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Full Circle (15) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Richard Loncraine, Canada/UK, 1978, 97 mins, English with optional subtitles

Cast: Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea, Tom Conti

Review by Colin Dibben

The wonderfully weird British Film Institute brand Flipside is back with an eerie, forgotten ghost story classic from 1978. Full Circle (also known as The Haunting of Julia) is nicely made, looks great in this 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation and gives intriguing insights into the Holland Park part of London in the 1970s.

Bereaved mother and heiress Julia (Farrow) flees her controlling husband Magnus (Dullea), and rents a large, old property in shabbily genteel (then!) Holland Park, London. Julia is tormented by memories of her dead daughter, but after she attempts to contact her during a séance, a different ghostly, blonde-haired child starts haunting her. Julia sets out to discover who the ghost child is and embarks on a traumatic voyage of self-discovery.

Although director Loncraine is pretty dismissive of the film in the extras, much of the eerie stuff here is effective because of snazzy visual effects that he, his cinematographer Peter Hannan and production designer Brian Morris created. The séance in the Holland Park house and the final slow tracking shot around Julia are great instances of mis-en-scene and slow shock revelation respectively.

For me, it was also really interesting to compare the west London neighbourhood then and now. You can do that as one of the extras takes us through the locations as they are today. Rich people back then seemed to put up with a certain amount of grime (weedy front gardens, for example) as well as living with brocaded wallpaper and furniture from 80 years before. Whereas the area now is aseptically spic and span (and I bet the house interiors are full of new bling too).

Another pure pleasure is the array of character actors who get a look in here, most of them pulling out all the stops to be very creepy indeed. Jill Bennett, Anna Wing, Marty Morris, Robin Gammell and Cathleen Nesbitt prove to be great foils to the elfin nerviness of Mia Farrow. It’s often hard to see beyond the deer-in-the-headlights thing with Mia Farrow but she gives a nuanced, introspective performance here.

Special features include:

  • Audio commentary by director Richard Loncraine and film historian Simon Fitzjohn
  • A Holland Park Haunting (2023, 24 mins): director Richard Loncraine reflects upon his artistic career and the making of Full Circle
  • Park Life (2023, 16 mins): Simon Fitzjohn revisits the film’s London locations
  • What’s That Noise? (2023, 25 mins): soundtrack composer Colin Towns on one of his earliest film works
  • A Haunting Retrospective (2023, 25 mins): film critic Kim Newman revisits Full Circle
  • Rare stills and transparencies from the BFI National Archive’s collections

Full Circle is out from BFI Flipside on 4K UHD & Blu-ray, and digital platforms iTunes and Amazon Prime on 24 April 2023.