SNARK WEEK: Stop Remaking Wuthering Heights

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Emily Brontë’s only novel Wuthering Heights used to be my favorite, when I was a young romantic goth girl in the 1980s. In college and grad school, I wrote more about her sister Charlotte’s works, at least partly because that was considered more acceptable at the time. On my first trips to the U.K. in the 1990s, I made pilgrimages to the sisters’ home and windy moors near Haworth. Now, as a bitter jaded old goth in the 2020s, I still admire Brontë’s prose but am less swept up by the plot. And since movies and TV shows are notoriously bad at translating dramatic prose onto the screen, it’s the convoluted and wildly improbable plot of Wuthering Heights that shows up in frock flicks.

I’ve rated all of the major adaptions of the novel and how well they attempt to reflect the novel, plus I’ve written a deep-dive into my favorite and best-costumed version. So I can safely say it is time to STOP trying to put this book on film or TV. Because it’s getting worse and worse! Back in 2018, I thought we’d seen the lowest of the low-budget indie bullshit versions of Wuthering Heights with shitty costumes and way too much hair, yet somehow filmed in front of the Brontë Parsonage and at Top Withens.

BUT SOMEONE MADE ANOTHER MOVIE IN 2022. For the love of all that is holy, this needs to end. To wit:

Wuthering Heights (2022)

There is free-flowing hair, especially on Heathcliff.

Some of it appears filmed on some park-like area (the movie was made in Montana), but if you look a the large version of this image, you’ll see modern buildings behind the trees.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Of course, you have to look past the shitty, shitty costumes.

At first, looking through the screencaps, I wondered if this was a modern adaption, given that this was a portrait of Catherine Earnshaw. It’s not even a shitty historical portrait! It’s a cheap photo blow-up.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

I guess they had a coupon for an Office Depot photo poster.

Then I saw the tombstones later in the screencap gallery and OMG it’s really supposed to be set in the 18th century!

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Wut?

Maybe they spent all their tiny, tiny budget on renting these horses?

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Because the costumes barely rise to the level of high-school play and are a sad mishmash of ye olde-timey Regency and Victorian. Like this cheap bonnet and spencer jacket on Frances, Hindley’s wife.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

It doesn’t look any better from the front, in case you were wondering.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Hindley gets an old tuxedo shirt.

Then there’s Cathy in her boho “best dress” after meeting Linton. Should we be impressed that her hair is getting put up?

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Let’s jump forward to when Cathy’s married Edgar Linton and is living at his “fancy” house. We meet his sister, Isabella, in the first of many vintage Gunne Sax dresses.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

I found this one on Etsy for $878. For that much, they could have made a real historical costume! Or bought one from any number of makers on Etsy. Maybe someone connected to this film had a secret stash of Gunne Sax dresses from the 1970s/early 1980s that they needed to use?

gunne sax dress from Etsy

Married Cathy doesn’t dip into the Gunne Sax pool quite yet. Instead, she’s rockin’ a wanna-be Edwardian look.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

To hang out with Heathcliff, Isabella wears a snazzy green spencer jacket while Cathy wears her dead sister-in-law’s black spencer jacket.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

Now Cathy gets her Gunne on!

Wuthering Heights (2022)

I couldn’t find this exact one, but there’s a bunch of similar ones in other colorways on eBay that run around $200, so quite a bargain.

gunne sax dress from eBay

Fast-forwarding through Cathy’s death and to the next generation, take a look at her daughter Catherine, who also digs the Gunne Sax.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

There are tons of this exact one on eBay, both in blue and in pink, around $200. Have at it!

gunne sax dress from eBay

There’s that romantic 1970s look!

Wuthering Heights (2022)

This one too, easily available on eBay!

gunne sax dress from eBay

It goes well with her dead aunt’s green spencer jacket.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

And with her dead aunt-in-law’s bonnet!

Wuthering Heights (2022)

That bonnet, by the way, appears to be one of two hats in the entire production. The other being this rather squashed tricorn that Heathcliff adds towards the end.

Wuthering Heights (2022)

 

 

Are you with me in banning more Wuthering Heights movies?

