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.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Summer re-views: married folk

Two contrasting studies of tempestuous marriages and infidelity. The very serious THE PUMPKIN EATER from 1964 - not seen that since then; and the 1972 Trashfest that is ZEE & CO, (or X, Y, & ZEE) - ditto.

Upper middle-class life in the black and white early sixties is nicely dissected in Jack Clayton's THE PUMPKIN EATER, from a novel by Penelope Mortimer, scripted by Harold Pinter (so we are in THE SERVANT and ACCIDENT territory). 
Anne Bancroft, after her Oscar win (for THE MIRACLE WORKER, and before she essayed Mrs Robinson in THE GRADUATE), has one of her key roles as the very intense mother of eight children, as she wonders if her current husband, writer Peter Finch, is being unfaithful. He is of course, and with the annoying Philpot (a noteworthy early small role by Maggie Smith). He has also been having an affair with the wife of jealous friend James Mason, who plots his revenge. Jo (Bancroft) has a harrowing breakdown in Harrods store, and is later menaced at the hairdressers by a woman (Yootha Joyce) jealous of Jo's lavish lifestyle and good fortune. 
Her father is Cedric Hardwicke (his final role) and the cast also includes Alan Webb, Richard Johnson as Jo's previous husband,  Eric Porter and more familiar faces.
It is a fascinating drama, often teetering on the brink of pretentiousness and unintentional hilarity, but the cast is the thing here. (A similar movie is the same era's PSYCHE '59, by Alexander Singer, another look at posh London life, here the wife is Patricia Neal, who is blind until she realises what is going on between her husband Curt Jurgens and sexpot Samantha Eggar). 
ZEE & CO is a garish cartoon by comparison ...

Zee and Robert Blakeley are members of swinging London's upper crust whose unique love-hate marriage heads towards destruction when Robert falls in love with a beautiful young widow named Stella, and Zee goes through a series of scheming adventures to break Robert and Stella up.
Thats the plot in a nutshell, but it can hardly do justice to the Trash classic that is ZEE & CO, (or X, Y, AND ZEE) - an unlikely title for action director Brian G Hutton (but he had just directed Burton in WHERE EAGLES DARE) - this time, he puts a wild Elizabeth Tayor and dull Michael Caine through their paces, and a wan Susannah York, plus Margaret Leighton as a kind of aged hippie, and John Standing as the catty gay best friend, and young Michael Cashman (ex-EASTENDERS gay Colin) as the "poncy little fag" shop assistant.
The farrago was scripted by Edna O'Brien - hope she got paid a lot - and the whole thing gets wilder and wilder and funnier and funnier as Liz scheeches and brays as she plots to seduce Susannah herself, to get her away from husband Caine ..... Taylor seems to have a ball letting rip as the over-dressed vulgarian wife of stuffy architect Caine, but really her movie goddess days were coming to an end here in 1972; without a Zeffirelli, Losey or Mike Nichols to direct her she seems to have been encouraged to go way over the top here. This is a Trash Classic up there with the best of the worst - one to relish with THE LOVE MACHINE or THE OSCAR or even HARLOW .... 

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