Wide Sargasso Sea

Hot nights and naked flesh in Jamaica, circa 1840. A white sugar heiress (gorgeous newcomer Karina Lombard) gets married off to an Englishman (Nathaniel Parker), who is cad enough — for starters — to leave her bed for a quickie on the veranda with the black maid (Rowena King). The film flaunts its NC-17 rating, perhaps to remove the stigma of its literary origins for the Basic Instinct set.

Author Jean Rhys capped her career in 1966 with Wide Sargasso Sea, a brilliant novel of a woman's disintegration inspired by Charlotte Brontd's Jane Eyre. Rhys was conjecturing about how Edward Rochester came to lock up the "mad wife" he brought home. But the film, directed by John Duigan (Flirting), is more lush than literate. Though the actors strip, their characters stay frustratingly unrevealed.

From The Archives Issue 192: July 31, 1975