Flowers in the Attic (film)
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|Flowers in the Attic|
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Jeffrey Bloom|
|Produced by||Sy Levin & Thomas Fries|
|Screenplay by||Jeffrey Bloom|
|Based on||Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews|
|Narrated by||Clare Peck|
Jeb Stuart Adams
|Music by||Christopher Young|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures (theatrical)
20th Century Fox Television (television)
|Release dates||20 November 1987|
|Running time||93 minutes|
|Box office||$15,151,736 (USA)|
Flowers in the Attic is a 1987 psychological horror film starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, and Jeb Stuart Adams. It is based on the 1979 novel of the same name by V. C. Andrews. Despite the success of the book on which it is based, the movie was poorly received by both critics and fans.
At one point Wes Craven was scheduled to direct the film, and he even completed a screenplay draft. Producers were disturbed by his approach to the incest-laden story, however, and Jeffrey Bloom ended up with writing and directing duties.
After the sudden death of their father, four children — teenagers Chris and Cathy and 5-year-old twins Cory and Carrie — find themselves penniless and forced to travel with their mother Corinne to live with her wealthy parents (whom the children had neither met nor been told about before). Corinne informs her children that there has been tension between herself and her parents for many years, but does not elaborate and simply says they had cut her out of their lives for something she had done of which they disapproved. The children trust her, though Cathy is skeptical.
Corinne's mother Olivia, a religious fanatic, takes her daughter and her children into her home, though with the harsh condition that the children must be sequestered away in a locked room so that her husband Malcolm (who is dying) will never know of their existence. To that end, the children are shut inside one bedroom of the mansion, only with access to the mansion's attic via a secret stairway. It is on their first day there that the grandmother reveals the shocking truth: Corinne and her husband were really uncle and niece, making their love incestuous and their children the product of incest. When Corrine finally returns to the children that night, she is forced to show the children that she has been savagely bullwhipped by her mother as a punishment for her incestuous relationship. Corinne admits to the children that she and their father were uncle and niece; the children do not say anything but seem to accept it. Corinne tells the children that their confinement will only be for a short time: her father is deathly ill, and once she is able to convince him to secure her inheritance, they will be free when he dies.
The plot focuses on the children's ordeal as shut-ins and their clashes with the ultra-religious grandmother, who loathes the children due to their incestuous conception. The children struggle to survive, even as their mother's visits quickly taper off. In particular, Olivia becomes obsessed with Chris and Cathy, out of the warped belief that they have become lovers. Discovering them sleeping in the same bed one morning, the grandmother smashes Cathy's ballerina music box, given to her by her deceased father. After Olivia later discovers the two innocently talking while Cathy is bathing, she calls them sinners. Chris manages to chase her out, but Olivia later ambushes Cathy in the bedroom, locks Chris in the closet preceding the attic, and hacks off Cathy's hair with a pair of scissors. She then starves them for a week, and Chris is forced to feed Cory his own blood so he doesn't die of starvation.
As time goes on, the children are often sick, especially the younger ones. Chris and Cathy manage to secretly remove the hinges from their locked door on a few occasions to sneak out of their room, and discover that their mother has been living a life of luxury as well as dating a young lawyer, Bart Winslow. She does eventually come to visit them again, and they confront her about ignoring and leaving them to suffer. Corinne is very defensive and acts insulted, cries that they are cruel to think that she is deliberately neglecting them or enjoying life while they are locked up, then storms out. Shortly after, Cory becomes deathly ill. The children ask Olivia and Corinne to take Cory to the hospital, which they do, but later Corinne returns to inform them Cory has died. The children are devastated, but not long after they start to suspect that Olivia has been poisoning them when their pet mouse is found dead after eating part of a cookie. Chris researches and concludes that Cory and Fred were killed via arsenic poisoning, mixed in the sugar on the cookies they are served with breakfast. The remaining siblings decide to leave the attic once and for all.
Chris sneaks out to steal money before they escape and discovers that their mother is planning to wed Bart Winslow at the mansion the next morning. Though upset, he suggests to Cathy they dress in fancy clothes from the attic, and use the wedding as a cover to sneak out of the house. When Olivia secretly enters their bedroom the next day, hoping to catch them once more doing something "evil", Chris takes her by surprise and beats her unconscious with a bedpost. As they are leaving, Cathy decides they should reveal themselves to their grandfather (with whom they had a brief run-in earlier while investigating their mother's absence). However, when they enter his room, they find it empty, with the bed dismantled: their grandfather has been dead for months. They also find a copy of his will, which reveals a clause which states that if it is ever revealed Corinne had children from her first marriage, she will be disinherited and lose all of her money. They realize that Corinne was the one poisoning the cookies, not their grandmother.
