Rent The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

3.6 of 5 from 91 ratings
1h 45min
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Tortured by thoughts that her husband Jake (Peter Finch) may be having an affair Jo Annitage (Anne Bancroft) has a nervous breakdown in Harrods and her life begins to crumble all about her. But is her husband's infidelity really to blame? Or does Jo have deeper, more complex problems? Why does she have so main children - and is her seemingly perfect life all it appears on the surface?
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James Woolf
Penelope Mortimer, Harold Pinter
Edward Marshall, Oswald Morris, Motley
Columbia Tristar
Classics, Drama
Acting Up: Top 10 Performances At Cannes, Award Winners, BAFTA Nominations Competition 2024, Getting to Know..., Getting to Know: James Mason, Introducing a British Film Family, The Instant Expert's Guide to: Mel Brooks, Top Films

1965 BAFTA Best Screen Play

1965 BAFTA Best Foreign Actress

1965 BAFTA Best Black and White Cinematography

1965 BAFTA Best Black and White Costumes

1964 Cannes Best Actress Ex-aequo

Release Date:
Run Time:
105 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.78:1 / 16:9
B & W
Release Date:
Run Time:
110 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
(0) All
  • Selected scenes commentary with author and film historian Neil Sinyard
  • Jeremy Mortimer on Penelope Mortimer (2017, 32 mins): the son of the celebrated author presents a fascinating biographical overview of her life and work
  • Brian West on 'The Pumpkin Eater' (2017, 4 mins): the film's camera operator recalls his time working with Jack Clayton and acclaimed director of photography Oswald Morris
  • Dinah and Fergus (2017, 12 mins): actors Frances White and Fergus McClelland remember playing their roles as children in The Pumpkin Eater
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Image Gallery: a collection of on-set photography, promotional stills and poster artwork
  • World Premiere

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Reviews (3) of The Pumpkin Eater

A sad tale of a disastrous marriage - The Pumpkin Eater review by TB

Spoiler Alert

Anne Bancroft stars as a thrice married wife to Peter Finch who is an adulterous shit. She already has five children from previous marriages. The strain of being married to a lothario takes its toll on her mental wellbeing. She suffers breakdowns, and is deeply unhappy, but her Finch is the consistent in her life. The final scene is devastating. She is holed up in a new home, clearly distressed, when she glances at the field below and sees her troupe of kids together with Finch. The nightmare is to begin all over again.

4 out of 5 members found this review helpful.

Unsatisfactory rendition of a complex book - The Pumpkin Eater review by TE

Spoiler Alert

This is a problematic film version of Penelope Mortimer's best selling novel. The blu-ray transfer gives an excellent rendering of the black-and-white cinematography and it is worth watching the interview with Mortimer's son in the disc Extras.

Cinema has often struggled to produce successful versions of novels that cover long periods of time in the life of a family. Here the director, Jack Clayton, chose to assemble a collage of scenes from the marriage at the heart of the story. This impressionistic approach makes it too bitty and prevents any real sense of flow to the narrative.

In particular, the final suggestion of a happy ending (I'm not sure where the reviewer TB is coming from on this) is totally opposite to the wishes of the book's author. Mortimer was apparently barred from the set and the script writing was given to Harold Pinter. There are some fine trademark Pinter moments, but it was an odd decision to leave the writing to a male playwright when the story is very much about the inner life experience of a troubled woman.

The acting is excellent throughout (Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch are supported by a fine cast of Brit stalwarts) but that alone does not save the film from being a missed opportunity.

2 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Classic Drama. - The Pumpkin Eater review by Steve

Spoiler Alert

Profound psychological drama adapted from Penelope Mortimer's autobiographical novel. While Jack Clayton's illustrative direction is deeply artistic and intelligent, the frame is dominated by Anne Bancroft's formidable and complex Oscar nominated performance as a depressed wife, increasingly isolated within her marriage and large family.

The film and the book came at the start of the feminism movement in the UK, and it is now impossible not to see the film in those terms. The mentally unstable middle class wife and mother is damaged by her father and her unfaithful husband (Peter Finch), and then her (male) psychiatrist pathologises the female identity that society expects.

Clayton's impressionistic approach (and Harold Pinters' screenplay) insinuates that the woman's mental health is far worse than we see. There's a startling and excoriating scene when a stranger (Yootha Joyce) berates Bancroft in a hair salon. But there is an implication that this is a conflict within the main character's psyche, savagely attacking herself.

Time and visual realism are subtly distorted to illustrate the unreliability of how the woman sees the world. So an interior tracking shot is shown backwards. Whether sound, photography or set design, this is a haunting work of cinematic art. It makes demands on attention. And it is too unsettling to be entertainment. But it lands a huge emotional punch.

0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.

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