By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Politician has an affair.
Based on the Profumo affair that rocked the British parliament in 1963 the story centers around an exotic dancer named Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) who catches the eye of Stephen Ward (John Hurt) a doctor with a thing for attractive young ladies. She moves in with him and the two share an unusual relationship where he pimps her and her friend Mandy (Bridget Fonda) out to members of the conservative party. Her sexual affair with one of the high-ranking officials of parliament, John Profumo (Ian McKellen) eventually reaches the attention of the press and leads to far-reaching ramifications for all involved.
Part of why this movie didn’t work for me and may not for others is that politicians getting involved in a scandal is no longer a big deal. We’re living in an age where political figures have been caught having affairs, even while in office, and it isn’t enough to have them removed. Yet this film expects the viewer to be in jaw-dropping shock from the first frame to the last even though in this cynical age it would be more shocking if one actually lived a squeaky clean life.
The first hour meanders along from one racy sex scene to the next until it almost seems like a soft core porn flick with no story. I had no idea where any of this cavorting around was going to lead and wasn’t really all that intrigued in finding out either. First time director Michael Caton-Jones takes too much of a detached approach to his characters. They all come off like wild sexual animals unable to control their inner urges, but with no other discernible differences making everything that goes on seem like one giant frolicking blur with no point.
Hurt gives a great performance, but I didn’t understand the motivations of his character. Why doesn’t he want to sleep with Christine and instead get more turned-on listening to her stories about her having sex with other men? What about him makes him this way, which the film should’ve helped answer, but doesn’t.
Whalley is too old for her part as she was supposed to be playing someone who was 19, but in reality was already 29. Having a true 19-year-old play the part, and have a definite look of innocence about her, may have given the provocative material a little more bite. Her character also has the same issues as with Hurts. I got how she wanted to get away from her impoverished surroundings and sleeping with rich influential men could help her do that, but I didn’t understand why she liked her Hurt, or their unusual relationship.
The film ends with the court proceedings, which like with everything else doesn’t have the impact that it should. While the attention to detail and accuracy is impressive it would’ve worked better had it began with the trial and then worked backwards through flashback showing how they all got there instead of the linear narrative that it does take, which is too plodding. Focusing on only one of two characters would’ve helped too instead of trying to encompass so many of them where none of them are all that interesting or distinct.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: March 3, 1989
Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2)
Posted in 80's Movies, British Movies, Court Drama, Foreign Films, Movies Based on Actual Events, Movies with Nudity, Sex
Tagged Christine Keeler, Entertainment, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, John Hurt, John Profumo, Michael Caton-Jones, Movies, Review
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: He enjoys strangling women.
This film depicts the true life account of John Christie, played here by Sir Richard Attenborough, who strangled eight women, had sex with their corpses and then hide their bodies in his London flat at 10 Rillington Place. The story begins with Christie having already murdered several women when Timothy and his wife Beryl (John Hurt, Judy Geeson) arrive looking for a place to stay and decide to rent a room from Christie who immediately takes a fancy to Beryl. When she confides in him that she is pregnant and looking for an abortion he uses it to his advantage by pretending to be a former Dr. who can secretly perform the procedure. He then strangles her after giving her some anesthesia and tells Timothy that it occurred during the abortion and threatens him not to go to the police since it was an illegal operation at the time and Timothy was aware that she wanted it done, which would have made him an accessory. However, after moving out his suspicions continue to nag him and he eventually goes to the police, which culminate in a dramatic trial with both men accusing the other of being a liar.
The film comes off as being quite authentic to the actual events with the dialogue taken straight off of the court transcripts. The exteriors were filmed at the actual flat were the murders occurred while the interiors scenes where shot at an apartment house that was just three doors down from Christie’s real life one. Richard Fleischer’s direction is low-key with emphasis put on keeping things real almost like a documentary instead of trying to sensationalize it. The music is used sparingly and has a certain quite tone of loneliness and detachment to it almost like it is representing the feelings and mood from Christie himself.
