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Persecution, a British psychological horror drama from 1974, is the melange of intrigue that explores themes of madness, obsessions, and utterly disturbing family dynamics. Known in some markets as "The Terror of Sheba," this cinematic piece from the horror-tinged period of the 70s stirs in viewers a sense of disturbing perplexity as it dives into the twisted world of its characters.

The film features the compelling performances of screen legends Lana Turner and Trevor Howard, joined by talented British actor Ralph Bates. Persecution is marked by its darkly intense atmosphere that encaptures an eerily gothic and decadent scenario, largely thanks to Daniel Petrie's nuanced direction and Jack Cardiff's spine-chilling cinematography.

In one of her later roles, Lana Turner shines as Carrie Masters, an affluent but deeply disturbed widow who takes the twisted relationship with her son to a whole new level. Turner's powerful portrayal of the mentally unhinged Carrie creates an unsettling atmosphere that penetrates the screen, leaving the audience both intrigued and discomforted.

Ralph Bates, well-known for his performances in British horror films, assumes the role of her son, Paul, caught in the grip of his mother's destructive behavior. Bates masterfully handles the challenges and conflicts of his character. His performances manage to extract sympathy from the audience even amidst the bizarre circumstances in the narrative.

Veteran actor Trevor Howard seamlessly slips into the role of Carrie's devoted yet somewhat servile husband, Robert, caught in the crossfire of the volatile relationship between mother and son. Their dysfunctional dynamic effectively takes the audience on a journey of suspense and apprehension.

Persecution is set in a sprawling, dark mansion that almost becomes a character itself, with its shadowy corridors and opulent rooms, where eerie incidents occur. Its labyrinthine structure metaphorically mirrors the convoluted relationships and mind games that infest the Masters household.

The story begins to take unpredictable turns with the introduction of a black cat named 'Sheba.' This seemingly innocuous pet introduced by Carrie becomes a catalyst, triggering a series of horrifying events which reveal the darkest aspects of the characters and their relationships. The cat’s ambiguous presence and suggestive symbolism adds an extra layer of tension and unease to the narrative, highlighting the film’s psychological undertones.

Another noteworthy element of the film is the atmospheric musical composition by Maurice Jarre, which adds to the gloom and darkness enveloping the story. His eerie tunes serve to highlight the unpleasant occurrences and increase the discomfort of the audience, thereby effectively contributing to the dynamics of this psychological horror flick.

Scripted by Frederick Mullally, Persecution unfolds the life of the Masters family in a manner that would resonate with the lovers of classic horror films, drawing viewers into a world where madness, mystery, and manipulation become the norm. Rife with symbolic meanings and psychological nuances, the plot lends itself to various interpretations, making it an engrossing watch for those who like to take a deep dive into the human psyche's hidden depths.

Despite being relatively less popular in the commercial circuit, Persecution offers all the ingredients essential to satisfy a horror and psychological drama aficionado - atmospheric setting, intense performances, and an absorbing storyline. It manages to hold a grip on the audience until the very end with its mind-boggling twists and dense narrative.

To sum it up, Persecution is a riveting blend of psychological drama and horror that seamlessly marries the elaborateness of the human mind with frightful situational circumstances. Being true to its genre, the film thrives on leveraging its actors' powerful performances, commendable directorial vision, gripping storyline, and an eerie background score that further ecstasy in its viewers.

The movie serves as an excellent reminder of the acting prowess of Lana Turner and the rich and unnerving cinematic atmosphere that the seventies horror genre nurtured with all its darkness and decadence.

Persecution is a Horror, Drama, Thriller movie released in 1974. It has a runtime of 95 min. Critics and viewers have rated it mostly poor reviews, with an IMDb score of 4.6..

Don Chaffey
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