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Wuthering Heights (1962)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

In the middle of a blizzard, Mr Lockwood arrives at the remote Wuthering Heights to pay a visit to his new landlord, Mr Heathclliffe. He is inhospitably received by Heathcliff and his household. It becomes apparent that the weather is too poor for Lockwood to depart before morning and, against Heathcliff's instruction, Ellen the housekeeper puts him up in a long sealed bedroom.

Lockwood is intrigued by the mention of Catherine Earnshaw, and finds her childish writings in the bedroom. As the storm rages, he dreams that a young girl, Catherine, is attempting to enter through the window. His cries awake Heathcliff, who is strangely affected by Lockwood's experience. He calls out for Catherine at the window. Lockwood determines to spend the rest of the night downstairs. There, Ellen recalls for Lockwood the history of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws...

Wuthering Heights' previous owner, Mr Earnshaw, had two children, Catherine and Hindley. One day he retuned from a business trip with a dirty, abandoned child, naming him Heathcliff. Hindley remained resentful of the newcomer but Catherine soon developed a close, loving bond with him.

When Earnshaw dies, Hindley inherits the Wuthering Heights and treats Heathcliff as a servant, moving him to the stable-loft and working him for his keep. When Hindley catches Catherine and Heathcliff talking of eloping, he sets the pious servant Joseph to provide them with onerous religious instruction. Escaping onto the moors one evening, the pair spy upon the well-to-do Linton family at the nearby Thrushcross Grange. Catherine is attacked by a vicious guard dog. Doctor Kenneth, attending the Linton's social gathering, diagnoses a broken ankle and instructs that Catherine should not be moved from the Grange.

Catherine's stay at the Grange lasts five weeks, in which time she falls under the spell of the young Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella. She returns to Wuthering Heights changed, a refined lady instead of a wild young girl. She mocks the dirty Heathcliff and when Edgar joins in, Heathcliff attacks him. The two become lifelong enemies.

Catherine and Edgar exchange notes, culminating in Edgar visiting Wuthering Heights. He is initially disgusted by Catherine's uncouth behaviour but they are soon reconciled. Catherine later reveals to Ellen, as Heathcliff eavesdrops, that she has agreed to marry Edgar. Heathcliff silently departs Wuthering Heights that night.

Three years later, having nearly forgotten Heathcliff and with Hindley's encouragement, Catherine marries Edgar. Life at the Grange with Edgar and Isabella does not suit the less-domesticated Catherine. As she becomes distraught, Heathcliff, now a successful and wealthy man, returns to visit her. He stays at Wuthering Heights with Hindley, who spirals into alcoholism and gambling, losing heavily to Heathcliff. Isabella, meanwhile, becomes enamoured with Heathcliff. When Heathcliff visits the Grange for a ball, Edgar ejects him following scenes with Isabella and Catherine. Edgar insists that Catherine chooses between him and Heathcliff but receives no reply. That night, Isabella elopes with Heathcliff, a move made on his part purely to spite Edgar. As a result, Catherine falls seriously ill with a brain fever.

Some time later, Heathcliff and Isabelle, now married, return to live at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff oppresses and abuses his wife, treating her as another servant. Hindley finally gambles with Wuthering Heights itself and loses it to Heathcliff. He drunkenly threatens Heathcliff with a pistol, but is overpowered and left to the life of a penniless drunk. Hearing of her illness, Heathcliff rushes to Catherine's sickbed. Against Edgar's protests, he attempts to carry Catherine away to Wuthering Heights. Catherine wants them to take the road by the local church, where as children they had dared ask the graveyard's ghosts to appear. As they leave Thrushcross Grange, Catherine dies in Heathcliff's arms.

Ellen tells Lockwood that in the twenty years since Catherine's death, Heathcliff has remained reclusive. When the now ageing Isabella points out that Heathcliff has not been seen for hours, Lockwood finds him dead at the widow of Catherine's old room, from which he had been begging for the appearance of Catherine's ghost. Lockwood wonders if she had found him.