A strange movie that leaves a deeper impression than one might expect due to the originality of the plot and the tense direction. It is the direct predecessor of ALTERED STATES, a picture that screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky took his name off after seeing the excesses of director Ken Russell.
In this film, director Dearden was not as excessive, and the result is a frighteningly believable treatment of a science-fiction idea. Bogarde is a young scientist seeking to clear the name of his colleague Goldblatt, who commits suicide early in the film. Because a briefcase with 1000 pounds was
found near Goldblatt's body (he'd thrown himself under a train at Oxford Station), it is assumed that he was doing it out of guilt for having betrayed the British government, for which he worked as a research professor in the very specific field of sensory deprivation. Bogarde is Goldblatt's
friend and contends that it was the pressure of the work that caused the man to kill himself, not real or even imagined guilt at having betrayed his Queen and Country. The security man on the case, Clements, shows Goldblatt's boss, Keen, some dubious evidence of the dead man's guilt, then goes to
Bogarde and wonders what he has to say in defense of his former pal. Bogarde thinks that Goldblatt was a patriot and if he did give away any secrets, it was not voluntary, but rather because he was brainwashed. When Clements doubts the reality of brainwashing, Bogarde says it is a fact and decides
to demonstrate the techniques. Bogarde claims that if a man is placed in a water-filled tank of a certain temperature, he will be stripped of his senses and become fair game for any psychological attacks. Bogarde gets into the tank for many hours and comes out of it on the brink of a nervous
breakdown. Bogarde is madly in love with his wife, Ure, and his aide, Bryant, seeks to show Clements that even that kind of love can be undermined by these techniques. They tape the session but Clements is still unconvinced that it worked. As time passes, Ure tells Bogarde that she is pregnant,
and his reaction is, to say the least, diffident, which is hardly the way one would think he'd respond. Now Bogarde begins cavorting around the college area with Craig, a local tramp, again an uncommon manner of behavior for a man of Bogarde's sensibilities. Clements now realizes that Bogarde's
mind has been bent by the experiment of a few months before and tries to convince Bogarde of what happened (Bogarde can't recall it) by playing him the tape recording, but Bogarde remains indifferent and leaves the area with Craig to go live on her houseboat. When Ure, who is near the end of her
pregnancy, falls and must be prepared for the start of early labor, Bogarde is there and helps with the baby's delivery. It is this act which brings him back to his senses and the picture ends happily as Bogarde is, once again, whole.
Bogarde is excellent, and his scenes with the prying Clements are particularly good examples of cat versus mouse. The locations at Oxford are a bit stilted, as is much of the dialog, but the photography and the sincerity of the players make this a better bet than ALTERED STATES as an example of
the brainwashing techniques. The same sort of thing was briefly seen in THE IPCRESS FILE two years after this. In a small role, note Edward Fox before he became famous. Goldblatt, a much-underused actor, is one of the famed Abbey Players of Ireland. The baby's birth sequence is so graphic that
children (or adults) with weak stomachs must be warned that it comes near the end of the film and may upset some dinners.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A strange movie that leaves a deeper impression than one might expect due to the originality of the plot and the tense direction. It is the direct predecessor of ALTERED STATES, a picture that screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky took his name off after seeing the… (more)