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Brimstone & Treacle
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Reviews & Ratings for
Brimstone & Treacle More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Very intriguing allegorical thriller

7/10
Author: capkronos (capkronos00@hotmail.com) from Ohio, USA
13 May 2003

Polite, mannered drifter Martin Taylor (Sting) charms his way into the home of Thomas Bates (Denholm Elliott), an outwardly upright publisher of religious text, his simple-minded, devout wife Norma (Joan Plowright) and their catatonic daughter Patricia (Suzanna Hamilton), whom he claims to know. Martin is allowed to stay in the home for a couple of days, cooks, cleans, "cares" for the daughter and tries to help the couple through their marital problems, but he's also the catalyst that forces some dark secrets out of the family closet.

Sting's character will either annoy or fascinate you as he exists solely as an enigma, representing angel or demon, or possibly both. Originally a play, this film never quite escapes the stage, but that only feeds into the claustrophobia of the stuffy household and guilt-ridden, lonely characters who inhabit it, and, all in all, it's an intriguing allegory on the nature of good and evil that has a lot to offer, including potent religious imagery, a knockout nightmare/fantasy sequence and a good score (plus songs by The Police) all driven home by excellent performances by the three leads and assured direction by Richard Loncraine.

Dennis Potter's script was previously filmed in 1976 for BBC (that version also starred the great Denholm Elliott).

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film and soundtrack

10/10
Author: Gerry Kissell from Georgia, USA
30 December 2000

Sting has, throughout his career, been involved in indie filmmaking. This was his second outing on film, his first being "Quadrophenia" by The Who.

With a passion towards dark humor, Sting involved himself in this remake of the teleplay that had also starred Denholm Elliot as Mr. Bates back in 1976.

"Brimstone and Treacle" is a modern gothic tale about the evil that men do and the price that must be paid to make things right. Also about how the actions of evil can still bring about an unintentional good.

The film also included an incredibly cool soundtrack of songs by The Go-Go's ("We've Got The Beat"), Squeeze ("Up The Junction"), The Police("How Stupid Mr Bates", "Only You", "A Kind of Loving" and "I Burn For You" and more...)and an irreverently stylish 1930's little diddy called "Spread A Little Happiness", was performed by Sting alone.

The song "I Burn For You" performed by The Police, unlike the later incarnation performed by Sting during his solo years, this original version has an almost funeral durge feel to it and adds to the dreamlike, if not nightmarish, quality of the film. This is not unlike the several other songs by The Police that make up most of the "Brimstone and Treacle" soundtrack.

If you have or have not seen the film, people who like the songs of The Police or just like the music from the 1980's, the film's soundtrack is something that should be added to your collection. And I do believe it is still available.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

"What she needs is love...lots of it!"

10/10
Author: Raegan Butcher from Rain City, Pacific Northwest
26 June 2006

I saw this when it was fresh on video and it is weird. Like TRACK 29 by Nicolas Roeg is weird. Both films have screenplays by the irrepressibly strange (God bless him) Dennis Potter; This one has 2 heavyweights of the British theater, Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright, and a thoroughly convincing STING as ...what? An evil sprite? The devil himself? watch it and try to come to your own conclusion; that is the pleasure of this odd little gem.

Richard Loncraine has style to burn and he fills the screen with expertly crafted compositions and he has a nice tendency to use slightly wide-angle lenses to make everyday objects take on a malevolent aspect; he knows how to shoot STING, in order to make him look sinister, that is for sure. Bravo.