The children crash the wedding ceremony and expose their mother to the guests and the groom; Corinne refuses to acknowledge the children as her own or admit to poisoning Cory. Cathy offers her an arsenic-coated cookie as a wedding present, and in fury tries to force her mother to eat it, chasing her out to a balcony. After a brief struggle, Corinne falls and dies when her veil is caught on a trellis, strangling her to death. Afterward, the children leave the mansion as their grandmother looks on with scorn; the narrator (an older Cathy's voiceover) explains that the children did manage to survive all by themselves although Carrie was "never truly healthy". She wonders aloud if her grandmother is still alive, anticipating Cathy's eventual return to claim the family's fortune.
- Louise Fletcher as Olivia Foxworth (Grandmother)
- Victoria Tennant as Corrine Dollanganger (Mother)
- Kristy Swanson as Cathy Dollanganger
- Jeb Stuart Adams as Chris Dollanganger
- Ben Ryan Ganger as Cory Dollanganger
- Lindsay Parker as Carrie Dollanganger
- Marshall Colt as Christopher Dollanganger (Father)
- Nathan Davis as Malcolm Foxworth (Grandfather)
- Brooke Fries as Flower Girl
- Alex Koba as John Hall, the butler
- Leonard Mann as Bart Winslow
- Bruce Neckels as Minister
- Gus Peters as Caretaker
- Clare Peck as Cathy (narrator)
- V. C. Andrews as Window-washing maid (uncredited)
Differences between film and novel
- The film takes place in 1987; the novel takes place in 1957-1960.
- Cathy and Chris are much older in the film than in the novel.
- There is no incest between Cathy and Chris in the film, while it is a major theme in the novel.
- The children are preparing a birthday party with their mother for their father in the film; in the novel, it was with a few friends.
- Corrine receives 17 lashes for each year she was married to the children's father in the film; in the novel, it was 33 lashes (one for each year of her life) and an extra 15 (one for each year she was married to him).
- The grandmother wears dark blue dresses and carries a Bible with her in the film; in the novel, she wears black or gray dresses with a large diamond broach and never carries her Bible.
- The children are imprisoned for one year in the film; in the novel, it is three and a half years.
- The children are fed cookies in the film, doughnuts in the novel.
- In addition to the grandmother, John Amos and a caregiver for Foxworth Hall are aware of the children's existence, and act as watchmen for Olivia; in the novel, John Amos appears to be unaware but reveals in If There Be Thorns that he knew about them all along.
- Olivia knocks Cathy unconscious and cuts her hair off in the film; in the novel, she drugs Cathy in her sleep and pours hot tar into her hair after Chris refused to cut it off.
- The children remove the cuffs of the door to escape in the film; in the novel, they make a wooden copy of the key.
- Cathy and Chris encounter their grandfather, who mistook Cathy as Corrine, in the film; in the novel, they never meet him, but see him once at a Christmas party.
- Olivia is abusive to the children in both versions but the abuse differs; she never whips Cathy and Chris in the film, while she savagely does in the novel.
- Corrine never attends secretarial school, rarely visits with her children, and brings them a few gifts in the film; in the novel, she attends school, visited with them every day, and brings them lots of gifts during the first year of imprisonment.
- Corrine is about to marry Bart Winslow in the film's climax before she is stopped by the surviving children; in the novel, she marries him during the second year of imprisonment and spent months away on her honeymoon.
- The children and their mother arrive at Foxworth Hall with lots of luggage in the film; in the novel, they arrive with only two suitcases, the other two cases having been sent on to arrive at Foxworth Hall later. They are even greeted by John Amos in the film; Olivia in the novel.
- The children escape by knocking their grandmother unconscious and confront their mother in the film; in the novel, they sneak out of the house before dawn while everyone is still asleep.
- In the film, Corrine is accidentally killed during a scuffle with Cathy; Corrine doesn't die until the third novel, as she is trying to save Cathy.
- In the film, Corrine exhibits jealousy of her children, particularly Cathy; in the novel, she was portrayed as a loving mother until the first year.
- In the film, Cathy said she was her father's favorite child; in the novel, he loved all four children equally.
- In the film, the grandmother smashes Cathy's ballerina carousel; in the novel, she was forced to leave it behind at her old home.
- The children and their mother take a bus to Foxworth Hall in the film; a train in the novel.
- In the film, the caregiver reveals four graves meant for the four children on the property; this is not seen in the novel.
- In the film, after Cory dies, he is buried in the grave; in the second book, it is implied that Corrine put Cory's body in a hidden room in the attic.
- In the film, Cory's pet mouse is named Fred; in the novel, it is Mickey.
- In the film, Chris finds out the truth after researching the cause of the mouse's death and finds a copy of the grandfather's will; in the novel, he overhears John Amos talk about it to a maid.
V. C. Andrews herself demanded and, eventually, got script approval when she sold the film rights to producers Thomas Fries and Sy Levin. She turned down five scripts (the notorious, violent and graphic screenplay by Wes Craven was rejected by the producers, though), before choosing the script by Jeffrey Bloom, who would also direct. Obviously, Bloom's script was the one that was the closest to the novel, but, as he did not have full control over the matter of the film, the numerous producers and the two studios forcefully made changes in the script, thus stripping it from many plot points and themes of the novel, including the incestuous relationship between the oldest siblings. Bloom said that there was a lot of conflict in production but could do nothing to talk the producers out of the many drastic changes made in the script.