Attenborough and Hurt give strong performances and the diametrically divergent personalities of the two characters are what drive the film. Attenborough accepted the role without even having read the script. He wore a skin-like skull cap for the part, which gives him a very pronounced bald head and a creepy alien-like quality. I also really liked the scene where he looks at himself in the mirror just before he commits the murder with his eyes conveying a frightened and ashamed look like even he himself is horrified at the murderous out-of-control obsession that drives him. Geeson does well as the sympathetic victim and Pat Heywood is memorable in an understated role as Christie’s wife Ethel who initially believes her husband to be innocent, but then slowly becomes aware of what a monster he really is.
The film would have been stronger and a more multi-faceted had it shown even in brief flashback more of Christie’s background including the fact that he was dominated by his mother and older sisters and raised by a father who showed no emotion for him as well his lifelong struggles with impotence, which all could’ve helped explain why he became the way he did. It also might have allowed for more tension had the story started with the court case and leaving it a mystery to the viewer at the beginning as to which of the men was telling the truth instead of having the narrative done in a very matter-of-fact, by-the-numbers way. In either case the film is still quite strong and great example of how a true-life crime story should be done.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: February 10, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes
Director: Richard Fleischer
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 70's Movies, British Movies, Court Drama, Foreign Films, Movies Based on Actual Events, Movies Based on Novels
Tagged Entertainment, John Christie, John Hurt, Judy Geeson, Movies, Pat Heywood, Review, Richard Attenborough, Richard Fleischer
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Pretending to be gay.
A serial killer targeting gay men is on the prowl. When one of his victims turns out to be the son of an influential politician pressure is put on the police force to find the culprit. The police chief (Kenneth McMillan) feels he has no choice but to pair Sgt. Benson (Ryan O’Neal) a straight cop with Kerwin (John Hurt) who is a gay desk clerk at the station. They are to masquerade as a gay couple in hopes of infiltrating the gay underground and find clues to the elusive killer, but their contrasting personalities and lifestyles threaten to blow their cover before they can make headway.
This film was controversial at the time of its release for its overuse of gay stereotypes and there are indeed some especially at the beginning, but the film’s biggest offense is that it is just plain boring. The idea that two cops could be forced to pretend to be a gay couple or have one of them pose naked for the cover of a gay men’s magazine as part of their investigation is dubious enough, but had it been funny I might have forgiven it. Unfortunately this thing can’t even elicit a few chuckles.
The idea that Kerwin would automatically fall in love with Benson while working together simply because he is another man is absurd and makes about as much sense as a heterosexual male falling for every woman that he meets, which of course doesn’t happen. The Benson character is also quite callous and disrespectful to Kerwin while showing blatant homophobic tendencies and being a confirmed ladies’ man, so I didn’t see what there was about him that Kerwin would have fallen in love with anyways.
Benson’s transformation to being more sensitive to gays and their issues during the course of the story might have been more compelling had it been better written. However, his liberal use of the word ‘faggot’ makes the film seem quite dated and wouldn’t be heard in a movie today especially from a character that is supposedly a protagonist.
Hurt plays the gay caricature well, but the idea of placing someone on such a dangerous mission without having any undercover experience of even knowing how to use a gun seemed stupid and unrealistic. Out of all the characters McMillan’s comes off best and he even manages to be slightly amusing, but unfortunately isn’t seen enough. Character actors Jay Robinson and Sydney Lassick can be spotted very briefly.
This was intended to be a parody of Cruising, which was released 2 years earlier and was a much more serious and graphic look at a true life killer of gay men. That film starred Al Pacino and will be reviewed next Monday.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: April 30, 1982
Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes
Director: James Burrows
Available: VHS, DVD
Posted in 80's Movies, Buddy Movies, Comedy/Drama, Gay/Lesbian, Movies with Nudity, Mystery, Police Drama
Tagged Entertainment, gay stereotypes, John Hurt, Kenneth McMillan, Movies, Review, Ryan O' Neal