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|Index||31 reviews in total|
This movie is a heck of a lot more relevant than more recent films
dealing with lesbianism -- the shallow, lame DESERT HEARTS
comes to mind. Though over two hours long, TKOSG held me with
little effort. The action moved freely from the studio to the
apartment to the pub. And the seduction scene was totally erotic
and ... well ... never mind. Was this particular scene overly long?
Only to a generation raised on sex scenes which rarely last as
long as it takes to cook a three-minute egg. Explicit? Grow up!
And the performances ... wow! I had no problem with the hold George had over Childie, with Beryl Reid's superior portrayal complemented perfectly by Susannah York's fragile and, at the same time, forceful Childie. I must admit, York was a bit over the top in the beginning, but I wouldn't say that if I didn't count her as one of my all-time favorite actresses. And how about Coral Browne -- she was sensational! Sublty menacing, eerily sensuous -- and when I realized this was the same woman from AUNTIE MAME and LYLA CLARE, well, I nearly fell off my chair. I love this lady!
Anyone who likes gritty, clever, slightly comical drama should see this one. The plot is simple enough - an alcoholic gay actress worried about her future in a top Coronation Street-style soap opera - but the way the film is put together is pithy without being too complex - the characterisations are brilliantly satirical, showing up the worst side of the soap opera industry and its catty, backstabbing nature. You don't find yourself feeling sorry for anyone at the end of it apart from perhaps Susannah York. Lots of London-in-the-1960s location filming and familiar faces - I'm only surprised that John Le Mesurier doesn't appear in it. In a word - absorbing. Why don't they make them like this anymore?
Robert Aldrich is a director who rarely gets the attention he deserves. Ridiculously versatile he made the fascinating Film Noir 'Kiss Me Deadly', the gothic black comedy 'Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?', and the macho "tough guys on a mission" action classic 'The Dirty Dozen' to name just three in a long career. Just to emphasize that he could do just about anything, one of the first movies he made after 'The Dirty Dozen' was 'The Killing Of Sister George'. It's hard to imagine two more different movies! George is a very English picture about a much loved soap opera star (played by Beryl Reid) who has to juggle a career crisis with a complex lesbian relationship (her lover being played by Susanna York). Reid was well known to British audiences through her TV work, especially a couple of highly popular John Le Carre adaptations. Reid originated the Sister George role on the stage and she really makes the most of it in this movie. Her performance is terrific, hilariously bitchy and also very sad and pathetic. York is also good, and the lesbian subject matter must have been very shocking for the time. It may look a little dated now, but in context it is quite sensitively handled. There are some great actors in the supporting cast, most notably Coral Browne ('Theatre Of Blood') who plays a TV producer who has her eye on York. 'The Killing Of Sister George' deserves a bigger audience. I highly recommend it and hope that anyone who enjoys it looks further into the career of the Robert Aldrich, a seriously underrated film maker!
Beryl Reid gives a no-holds-barred performance as an aging lesbian actress who's already teetering on the edge when she gets word that her character in a TV soap opera is to be killed off. She takes out her frustrations on her childlike lover (Susannah York) and a production head (Coral Browne), the two of whom eventually become intimate on their own. The script-reading sequence had me howling with laughter, and Reid's non-stop barrage of put-downs, insults, wisecracks and other hateful remarks are acidly hilarious. A surprisingly realistic sex scene near the end is pretty graphic for its time (I almost felt like looking away) and we never learn much about Browne's icy character, but the final scene is gut-wrenching, as is the final line of dialogue. *** from ****
this is a showcase for some magnificent acting....it doesn't seem at all homophobic , but rather immensely poignant and sad...and in what other film do you get to see a great lesbian band in matching sweaters and guitars (good solo!) Difficult at the beginning, just seems shallow and bitchy, but stick with it and watch Beryl Reid's character disintegrate....the final scene reminded me of "The Blue Angel" or "The Entertainer" in its shattering degradation...congrats to Aldrich for having the guts to make this movie, I think it stands the test of time rather well. Coral Browne is also magnificent, and York holds her own. The lesbian bar scene is worth waiting for.
Am I the only one who finds it painfully touching that Robert Aldrich went from the biggest hit of his career--the almost woman-free DIRTY DOZEN--to the kind of movie he really wanted to make, i.e., a stagebound melodrama about an aging lesbian soap star's love for a demented nymphet? In its day, SISTER GEORGE was considered the ne plus ultra in coarse homophobia; critics saw the sweaty thumbprints of the Aldrich Touch on every girl-on-girl scene. (Does anyone now lambaste THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT for not being hardhitting docudrama?) In retrospect, the movie seems to me one of Aldrich's most affecting, with Coral Browne (December) and a teeny, teenaged Susannah York (May) grand-slamming this folie a deux to a fare-thee-well.
