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With the Girl-Getters or The System as it was shown to be when i lived in the UK is a tale of misspent youth on a Southern England coastal town. Like many of these towns the folk lay dormant for most of the year until the summer comes, and with it trade in the form of tourism. This was in a time before the package tour and the Costa-del-slosh that most of the young men have reverted to. This was a time when a virile young male spent his days prowling the promenade in search of his prey. The system was a cunning plan thought up by Tinker played brilliantly by the late Oliver Reed, was to a method of getting as much action of the female variety as possible. I will not ruin the surprise by revealing what the system exactly entails but needless to say it works with measured success. Until that is Tinker falls fowl of his own tricks and has his heart broken by a more fiestly young lady with a nice sports car and a wealthy father. The Soundtrack is particularly commendable as can be gleaned from the opening titles, and continues with a particulary mod beat. I particularly enjoyed the film as I am of the same age as Reed in the film and it is good to see that little has changed in our quest for summer fun except for perhaps the fashion of the time and hairstyles. Or has it.
Whenever you question the quality of both Michael Winner and the late
Reed's films in recent years don't judge them until you go back to the
sixties where they both started out.
Here is a very low budget and rarely seen little movie that shows both the potential of both star and director.
Made two years before Michael Caine's ALFIE, THE SYSTEM takes a look at similar themes, having a good time while you're young and pulling birds. It is of course seen through the eyes of the male perspective as Ollie and pals Andrew Ray, John Alderton and David Hemmings go on a sexual rampage in a seaside town of Britain.
Winner helped launch the career of Oliver Reed and they worked together again several times throughout the sixties but this early piece of nostalgic British cinema is worth a look especially if you were a teenager in the early sixties.
"The System" was both the first time director Michael Winner had ventured away from films featuring pop groups to something more serious and representative of the 60s, and the first time Oliver Reed had a lead role that wasn't in a Hammer horror. The scene where you see him for the first time in the camera range gives you some idea of what kind of screen presence he had before the booze became more important than the image. As Tinker the photographer, the leader of a randy gang in Brighton, Reed is exceptionally good, and also in the cast are John Alderton, David Hemmings, and Andrew Ray, all offering good support. The film gets under the skin of the decade and manages to be interesting to watch as well.
When I saw " The System " for the first time I was about 14 years of age,and had never heard of Oliver Reed or David Hemmings.By today's standards it is hardly very shocking or thrilling;and yet in 1964 it was rather risqué,being about young men who were essentially trying to get young ladies into bed.It is filmed in black and white,and has a young and very handsome Oliver Reed seducing young ladies,but eventually falling in love.It also has a young David Hemmings,who later goes on to make some of the more memorable films of the 60's.It has many quality performances from British character actors, such as Juliette Foster and John Alderton.It also is directed by the very underrated Michael winner,and is worth viewing for its cinematographic interest,but also for its particular take on the 1960's.
I first saw this film when it was released (in 1964) and it had a profound effect on me then, imagine my surprise when I saw it in the middle of the night on TV a few days ago and it hasn't lost any of it's freshness. Oliver Reed is brilliant, as he always was before he took to the bottle, and the idea of the girl turning the tables on the cock-sure man is executed magnificently. Furthermore the quote that I remember for forty years still rang true (Harry Andrews, a photographer, says "we're here to make memories" and Oliver Reed's reply "I thought we were here to make money"). People may laugh at Michale Winner now but this was god, very good. Even today.
As a young man in his late teens, this film brings back fond memories
of Torquay and Paignton where the film was made.
It all started on Elberry Cove, near Goodrington, with a big, all night barbecue. It was supposed to be a warm summers evening, which was not quite the case, but it was a lot of fun.
I was there as an Extra with Naomi, the daughter of the late Don Kite (Film director) Most of the activity of this film took place around Paignton Harbour and in fact Tinker's Pad or Flat was the Harbour Lights Restaurant.
For all us teens, the 400 Club in Torquay, was the place to go. In fact it was the only place that had disco type dancing. And the 400 Club played a big part in the film, with a fight and scuffle, the we had to drag Tinker across the road and throw him in the harbour, I can't actually remember whether we did or not, but I know that his camera went in.
