Despite arriving with nothing at all in the way of extras, this new DVD release is vital for fans of The Clouded Yellow, as previous versions inexplicably cut off the important opening scene in which quietly dignified British spy David Somers (Trevor Howard) wearily arrives at a London airport with no passport or papers, having bungled his most recent mission.
Now available in its original, unhacked form, his removal from the Secret Service and new civvy street job cataloguing butterflies in the country (the Clouded Yellow of the title) now makes more sense and sets the scene for the dark drama about to unfold.
What follows is very much from the Hitchcock school of paranoia. Somers’ new employers are a family straining under the weight of cruel mind games and secrets; Sonia Dresdel believably spiteful and jealous as the aunt of the nervy, deeply damaged orphan Sophie (Jean Simmons). The tension between the two is extremely uncomfortable, with Sophie manipulated into believing that witnessing the death of her parents has sent her mad.
As Somers and Sophie get closer, it’s clear that each is as lonely as the other, thanks to an excellent, subtle performance from the stiff and stoic Howard that contrasts beautifully with the 22-year-old Simmons’ vulnerable trapped bird of a character. When she’s framed for the murder of local menace Hick – an arrogant, childish and mean jack-the-lad who divides his time between trapping rabbits and seducing all the willing MILFs within a 10 mile radius – Somers’ instincts to protect the woman he loves seem perfectly natural.
As the pair go on the run, from London to Liverpool via Newcastle and the windswept, rugged beauty of the Pennine Way, the pace remains breathless, the police always just on the verge of catching up with them and the tension building and building with no sign of letting up for a second. While it gives Somers the opportunity to use all of the wiles and tricks he learned as a spy, it also allows Sophie the chance to toughen up and work out that she’s not as mentally delicate as she thought.
The Clouded Yellow may never reach the stomach-churning heights of anxiety that Hitchcock was so skilled at conjuring, but the mixture of believable, very English romance, a relentless chase and reserved but vicious psychological cruelty add up to a thrilling Sunday afternoon rooting for two people who you can’t help but feel deserve a chance of happiness after such a nail-biting adventure.
A few extras would have been welcome, but it’s great to see this classic British thriller released in its complete form.