Entertaining Mr Sloane. Film Review


Director: Douglas Hickcox

Screenwriter: Clive Exton (based on the play by Joe Orton)

Starring: Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery, Alan Webb

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 90mins

DVD & Blu-ray

Reviewed by Guy Adams

When a film opens with Bery Reid, wearing a see-through frock, noisily eating an ice-lolly in a graveyard you can reasonably expect the tone of what is to follow. This 1970 film version of Joe Orton’s 1964 play relishes Orton’s enthusiasm for shocking audiences. A special feature on the disc includes the playwright’s appearance on The Eamonn Andrews Show, presenting us with this cheeky, quiet young man who takes great pleasure in challenging the sensibilities of those around him.

Beryl Reid’s lustful Kath happens upon the young Mr Sloane, doing topless exercises on a grave. To say she is smitten is to underestimate the sexual voraciousness of a Beryl Reid at the height of her ‘grotesque’ period (two years earlier having brought us The Killing of Sister George). She takes him home where he meets her myopic old father (who recognizes him as a runaway murderer) and promptly installs him in her spare bedroom. When her brother, ostracized from his father for being homosexual, visits he too falls under Mr Sloane’s spell and we find ourself in a distinctly unhealthy ménage à trois.

Of course, these days, we’re used to comedy that seeks to shock its audience as much as amuse them, in fact it’s become Hollywood’s default setting (though you can guarantee Judd Apatow will never come up with a line as lovely and absurd as ‘The air in Twickenham was like honey.’) It’s easy to forget quite how vicious this all seemed back in 1970. That said, Entertaining Mr Sloane still manages to cause moments of genuine discomfort and Exton’s adaptation of Orton’s script keeps a good deal of the refined, verbose dialogue that provides such a frothy counterpoint to the grimness on screen.

Well worth purchasing to remind yourself how black comedy can be.

Released April 8th