Secret Ceremony is a camp classic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow in two of their most underrated performances of the decade. Released in 1968, it was Farrow's first release since the mammoth success of Rosemary's Baby in June of that year.
Taylor stars as Leonora, an aging prostitute who becomes convinced she has found her dead daughter in Cenci (Mia Farrow), who in turn practically adopts Leonora as her replacement mother. The young Cenci, a wealthy but troubled girl, knows how strongly Leonora resembles her own dead mother and invites her to "play house" at her mansion in the manicured London suburbs. In Leonora's own despondency over her real daughter's death, she goes along with the girl's proposition. At the house, a veritable troupe of eccentric characters circle in and out the gated doors - Cenci's aunts Hilda and Hannah, who rob their niece of possessions to sell at their antique shop, and her stepfather (played by Robert Mitchum), who arrives to break up this mother-daughter bond over the fact that he is losing control over the young girl.
The film is a great psychological drama - peppered with a very mysterious and troubling ambiance. Directed by Joseph Losey, Secret Ceremony confronts issues of mother-daughter relationships, women's roles, incest, lesbianism, and the truth of family. There is a constant morbid tone to the film, only enhanced by Farrow and Taylor's long jet-black hairstyles in the film. Though it was dismissed by critics upon its release, I treasure the campy indulgence and sophisticated creepiness that the British do so well in their films.
I love Mia Farrow's look throughout the film - its very Rosemary Woodhouse-gone-funerial. In her black tights, Mary Janes, and black smock dresses and capes, the wardrobe is the perfect match for the raven-colored long locks she sports. Though she looks divine with her signature pixie cut, I almost wish she had the waist-length hair with bangs (though I know its a wig...) in real life. Elizabeth Taylor is the classic glamorous movie star in bright jewels tones of magenta, purple, and greens, she wears embellished turbans, go-go boots and thigh-high printed frocks with the pizazz of a woman younger than her 46-years of age (her age while making this film).