, hidden or lost somewhere in Italy hundreds of years before. Meanwhile, Craig's agent (Fionnula Flanagan) does a search on Sydney and discovers his shady connection to the very IVF clinic where Samantha's baby was created.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
The film that would be if it could be Rosemary's Baby is "dedicated to the memory" of actor David Hemmings who, at 62, died of a heart attack on his way to his dressing room after completing final scenes in Romania. Hemmings was popular in the 1960s for his cherubic good looks and for his starring role in the iconoclastic Blow-Up (1966), which led to Camelot (1967), Jane Fonda's Barbarella (1968) and for those few privileged, the eerie, underrated and hardly seen Unman, Wittering And Zigo (1971).

After disappearing from the screen for some years to concentrate on directing, Hemmings returned as Cassius in the millennium blockbuster Gladiator, which sparked a flurry of weather-beaten character parts, revealing the actor's once handsome face ravaged by the rigors of time. In Blessed, Hemmings looks unwell, with his sagging jowls and thick, glutinous voice suggesting decades of congestion, but as sleazy publisher Earl Sydney he still maintains a commanding presence in his plush mahogany quarters.

An eye-patch, glimpsed briefly the very first time we see him, mysteriously disappears, but it's the bushy eyebrows that do the trick, swept up into a Luciferian swirl in keeping with Sydney's apparent intimacy with the work of the Devil. It is Sydney who tells the pregnant Samantha how St Ambrose slew the Angel Of Light, whose blood was stored in a golden phallus and secreted somewhere in Italy for 2000 years. It's in that same chilling scene that Samantha's flesh crawls when the horny old devil strokes her bulging belly...and you begin to wonder just what is Sydney's connection to the Lake View clinic where Samantha and Craig have created a life and where cloning experiments are in vogue.

Without the same level of suspense and foreboding, without the same array of sinister and kooky characters (apart from Stella Stevens as a flaky realtor), Blessed (aka Samantha's Child) can't hold a candle to Rosemary's Baby. But it has a mesmeric quality, with the ageless Heather Graham (amazing at 44!), cute and delightfully coquettish but never so vulnerable and perhaps more convincing than she has ever been before. She revels in her rapport with English actor Purefoy, whose striking resemblance to Hugh Jackman is spookier than the patchwork script which skimps on detail and relies on bewildered viewers to fill in the blanks. The film is ravishingly photographed by Gabriel Kosuth, a Romanian national in Hollywood specialising in the horror genre, and first time director Fellows shows considerable flare.

The script, alas, contains the inevitable howlers that are common to films in which pregnant women are placed in peril. Admiring her swollen belly in a bathroom mirror, Samantha invites trouble when she coos that she "won't let anyone hurt you; ever." Strange that she thinks nothing of the pesky foetuses that claw and growl within her, adding a new dimension to her morning sickness. But here's a puzzle I won't spoil for you. When Samantha is finally accosted by an ubiquitous priest with an impossible accent (Andy Serkis, Gollum in Lord Of The Rings), he warns her about the "evangelists" and reveals that the word is actually an anagram for...??? The answer is creepier than anything else in the movie.

Published November 25, 2004

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BLESSED: DVD (M15+)
(UK/Romania, 2004)

CAST: Heather Graham, James Purefoy, David Hemmings

DIRECTOR: Simon Fellows

SCRIPT: Jason Rothwell

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Talent profiles, original trailer, bonus trailers

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: MRA

DVD RELEASE: December 22, 2004







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