Leonora, a prostitute, mourns the death by drowning years earlier of her daughter. She encounters a strange waif-like girl, Cenci, who bears a strong resemblance to her lost child. Cenci is herself struck by the great resemblance of Leonora to her own mother, whose death the mentally unstable Cenci has been unable to accept or even acknowledge. The two women quickly develop a symbiotic relationship, moving in and out of the illusion that each is the lost loved one of the other. The complicating factor is the arrival of Albert, Cenci’s stepfather, whose incestuous attachment to her may well be the cause of her mind’s unbalance. With Albert’s arrival, no one in the strange trio is safe. —IMDb
Joseph Walton Losey (January 14, 1909, La Crosse, Wisconsin – June 22, 1984, London) was an American theater and film director. After studying in Germany with Bertolt Brecht, Losey returned to the United States, eventually making his way to Hollywood.
While in Hollywood, Losey co-directed the original U.S. production of Galileo, by Brecht, with Brecht himself as the other co-director. Charles Laughton, who had worked with Brecht on the translation / adaptation, performed the lead role. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo’s life.
During the McCarthy Era, Losey was investigated for his supposed ties with the Communist Party and was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses. His career in shambles, he moved to London, where he continued working as a director.
Even in the UK, he experienced problems: his first British film, The Sleeping Tiger, a 1954 film noir crime thriller, bore the pseudonym Victor Hanbury… read more
Losey's mannered style is not to everyone's taste but the few films of his that I've seen have always been fascinating, despite the distancing effect he creates. This London-set curio is prime Losey as streetwalker Taylor is drawn to the gothic art-deco mansion of Farrow's child-woman. Mitchum plays a loathsome character in his few scenes and the whole strange brew concludes with an appropriate Grand Guignol climax..