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Hidden treasure, country landscapes, and English accents, what’s not to like Directed by Norman Tokar and based on a book written by Michael Innes, Candleshoe is one of those live-action Disney films that should be more well-known. Without further ado, here’s my review of the film!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the opening credits roll, we see a teenage Casey Brown, played by Jodie Foster, making mischief with a gang of like-minded delinquents in Los Angeles.
Her life is about to change, however, when the foster couple she’s living with sells her out to some shady characters looking for her. Casey is taken to meet professional English conman, Harry Bundage, played by Leo McKern.
He wants Casey to pose as the missing granddaughter of Lady St. Edmund of an estate called Candleshoe in England. The granddaughter was kidnapped by her father when she was a young girl and has never been found. Harry has come to learn that Casey has a scar similar to the one the granddaughter had.
Why does he want Casey to pose as the granddaughter? Well, he has learned from his sister, Ms. Grimsworthy, played by Vivian Pickles, who previously used to work for Lady St. Edmund, that a treasure is hidden somewhere in the house. The treasure was owned by an ancestor of the family, the pirate, Joshua St. Edmund.
Harry has the first clue, “For the sunrise student, there is treasure among books” and needs Casey to infiltrate the house to get to the library to find the second clue. Casey eventually agrees to the con after haggling a 10 percent of the deal and a Ferrari cut with Harry who reluctantly gives in.
Harry flies to England with Casey who is then taught by Ms. Grimsworthy the mannerisms that the long-lost granddaughter should have. Casey learns things like which foods the granddaughter loved and which she hated. She learns memories that the granddaughter might have had as well as other defining characteristics.
Harry had previously written to Lady St. Edmund informing her that he’s found her long-lost granddaughter. Lady St. Edmund doesn’t have her hopes up though as she’s been fooled by false claimants before, but she allows Harry to bring Casey over to Candleshoe one day.
They are admitted in by the faithful, loyal, elderly butler Priory, played by David Niven. Casey enjoys the majesty of the estate and also notices other children who live there with Lady St. Edmund. These are orphans whom Lady St. Edmund has taken care of thereby saving them from the orphanage. It’s not long before Casey comes face-to-face with Lady St. Edmund herself, played by Helen Hayes in her last film role.
Harry spins a yarn of being a detective sent to find Casey for some reason or another and once he discovered the scar, he realized that she was the long-lost granddaughter and wanted to reunite her with her grandmother. Casey puts on the charade as well and demonstrates all the characteristics she’s learned of the granddaughter.
She confesses strangely enough though after a few minutes and tells Lady St. Edmund that she isn’t her granddaughter and she just accepted Harry’s proposal so that she could partake of the free meals and airplane ride. She gets up and leaves much to Harry’s confusion.
Something doesn’t sit well with Lady St. Edmund though and when she discovers a loose stone behind the fireplace, a stone that Casey had made mention of while pretending to be the granddaughter, Lady St. Edmund is convinced that Casey is indeed her granddaughter.
Casey soon moves in to Candleshoe and gets along with most of the kids except for the eldest girl. Rather than assisting the kids with daily chores, Casey uses her time to find out more about the household and figuring out the clue. She learns that due to financial strife, Priory was forced to fire most of the staff and pretends to be various workers so that Lady St. Edmund doesn’t suspect. He plays a gruff Scottish gardener, Mr. Gipping,
a Cockney English valet, John Henry,
and a neighboring posh English Colonel Dennis who visits Lady St. Edmund for tea from time to time. The kids help Priory keep up the pretense and even take the mickey out of him when they can. It’s later discovered that Lady St. Edmund knew it was Priory all along, but played along due to gratitude for what he did for her.
One night, Casey explores all the books in the library until the sun rises. That’s when the sunlight shines through a stained glass window revealing the second clue, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” She soon finds out that this is a reference to a poem about a country churchyard by Thomas Gray.
She informs Harry about her latest finding and heads to the local cemetery (where Thomas Gray is buried) the following night. Harry and Ms. Grimsworthy are there as well and they find the third clue written on Thomas Gray’s gravestone, “He followed the eclipse for riches and fame; and, if ye would prosper, do ye the same”. Harry tells Casey to go back to Candleshoe and find out anything she can about an eclipse in the family’s past.
As the days go by, Casey gets closer to Candleshoe’s household even the elder girl whom she previously had a fight with. She sees all the work they do to raise money to pay their taxes including offering guided tours, refreshments, and selling vegetables in the local market. She uses her Los Angeles street sense to help them sell more than usual.
Not long after, it starts to rain and Priory entrusts Casey with the money to take back to Candleshoe. When she arrives back at Candleshoe, she discovers that Harry has broken in. She tells him she hasn’t figured out the clue yet, but he steals the money she has to pay back some debts of his. She tries to stop him as he drives away in his car, but falls unconscious to the side of the road.
When she regains consciousness, she finds herself in a hospital tended to by Lady St. Edmund, Priory, and the children. They’re happy that she’s safe, but the kids find it a bit suspicious that she can’t remember what the attacker looked like. One day the kids are there alone to inform Casey that due to not being able to pay the taxes, Candleshoe has gone up for auction. Not only that, but they are all going to the orphanage while Lady St. Edmund will go to the retirement home. Hearing this, Casey confesses the truth of her story to everyone offscreen.
Once everyone is aware of the clue, Lady St. Edmund explains that Captain Joshua’s ship was called the Eclipse and that the clue must be in a painting of it that hung in the Great Hall. The problem is that the painting has been sold in the auction and is currently aboard the luggage van of a train. Priory and the others get into the car and try to outrun the train.
Priory gets the train to stop by parking the car along the railway tracks in front of it. He never realized though that Lady St. Edmund would decide to stay in the car until the train stops.
Of course the train stops in time and they get a look at the painting. On it is written the fourth and final clue, “Underfoot, in the great hall. Look high, look low, discover all”.
They head back to Candleshoe to explore the Great Hall only to find Harry, Ms. Grimsworthy, and some goons in there already looking for the treasure. This leads to a final battle between them all resulting into the destruction of the Great Hall and the discovery of the treasure. It is a chest of doubloons hidden underneath the foot of a giant statue of Captain Joshua.
Harry and the others are arrested as the police arrive. Lady St. Edmund buys Candleshoe back using the treasure and Casey goes away to the train station thinking she doesn’t deserve to stay with Lady St. Edmund anymore. Lady St. Edmund follows her and convinces her to come back. Whether or not Casey is the real granddaughter of Lady St. Edmund is left a mystery.
And that was Candleshoe! It’s a charming enough movie with good acting all around by Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes, David Niven, and Leo McKern. The other kids could have been better. The overall sets and atmosphere really bring you into the English countryside!
The only change I would want to see is the scene where Casey confesses the truth to Lady St. Edmund. Maybe they didn’t want the film to be too dramatic as it definitely would have brought some heavy scenes with it. Nevertheless, it’s a good film that should be more well-known!
So, my final score for this film is 30/35 = 85.71% (B) !
The next review will be posted on October 29, 2019.