This film was probably very close to the truth, you get the feeling that the Writer, Peter Draper had been following us about taking notes on our activities throughout the summer months, particularly as we used to go down to Elberry Cove for barbeque's and dancing at the 400 Club
I give this film 8 for the memories
You might think that by 1964 the world was all swinging sophistication, but no it was like this, I remember. I had recently started working, in a bank. It was hand written ledgers and an outside toilet! Yep, life revolved a fair bit around getting girls and then making sure you didn't get them pregnant and then 'having to get married'. Everyone is s bit too old here, of course, although David Hemmings looks like a little angel. Oliver Reed puts in a good performance as the leader although it's hard at the end to take his more introspective ponderings. Great direction by Michael Winner, there not many people have said that, and the movie speeds along with some excellent sequences, especially the wedding celebration on the beach, played more like a wake. Winner is an under rated director, he did a couple of others of this ilk, then I like his Innocents and there is Death Wish. I liked the hated Death Weekend but in general his career went downhill and it stops people giving the earlier films a chance. Well worth watching, if only to appreciate that the mid 60's in Britain were still much like the 50's, except with teenagers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Film buffs tend to turn up their noses at the mention of the name
Michael Winner, but the fact is he made some pretty decent films back
in the '60's ( 'The Cool Mikado' excepted! ), of which 'The System' was
Shot in glorious black and white, it is set in a small British seaside resort, where a gang of young men prey on young female tourists. Object? Sexual conquest. Tinker ( Oliver Reed ), the self-styled leader of this pack of wolves, is a happy-go-lucky photographer who snaps the girls when they arrive, secures their hotel names and room numbers, and then shares the pictures out among his pals, naturally keeping the best looking one for himself. He calls this method 'The System'.
Tinker takes a shine to rich man's daughter Nicola ( Jane Merrow ), and begins courting her. She knows what he is up to, and does not attempt to discourage him. Their relationship develops and Tinker finds himself genuinely falling in love, but Nicola is not keen on settling down.
Similarities between this film and 'Alfie', released a mere two years later, are uncanny. Both feature a good-looking young man whose interest in females goes only as far as the bedroom. Both feature said hero getting his comeuppance at the end - and at the hands of a woman. The ending implies that, despite being rebuffed, Tinker will be back at the railway station the next summer, still practising The System. Both feature the lovely Julia Foster too.
As 'Tinker', Reed gives a magnetic performance. You can see why the girls fall for him like dominoes. Watching this film with my wife, she commented on his eyes, and she's right. They are like blow lamps. Jane Merrow, an actress known mainly to me through her television work such as 'Danger Man' and 'The Prisoner' is gorgeous as the elegant 'Nicola'. Tinker's gang includes David Hemmings ( two years away from starring in the iconic 'Blow-Up' ) and John Alderton, future star of the T.V. sitcom 'Please Sir!'. His character, Nidge, earns Tinker's wrath by openly admitting he has gotten one of his conquests pregnant. Tinker gives him the address of a back-street abortionist ( it was illegal when this was made ), but his friend does the decent thing and marries the girl.
I was only two when this came out, so cannot say for certain whether its depiction of the young people of that era is in any way accurate. It feels authentic though. The fight between Tinker and Derek Newark's character is brutal indeed, as is a later scrap involving the rest of the gang. The use of broken bottles in said fight probably contributed to the film's earning of an 'X' certificate ( today it would be 18 ).
The whole British holiday atmosphere is wonderfully captured. As Denis Norden once said: "it will take you back - even if you were never there originally!".
Peter Draper wrote the thoughtful script, he later collaborated with Reed and Winner on the equally memorable 'I'll Never Forget What'sis name'. He really should have penned more movies.
I'm so glad that this picture has resurfaced on D.V.D. One to put on the shelf next to classics such as 'Alfie' and 'Georgy Girl'.
Given director Michael Winner's critical reputation today, it's hard to
remember that he, too, once enjoyed a moment in the sun. For a brief
period at the start of the 1960s, the director received good reviews on
both side of the Atlantic, most especially from the American critics
impressed by his ability to adapt very contemporary subject matter and
make it appeal to an international youth audience. In particular, The
System, followed in turn by The Jokers (1966), and then I'll Never
Forget What's'isname (1967), attracted attention. All three films
starred Oliver Reed, cast after Winner had spotted the potential of the
actor who had previously appeared in Hammer horror films.
Overshadowed by the slackness and crudity of some of his later, more ambitious projects, these early titles are overlooked. But for The System, at the time of its release, Newsweek praised Winner as the unheralded director of a "consistently intelligent and often brilliant low-budget import." Seen today it can be identified as part of a group of films that have interesting anticipations of each other within British cinema. In the film Reed plays 'Tinker' a seaside photographer, the charismatic leader of a group of young men seeking sexual conquest at the seaside.
The System, unsubtly re-titled The Girl-Getters for the USA, was felt to be controversial in subject matter at the time, although by today's standards it is pretty mild. Reed had earlier appeared as a tearaway in another resort-set movie, Losey's cult item The Damned (1961); in the present film it is almost as if the young thug from the previous story has moved on a little to a newly precarious living, at least as far as he might be able to. The character Tinker is much more self-confessional in the present movie, and to that extent has attracted comparisons to Alfie (1966), which took the self-examination of a moral vacuum to a much greater level. The System co-stars some well-known names: John Alderton, Harry Andrews, and Derek Nimmo all appear.
