The Fox


by Greg Wroblewski, aka Uncle Scoopy, aka Johnny Web

Two independent young women are really struggling to break even with a few chickens, a few ducks, and one cow on a tiny farm they had decided to buy after they graduated from college. With the onset of a harsh winter, they find themselves essentially isolated from civilization. At times they are even unable to traverse the snowy, desolate roads to the nearby village. Into their lives comes an itinerant seaman, a strapping young man who visits the farm because he grew up there. He came to visit his grandfather, with whom he had had no contact in three years, and thus did not realize that the old man had passed on, and that the two women had purchased the estate in an auction.

Since the sailor is only on a two-week leave from his ship, the two women offer him free room and board for that short time in exchange for his help in fixing up the portions of the farm which have fallen into disrepair. The sailor immediately falls in love with one of the women, and the other woman becomes jealous. She does not have sexual feelings for the man, but rather for her partner on the farm. It turns out that the partner is ambivalent about everything, including her own sexuality, and is willing to have sex with both of them. Melodrama ensues.

The Fox is a loose adaptation (and geographic relocation) of a D.H. Lawrence novella. Roger Ebert called it a "quiet, powerful masterpiece" and awarded his perfect 4-star rating. I must respectfully disagree, although I might have come closer to agreement if I had seen the movie in 1968, when he wrote his review, since the lesbian scene and Anne Heywood's naked masturbation scene were probably daring portrayals within the context of mainstream American culture and cinema in that time.

The Fox contains the full litany of excesses from the filmmaking of the late sixties and early seventies. The characters' motivations and actions are lacking in credibility, and every situation is imbued with far more melodrama than the conflicts should warrant. The acting is also quite poor, featuring two of the worst performers of that era: Keir Dullea is wooden and off-kilter, while Sandy Dennis's readings and reactions are, as always, too petulant and immature to represent a sophisticated, grown woman. At least we can be thankful that the other woman was not played by Kim Darby. That would have been the 1960s trifecta of bad acting. Two weak performances can be absorbed in some types of films, but they spell disaster for this movie, because it is essentially a filmed version of a three-character play, meaning that those two characters have about 2/3 of the screen time. Worse still, they probably have 90% of the dialogue because the other woman is the strong, silent type who only speaks when spoken to, and even then replies tersely, maintaining a great deal of emotional distance from the others. That hollow performing, when coupled with a heavy-handed score, excessive and obvious symbolism, a contrived ending, and a glacial pace, makes the film a real chore to watch now, about 50 years after it was released. The cinematography, however, is quite beautiful, atmospheric and evocative.

Although the film did little at the box office in its day, and is all but forgotten now, the director was Mark Rydell, who received a Golden Globe nomination for this picture and did many other films which were considerably better. He was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for On Golden Pond, and also helmed such successful films as John Wayne's The Cowboys, Bette Midler's The Rose, and Steve McQueen's The Reivers.

SPOILER: it must be the only film in history in which one of the characters apparently commits suicide by falling tree. She places herself deliberately in the presumed downward path of a tree which is being chopped down and she refuses to move when the other characters alert her to her danger.


Anne Heywood performs a two-minute sequence in which she strips stark naked and masturbates while standing in front of a mirror.

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C. Perhaps it was gensidered an inspired work of genius in 1967, but it has not held up, and is of interest only to film scholars and die-hard D.H. Lawrence fans.

Return to the Movie House home page