SYNOPSIS: After returning to the Gurney estate from London where he has addressed the annual luncheon of the Society of St.
SYNOPSIS: After returning to the Gurney estate from London where he has addressed the annual luncheon of the Society of St. George, the aged 13th Earl of Gurney (HARRY ANDREWS) informs his man-servant Tucker (ARTHUR LOWE) of his plans to re-many. Or his four sons, only one, Jack (PETER O'TOOLE) is still alive, and the Earl is concerned about the continuation of the line. The Earl's bride-to-be is Grace Shelley (CAROLYN SEYMOUR).
To Celebrate his betrothal, the Earl indulges in one of his eccentricities. Dressed in a white ballet skirt, wearing a three cornered hat long underwost and a award, he pretends to hang himself from a beam in his bedroom. this time the stepladder slips, and when Tucker arrives, the Earl is dead.
Following the funeral, the family, consisting of Sir Charles Gurney (WILLIAM AMERVYN), Lady Claire (CORAL BROWNE) and their dim-witted son Dinsdale (JAMES VILLIERS), meet with the asthmatic Bishop Lampoon (alastair sim), Jack has for several years been confined in a mental institution, Jack imagines himself to be Christ and God, bringing to mankind a message of love.
When the will is read, the shocked family learns that Tucker is to inherit GBP30,000 while remaining son Jack--now the 14th Earl--is to get the estate. When Jack appears in Franciscan roves he both shocks and fascinates the family with his feverish explanations of his Godhood. Psychiatrist Dr. Herder (MICHAEL BRYANT) describes Jack as a paranoic schizophrenic, but Herder sees no way of keeping Jack at the mental home. In fact, he feels that a dose of reality may point the way to a cure. A plot is hatched to get Jack married off to Grace, the late Earl's bride-to-be who was sir Charles mistress. Once they have a child. Jack can be committed for life. Meanwhile Jack's long hair and Christ-like appearance startle the villagers. He also shocks the family by installing a huge cross in the drawing room and spending hours at a time standing on it with outstretched arms.
Faced with the prospect of marriage, Jack at first confuses the family by maintaining that he is already married to Marguerite Gautier, the "Lady of the Camellia's He also rejects the name Jack, preferring to be known simply as J.C. and even tries to perform a miracle.
At this moment singing is heard and Grace, dressed as Marguerite from "La Traviata", enters the room. It is part of Sir charles plot to get Jack married and the romantic ploy works Jack and Grace take to one another and despite warnings from Tucker and Dinsdale, Jack refuses to let reality intrude.
Bishop Lampoon officiates at the marriage but Dr. Herder, who is becoming involved with Lady Claire, has misgivings. The wedding night starts with a sensuous striptease by Grace who is delighted to become Lady Gurney Within a short time she is ??? Meanwhile to Herder conducts experiments with Jack including a confrontation with extreme mental patients and one McKyle (NIGEL GREEN) who imagines himself to be the High Voltage Messiah.
Grace suddenly goes into labour. Besieged by McKyle and Herder. Jack desperately fights to maintain his illusions, but the harsh realities of Herder's arguments intrude and begin to destroy him. The shafts of reason begin to penetrate the Earl's mind and he accepts the fact that his name is Jack. Grace has her baby, and Jack regains the "sanity" which society is forcing on him.
But with this comes a terrible change. He is examined by Truscott (GRAHAM CROWDEN), the Master of Lunacy, now that an heir exists and the family would like Jack committed. But Truscott turns out to be an old school-mate of Jack's and declares him absolutely cured.
Lady Claire, making advances to Jack, is killed by him and he lets Tucker be accused of the crime. His attitude is now completely changed,with talk of death and violence replacing the earlier message of love. Jack confronts Dr. Herder, who has gone mad, and then announces his intention to take his seat in the House of Lords.
Once there he proves his "sanity" and new conformity by speaking out for hardness, punishment and vengeance. "And they shall know that I am the Lord that smiteth," he declares to the general approval of his peers. When Grace tries to embrace him he stabs her to death. Over her screams can be heard the crying of a baby.