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The Balcony (1963)

Not Rated | | Drama | 17 October 1963 (UK)
In a fictional country, the Madam of a brothel satisfies the erotic fantasies of her customers, while a revolution is sweeping the nation.


Joseph Strick


Bernard Frechtman (play), Jean Genet (play) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Shelley Winters ... Madame Irma
Peter Falk ... Police Chief
Lee Grant ... Carmen
Peter Brocco ... Judge
Joyce Jameson ... Penitent
Jeff Corey ... Bishop
Arnette Jens Arnette Jens ... Horse
Ruby Dee ... Thief
Leonard Nimoy ... Roger
Kent Smith ... General


Shelley Winters is the madame of a house where customers play out their erotic fantasies, oblivious to a revolution which is sweeping the country. When her old friend, the chief of police (Peter Falk), asks her to impersonate the missing queen in order to reassure the people and halt the revolution, she offers instead three of her customers to play the general, bishop and chief justice, all of whom have died in the revolution. Written by bajac

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Meet Madam Irma and her girls from the House of Illusion ... they make men live their wildest dreams ! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

17 October 1963 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

El balcón See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Although initially refused a UK cinema certificate by censor John Trevelyan the film was passed uncut after successful showings by local council authorities. See more »


Madame Irma: You can all go home now. To your own homes, your own beds. Where you can be sure everything will be even falser than it is here. Go on!
See more »


Featured in For the Love of Spock (2016) See more »


The Soldier's Tale
Composed by Igor Stravinsky
Conducted by Robert Craft
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User Reviews

We are all naked under our clothes.
23 September 2004 | by film-criticSee all my reviews

The Balcony is not just an ordinary extension to your house ... in this film it is a place where mortal men go to live out their fantasies. It is a modern day dream castle, where men can escape from the hardships of the real world and act out lives of important people that they may never have the opportunity of becoming. I use the word men for a reason in this review, because the "Balcony" is a brothel. It is a place where men go to fulfill not just their sexual fantasies, but also their dreams. If one wants to become the Bishop; he can go to the "Balcony" and demand that women tell him their sins. If one wants to become the strongest General in the English army with a trusty steed by his side all that he needs to do is go to the "Balcony" and a woman will become his sidekick. There is even a place for men to become Justices of the Supreme Court; carrying out sentences to the women that they hire. Rooted with deep political and sexual undertones, this black comedy digs deep into your soul and your mind. Adapted by the play by Jean Genet, we watch as three men live out their fantasies as their troubled country is rocked right outside the doors by a gang of rebels.

With the revolution happening outside, the business has been tough, but the ladies seem to be surviving. Everyone is happy, until Peter Falk enters the scene. He plays the police chief who is trying to bring the rebels outside to justice. He is also the man who is dating the owner of the brothel played by Shelly Winters. He does not know how to bring the rebels to justice and keep the moral of the people and troops together when the Bishop, General, and Justice have all been murdered. Then he finds his answer in the least of places. He gets the women of the brothel to ask the three men to become stand-ins for the actual leaders of the country. After much persuasion, they say "yes" and begin their voyage outside into the "real world" wearing the masks of their fantasies. At first they succeed, but soon the power reaches even these imposters as they begin to change the rules in their positions. As relations begin to heat up again, a surprise twist shows us that role-play can happen in the most common places.

Director Joseph Strick takes on quite a daunting task with his film adaptation. The Balcony is very racy at times and definitely pushes the envelope, but it is the film's subtle humor that keeps it from becoming all too serious. The wild fantasies played out inside the Balcony are turned into something that can put an end to the violent revolution. While the film is mainly comedic, there are metaphors abound. The brothel itself becomes the main symbol of an unruly, but acceptable, community where morals and standards are nowhere to be found.

The violence outside its doors mirrors the activity in the brothel. It seemingly tells us that without standards anything can happen and be accepted. The brothel may even come out on top, as the madam says, "We don't allow death in here." I felt as I watched it that I was watching a film that had been made this year. The dark themes, the powerful images, and even the switching ending are all issues that Hollywood uses in everyday film today. It is not something that you see in 1963 (when this film was made). I applaud this film for taking chances, and while it isn't the greatest film out there, it should gain respect with the deeply rooted symbolism that it carries. I especially loved the ending. Look to see an interesting 'side' of Nimoy and Falk. This film also explores the issue that we may carry the clothes of power, but without them ... without anything on our backs ... we are just the same as the next man or woman. We are all human.

I also enjoyed the idea of throwing standards to the wayside. That is the major theme of this film. Without standards, you have the violence that happened outside of the "Balcony" ... without standards you have people imagining worlds that do not exist, living lives that they have not earned, and not caring about consequences just people's reaction to themselves. This is obvious when the three unknowns head out onto the city to bring peace, God, and justice to the unknowing people. They do not care that they do not have the training for this power, all they care about being able to feel like they have the power if only for just one moment.

Overall, this film was a scary and interesting when you begin to think about it on a different level than just a comedy. This movie will rank as one of the oddest films I have ever watched in my film career, but one that will remain in my mind forever.

Grade: **** out of *****

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