Full Circle: The Haunting Of Julia (1976) (film review).

The 1978 film ‘Full Circle: The Haunting Of Julia’ has a dual name, although the BFI notes it with both. There is an option of a brief intro by director Richard Loncraine, who isn’t convinced of his own work as to whether it’s any good before moving into the film itself. The film was lost for some time until film buff Simon Fitzjohn found it, and the BFI financed its re-release on Blu-ray.

The film starts with Julia (Mia Farrow) and Magnus (Keir Dullea) Lofting’s daughter Katie (Sophie Ward) choking at the breakfast table and dying, despite the mother trying to make an incision in her throat to get air in. Julia then ends up in psychiatric care for a few months before fleeing her husband when released. She can easily afford to buy a fully-furnished house in London on her own, so she’s pretty affluent. Going out late at night to get a Chinese meal, Julia comes back to find she can’t get into her house and breaks in through a basement window, cutting her hand in the process, which must be seen as the trigger point for what happens next.

Objectively, a lot of her friends, like Mark Berkeley (Tom Conti), know where she lives, but not apparently her estranged husband, although that does appear to be unclear. Magnus is almost as crazy as his wife.

Lily Lofting (Jill Bennett), who is also Magnus’ sister, talks Julia into letting a small group come around for a séance as you do, although it doesn’t go to plan. I’m being careful with spoilers from herein. Later, one of the people, Mrs. Flood (Anna Wing), explains that she saw a little girl. Even later, Julia visits Mrs. Flood again and weeps as she says she saw a little boy.

I tended to go along with Julia, thinking she was being haunted by her own dead daughter, but it turns out this is the dead daughter of a previous occupant of the house, and she spends a lot of the time working out who killed her.

So much of the ending is a spoiler, more so as Julia is solving an age-old murder and oblivious to all the current deaths that are happening around her.

You have to go along with the events rather than spend time dwelling over them, and I can see Loncraine’s problem with the film, but more on that later.

There are loads of extras. ‘A Holland Park Haunting’ runs for 24 minutes, with director Richard Loncraine going over how he started in design and sculpture and switched to film because it made more money. He credits the crew in making the film work and the lack of money from the studio in ‘Full Circle’ not promoting it, but it did get its own cult following.

Look out for a surprising number of before and now famous British actors in this film.

‘What’s That Noise’ runs for 25 minutes and has composer Colin Towns discussing his history, working in all kinds of music, including with rock band Gillan, with an ambition to compose for films. With ‘Full Circle’, much of the music came first before adjusting the film.

‘The Fear of Growing Up’ runs for 10 minutes and has actress Samantha Gates discussing her career and being the girl ghost in the film.

‘A Haunting Retrospective’ runs for nearly 25 minutes and has film critic Kim Newman discussing the film, differentiating it between being a ghost and horror film. He then goes on to comparisons between the original book, ‘Julia’ by Peter Straub, and how the film was changed. More so because Keir Dullea was too young in the part to be the father of both daughters, although this does explain why I couldn’t make the connection of Julia to the girl ghost in the film and just put it down to Julia cutting her hand on the window.

‘Stills And Transparencies’ runs for nearly 13 minutes on automatic, showing scenes from the film and promos and posters from other countries.

‘Park Life’ has Simon Fitzjohn visiting the locations used in the film, running for just over 15 minutes, forty-seven years later.

‘Coming Full Circle’ is an 11-minute interview with actor Tom Conti, who just saw it as a job and hadn’t actually watched it afterward. He was originally going to star in ‘Starman’ but because of ‘E.T.’, it was postponed and did years later and wasn’t in it. He might not watch his own films, but Conti certainly knows a lot about other films.

‘Joining The Circle’ is a 7-minute segment with associate producer Hugh Harlow, who was brought in to replace another producer to sort out the scheduling and gives insight into his job. I looked up his career on IMDb, and he was heavily involved in a lot of genre films that you’ve all probably seen.

‘Images Of A Haunting’ is a commentary by historian Simon Fitzjohn, who explains his involvement in getting this film on Blu-ray and talks over the 13 minutes of stills and such from his own collection, pausing occasionally to give more detail. More so, as it was released with little promotion. Seeing the variety of lobby cards for different countries is a reminder that they get different pictures.

Now I’m up-to-date on the background to the film, it’s time for the audio commentary with director Richard Loncraine, accompanied by historian Simon Fitzjohn. Loncraine finds horror films scary. This was also his second film, the first being ‘Slade In Flame’ (1975), and ‘Full Circle’ was also on a low budget and not an easy shoot. Mia Farrow was also acting in the theater in the evenings while filming. He does reveal that the plot isn’t as clear as it could be. Loncraine is critical of the film’s flaws, so you actually have a willing spirit agreeing with flaws you found yourself. There’s a lot to learn from this audio commentary and so much spoiler because it fills in any gaps you would have found watching it. The film was made in 6 weeks with no promotion. The relationships are compared to the book, and it does make some sense of various connections that aren’t clear in the film. Loncraine points out that had they been given more time with the plot, some of this would have been resolved.

Objectively, you have to bear in mind this film was made in the mid-1970s, so you have to make some allowances for this. As a genre film, it’s less a horror film and more a ghost story but very much underplayed. It’s an interesting curio and at least it isn’t lost anymore. You do have to wonder if the soundtrack, which was more popular than the film at the time, will get a CD re-release. I only have the main Blu-ray disc on advance copy, but it is included with the 1500 copy edition.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: British Film Institute, 2023. 1 blu-ray disk 97 minute film with extras. Price: £29.99 (UK) ASIN: B0BTT4YY8N)

cast: Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea, Tom Conti, Robin Gammell and Jill Bennett

check out website: www2.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6bd7f151 and Buy cinema tickets for BFI FLIPSIDE UHD/Blu-ray launch: Full Circle: The Haunting of Julia + A with Richard Loncraine and Simon Fitzjohn | BFI Southbank

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