The Black Candle Yorkshire in the 1880’s: Joe Skinner marries Lily Whitmore, the woman he has long admired, to give a name to her illegitimate child by Lionel Fillmore, the opportunistic son of an impoverished aristocrat. Lionel, however, has his sights set on Victoria, the naive cousin of hard-working Bridget Mordaunt, and the wealth he wrongly assumes is hers. When Joe’s shiftless brother Fred threatens his marriage plans, Lionel murders him and the blame falls on Joe. Bridget’s warm regard for Joe sets her on a quest to prove his innocence, the pursuit of which reveals the sordid manipulations and evil that surround Lionel. Just when Lionel believes his crime will never be discovered, Douglas, his gentle sculptor brother finds the murder weapon—and the killer’s identity.
Based on the novel by Catherine Cookson, “The Black Candle” from 1991 stars Cathy Sandford, Nathaniel Parker, James Gaddas, Denholm Elliott, and Sian Phillips. This isn’t a slicked up British upper class drama like “Downton Abbey” — rather, it’s the story of a man with black, uncontrolled anger episodes (Nathaniel Parker) and how he affects those around him.
The film focuses on two sets of brothers in 1880s Yorkshire: the upper class but impoverished Lionel (Parker) and Douglas Filmore (Robert Hines) and the lower class Skinner brothers, Joe (Gaddas) and Fred (Bob Smeaton).
When the brutal Lionel gets Lily Whitmore (Cathy Sandford) pregnant, Joe Skinner marries her to give the child a name. Lionel is out to marry Victoria Mordaunt (Tara Fitzgerald), a guileless young woman whose aunt, Bridget (Samantha Bond) is a successful businesswoman.
Joe’s brother knows the truth about the baby and tries to blackmail Lionel; he pays with his life, and Joe is accused. Joe worked for Bridget, and she doesn’t believe he’s capable of murder. She wants to know the truth.
This is kind of a “what goes around comes around” type story, with Parker playing a vicious man with a dreadful temper who comes up against his sculptor brother, his father, and the determined Bridget, even as he victimizes his wife and romances a woman 30 years his senior (Sian Phillips).
The script could have been better – this is one story that might have benefited from being done in two parts if not more. We don’t get much buildup to some of the events; they happen rather suddenly.
Needless to say, the acting across the line is terrific. I thought Parker had a bad temper on “Inspector Lynley” – as Lynley he comes off mild-mannered compared to his performance in this. He’s incredibly young here, too, and very handsome.