Veteran actresses Louise Fletcher and Victoria Tennant were cast as the Grandmother and Mother, respectively, while the four children were played by newcomers Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ryan Ganger, and Lindsay Parker. Swanson once claimed that when V.C. Andrews met her, she said that Swanson was just like she pictured Cathy.
Being a fairly low-budget production, Bloom said, big names were not considered for any role in the film. Jeffrey Bloom had a young Sharon Stone audition for the film, but he could not convince the producers to give her the part of Corrine, the mother.
Louise Fletcher wanted to get deep inside her role, so she called Andrews one night to ask about the motivation of her character in the film. She was also so into the part, that she stayed strictly within the character of the Grandmother all the time, even when she wasn't shooting. "I couldn't let myself think about distractions like what a beautiful day or what are we going to have for lunch?" she said in an interview.
Andrews was also given a cameo as a maid in Foxworth Hall, scrubbing the glass of a window after Chris and Cathy attempt to escape from the rooftop. Anne Patty, present at the filming of Andrews' scene, said that her part is metaphorical. "The writer is a person who wipes the window clean so that the reader can clearly see into the lives of the characters".
Bloom claims that, after the filming was completed, the producers approached him to refilm a new ending, and one of the many ideas was that the siblings accidentally kill Corinne during their escape. Bloom tried to talk them out of it and when he was unable to convince them otherwise, he eventually quit. The new ending, partly inspired by the ending of Wes Craven's own screenplay, was eventually filmed by someone else.
Also, Victoria Tennant is said to have stormed off the set angrily after shooting the death of her character.
Castle Hill, a Tudor Revival mansion in Ipswich, Massachusetts served as Foxworth Hall and was the main location at which nearly all interior and exterior scenes were filmed. The beginning scene shows the children walking towards the front of the house after being dropped off by the bus. In reality the bus stop is at the end of the rolling green where the lawn ends and the ocean begins. The final scene of the film where Cathy pushes her mother Corrine off of the balcony and her bridal veil gets caught in the trellis, strangling her to death, was filmed at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California.
Jeffrey Bloom had no involvement in the final edit of the film, as he had walked off the set, and the new ending was inserted. He also claimed that, regarding scenes involving the incest between Chris and Cathy, scenes were indeed cut. The original ending is said to have the children secretly escaping the mansion while their mother is getting married, without crashing her wedding.
Despite its box office success, the film received mostly negative reviews from critics.
The movie debuted at No. 3.
Awards and nominations
Despite the fact that the film's reception by fans of the book and critics was mostly negative, Kristy Swanson won a Young Artist Award in 1989 for her portrayal of Cathy Dollanganger, while in 1988, Louise Fletcher was nominated for a Saturn Award for her performance as the Grandmother.
According to Kristy Swanson herself, a sequel to the film adaptation based on the novel's sequel, Petals on the Wind, was planned but eventually it never reached production. The film would be based on the same plotline of the sequel novel, with the exception of the lack of Corinne Foxworth's character since she was killed off in the original film.
Swanson agreed to do the part one more time but she was never contacted again about the film after she was sent the script: "I was sent a script of Petals on the Wind and it never took off... I remember running into Louise Fletcher in Santa Barbara about four years ago. She asked me if I had gotten the Petals on the Wind script, which I had, and she wanted to know if I had read it. I told her I had and that they had called me about it. I was interested but then I didn't hear from them anymore. And apparently the same thing happened with her. It's like they wanted to do it but they couldn't get it off the ground... When I read the script, I wasn't too thrilled with it. I know Cathy goes through a lot in the next book, and the script was a real "sexfest." She gets pregnant and has so many affairs. There's her brother, Christopher, and then she has an affair with Julian, the dancer, and there's Paul, the doctor. I was actually kind of wondering if I should even do a sequel, you know? I just didn't know if it should be done."
The remake of Flowers in the Attic will air on the Lifetime network on January 18, 2014, starring Heather Graham as Corrine, Academy Award-winner Ellen Burstyn as Olivia, and Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye as Cathy and Christopher. Producer Meredith Finn has stated that the remake of the film will remain much more true to the book than its predecessor with the controversial incest storyline remaining intact.
- Harrington, Richard (November 23, 1987), "Flowers in the Attic", The Washington Post, retrieved 2007-01-05
- The Complete V.C.Andrews Website - Bloom Interview
- "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : Disney Loses One to 'Moving'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
- *Broken Flowers* [A Dollanganger Series Fansite]
- V.C. Andrews' 'Flowers in the Attic' to Premiere on Lifetime January 18 - Starring Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn & Kiernan Shipka
- Flowers in the Attic at the Internet Movie Database
- Flowers in the Attic at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flowers in the Attic at Box Office Mojo
- The Complete V.C. Andrews