Friday, 1 June 2012

Friday Night Film: Entertaining Mister Sloane

'Entertaining Mister Sloane' is probably Joe Orton's most famous single work, the first big success of his short lived career ('EMS' premiered in 1964, Orton was murdered in late 1967). A Pinteresque psychodrama in conception, it goes over the familiar theme of a stranger entering a household and using the characters within to his own ends. This particular version is ambiguous enough to be different, however, and the blackness and amorality of the comedy transcends the cliche.

Orton was the master of arch dialogue, a cynical world view and a daringly irreverent approach to sex and law and order, and although the 1969 film version incorporates the majority of the source material, it tries to be less controversial by instilling the drama with lots of high camp and twinkly, comedic performances. Orton was laugh out loud funny, but in an insidious, absurd way, and the film version tries much too hard and knocks off many of the jagged edges in favour of silly farce (see also the 1970 adaptation of ‘Loot’).

Psycho Rent Boy Mr. Sloane (Peter McEnery) is discovered one day by middle aged nymphomaniac Kath (Beryl Reid). She takes him home to meet her doddering Dadda (Alan Webb) and her flash brother, Eddie (Harry Andrews). Homosexual Eddie is equally entranced by Sloane and the siblings begin to vie for his attentions. This is Sloane's plan, of course, and he soon installs himself as more or less the master of the house, a position secured when he makes Kath pregnant. The only problem is Dadda, who is neither entranced or attracted by Sloane. In fact, Dadda suspects Sloane of murder and, when he confronts him, Sloane confesses and then beats him to death.

Kath and Eddie are not particularly bothered by the murder – Dadda was a nuisance and they enjoy fucking Sloane too much to turn him in. Instead, they use his crime to neatly turn the tables on him, securing his services and compliance indefinitely and drawing up a rota of who can have him and when. In the end, the hustler has become the hustled and is forced to submit to a humiliating 'wedding' which is nothing more than a statement of ownership. To his credit, Sloane goes with it, and raises his eyebrows in a gesture of philosophical acceptance.

Beryl Reid essays her usual funny, slightly pathetic middle aged lunatic. Harry Andrews camps it up something rotten after a career spent playing Sergeant Majors and salt of the earth tough guys (he was gay in real life). Alan Webb, who plays Dadda, immerses himself in the part but is slightly too grotesque to be sympathetic. Peter McEnery plays Sloane, adopting a slight Brummy accent and the habit of rubbing bits of his body when in repose, as if he can’t quite believe how gorgeous and well-formed he is. Unbelievably, the part was originally played on stage by Dudley Sutton, i.e. Tinker out of ‘Lovejoy’. Jesus.

So, not entirely successful, but I’m glad it exists. Actually, I’m glad that everything exists, with the possible exception of N-Dubz and those awful Croc shoes.

1 comment:

  1. I was unexpectedly aroused by Beryl Reid during this film, and I'm scared to re-watch it in case this happens again.

    Still in shock, with vague feelings of disgrace.