Audrey Rose (film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Produced by||Frank De Felitta
|Screenplay by||Frank De Felitta|
|Based on||Audrey Rose (novel)
by Frank De Felitta
|Music by||Michael Small|
|Cinematography||Victor J. Kemper|
|Edited by||Carl Kress|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$2 million|
Audrey Rose is a 1977 psychological horror and drama film directed by Robert Wise, and starring Marsha Mason, Anthony Hopkins, and Susan Swift. It was based on the novel of the same title by Frank De Felitta. The plot deals with a young girl who is believed by a man to be a reincarnation of his dead daughter.
Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift) is a ten-year-old girl, living with her parents, Janice and Bill Templeton (Marsha Mason and John Beck), in New York City. Her parents notice a stranger stalking them over the course of a few weeks, and discover, over lunch with him, that his name is Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins). Hoover is convinced that Ivy is a reincarnation of his daughter Audrey Rose, who died in a fiery car accident, along with his wife, two minutes before Ivy was born. Hoover had come to believe this through information given to him by two clairvoyant psychics. Bill asks a friend of his, an attorney, to hide in their apartment to hear Hoover's full story to build a case against him, but when Hoover speaks Audrey's name out loud, Ivy hears him from her room and enters an altered state where she cannot be calmed down without the assistance of Hoover. In this state, she bangs her hands on a window and becomes burned, which Hoover says is a result of his daughter's experience of being burned alive in the car.
Janice is afraid of Hoover but is also concerned for her daughter, while Bill is hostile to Hoover and demands he stay away. Ivy continues to be disturbed by nightmares, which worsen. Hoover appears at their home during one of her nightmares, and at the request of the mother, Hoover is able to calm Ivy down by calling to her as Audrey Rose but is arrested for allegedly briefly abducting her to his recently rented upstairs apartment.
The film then segues to an ongoing trial, where Hoover is attempting to persuade a jury that his actions were necessary to grant his daughter's spirit peace. The trial has become a worldwide phenomenon, with a Hindu holy man giving an explanation of reincarnation as testimony. Hoover testifies in court that after his daughter's death, Hoover had traveled to India and become a believer in reincarnation and Hinduism. Janice comes to believe Hoover's story, and testifies as much, but Bill does not, and has their lawyer request Ivy be hypnotized to show she is not a reincarnation of Audrey Rose. During the hypnosis, Ivy revisits the traumatic car crash as Audrey Rose and dies during the relived trauma.
The last scene is Janice writing a letter to Hoover thanking him for transporting Ivy/Audrey's ashes to India, and indicating this is with her husband's permission, whom she says has started to accept what she and Hoover believe to be true. The movie closes on a quotation from the Bhagavad-Gita:
"There is no end. For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does it ever cease to be. It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval..."
- Marsha Mason as Janice Templeton
- Anthony Hopkins as Elliot Hoover
- John Beck as Bill Templeton
- Susan Swift as Ivy Templeton
- Norman Lloyd as Dr. Steven Lipscomb
- John Hillerman as Prosecutor Scott Velie
- Robert Walden as Brice Mack
While comparisons to The Exorcist were inevitable, Audrey Rose is not so much a horror film, but a melodrama on the subject of reincarnation. The film received poor reviews, including one by Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who said: "The soul of the movie is that of "The Exorcist" instantly recycled." For Newsweek 's Janet Maslin Audrey Rose lacked "not only any sign of intelligence, but also that other prerequisite of a good horror movie - fast pacing"; while the Saturday Review 's Judith Crist thought the film "starts out as a titillating little thriller, but after 20 mins it bogs down in a series of minilectures on reincarnation that wipe out whatever dramatic potential the story might have had." More mixed was Richard Combs writing for the Monthly Film Bulletin: "Before the film collapses into [...] bathetic nonsense [...] it displays a dramatic rationale and figurative substance that makes it at least as diverting as Rosemary's Baby, and a cut above the special effects hocus-pocus of its nearer predecessors in the demonology genre."  Cinefantastique's Paul Petlewski was also more measured in his assessment: "Although Audrey Rose is an honourable film, it isn't particularly memorable or even an important one [...] Its interest is partly historical the [Val] Lewton connection and partly aesthetic - the pleasure derived from watching a talented director attempt to transcend his silly material." 
For an in-depth analysis of the film see ‘East Meets West: Representing the Possessed Child in Frank De Felitta’s/Robert Wise’s Audrey Rose' by Adrian Schober, Literature/Film Quarterly, Volume 32, Issue 1, 2004, pp. 60-70. Schober argues that the film "is more a reaction to and reworking of The Exorcist than a 'rip-off', minus the sensationalism, special effects and vulgarity" (p. 60).
- Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
- Vincent Canby (April 7, 1977). "Film: The Devil Fumbles a Passing Soul". The New York Times. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
- Janet Maslin, Newsweek, April 18, 1977, p. 65
- Judith Crist, Saturday Review, April 30, 1977, p.35
- Richard Combs, Monthly Film Bulletin, September 1977, p. 188
- Paul Petlewski, Cinefantastique, vol. 6, 1977, p. 20