“Who can resist love’s impulses, Mr. Sloane? Who can foretell where it’s going to strike?”
A handsome young drifter (Peter McEnery) is invited to live with a middle-aged nymphomaniac (Beryl Reid), her misogynist brother (Harry Andrews), and their aging “Dadda” (Alan Webb). Soon, however, Mr. Sloane (McEnery) is identified by “Dadda” as a murderer, and finds himself caught in a sticky situation.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Harry Andrews Films
- Love Triangle
- Play Adaptation
Based on a play by British writer Joe Orton — whose tragic death was portrayed in Stephen Frears’ Prick Up Your Ears (1987) — this devilishly irreverent black comedy is remarkably risque. It’s fun to see Beryl Reid (star of the lesbian-themed Killing of Sister George) camping it up as an aging nympho (check out her see-through dress in the first part of the film — she’s fearless!), and Harry Andrews is a suitable foil as her closeted-gay brother, who seems to express his sexual preferences primarily through overt woman-hating. In the title role, Peter McEnery is yummy eye candy — his sculpted body is almost a parody of carnal desire. The story itself goes in all sorts of unexpected directions, and you’ll likely find your mouth agape by the truly surreal ending.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Beryl Reid’s delightfully wacky performance as Kath
- Harry Andrews as Ed
- Peter McEnery as “Mr. Sloane”
- Joe Orton’s clever, hugely irreverent script
Yes. As the most successful cinematic adaptation of Joe Orton’s work, this should be of interest to all film fanatics.
One thought on “Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970)”
An absolute must – among the funniest movies (in terms of verbal wit) ever, and one which – almost forty years later – has held up surprisingly well.
If playwright Orton hadn’t been murdered by his ‘lover’ three years earlier, he’d most likely have adored this; as stated, the most successful film adaptation of his work. (One can read about Orton at Wikipedia, and see that there was actually very little full-length work to adapt to film; the other film adaptation was Silvio Narizzano’s ‘Loot’ – worth a look but less successful.)
Screenwriter Clive Exton (‘Isadora’, ‘Doomwatch’, etc.) seems in perfect harmony with Orton’s droll humor, and adds clever bits of his own (i.e., in the opening shot, a bus drives by a cemetery; written on its side: “You look like you could use a rest.”). The result is not just a good adaptation of a work, but a play that hardly feels like one. Thanks for that daunting task must also go to director Douglas Hickox (‘Theater of Blood’, etc.) and DP Wolfgang Suschitzky (father of famed Peter), who finds an amazing number of angles inside a house.
The anarchic script is ‘blessed’ with a top-notch cast. Although she’s more famous for her role in ‘The Killing of Sister George’, here Beryl Reid is riotous in a go-for-broke performance. The film clearly belongs to her, but there’s solid ensemble work all-round by Andrews (a throwaway-delivery expert), McEnery (as a rare, genuine bisexual in film – even if he comes off as ‘gay for pay’), and Webb.
A by-no-means-exhaustive list of fave lines:
Reid: Do you know I was more familiar with Africa than I was with my own body til I was 15. That’s why I’m so pliable.
Reid: Now, I want an explanation of your eccentric behavior.
Webb: Yes, Kathy.
Reid: Don’t you ‘Yes, Kathy’ me!
Webb: Well, he upset me. I’ve seen him before.
Reid: Well, you’ve seen the milkman before but there’s no cause to throw the garden shears at him!
Andrews: Well, it must have been a rotten life for a kid, being an orphan and everything. Mixed home, was it?
McEnery: Just boys.
Andrews: Ideal. How many to a room?
Andrews: Really? Same age, were they, or older?
McEnery: Their ages varied by a year or two.
Andrews: You had your compensations, then.
Andrews: You go murdering my father – now you ask me to help you evade justice! Is this where my liberal principles have led me?!
Reid: (shouting out window) He’s dead! He’s dead!
Andrews: Do you want the neighbors to know ALL our business?!
Reid: How could you?! Accusing me of seducing you…
McEnery: You bloody did!
Reid: Well, that’s neither here nor there – using expressions like that, making yourself cheap…
Finally, a paradox: From what I know of Orton (a lot), I don’t know how I would have felt about him had I known him. My image of him remains: charming but cold, distant, perhaps ultimately unlikable. The characters in ‘EMS’ are ultimately unlikable. The only reasonably likable one is murdered. It’s odd thinking about all this…when the film is a comic masterpiece.
FYI: it’s all but impossible to find this film in the US; it’s available on DVD in England, in a gorgeous LBX print. TCM rep: be a love and take note, there’s a dear.