Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Middle-aged Kath and her aged father (known as Dadda) live in a once-nice house on the edge of a graveyard, and Kath attends funerals as recreation. Kath's brother Ed (who lives elsewhere) is in business and does well enough that he owns a flashy pink Cadillac. For some reason, Dadda won't speak to Ed, and Ed doesn't come around very often. One day after a funeral, Kath sees a handsome, shirtless young man, Mr. Sloane, doing sit-ups on top of a grave. Apparently homeless and on the run from someone or something, he accepts an offer from the horny Kath to live with her, and soon they're going at it with some energy, though clearly she's enjoying herself more than he is. While Sloane is stretched out in bed resting, wearing just a very skimpy pair of briefs, Ed discovers him and practically begins salivating. What follows is a kind of game in which Kath and Ed compete for Sloane's affections, or at least for his body. Complicating matters is that Dadda believes that Sloane is the man who killed his boss, a porn purveyor, and threatens to turn him in to the police. Sloane thinks that he has the upper hand and can manipulate the whole family, but it may be that he's the one being manipulated.

This once-shocking black comedy, based on a play by Joe Orton, still has the power to unsettle. Partly because none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, the situation they're in never feels very real, and there is little import to anyone’s actions. Still, the film conjures up some queasiness here and there. The emphasis on the physical desirability of Sloane makes the film unusual for its time. Peter McEnery plays Sloane with a smile and a smirk which both get more desperate as he loses control of the game he's playing. As good as he is, it's the fearless performances of Beryl Reid (Kath) and Harry Andrews (Ed) that make this movie still watchable. Reid, who was 50 at the time, traipses about in sheer day-glo outfits with nothing underneath, with no idea how pathetic she seems to those around her. Andrews (pictured above with McEnery), a character actor who will look familiar to you even if you can't place him exactly (THEATER OF BLOOD, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE RULING CLASS), is uncomfortably good as the closeted respectable businessman who drives himself to distraction with his passion for Sloane. There aren't many out-loud laughs in the movie, and the ending which certainly shocked audiences of the 70s won't be shocking at all today—it might even seem a little quaint. Interesting viewing [Netflix streaming]

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