Over the years I have shown this to many different people and it always captivates them and holds their attention from the first frame to the last. I would have to say this is my favorite of anything Dennis Potter has written to hit the cinema screens,so far. He is a difficult artist do do justice to, but BRIMSTONE & TREACLE delivers the goods,in spades. Its darkly funny and also thoroughly squirm-inducing in places. The acting is all first rate; Denholm Elliot is magnificent as the repressed and domineering husband; he projects a marvelous sense of twitchy hostility and discomfort; watching him agonize is one of the films strange pleasures. And Sting is fantastic. I think a lot of people here on the IMDb are being unfair to him because of his pop stardom, but I think he delivers an excellent performance, full of sly menace and sinister charm.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Brimstone & Treacle

8/10
Author: stang-creativitree from Maryland, United States
20 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a movie from 1982. Just bought it and thoroughly like it. It is a psychological thriller, which at some level is disturbing, but I found it interesting. The character Martin (Sting) approaches Tom Bates (D. Elliot)and tries to suggest they knew each other in an attempt to get closer to him and extract something, perhaps money. Mr. Bates abandons Martin in town, but later that evening Martin shows up as he has lifted the wallet of Mr. Bates, with his home address, money, credit cards. The money ends up "missing" and Martin portrays himself as the good samaritan to return the wallet. Mr. Bates doesn't trust Martin, but his wife, Norma, takes to the kindly young man who professes to know their sickly daughter, from Art School a few years earlier. Martin, the drifter, or perhaps an escapee from a mental institution, is seen as a devil but ultimately saves the family from its hidden secrets and releases all of them. Sting was great in the role of Martin, in my opinion, sometimes angel and sometimes demented. I looked up the meaning of Treacle in the dictionary - it is a remedy. So Martin ends up saving the family, he is the remedy to their nightmares. Interesting.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding, brilliant allegorical drama

9/10
Author: fertilecelluloid from Mountains of Madness
31 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Brilliant allegorical drama from writer Dennis Potter and director Richard Loncraine. It is the fascinating tale of a young man, Martin Taylor (Sting), who -- to quote Denholm Elliott, "may be the Devil himself" -- manipulates his way into the home and trust of an ageing, embittered couple (Elliott and Joan Plowright) who "live in the shadows" after their daughter is injured in an accident and rendered mute. In a suggestion of Taylor's origins, the smarmy slimeball emerges from a church in one early scene and behaves like he's being physically assaulted when the bells begin to toll. Although his actual origins remain ambiguous up until the explosive, surprising climax, Loncraine and Potter have lots of fun keeping us guessing.

The performances of all players are so good they're worthy of awards. It is thoroughly amusing to watch Sting ingratiate himself into Plowright's trust while Elliott fights with his natural distrust of strangers and occasionally blurts out his true feelings through a stiff upper lip. Suzanna Hamilton, as the disabled Patricia, communicates great inner torment and anger with limited resources of expression.

Potter's script, adapted from his play, is simply riveting. His uncanny ability to capture real language, behavior and see-sawing emotions is a joy to behold and draws us into a highly emotional, sometimes surreal drama. A stormy prayer sequence is a standout, as is an economically directed flashback sequence that reveals the cause of everybody's unease. A wicked, very English sexual undercurrent throbs beneath the polite surface of the drama, as does a pitch black vein of humor.

The music (Sting and Michael Nyman) sits perfectly in every scene, embellishing mood and tone, the cinematography of Peter Hannan is moody and striking, and Paul Green's sharp and inventive cutting is terrific.

Outstanding in every department.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing yet engrossing film

7/10
Author: tresdodge from London
16 September 2007

A middle class commuter belt couple Mr Bates (Denholm Elliot) and Mrs Bates (Joan Plowright) are duped into taking a charming young man Martin(Sting)into their house to help care for their catatonic daughter (Suzanna Hamilton). Martin claims to have been close to their daughter before an accident left her unable to communicate. As the film progresses the couple mistakenly start to trust Martin and dark family secrets are revealed.

Originally a stage play written by Dennis Potter the film is in turn engrossing, disturbing and claustrophobic. Denholm Elliot is as ever brilliant as the lonely and disturbed father figure, Sting puts in a good performance as a strange and demonic young man, Joan Plowright is very good as the maternal and naive housewife.

The two slight let downs for me were the music which I did'nt feel fitted in well with the film and the main fantasy sequence which did'nt stand the test of time well.