 

 

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27 Responses

  1. Susan

    Why am I thinking Little House
    (I hate. Abhor detest L,I Wilder). Give Me Austen, Montgomery and Gaskell anyday. And I’ve seen better derpy bonnets elsewhere

    Reply
  2. Jill

    At first I thought this was actually SUPPOSED to be set in Great Falls, but there were certainly no white people running around in 1700s Montana (except perhaps a few intrepid French trappers). I cannot even believe how awful this was. Even when I was a high school student (and I had at least one of those Gunny Sax dresses pictured) I would have known better than to costume this way.
    Emily Bronte’s rolling in her grave.

    Reply
  3. Coco

    This looks quite bad, but also that it barely qualifies as a movie. Like did a Montana community college put this on? Or did a bunch of people auditioning for one of the “Yellowstone” tv shows get tricked into the wrong van?
    Bless their hearts.

    Reply
  4. M.E. Lawrence

    OMFG, Montana? As for those faux-faux-lace sleeves… Did this confection start out as a parody? Anyway, NO MORE EMILY!!! Let the woman slumber in her quiet earth. We do not care about your creative vision, so go exercise your film-school chops on someone else; discover some new and deserving female geniuses. No more Jane, either, for that matter. (One can actually buy Jane Austen Tarot cards.)

    There–thanks for enduring the rant. And don’t let me get started about Kahlo’s image on tea towels.

    Reply
  5. Lily Lotus Rose

    This looks sooooo awful. I HAVE to see it.

    But CLEARLY y’all haven’t seen “Wuthering High.” No, that’s not misspelled. It’s high school!! And it stars James Caan. I mean, I ACTUALLY watched it. Those kids were soooooo earnest….I coulda actually been great…

    https://youtu.be/CaXsf_MR9Bk

    Reply
  6. Frances

    Bummed I didn’t see my prom dress (1976) in there. I think it went to Goodwill, so might exist somewhere in the world.

    Reply
  7. Boxermom

    Soooo, Cathy died when she was 18? Did she marry Linton when she was 12? Yeah, okay. :)

    Reply
  8. Sophie

    I had a look on imdb and it seems the guy who directed this and stars as Heathcliff is an amateur auteur in the vein of Tommy Wiseau. Here’s what I don’t get. If you don’t have a budget and also can’t be arsed to do research on the period the novel is set in (“anything goes as long as it looks ye oldey timey” really seems to have been the guiding principle), then why bother, why not rethink it? Could have been deliberately set in a different location and more recent time period, could have been a short film to optimize the limited resources. There are so many ways to get creative if you have some self-awareness and your motivation is to actually make an interesting and watchable work.

    Reply
    • Lily Lotus Rose

      Oh, but Sophie…it’s been done! There exists [and I actually watched it], a contemporary take on Wuthering Heights called… “Wuthering High” (as in High School). And it stars, of all people, the late James Caan. The young lead actors were sooo earnest, and I think that concept was very interesting, but the execution… oh dear. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://youtu.be/CaXsf_MR9Bk and to the actual movie: https://youtu.be/rM6NBtjLdG8

      As for the version reviewed here, I mean, I feel like now I have to see it! Overall, I say: Do we need another Heathcliffe after Ralph Fiennes??

      Reply
    • Kat

      I have seen so many middling ‘modern’ independent film adaptations of various Shakespeare plays (most often a Midsummer Night’s Dream but also Romeo and Juliet) but no matter how bad they are, at least I can give them credit for knowing that 1) they don’t have the budget to stage a convincing historical adaptation and 2) whatever local college drama majors they hired probably don’t have it in them to pull off a convincing (or even bog standard) English accent.

      Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Quite right. Hell, he could have transposed W.H. to ’50s Montana or something, with Heathcliff a Native orphan Mr. Earnshaw found in the city, etc.

      Reply
  9. thedementedfairy

    diabolical! Excellent snarking. I remember making a Gunne Saxe outfit for my sister many moons ago. Because she wanted it all black instead of the usual pastel shades, the lace inserts cost more than all the miles of fabric. It ended up being worn by her, then me, for years and then eventually got used up in a school play, where it breathed its last. Quite good value for money in the end! https://i.pinimg.com/564x/61/3c/52/613c527083923ce228a49b466974ef9f.jpg

    Reply
  10. susan

    Lord have mercy! I’ve seen better costumes and settings in Dark Shadows! The yellow wallpaper behind the first Gunne Sax dress is Arts and Crafts ca. 1900, and looks like Anaglypta. The house the 3 of them are standing in front of is Victorian, and the trellis-like fence a few photos later is fucking modern. The dresses do take the cake, though. Just incredibly lazy and ignorant. I hope this travesty doesn’t spawn a whole new generation of people who won’t know a granny dress from a wrapper…

    Reply
  11. Mary

    A few years ago, for her 12th-grade English class, my daughter dressed as every major character in “Wuthering Heights” for a slideshow. She used clothing & old costumes found around the house, and the results were far better than this.

