Tag Archives: Leonard Rossiter

Water (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Island nation fights back.

Governor Baxter Thwaites (Michael Caine) runs the British Colony island of Cascara a largely peaceful place that is mostly ignored by everyone else. Then one day one of the oil rigs on the island taps into a underground reservoir of water that has all of its impurities already removed. The delicious tasting drink, that can also be used as a laxative, becomes much sought after from bottling companies across the globe. Now suddenly the British government wants everyone on the island to move out and find some other island to live on while taking over and turning this one into a profit making venture.

The film is patterned after many British satires of the 50’s through the 70’s like The Bed Sitting Room and O Lucky Man that mixes in wacky characters with absurd comic scenarios and also trying to make sharp political observations in-between. Unfortunately this film, which is based on a story by Bill Persky who appears briefly as a TV director, goes soft and is too similar in its vapid tone to Persky’s other social satire flop, Serial, which came out 5 years earlier. The message is too ambiguous and the plot too cluttered with insignificant characters that it becomes almost nonsensical.

The characters are so eccentric that the viewer cannot identify with, or care about any of them. The film in a way comes off as almost racist since the island is populated with black people, but the main characters are all white while the blacks folks get completely pushed into the background. If anything the viewer could’ve sided with the islanders and their quest to protect their homeland, but since all focus is put on the British people who control them, that never happens.

The eclectic cast is the only thing that somewhat holds it together. Brenda Vaccaro, who normally plays in dramatic roles, is very funny as Caine’s feisty wife although I could’ve down without her misguided accent. Valerie Perrine, with her clear blue eyes is fun too as an idealistic social activist although she was already in her 40’s at the time in a role which would’ve been better served by someone in their late teens or early 20’s.

Caine on-the-other-hand isn’t all that entertaining with the exception of the scenes showing him wearing a cocked hat, which are amusing.  He at least seems more comfortable here than in Blame it on Rio, which he did the same year as this one, but due to the subject matter in that one he clearly looked quite awkward and stiff while here he’s having a fun time even if the audience really isn’t.

This also marks the last feature film appearance of Leonard Rossiter, who died in his dressing while waiting to go on stage in a play he was in just a few months after completing his filming here. Normally he’s enjoyable to watch even when he’s playing a stuffy character, which is what he usually did anyways, but here he’s too much of a jerk and I did not find him to be humorous or interesting in any way.

If there is one person that ultimately does comes-off best it would be Billy Connelly who’s hilarious as this rebel leader who refuses to speak and instead communicates everything through singing. Dick Shawn is also quite good as this arrogant actor whose career has declined and now forced, much to his dismay, to being a spokesperson for informercials. You can also spot Joyce Van Patten very briefly in an uncredited role as a TV news reporter.

George Harrison, who also produced the film, appears near the end playing the bass guitar in front of political leaders at the UN while Ringo Starr handles the drums and Eric Clapton does the vocals, but the movie would’ve been more entertaining had all three of them been given roles to play, or at  least it couldn’t have hurt. The film’s title is a bit misleading too as the water ultimately has nothing to do with what saves the island from takeover, or allows them to keep their independence.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 11, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Dick Clement

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD

Britannia Hospital (1982)

Britannia hospital 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: This hospital needs help.

This is another surreal Lindsay Anderson piece that takes many wild forays and yet still manages to come together as a whole in the end. This is as good, as clever, and as pointed as any of his better known stuff. How this got lost in the shuffle is a mystery, but it really deserves a better look.

The plot pertains to a madcap hospital that is in complete disarray. The head surgeon is preoccupied with a ‘mad scientist’ experiment, the staff is threatening to strike, and the rich patients expect preferential treatment. All of this occurs while the Queen is set for a visit. Leonard Rossiter plays the head administrator that tries to keep it all under control.

Of course it’s not really about the hospital at all, but more a satirical look at British society and the arrogance of the upper crust as well as the apathy of the lower one. It shows how very wide apart they are and how the problem is only acerbated by the upper levels refusal to effectively deal with the lower level and their gripes.

The stuffy formalities of the British have never been played out better. At times it even goes for the jugular. Having the Queen and her entourage literally chased through the hospital by an angry mob is the best.

The cast is full of old British pros and all are quite hammy. Rossiter is the jewel. His nervous looking face and body tics have always been funny, but here they come to a hilt.

There are even a few gory segments that could satisfy almost any horror fan. In particular is Professor Millar (Graham Crowden). The scene where he cuts up a human brain, sticks it in a blender, and then has a cameraman drink it up like a milkshake, is outrageously funny.

The ending is a surprisingly sobering with a profound speech that deals not only with the inevitable advent of technology, but also the complexities of society’s problems, and the minimalism of our existence. Overall it’s not bad.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 27, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Lindsay Anderson

Studio: EMI Films

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video