In this screen adaptation of Joe Orton’s subversive 1964 black comedy, young drifter Mr Sloane (Peter McEnery) takes up lodging in a house by a London cemetery with frumpy middle age spinster Kath (Beryl Reid) and her elderly father, who suspects he murdered his boss. But when Kath’s closeted spiv brother Ed (Harry Andrews) wants Mr Sloane to become his leather-clad chauffeur, the blond stud finds himself the target of both Ed and Kath’s clumsy attempts at seduction.
With its morally questionable tone and sexual subject matter, Joe Orton’s play was a real shocker in conservative 1960s Britain, and still caused raised eyebrows when it reached the screen in this 1975 adaptation by Douglas Hickox (best known for helming the 1973 comedy horror spoof Theatre of Blood starring Vincent Price).
It may look rather tame today, but the surreal setting (at Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak) and sterling performances from the three leads are worth revisiting. But its Beryl Reid who is unforgettable. Her spinster Kath, minus false teeth and dressed in a baby doll nightie, is as outrageous a character as Alison Steadman’s Beverly in Abigail’s Party. And watching her seduce McEnery’s sexual menace while uttering Orton’s fruity dialogue is classic stuff.
This StudioCanal release is the first UK DVD issue of the film. It also includes a TV appearance of Joe Orton on The Eamon Andrews Show in 1967, just four months before he was murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell.
DID YOU KNOW?
Beryl Reid also played the role of Kath on the London stage opposite Malcolm McDowell as Sloane and Ronald Fraser as Kemp in a 1975 revival of the play, while the subsequent touring production would see Barbara Windsor play Kath, and her Carry On co-star Kenneth Williams take on directing duties.
The theme song was sung by Georgie Fame and was released as the B-side of the 1970 single Somebody Stole My Thunder.