In the late 1950s and early 1960s, several films by "Angry Young Men" were written and produced. Osborne, a forerunner of the genre, wrote the play on which this film is based and which had enormous success in London and New York. This lensing was faithful to the original, but it lost a bit
in the translation from the intimacy of the stage to the screen. Canadian Harry Saltzman, who made his fortune in England, produced the picture before he decided to make films that had more commercial possibilities (i.e., the James Bond series which he did with Albert Broccoli). He is to be
congratulated for taking a chance with an iffy property. Burton, in a no-holds-barred performance, is a university-educated malcontent who currently earns his keep by running a candy stall in a large market run by Pleasence, in yet another of his fine roles. Burton seems to love his wife, Ure, but
can't help verbally mistreating her. (She repeats the part she played on the stage. This was one of her very few film appearances. She had been married to playwright Osborne, then married playwright-actor Robert Shaw. She died at 42 after mixing whiskey with barbiturates.) Ure takes about as much
as anyone can stand, then leaves Burton when her best friend, Bloom, persuades her that she must to save her sanity. Burton is now alone, with nobody to insult, and he takes up with Bloom, a woman he has despised for most of the first few reels. Ure has been pregnant all along but didn't tell
Burton. When she loses the baby, she returns to Burton, and Bloom figures it's time for her to leave. Evans is a sweet old lady who helps Burton set up his business, and Kapoor has a few good scenes as an Indian trader, but most of the picture belongs to Burton's bravura performance.
The major problem of the picture is that Osborne seems to have concocted the slight plot for one reason only: to vent his spleen against the church, society, the rich, the government, and whatever irked him at the time. The dialogue at times is endless and much too flip in the wrong situations.
It's as though the author attempted to be a modern-day Oscar Wilde, but with a social conscience, and his message is heard loud, clear, and far too often. Although Burton has the range to be kind, funny, earthy, noble, and passionate, he is given little opportunity to get beyond letting that
memorable voice of his bellow and roar. Still, for all the obvious drawbacks, LOOK BACK IN ANGER should be seen by anyone who is interested in learning about the England of that era. Burton had been making films for ten years and had starred as Alexander in ALEXANDER THE GREAT and as Edwin Booth
in PRINCE OF PLAYERS. This seamy role, however, was the one that brought him to the attention of many who thought that he could act only when dressed in Biblical clothes, as in THE ROBE, or in doublet and hose. He was only 34 at the time this was made, but the ravages of high living were already
beginning to show on his rugged Welsh face.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, several films by "Angry Young Men" were written and produced. Osborne, a forerunner of the genre, wrote the play on which this film is based and which had enormous success in London and New York. This lensing was faithful… (more)