Originally, Julie Christie was slated to appear too as Tinker's posh love interest Nicola, but unfortunately this deal fell through and the role was taken by Jane Merrow. There's also a young David Hemmings, playing a relative on his first trip to the sexually exploitative seaside. Two years later the actor was to star in another film in which photography is also at the centre of activity, Antonioni's Blow Up. In The System there is reference to 'the takers and the taken' extending the photographic metaphor, but unlike in the 1966 movie there is no doubt as to what we are seeing. And Tinker leaves his exposed negatives to the mercies of a commercial developer, away from private obsession.
The 'system' in question is the methodical way the group of friends play the 'grockles' (their name for holidaymakers). As they admit, they have to "take what they can from the visitors (to) prepare for the cold winter." Filmed in Torquay and Brixham, Winner's film is rich on location and atmosphere, effects helped immeasurably by the widescreen work of cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Reed proves his stature as a star in a film that is, ultimately, all about him. From the first sight of him in a seaside hat, camera in hand, lounging on a railway platform, he is rarely off screen. His magnetic appearance makes one overlook the inelegance displayed on the dance floor in one scene (the manic moves of which recall his short-lived appearance back in Beat Girl, 1959).
Tinker is someone who, at the start of the film at least, is confident in his own motives and position in life; one who has preyed and succeeded repeatedly over the brief four-month holiday season. As the story progresses, however, he will discover that his position is more circumscribed than he thought and that, judged by his own standards and motives; he can find situations painfully reversed. Tinker has relationships with three main women during the course of the film: the wife of the local seaside comedian (his 'winter bird'); with Lorna, a naïve single tourist (Julia Foster); and a visiting rich man's daughter Nicola.
One of the most interesting points of the film is how readily the case-hardened Tinker falls for Nicola. Is his sudden vulnerability a symptom of underlying self-deception, or has the promiscuous photographer merely overreached himself socially as well as emotionally? Humiliated during a game of tennis with Nicola's rich friends, away from the sexual shenanigans at the beach, Tinker is confronted with another system: the class war. When blowing bubbles back and forth during his curious 'seduction' of his Nicola in his room earlier, Tinker had nothing to lose; by contrast the strike of a tennis ball into his face proves painful on more than one level, as a reminder of his limitations.
In his memoir Winner Takes All the director says that The System "changed my life" - that is laid the foundations, after previous false starts, for a successful career as filmmaker. Star, Reed, too, was to go on and find fame and fortune - at least until his drink-related behaviour got the better of him and he became a parody of his earlier, dynamic self. Co-star Jane Merrow sadly failed to capitalise on her success here, and drifted into television and obscurity. The film itself, after its initial period of praise and notoriety, vanished into the never-land of rare screenings on TV and so its belated appearance on DVD, albeit without extras, is to be welcomed. Although now dated in some elements, it remains a reminder of the hidden strengths of British cinema of the 1960s and a related part of the 'social problem' cycle of the time.
A blast from the past for those young in the early 60s is the belated
DVD release of THE SYSTEM (US Title: THE GO-GETTERS) made in 63 and
released in 64 - when I saw it aged 18 when it would have played here
in the UK for a week on release as part of a double bill and then
promptly vanished without trace until I saw the DVD yesterday. It comes
with a nice 8 page booklet too setting the film in context which is a
model of its kind, if only more DVD re-issues followed suit!
The film directed by Michael Winner with marvellous black and white photography by Nicholas Roeg is set in one of those English seaside towns following a gang of young men, led by the then very charismatic Oliver Reed, and their amorous pursuits over the summer and is actually a perfect compendium of European cinema trends of the time - there are Antonioniish moments (the tennis game here has a real ball) and it ends like LA DOLCE VITA in a Felliniesque dawn at the beach as the disillusioned characters realise the summer is over. The script by Peter Draper anticipates elements of DARLING and BLOWUP.
It sports of course a great cast of English young players of the time (Barbara Ferris, Julia Foster, Ann Lynn, John Alderton) as well as reliables like Harry Andrews. Of the young cast David Hemmings (rather in the background here) would two years later personify the 60s when chosen by Antonioni for his lead in BLOWUP. Jane Merrow (Hemmings' girlfriend of the time, and a replacement for Julie Christie who was doing BILLY LIAR) is perfect as Nicola the rich girl whom Reed falls for but she plays the game better than he does. I got to meet her myself once ...
Winner of course may be rather a figure of fun now, one forgets that in the 60s before those DEATH WISHES etc his films caught the moment as well as any by Richard Lester, Losey, Schlesinger or the underrated Clive Donner, with titles like THE JOKERS and I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSHISNAME where Reed was meant to be his character from THE SYSTEM five years later.
In all its a perfect early 60s movie full of sounds and faces and the mood of that time before the 60s happened. For anyone interested in English cinema or remembers the era, its a real pleasure to see again 40+ years later !
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