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Flowers in the Attic

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jeffrey Bloom
Produced by Sy Levin & thomas Fries
Written by Novel:
V.C. Andrews
Screenplay:
Jeffrey Bloom
Narrated by Clare Peck
Starring Louise Fletcher
Victoria Tennant
Kristy Swanson
Jeb Stuart Adams
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Gil Hubbs
Distributed by New World Pictures
Release date(s) 20 November 1987
Running time 93 min
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $15,151,736 (USA)

Flowers in the Attic is a 1987 movie 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.[1]

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.

Contents

Plot

Like the novel on which it is based, the film follows the story of four children — teenagers Chris and Cathy and four-year-old twins Cory and Carrie — who, after the sudden death of their father, travel with their mother Corinne to live with her wealthy parents. Though Corinne informs her children that there is tension between herself and parents due to her marriage, the truth is much more shocking: Corinne and her husband were really uncle and niece, making their children the products of incest.

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 room so that her husband Malcolm (who is dying) will never know of their existence. To that end, the children are shut up in one bedroom in the mansion, only with access to the mansion's attic via a secret stairway. Their mother 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 and the father dies, they will be free.

The film 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 after catching the two innocently talking while Cathy is bathing. Later on, Olivia ambushes Cathy in the bedroom. She throws her to the floor and locks the bedroom door. As Cathy tries to stand on her feet, Olivia slaps her across the face very hard, knocking her onto the bed. Olivia then cuts Cathy's hair as punishment.

Soon the youngest son, Cory, becomes deathly ill and dies. Meanwhile Chris and Cathy begin to sneak out of their room and discover their mother living a life of luxury as well as dating a young lawyer, which she defends by claiming that the relationship was forced upon her by her mother. It is ultimately revealed that Corinne was behind Cory's death by way of putting arsenic (hidden in powdered sugar) on the cookies that were given to the children with their meals. Chris discovers this horrific truth after feeding the cookies to their pet rat Fred, resulting in the animal's death and leading the siblings to decide to leave the attic once and for all.

The film's climax differs from that of the novel: Chris discovers that their mother is planning to wed her new boyfriend at the mansion, which, along with the revelation that their mother was trying to kill them, lead to them storming out of their hiding place in order to crash the wedding and leave the mansion, but not before Chris beats the grandmother down into unconsciousness. Along the way, they go to confront their grandfather (whom they briefly met earlier in the film, while investigating their mother's absence) only to find that he had died weeks earlier. They also find a copy of his will, which ultimately connects the final dots towards their mother's plot to kill her children: Corrine's father, still suspicious of his daughter, put a clause in his will that would disinherit her if it is ever revealed that she had children from her first marriage.

The children confront their mother at her wedding; Corinne refuses to acknowledge the children as her own or to admit to poisoning Cory. Furious, Cathy (carrying a poisoned cookie) tries to force the cookie down her mother's throat, causing her to chase her mother to a nearby balcony, where after a brief struggle, Corinne falls and is killed when her veil is caught on a railing, breaking her neck. Afterward, the children leave the mansion as their grandmother looks on with scorn; the narrator (an older Cathy's voiceover) explains that the children eventually did fulfill their dreams (Chris became a doctor, Cathy a dancer) and wonders aloud if her Grandmother is still alive and anticipating Cathy's eventual return to claim the family's fortune.

Cast

  • Louise Fletcher as Olivia Foxworth (Grandmother)
  • Victoria Tennant as Corrine Dollanganger (Mother)
  • Kristy Swanson as Cathy
  • Jeb Stuart Adams as Chris
  • Ben Ryan Ganger as Cory
  • Lindsay Parker as Carrie
  • 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)

Production

Pre-Production

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 -including the notorious, violent and graphic screenplay by Wes Craven- 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 since he did not have full control over the matter of the movie, the producers demanded changes in the script, only to be backed up by Andrews herself, until she died before the movie was released. Bloom said that there was a lot of conflict in production but could do nothing to talk the producers out of the many changes made in the script.

Originally, Bloom wanted David Shore to score the movie, but Christopher Young was chosen by the producers instead.

Casting

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 movie. Jeffrey Bloom had a young Sharon Stone audition for the movie, but Bloom couldn't convince the producers to give her a part in the film.

Filming

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 movie. She was also so in the part, that she stayed strictly within the character of the Grandmother all the time. "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's 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, in which the children accidentally kill Corinne during their escape. Bloom tried to talk them out of it and eventually quit. The new ending was eventually filmed by someone else.

Post-production

Jeffrey Bloom had no involvement in the final edit of the movie, as he had walked off the set, and the new ending was inserted. The original ending had the children escape during their mother's wedding.

Differences between the book and movie versions

  • In the movie, Chris and Cathy are much older than they are in the book at the beginning of their ordeal.
  • The film is set in the late 1980s, while the book takes place in the 1950s.
  • For the father's birthday party in the book, the family invited friends of theirs, but in the movie, it was just the children and their mother.
  • The children are held captive for only one year in the movie, versus three and a half years in the book.
  • Cathy's ballerina statue was smashed in the movie by the grandmother while in the book, Cathy didn't bring it along.
  • There is no explicit sexual tension or incest between Chris and Cathy in the movie, whereas it was a major theme in the latter part of the book.
  • The mother receives thirty-three lashes and an extra 15 more in the book, where in the movie, she receives only 17, the number of years she was married to Christopher Sr.
  • In the movie, the grandmother knocks out Cathy by shoving her from behind and slapping her in the face before cutting most of her hair off, whereas in the book, she orders Chris to cut it off, but he doesn't, so she sneaks into the room at night, drugs her, then pours hot tar on her head.
  • The children receive only a few gifts in the movie; in the book, they are given many gifts, including a TV set.
  • Cathy and Chris didn't interact with the grandfather in the book, whereas in the movie, they were grabbed by the grandfather.
  • The children don't steal money before they left Foxworth Hall in the movie, whereas in the book they stole money and valuables prior to their departure.
  • In the book, Cory is not immediately buried in the hall by the Grandmother- it is revealed in the second book (Petals on the Wind) that the mother sealed Cory's remains away deep in a secret room of the house. The smell of death could still be detected 12 years later, and was discovered by Cathy when she returned to the house for her revenge.
  • In the book the mother married Bart Winslow during their imprisonment while in the movie she was attempting to get married at the end, but is stopped by the surviving children.
  • The mother doesn't die in the book as she does in the movie. She dies in the third book, trying to save Cathy from a fire.
  • In the film the mouse Cory kept was named Fred, while in the book its name was Mickey.
  • In the film the children and Corinne arrive during the bright day, whereas in the novel they arrive before the sun even rises.
  • In the film, the grandmother wears a black dress and constantly holds her Bible. In the book, the grandmother wears a gray taffeta dress and doesn't carry her Bible with her.
  • In the book, Bart Winslow has a mustache but in the movie, he has long hair and is clean-shaven.
  • Also in the film, vicious German Shepherd guard dogs protect Foxworth Hall. In the book however, due to her father's rules, Corinne tells her children that no pets (including guard dogs) were allowed at the mansion.

Awards and nominations

Although the movie'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.

Sequel

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."[2]

Remake

First referenced as "The MGM Deal" in May 2008, Flowers in the Attic is in talks to be remade. The screenplay has been written by Andrew Neiderman (the ghost writer for all the V.C. Andrews books penned after her death in 1986) and is currently awaiting to be greenlit.

References

External links








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