by Freda Bruce Lockhart
ICANNOT decide whether the distributors of Loot ("X," Prince Charles) found it seasonable to appeal to patrons who might be dreaming of a black Christmas; or as token of a New Year resolution to see the last of "X" pictures.
Whichever the intention, this film version of Joe Orton's last play before his dreadful death is a very black, not to say macabre comedy-thriller indeed. Anybody who goes to it without having faced the fact of its "X" might find the funeral farce, with its wholesale mockery of death, religion, common decency or morality very offensive indeed.
On the other hand, if you enjoyed "Kind Hearts and Coronets", "Arsenic and Old Lace," "The Loved One" or "The Wrong Box", and appreciate the grotesque unrealism of the outrageous happenings, you will probably find laughter hard to resist.
Although the cast-list and credits bear some of the more distinguished names in British pictures — director Silvio Narizzano, screenplay by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson — I found the early scenes quite resistible.
Two likely lads, Dennis (Hywel Bennett) and Hal (Roy Holden) are planning to rob the bank next door to the undertaker's where Dennis works. Hal's Mum, Mrs. McLeavy (Jean Marlow) is dying and the ruthless boys plan to stow the loot in her coffin.
Such is the basis for all manner of variations in a stop-atnothing context. I only really gave in to the wicked fun with the arrival of Richard Attenborough as a wonderfully starch-moustached police inspector, although the rogues' gallery is distinguished by Lee Remick as a fabulous nurse-adventuress who founds her career on men and money preferably married, but if not taken separately.
The finale builds up a fine frenzy proper to farce, with the loaded coffin being pushed down the dumb waiter shaft and the hearse eventually bursting into flames. By this time most people will probably be laughing too much to feel as shocked as they should.
It would certainly be optimistic to suppose that "Loot" would be the last "X" certificate, but it is somewhere near the ultimate in "X." And there is a feeling about that a point of revulsion has been reached after a year positively satiated with "X" certificates and competitive nudity.
Another seasonable practice is for critics to give their lists of the year's best films. Last year I shocked some readers by choosing an "X" film ("Midnight Cowboy") as my best. So this year I decided to take care.
When I jotted down my first list of 13 titles, I was disconcerted to find they included five "X"es especially as only one of the five ("M.A.S.H.") had I remembered as a probable Reluctantly, however, I decided I must drop "Ted and Carol and Bob and Alice," which I have continued to enjoy more in retrospect than when I saw it, and which I feel might not have rated "X" a year later, so rapidly have our standards declined; and "The Bed-Sittingroom" which I thought the year's funniest movie, also "Medium Cool" and "They Shoot Horses Don't They?"
This self-denial would allow me to include in my final clean dozen "Waterloo" (despite its shortcomings quite an achievement), "Patton : Lust for Glory" and two comedies.
My list will then I hope be found eminently respectable (as the British Board of Film Censors seldom gave "X"-es for violence). Here it is:
Robert Bresson's Une Femme Douce (translated as A Gentle Creature). George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ("A").
Claude Chabrol's Que Ia Bite Meure (translated, oddly, as Killer ("A").
Abraham Polonsky's Tell Them Willie Boy is Here ("A").
Michael Ritchie's Downhill Racer ("A").
Ken Loach's Kes ("U").
Sergei Bondarchuk's Waterloo ("U").
Schaffner's Patton: Lust for Glory ("A").
Gene Saks's Cactus Flower ("A").
Arthur Hiller's The Out-ofTowners ("U").
* The most promising young actress seemed to me Jenny Agutter in "The Railway Children" and "I Start Counting". By the same token, I suppose, Robert Redford rates a place high among young actors as he did so well in three of the above films — "Willie Boy", "Downhill Racer" and "Butch Cassidy".
Back among the. "X"-es, a
film I hated "Fellini Satyricon," is difficult not to mention for the technical brilliance of the design and camerawork.
Christopher Miles's The Virgin and the Gypsy ("AA").
Lionel Jeffries's The Rahway Children ("U").