#23 Deep End
(1970, Jerzy Skolimowski)
“I love her”
“You perverted little monster”
British cinema of the 1960s and 70s was very fond of the sex romp comedy, with the likes of Carry On and Benny Hill setting the tone for a whole wealth of cheeky nudging films and TV shows, designed to titillate and amuse in equal measure. Deep End takes this sauciness and throws it into question by taking the genre a much darker direction.
It’s about 15 year old Mike (John Moulder-Brown), fresh out of school and taking on his first job as a pool attendant at a local swimming baths. Here he meets Susan (Jane Asher), his co-worker, a red-headed tease, who he finds very attractive. Initially the film heads down the sex romp path, with Mike being seduced by unattractive middle aged women in an attempt to gain some good tips, but then takes a darker turn when he becomes more and more obsessed with Susan, whose teasing merely pushes him further.
The problem is, the line between sex romp and dark stalker tale is blurred far too much for the film to be entirely effective. Mike’s obsession with Susan isn’t explored in very much detail; he just starts acting weird around her and begins stalking her to her meetings with her fiancé. While clearly this is all supposed to reflect the mind of a teenage boy, we see barely any hints of his growing attachment to her beside an extremely bizarre hallucination scene that seems to pop up out of nowhere. In addition, there are times where Mike flips between hating Susan’s lifestyle and loving her adoringly without question. While this makes sense from a teenage perspective (we’ve all been there) it’s handled so poorly we don’t really see much of a conflict running through his head that tears him between these two opinions, bar a scene where he sets off a fire alarm to vent his frustration.
In addition, the sex romp tone continues even when we’re heading down the darker path, as a scene where Mike stumbles into a prostitute’s bedroom by accident illustrates. It’s clearly meant to be a funny scene, but at the same time it’s far too easy to feel it’s out of place. The movie flip flops between the two tones so drastically that by the end of the movie you just end up confused about where the plot went. Also, the ending feels abrupt and out of place. It was clearly meant to be a twist, but it comes from out of nowhere and feels little bit of a cheap way to finish the story.
Which is a shame because the concept is a solid one. The “swinging sixties” is a romantic idealised version of London in those times, and it’s good to see a film attempt to deconstruct it and show a seedier side to all that free love. Jane Asher is also very good as Susan, and seemingly ad-libbed most of her dialogue considering how natural it feels. But this is the sole recommendation the film gets here.
The first movie of this blog to make me question why this is a film you must see before you die. A good concept, but one that is severely flawed in its execution.
Starring Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown & Diana Dors
Written by Jerzy Gruza, Jerzy Skolimowski & Boleslaw Sulik
Produced by Helmut Jedele
Music by Cat Stevens & Can
Cinematography by Charly Steinberger
Edited by Barrie Vince
Favourite Scene: Mike and Susan have a conversation while hiding in the rafters of the baths. One of the few scenes that explains Mike’s feeling of connection to Susan, and it works.
Scene That Bugged Me: The ending. It feels so out of left-field that it makes it all the more apparent the movie hasn’t been consistent in its tone up to that point.
Watch it if: You want to see Jane Asher ad-lib about being hungry
Avoid it if: You’d rather the film picked a single idea and ran with it
Originally posted on Blogspot Thursday 8 December 2011