This study – based on a novella by D H Lawrence – of lesbian couple Jill Banford (Sandy Dennis) and Ellen March (Anne Heywood) raised many eyebrows in 1968.
Jill and Ellen live on a ramshackle chicken farm in an isolated and often snow-bound part of Canada which they struggle to make pay sufficiently to provide them with a home and a retreat from the world outside.
Jill is a delicate, domesticated girl, proud of her cooking and housewifery as well as being adept at her secondary job of farm accountant. Despite her feminine good looks, her friend, Ellen – known as ‘March’ – stalks around in a lumber jacket, heavy gumboots and with a shotgun under her arm.
Of the two girls, Jill is the happier. She loves the farm and the contribution she is able to make to it, and she loves March. She asks no more of life than what she actually possesses. March, on the other hand, is by no means sure of herself. She has a very deep affection for Jill, but she finds her own femininity tugging her in the opposite direction.
The fox of the title keeps helping himself to a chicken or two from the farm and his depredations infuriate Jill who hopes March will shoot it. One night March comes face to face with the animal and although she has only to raise her gun to put a stop to the chicken thefts, she hesitates to do it.
The next evening the girls are startled by an intruder. He is Paul Grenfell (Keir Dullea), a merchant seaman on leave paying a surprise visit to his grandfather, the farm’s previous owner who is now dead. Paul had not heard of his grandfather’s passing and as he has nowhere to spend the night the girls fix him up.
The following morning, he volunteers to do some much-needed work around the farm in return for bed and board – he has no other place in which to spend his leave – and the girls agree.
The presence of a man about the place has its understandable repercussions on the girls, and from the moment of Paul’s arrival, things are never the same again. Suspicions are aroused, tempers flare, and there are violent quarrels (and equally violent making-ups) as the drama speeds to its horrifying climax.
Prettily filmed in Canada, and featuring a sincere performance by Dennis, the movie was eventually diluted by circumspection that left much of the audience wondering what was so important.