Other than that the film held my attention throughout, the direction by Richard Loncraine was extremely capable, all in all an intriguing and idiosyncratic piece which is well worth a watch.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Cult Movies 33

7/10
Author: Carlos Xavier from Australia
4 January 1999

33. BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE (thriller-drama, 1982) Martin (Sting) befriends middle-aged bookkeeper Tom (Denholm Elliott). Martin cons his way into his house by passing himself as friend to his daughter. Daughter Patricia has been left a mute and bedridden for 3 years after a mysterious car accident. Though Tom is suspicious of Martin's exact motives, his wife is beguiled by Martin's charm. But what they don't know is that Martin is sexually abusing their defenseless and disabled daughter.

Critique: Part fairy tale, part religious parable, this creepy, atmospheric film is highlighted by a wickedly perverse turn by Sting (lead singer of rock group 'The Police'). What makes his character such a bizarre figure is that his motives are unknown, his appetites unresolved.

I think Martin is just a thief, passing himself as anyone's friend just to have a place to stay. A sort of pickpocket. He's also a sexual deviant who doesn't mind how he gets it, either from an invalid or an old woman. The film portrays him as an avenging angel-type, brought into this deeply secular home as a purger of sins.

Interesting direction by Richard Loncraine (is this his film debut?) who works from a play adapted by Dennis Potter, whose own sexually dubious works are to be questioned.

'The Police', along with 'The Go-Gos' provided the 'hip' soundtrack.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Dennis Potter strikes again, striving to be a deranged literary cross between Charles Dickens and Joe Orton...

6/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
6 September 2011

British middle-agers with a handicapped daughter invite into their home a strange young man who holds a curious power over the family. Sting (then the lead singer and bassist of The Police) gives a commendable starring performance--his first lead--in this Dennis Potter concoction based upon Potter's own play (originally taped--and banned--by the BBC). Writing like a mischievous child, and aiming for lofty subtext and ironic turns of the screw, Potter doesn't always get the affects he's aiming for, but neither does he disappoint. Director Richard Loncraine doesn't struggle too noticeably getting this peculiar material off the dime (and out from the main set), and his build-up to the foregone conclusion is rife with interesting, twisted bits of business. Not a barn-burner by any means, but a handsome, calculated work in a minor, somewhat derivative key. **1/2 from ****

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Only You

Author: copeland-1 from Canada
21 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Though Sting was cooler as the Ace Face in the movie Quadraphenia, this film was certainly unique as it cast the 32-year old Sting in the role of the devil. The rape scene of Patty was disturbing to say the least but what do you expect from the devil? Most memorable is the soundtrack which I have yet to find on CD format. A notable track is "Only You" which features Jeff Seitz, Stewart Copeland's drum tech on drums. This track was also listed in the liner notes of the Police's '93 box set as being included in the 4-CD set but it wasn't! Nor was the instrumental "Light Changes" from their movie "Around the World" but I digress. Brimstone and Treacle was a dark film and spawned the video for one of its tracks, "Spread a Little Happiness". The video is bizarre as it features Sting in clerics serving tea to a bunch of church ladies. Yet at the very end of the video, he turns to look at the camera and his look is so demonic, so piercing that it actually gave me a fright. If you see the video, you'll understand.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not a pleasant film, but good music!

Author: helenandbrian from Hove, England
12 November 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Depending on your point of view, this is either an incredibly sick film or a classic piece of Filme Noire.

Basically, Sting is a strange, disturbed young man who at least believes himself to be the devil incarnate. He inveigles his way into the house of a middle-aged couple and their brain damaged daughter, persuades them to let him "babysit" and then rapes the comatose girl while they are out.

The characterisation is fairly well handled, as is the psychological aspect, but you can't help thinking that Dennis Potter was feeling rather more controversial than normal when he wrote it and that the director was exploiting the situation to get away with gratuitous, sadistic sex scenes masquerading as art.

Ultimately, this is a very disturbing film, but is at least head and shoulders above the "made for TV" play released a few years earlier.

The music on the other hand - by Sting himself (both solo and with The Police) - is much better fare. Simple production and a strange mix of styles, but at times it really captures the macabre mood down to a tee.

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