I don't give many movies 10/10, but this black comedy-drama gets my
vote, for fine acting, production values, and of course its place in
movie history in the frank portrayal of lesbian relationships.
Others have & will comment on the latter, so I'll point out some of the other aspects of this fine film. The combination of comedy with personal tragedy poses difficult problems both for the writer & director; here they both succeed brilliantly.
The three principals' performances are riveting. I particularly liked the ambiguity of Coral Brown's portrayal of Mercy Croft; watch her carefully in the tight closeups in the gay club, and notice how the down-turned mouth at times hides a hint of a self-satisfied smile.
The cinematography deserves special mention. The use of colour is beautiful; I was reminded of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", but it never steps over the line into unreality. On the contrary, the alleys of London, the TV studio and above all the stairs and corridor of the flat are supremely realistic. Most unusual is the use of chiaroscuro, the interplay of light-and-shadow, seldom seen outside of black & white films. In so many colour films the light appears to come from some amorphous omnidirectional source out of science fiction; great for lighting everything and everybody evenly, but unrealistic and DULL. Look at the shadows as Beryl Reid ('George') enters the apartment building and climbs the stairs, or in some of the bedroom scenes. Apart from its other many virtues, this movie held my attention as a fine piece of film-making.
All in all, a masterpiece; my one regret is that it was shown on TV in pan-and-scan. It IS now available in DVD - in several formats & regions - so I look forward to watching it again in its original form.
I did not see the stage play upon which this film is based (too young)
based on its own merits, this film surely deserves a closer
The central trio of performers (Reid, York, Browne) provide career "bests" and there are some amusing vignettes from the others (Fraser, in particular, as a truly odious soap actor).
The much-discussed sex scene is, by today's standards (and, it would seem, even those of the 1960s stage play), tame, but its real value as a display of the shift of power between the three central characters is very neatly worked through in the closing quarter.
The final five minutes of (self-) destruction is heartbreaking, with excellent use made of the music track.
In short: miss it and miss out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) plays a character named Sister George on a
popular TV show. She gets word that her character is going to be killed
and panics. She is also a lesbian and her relationship with her lover
(Susannah York) is falling apart. Network executive Mercy Croft (Coral
Browne) tries to help her...or does she?
This movie has problems--it's way too long (almost 2 1/2 hours), has unlikable characters and is pretty depressing. Still it's very well-directed (I love the way the opening credits are done) and has three great performances. Reid had already been in the play on stage so she pretty much knew what she was doing. She's just great--you see her anger but also sympathize with her. York is very good as her lover. Browne is just superb as Mercy Croft.
SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!!!! This was (for its time) pretty extreme. It was seen as a lesbian movie. In my opinion it really isn't. It's about an older woman whose behavior and attitude ends up destroying her. She just happens to be a lesbian. Still this was pretty raw for 1968. They shot the bar scenes in an actual lesbian bar in England and there was a sexual seduction in the movie that wasn't in the play. It's when Browne and York get together. York hated doing that scene and it shows. This got slapped with an X rating originally just for the subject matter alone. Director Robert Aldrich fought against that rating for years--he thought it deserved an R. It was re rated to an R in 1972.
I remember it played here in Boston for months on end. Lines were around the block every night despite the rating. Still it was only a modest hit and quickly was forgotten. The stigma of the X rating still haunts this film which is too bad. No great masterpiece but worth seeing for the great acting by the three leads.
Seeing Beryl Reid mouth silently a four-letter swear word when such
things didn't happen in films and drunkenly canoodling with two young
nuns in the back of a London cab is both quite outstanding and rather
Miss Reid, who I only got to see in my childhood as a twee, granny-like innocent (the sort that she plays for real in a TV serial as Sister George, a homely district nurse), I found The Killing Of... both delicious and ever astounding in its frankness and of her rather warped relationship with the much younger Susannah York.
Warped, not because of the age difference, nor of their same-sex partnership, but because June Buckridge (Reid) has a cruel streak that is borne out by her playing sadistic mind games with Alice "Childie" (York).
Sister George, in the best tradition of TV soaps, is being killed off, to make way for an Australian replacement. Hence June's venomous outpourings and increasingly erratic behaviour.
Equally interesting is the London of the late '60s, both in its landmarks but also its people and fashions, whether that's in how they live and/or how they dress and present themselves.
Though real soaps cover such material freely and openly these days, 42 years ago, it must have been a very different kettle of fish. Lesbianism back in those days was not only considered immoral but also a mental aberration and had to be so hidden, in an attempt to prove to those 'righteous' souls that it did not exist. Therefore, it must have been a very brave undertaking as a film, though it originated as a play, written by Frank Marcus.
Having now seen it again, I consider Robert Aldrich's ground-breaking film to be a bit of a classic and one, which, no doubt I'll want to see again in a few years time. It really is a piece of British cinematic history.
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