Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

An Olly double bill: The System / The Triple Echo

Back to 1964 and 1972 for these interesting Oliver Reed films, from that time when the British film industry was thriving ... This is my 2008 IMDB review of THE SYSTEM (now getting screenings on UK tv):
"A blast from the past for those young in the early 60s is the belated DVD release of THE SYSTEM (US Title: THE GIRL-GETTERS) made in 63 and released in 64 - when I saw it aged 18 when it would have played here in the UK for a week on release as part of a double bill and then promptly vanished without trace until I saw the DVD yesterday. It comes with a nice 8 page booklet too setting the film in context which is a model of its kind, if only more DVD re-issues followed suit! (The Best of British Collection: "films that entertained the post-war generation"). Its the kind of movie that talks to you if you are the age of the characters on screen ...

The film directed by Michael Winner with marvellous black and white photography by Nicholas Roeg (and a title song by The Searchers!) is set in one of those English seaside towns (Torbay and Brixham in Devon) following a gang of young men, led by the then very charismatic Oliver Reed, and their amorous pursuits over the summer and is actually a perfect compendium of European cinema trends of the time - there are Antonioniish moments (the tennis game here has a real ball) and it ends like LA DOLCE VITA in a Felliniesque dawn at the beach as the disillusioned characters realise the summer is over. Fellini's I VITELLONI is also a reference here. The script by Peter Draper anticipates elements of DARLING and BLOW-UP (particularly that long scene with Reed and Merrow at his apartment, and yes, her blown-up photos are pinned to the walls too - he too is a photographer becoming disillusioned with it all). 
It sports a great cast of English young players of the time (Barbara Ferris, Julia Foster, Ann Lynn, John Alderton) as well as reliables like Harry Andrews. Of the young cast David Hemmings (rather in the background here) would two years later personify the 60s when chosen by Antonioni for his lead in BLOW-UP. Jane Merrow (Hemmings' girlfriend of the time, and a replacement for Julie Christie who was doing BILLY LIAR) is perfect as Nicola the cool rich girl whom Reed falls for but she plays the game better than he does and is in complete command of any romance, as he realises she was just toying with him for the summer, so its payback time for all the 'birds' he discarded. (I got to meet her myself and had a nice long conversation with her when she was doing a play in 1966, while David was off filming BLOW-UP; she also co-starred in another favourite THE LION N WINTER in '68).

Winner of course may be a figure of fun now [he died in 2013], one forgets that in the '60s before those DEATH WISHES etc his films caught the moment as well as any by Richard Lester (THE SYSTEM could be Winner's THE KNACK), Losey, Schlesinger or the underrated Clive Donner, with titles like THE JOKERS and I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATS'ISNAME where Reed was meant to be his character from THE SYSTEM five years later.
In all its a perfect early '60s movie full of sounds and faces and the mood of that time just as the Swinging Era was taking off. For anyone interested in English cinema or remembers the era, its a real pleasure to see again 50+ years later !"

THE TRIPLE ECHO is perfectly 1972 too, though set in wartime England in the early Forties, and Glenda gets that 1940s look perfectly right with her swagger coats and perms. This is from a H E Bates story and is a perfect little British film of its era, as directed by Michael Apted. 
Brian Deacon is good too as the soldier who deserts to stay with Glenda on her remote farm, after fixing her tractor, and who disguises himself as her 'sister' and finds he likes it as he makes the mistake of leading on Olly's brute of an army officer .... as per my review, Glenda/Reed labels. Good to see it on television again too. They tried to jazz it up for America titling it SOLDIER IN SKIRTS with a lurid poster, but it is so much better than that. 


  1. I managed to set the TV for The System thanks to your tip, so looking forward to catching up with that. Triple Echo I caught last year. Have you seen that there's going to be a documentary on Channel 4 on Sunday night at 8pm - When Saddam Went To Hollywood; it tells of a multimillion pound propaganda film Saddam Hussein managed to make during the Iran/Iraq war that details the birth of modern Iraq and starred Ollie, James Bolam, CJ from Reggie Perrin and Donald Sinden's son! It promises lots of good stories of Ollie in his hellraiser prime!

  2. Yes I'll be recording that for next week. Had not heard of it, but it should be a fascinating treat at this remove.
    I am sure you will find a lot to enjoy in THE SYSTEM, its really as key a British 60s movie as A KIND OF LOVING, BILLY LIAR or THE KNACK.

  3. Another of Olly's 60s costumers is dragged out of mothballs today: THE BRIGAND OF KANDAHAR from 1965 - we didnt bother with that at the time, but it should be a treat now. Maybe like CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER without the jokes?

  4. I never saw THE SYSTEM when it came out. It was an X certificate and I was too young to get in and I have managed to miss it over the years. I also recorded it and am so looking forward to it. Your review was excellent, btw. I did see THE BRIGAND OF KANDAHAR when it came out and hated it. Maybe now it will have its charms.

  5. Michael! In your piece, you refer parethetically to Merrow - (particularly that long scene with Reed and Merrow at his apartment, and yes, her blown-up photos are pinned to the walls too - he too is a photographer becoming disillusioned with it all) - but Merrow isn't mentioned earlier. Am I to assume that you are referring to Jane Merrow?

  6. Er, yes. Sorry abut that, got my paragraphs out of synch .... cheers.

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