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The Grotesque

Rocker Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, play domestics embroiled in very murky, aristocratic family doings in this purportedly satirical disaster, based on Patrick McGrath's novel The Grotesque. Styler also acted as producer, relegating herself to the onscreen role of peripheral kitchen drudge Doris, while her eminent spouse preens his way through the most ambisexual servant romp since Michael York offered SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. Sting revels in the malevolence of the role and misses no opportunity to disrobe and display his still-buff physique. The great Gothic director James Whale knew what to do with blackly comic material like this -- just look at BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN -- but John-Paul Davidson doesn't seem to have a clue. The photography is muddy, the pacing slack and decorative conceits abound where a firm hand on the performances would have yielded far more agreeable results. As the lady of the manor, Theresa Russell is completely out of her element, and Alan Bates -- whose range simply doesn't include forceful bluster -- is equally miscast as her overbearing husband. Anna Massey, in the minor role of Mrs. Giblet, makes off with the whole debacle: Her every line, however lame, gleams with a lifetime's worth of theatrical luster.