By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: His thoughts onto film.
Oliver Sher (Anthony Sher) finds out that he has an amazing ability. Not only can read other people’s minds, but he can also transfer those thoughts onto film. He tells his secret to Cyril (Patrick Macnee) a wealthy businessman hoping he can use his unique ability for some purpose and thus pay him enough money for a sex change operation, which is his ultimate goal. His only condition is that his ability not be used for military purposes. Unfortunately Cyril disregards this and strikes a deal with Doctor Cloud (Billie Whitelaw) who does experiments for the military and sees Oliver as her next guinea pig. Soon Oliver finds himself and his ability being exploited, but gets his revenge by taking advantage of Cyril’s emotionally fragile wife Constance (Katherine Helmond) in a weird and interesting way.
This film is quite original and manages to hold up all the way through. Some of the caricatures are a bit predictable mainly in the way it portrays the older brass businessman and military, but otherwise it defies all genres. It has a nice cerebral quality to it as it moves between being sad and dehumanizing to sharp and satirical sometimes in the very same scene. The humor is laced with drool, dry British wit that makes it engaging and fun.
The old British pros really help here. Macnee with his perpetually stern expression and terse delivery is fantastic. Whitelaw is also good as always as she plays her cold business-like character perfectly.
The best performance though goes to Helmond. She is best known for play Jessica Tate on the 70’s sitcom ‘Soap’ as well as co-starring in the 80’s TV-show ‘Who’s the Boss?’ yet her appearance here may be her career highlight. She has always had a wonderful ability at conveying child-like qualities in adult characters and here that comes to great use. Her facial expressions are both touching, unnerving as well as humorous and the scene where she eats coal from a fireplace while crouching on the ground is unforgettable.
The script could have gone further with its intriguing premise, but manages to be provocative nonetheless. The points it makes are good as it shows how those that are exploited will eventually do the same to others and how you never really know or understand someone no matter how much you think you get inside their head as well as examining how the image can sometimes take on more importance than the reality. The interesting chase that takes place at the end where Shadey continuously rides an elevator from the top of a building to the bottom while the bad guys busily run up and down the stairs to catch him is just one of the many unique scenes in this movie that makes it worth catching for those with an offbeat frame of mind.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: November 18, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes
Director: Philip Saville
Studio: Skouras Pictures