Serious Charge (1959) Poster

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Surprisingly Frank
robertconnor25 August 2005
An unmarried vicar in a new parish (Quayle) accuses a local 19 year old of being partially responsible for the death of a teenage girl. In defiance, the young man claims the vicar molested him. Out of spite, his story is backed up by a local woman (Churchill) still furious that the vicar rejected her advances. Unfortunately for the vicar, the woman is a highly respected member of the community - her father is the previous clergyman.

Given that this film was released in 1959, its subject matter is pretty ground-breaking, especially for a British film. Yes, the depiction of disaffected youth hanging around coffee bars, breaking into swimming pools and grooving to Cliff Richard's Livin' Doll is a little clumsy (Richard is asked to do little in a secondary role other than sulk or croon), but in an era when folks weren't supposed to know about homosexuality (at least in the movies), this is quite a daring story, and occasionally quite subversive. We the audience are ever so slightly encouraged to wonder about Quayle's sexuality as he spurns the advances of a good churchy woman, seems oblivious to his sexy young French maid (!) and looks up to his strident mother (a wonderfully knowing performance by Irene Browne). Judith Furse's probation officer is also deliciously ambiguous...

So quite a grown up film then - a shame that these days it's probably only known for being Cliff's debut film.
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A Minor Gem
gary-44431 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A bold topic, confidently handled for the era. The plot essentially unfolds around an unmarried vicar,Howard Phillips, played by Anthony Quayle,who falls foul of a local tearaway youth who maliciously claims to have been sexually assaulted by the Churchman. Terence Young, with dozens of Directing credits behind him, crams quite a lot into 87 minutes.

Set in 1959 suburban London, Quayle's ambiguous reserve initially hints at latent homosexuality as the attractions of his young maid, and the lure of his female suitor,Hester Peters, played by Sarah Churchill,who tries to get him into bed, are spurned. His work with the local youth provides a window into Cafe culture and affords Cliff Richard his screen debut performing "Livin' Doll" in a neatly conceived scene.The portrayal of rebellious youth seems a bit twee by modern standards but the mob turning on the innocent vicar is rawly depicted.

The conniving youth who frames the Vicar,Larry Thompson played by Andrew Ray, is a foppish character increasing the sexual ambivalence of the piece. Hester eventually resolves to ensnare Thompson with her own honey trap in a mock seduction scene which then turns into one of sexual violence.

Solidly plotted, and proceeding at a brisk pace, Young went on to Direct two early Bond titles, "Dr No" and "From Russia With Love". The supporting cast unfailingly shine in a brave, successful, production.
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Has anything really changed since 1959?
Revnick2 March 2006
I have only just seen this film on an obscure satellite channel. Way ahead of its time. It would not be out of place if it were remade today (without the awful version of "Livin' Doll"!) Does anyone know who played the youths in the film (apart from Cliff Richard and Andrew Ray) One looked like Nanette Newman and another like Bryan Forbes but they are not mentioned on this site. If it is them perhaps this film is where they met and fell in love.

One thing that struck me as I watched the film is that 46 years on nothing has changed, at least not for the better. A sad indictment on our society.
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Good Anthony Quayle b-movie
Malcolm Parker21 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Celebrated as Cliff Richard's debut film, and featuring a few of his songs (including a version of "Livin Doll" very different to the single release) this is certainly no Elvis-like film debut. In truth, Cliff is only a bit-part, playing a very youthful looking "Juvie" (that's juvenile delinquent in 50s social worker speak) in this although his understated performance is actually pretty good if you ignore the rather poorly segued musical numbers.

The plot, although touching on challenging issues like teenage pregnancy and predatory homosexuals, is fairly tepid but Anthony Quayle and Sarah Churchill along with a modest cast of familiar British stalwarts in the grown-up roles, all turn in convincing performances and do what they can to make it work. The "youths" are perhaps less convincing, and clumsy hip-talk, coupled with very lame thugs almost derail things in the thankfully brief group scenes.

Give it time though, ignore it's minor shortcomings and you'll enjoy a reasonable drama with the ex-prime ministers daughter as a most unexpected femme fatale. Hey, and there's songs Daddy-O!
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Engrossing 'wrongfully accused' tale
Leofwine_draca19 August 2016
SERIOUS CHARGE is a social drama with a 'wrongfully accused' theme. It stars Anthony Quayle who gives an excellent performance as a crusading vicar trying to knock some sense into the local juvenile delinquents. Unfortunately he makes an enemy of a couple of people in the vicinity and when a false charge is lodged against him, the whole community immediately believes his guilt.

This is one of those films that feels ahead of its time despite being rather dated in look and feel. It's a rather genteel production at times, particularly in the depiction of the fun-loving delinquents, who do 'dangerous' things like breaking into a swimming pool at night for a swim. The one tension-filled moment with them is the stand-off with Quayle in the church. The film is also of interest for featuring a youthful Cliff Richard in his movie debut and yes, he gets to contribute a handful of songs on the soundtrack.

For the most part this is slow paced and engrossing. Quayle was always an underrated actor and doesn't put a foot wrong. I liked the way his sexuality is kept hidden from view so you never really know if he's homosexual or not, not that it really matters. Sarah Churchill is fine as the spurned and vengeful woman. There's a minor but strong role for Percy Herbert as the violent father of one of the thugs. The ending is rather predictable but the film as a whole hangs together quite nicely; it's a solid story, well told.
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Early British film highlighting homosexuality
a.lampert12 October 2015
Intriguing British drama about a priest, underplayed brilliantly by Anthony Quale, who also is a bit of a local football hero, tries to bring redemption to the local teddy boys, this being 1959, and appears to avoid women like the plague, the implication being, is he gay or not? It all comes to a head when the main thug, played by Andrew Ray, gets a girl pregnant, and after a tragic accident, is confronted by Quale who is then falsely accused of 'interferring' with Ray, a quaint 1950's way of saying he molested him. Sarah Churchill, who is perhaps a bit old for her role, she was in her mid 40's at the time, holds the key to his innocence in the matter and eventually it all plays out but we are left wondering still, was he supposed to be gay or not? I don't think we were meant to really know as it was 1959 and mainstream films only ever dropped hints back then. At one point, Percy Herbert, playing Andrew Ray's violent father says, ' We haven't got one of them in the parish have we?'. Apparently back then, it was alright to beat the hell out of your son with a strap, backed up by the local copper, but not to be gay, clearly a despicable state of being then. Nevertheless, very interesting to compare how things have changed, and I do remember when people thought like this, but best of all, a wonderful performance by Anthony Quale who hold the film together with some otherwise dodgy performances, like Cliff Richard's first acting role.
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Reflects attitudes of the era.
malcolmgsw26 September 2015
Anthony Quayle plays a vicar who somehow manages to combine the role of vicar of a parish and professional footballer.He never seems to be doing any training.The fact that he is not married concerns his mother.She encourages a rather past it Sarah Churchill to make a pass at him.Meantime Quayle seems to have his hands full trying to run a youth club for which he really seems to have no aptitude or empathy whatsoever.He seems to make more enemies than friends.His troubles only begin when he rebuffs the advances made to him by Churchill.From thereon it is all downhill for him.Interesting film which preserves the attitudes of the time.Also little is directly said about the sexuality of Quayle' s character.
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