Bad Timing (1980)

X  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Thriller  |  25 October 1980 (USA)
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The setting is Vienna. A young American woman is brought to a hospital after overdosing on pills, apparently in a suicide attempt. A police detective suspects foul play on the part of her ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alex Linden
Inspector Netusil
Stefan Vognic
Daniel Massey ...
Foppish Man
Dana Gillespie ...
Amy Miller
Col. Taylor
Hospital Policeman
George Roubicek ...
Policeman #1
Stefan Gryff ...
Policeman #2
Sevilla Delofski ...
Czech Receptionist
Robert Walker ...
Gertan Klauber ...
Ambulance Man
Ania Marson ...
Dr. Schneider
Lex van Delden ...
Young Doctor


The setting is Vienna. A young American woman is brought to a hospital after overdosing on pills, apparently in a suicide attempt. A police detective suspects foul play on the part of her lover, an American psychology professor. As doctors try to save her life, the detective interrogates the professor, and through flashbacks we see the events leading up to the woman's overdose; her stormy and intensely sexual relationship with the professor, her heavy drinking and numerous affairs, and her estrangement from her Czech husband. A darkly erotic study of several rather unsympathetic characters. Written by Marty Cassady <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A possessive man . . . An independent lady . . . and a love that turns to tragedy. [Video Australia] See more »


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Release Date:

25 October 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bad Timing  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Theresa Russell and Nicolas Roeg fell in love during the shooting of the film. They later married, had two children and were later divorced. See more »


The U.S. Army Medical Corps Lieutenant Colonel, presumably a psychologist, has a full beard. This is a willfully gross violation of the appearance regulation, in or out of uniform, most especially for a commissioned officer. The film is set in 1979 (year shown in an appointment book). In that era, and for some years surrounding 1979, U.S. Army personnel were not allowed to have beards in any manner, shape or form. Sideburns could not extend below the ear opening and mustaches, which were allowed, could not extend vertically below the upper edge of the upper lip, nor horizontally beyond the opening of the mouth, making them very modest looking. The only case-by-case waiver exceptions in this era were Chaplain Branch clergy of specific religions, such as Sikh, that required their clergy to have beards as an integral part of their religious belief; a Medical Corps psychologist didn't fall under this, regardless of his religious beliefs. See more »


Milena Flaherty: I'm not ambitious, not an artist, not a poet, not a revolutionary.
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Referenced in Game On: Bad Timing (1995) See more »


Black Eyes
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User Reviews

A psychological journey with most of the milestones missing
8 October 2008 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

In the 1970s Nicolas Roeg had a reputation as something of an experimental avant-garde director whose style was noted for non-linear narrative, extensive cross-cutting involving the juxtaposition of contrasting images and a brooding sense of menace and foreboding. His first two films as sole director were both excellent ones, "Walkabout" from 1971 and "Don't Look Now" from 1973, but I have never cared for his third film, the overlong, confusing and self-consciously arty "The Man who Fell to Earth".

"Bad Timing", made in 1980, was Roeg's fourth film. The narrative is non-linear in the extreme. It opens with a young American woman, Milena Vognic, being rushed to hospital in Vienna after a drug overdose, probably a suicide attempt. In a series of flashbacks we learn about Milena's past- her marriage to her older Czech husband Stefan, from whom she is estranged (it is not made clear whether they are actually divorced), and her stormy relationship with her boyfriend Alex, an American-born lecturer at Vienna University. Intercut with these are scenes showing Milena lying in the hospital and showing Alex being interviewed by a detective who suspects him of foul play.

Roeg suffered the misfortune of seeing his film disowned by its distributor, the Rank Organisation, who denounced it as "a film about sick people, made by sick people, for sick people". (I say "misfortune", but I suspect that actually a lot of art-house directors would regard criticism like that as a badge of honour). What upset them was presumably the explicit sex scenes, although Rank really should have known what to expect from Roeg. He was, after all, the man responsible for "Don't Look Now", with its controversial love scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

In one respect, however, Rank's criticism is accurate; "Bad Timing" is indeed a film about "sick people". Milena and Alex are clearly, psychologically speaking, damaged goods. Their relationship is essentially a sadomasochistic one- not physical sadomasochism but a form of emotional sadomasochism involving both mutual desire and mutual loathing. The film can be seen as a psychological case-study; it is significant that psychology is the subject which Alex teaches, and also that the film is set in Vienna, the city of Freud.

I have nothing against non-linear narration in principle; it can often be an effective (sometimes the most effective) way of telling a story. It is, moreover, not necessarily a modernist or avant-garde idea. Those who think of it as an invention of the French "Nouvelle Vague" of the sixties should watch John Brahm's "The Locket" from 1946, a film with a particularly intricate "flashback within a flashback within a flashback" structure. (That film was also a psychological case study). In the case of "Bad Timing", however, the film's narrative structure makes it confusing and difficult to follow. Although it aims at a psychological study of the two main characters, we do not learn enough about them to enable us to understand them. I was left wanting to know more about the background to Milena's relationship with Alex (and, even more, about her rather mysterious relationship with Stefan). As the critic of "Variety" put it, most of the milestones are missing from the characters' tortuous psychological route.

Another criticism I would have would be the casting of Art Garfunkel as Alex. Much as I admire Garfunkel for his musical achievements, he was not, on the evidence of this film, much of an actor. Roeg clearly liked using rock stars in his films, because the leading role in "The Man who Fell to Earth" is taken by David Bowie, an equally unsuccessful piece of casting. (To be fair to Bowie, he was to give better performances in some of his later films).

The gorgeous Theresa Russell, who was later to become Roeg's wife, is better as Milena, and, as is often the case with Roeg, there are some striking visual touches. Overall, however, "Bad Timing" is the sort of experimental film which reminds us that not every experiment, whether in science or the arts, is a successful one. 4/10

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