    Reply
  12. Constance

    I have never much liked any of the Bronte stories…too bleak and unpleasant maybe though that has not put me off other bleak things lol…but I do enjoy shows about the Brontes I.e Brontes of Haworth…it took me a lot of watches to realize that “poor Bramwell is Michael Kitchen who has been in lots of frock flicks including The Buccaneers as Guy Thwaite’s father and the romanced of the governess…

    Reply
  13. Katie O.

    Why do so many Wuthering Heights adaptations look so cheap? If you don’t have the budget to commit to a historical piece, don’t do one

    Reply
  14. Alexander

    Quite right! There have been too many adaptations and each and every one manages to mess up the plotline, design, casting, or all three. It is all most irritating because I love the book – although I need to be in a melancholy and whimsical mood before I attempt it. Much like my relationship with Tess of the d’Urbervilles. This production looks, probably, the second most dire I’ve ever been exposed to. The costumes are awful, I am actually offended by the Gunne Sax usage and the repeat use of the same garments on other actors is unforgivable. The green spencer is so badly constructed and the fit is atrocious on both actors who have been forced into it. If you are going to do something on a small budget there are crafty ways and means to get an appropriate period look – maybe mass buy some suitable white/coloured cotton, an accurate pattern – the Jane Austen Centre in Bath has a great dress pattern on their online blog (https://janeausten.co.uk/blogs/fashion-to-make/sew-a-regency-gown) and find someone who can sew. Voila! As many suitable empire line gowns (if that’s what you have decided your committing too, as I have my niggles over the correct period style they have chosen for the earlier years – I think some Robe à l’Anglaise would be a lot more suitable… why not hit the Janet Arnold – Patterns Of Fashion 1 for those) as you like for very little output. It is so annoying when people believe that no one will notice that they have put 0% effort into the costume side of production. Bah!

    Reply
  15. Boxermom

    I just remembered…Monty Python had a semaphore version of this. Best. Version. Ever. :)

    Reply
  16. cecikierk

    I’m almost 100% certain that light aqua dress on Frances under the black spencer is also a Gunne.

    Reply
  17. Saraquill

    I’m now imagining someone putting down Wuthering Heights, and trying to make a movie out of Emily Bronte’s poetry.

    Reply
  18. ED

    Somewhere, somehow, Doctor Polidori’s THE VAMPYRE is pricking up his ears and trying to look fashionably disinterested by the (presumably false) hope offered in the title of this article: he’s lean, he’s mean, he somehow keeps them keen – Byronic? Lord Ruthven IS Lord Byron as a blood-sucking monster! – he can do brooding, he can do seductive, he can do manipulative (he LIKES making life miserable for nice people, on the sly!) – he’s Dracula’s more successful grandad (as in ‘no Victorian train nerds murder HIM’ as opposed to ‘I sold more books’ successful): Come on, BBC, given him a call – m’lord wants his own Fan Girls and you need a hot jerk who looks good in period!

    Reply
  19. Joni

    This is MY FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME (caps necessary), and I’d be the first to admit that it’s never going to get an adaptation that does it justice. Wuthering Heights is dark, funny, dirty, and NOT meant to be a love story between Cathy and Heathcliff. Literally, the first time we see Cathy she is shaking an actual baby, and Heathcliff is cruel to puppies and takes a knife to the neck of his pregnant wife. Plus, a lot of adaptations only film the first half of the book, which is WAY missing the point, because the second half is where all the generational trauma really rears its ugly head. So, the perfect WH movie will only exist in my mind. (Although, one of the Nineties versions has Janet McTeer as my girl Nelly Dean, and she was PERFECT. That woman takes no shit from anyone!)

    Reply

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