Director: Douglas Hickcox
Screenwriter: Clive Exton (based on the play by Joe Orton)
Starring: Beryl Reid, Harry Andrews, Peter McEnery, Alan Webb
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 Ortonâ€™s 1964 play relishes Ortonâ€™s enthusiasm for shocking audiences. A special feature on the disc includes the playwrightâ€™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 Reidâ€™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 â€˜grotesqueâ€™ 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 Sloaneâ€™s spell and we find ourself in a distinctly unhealthy mÃ©nage Ã trois.
Of course, these days, weâ€™re used to comedy that seeks to shock its audience as much as amuse them, in fact itâ€™s become Hollywoodâ€™s default setting (though you can guarantee Judd Apatow will never come up with a line as lovely and absurd as â€˜The air in Twickenham was like honey.â€™) Itâ€™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 Extonâ€™s adaptation of Ortonâ€™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