Perfect Friday (1970)
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Peter Hall and Stanley Baker, director and star respectively, are in pot-boiler mode for this unassuming little British crime thriller. Made in the year that the swinging sixties ended and The Beatles split, the project retains a distinct whiff of 'groovy' hangover, but lacks the charm of (say) 'The Italian Job'.
Hall directs with trendy panache, crash-cutting between locations and playfully chopping the time sequence. The protracted 'wooing' of the two accomplices is told as two discrete stories spliced together by jump-cuts, with almost stream-of-consciousness linkage (Graham's tie is commented upon, so we move without explanation to the circumstances in whih he acquired it). Similarly, Graham meets Britt for a date in broad daylight on the lawn of the Wellington Monument, then the action jumps to Britt in a flamboyant orange negligee. Again, Britt 'unfreezes' from a still frame, frantically pulling off her clothes in the lobby of the new flat, and it is several minutes before this is explained, in a sequence which shows Britt's activities leading up to the freeze-frame.
Ursula Andress plays Britt, the frivolous babe, with a certain feline grace and a penchant for gentle comedy, but one cannot help suspecting that the part was written with Britt Ekland in mind. David Warner as Nick is suitably by turns languid and unruly, and dominates the vault inspection scene impressively, but ultimately fails to endear himself to the viewer. Baker's "Mr. Graham" somehow doesn't come off. He is too overtly macho to be convincing as a meek bank employee, and too sullen to engage our sympathy.
However, this is not a film which relies on overblown acting performances. The precise, almost mechanical directing reflects the immaculate planning of Graham's bank robbery. Just as the meticulous scheme is more important than the three pieces of human flotsam who execute it, so the artifice of film-making takes precedence over the performances.
The stifling routine of life in the National Metropolitan Bank is cleverly conveyed, with the managers partitioned like so many rabbits in their glass hutches. Into Graham's arid, stifled existence comes Britt, Lady Dorset, an exotic bird of paradise who dangles temptation before his jaded eyes. Graham's meeting with Nick is a chiaroscuro tour de force, the sombre patterns of bars and grilles ominously signalling the riskiness of the venture. When the three plotters finally meet face to face on the Thames pleasure cruiser, the psychological impact of the moment is cleverly underlined by the group's sudden emergence from the shadow of Westminster Bridge.
There has to be tension in bank job movies, and it is skilfully handled in this one. Graham hooks up a secret telephone handset in his office as Nick and Britt await the call which will activate the robbery. There is no incidental music, just the ticking of the couple's stopwatch and some background noises of office routine, and yet the sequence is totally gripping. The nervousness of Graham in the public call box is 'carried' to his accomplices in the nearby flat by means of a passing police siren, heard first by Graham and then by the others. The silence is electrifying as Graham helplessly awaits the outcome of the vault inspection.
Not all of the directorial tricks come off. Whether the bank manager's bowler hat and brolly are 'hommage' towards Alec Guinness in "The Lavender Hill Mob" or the clumsy, ritualistic anti-Establishment jibe so typical of the era, it just doesn't work. The reality is, bank managers did not dress like this, even in 1970, and whereas Guinness was a 'natural' in a bowler, Baker looks extremely uncomfortable.
Some of the camera techniques are questionable. The distracting zoom-in on each manager's namecard is obtrusive and unnecessary. The odd angles for the first dialogue between Graham and Britt are an echo of the 'fab' style current five years earlier, and they look wrong here. In fairness, though, the strange angles during the paper-and bank-notes switch may have some merit as a satirical comment on the worth of money. Cutting away from Graham's picnic to a passing jumbo jet (a sexy innovation in 1970) is supposed to encapsulate Graham's fantasies of escape, but it merely looks clumsy.
This film has its merits, and is intelligently executed on the whole, but ultimately it feels rather shallow and unsatisfying, an impression that is symbolised by the unconvincing 'surprise' ending.
David Warner's performance as Lord Dorset could stand as a classic reason why hereditary peers of the realm were phased out of seats in the House of Lords, especially when he dozes during a session in parliament. Dorset is supercilious, indolent and broke, but is married to a hot foreign body, Lady Brit (Ursula Andress).
Good as Stanley Baker and David Warner are, it's Ursula Andress who gives the film its sparkle. This is the kind of role that was made for her, a femme fatale with a touch of wit. Her voice was dubbed in some of her roles before this, including "Dr No", but her strong accent works well here.
According to Wikipedia she appeared nude or semi-nude in 9 of her 14 film roles between 1969 and 1979 - "Perfect Friday" is one of them - when she is on screen she upstages her two co-stars at every turn, and they hardly stand a chance against her in the bedroom.
It's also fascinating to see the world they inhabit - it's 1970 and there isn't a desktop computer or mobile phone in site. The caper they commit would probably be very difficult today with things like biometric security with fingerprint, iris and DNA scanners - not to mention vein recognition. These days Lord Dorset's disguise in "Perfect Friday" would fail from about the time he closed the door of his flat to head to the bank. But that's now, and the scam they pull off back then is clever and reasonably plausible.
If I have one reservation it would be the music. John Dankworth scored many films around the 60's and 70's, and for the most part they fitted like a glove - I particular liked his "Return from the Ashes". Unfortunately, he was a little over emphatic and obvious here. It's as though he thought it's a comedy so a touch of the circus should be about right. It would have benefited from something a little more understated.
However, it doesn't ruin the movie, and Stanley Baker was rightly proud of the finished work. As far as caper films are concerned, "Perfect Friday" is just about perfect.
Stanley Baker, in his last film performance, plays a tired, jaded under manager in a bank he's worked at for the past ten thousand years. He longs to escape the futile tedium of work, but is, on the surface at least resigned (and apparently content) to working out his days in a gold fishbowl office where his superiors can see him but he can't see them.
'I'm poor and broke' he sighs as he neatly summarises his attitude to 'work'. If we all have to do it (as most of us sadly do) we might as well acquire as much financial gain as we can. Very early on, it's clear that Baker's character is already painfully aware that he has gone as far as he is going to go, and that alternative action is required if he is not to give way to perpetual professional atrophy.
So, in comes Britt (can't think where they got that foreign sounding name or accent from, eh chaps). I disagree with some who say that Andress can't act. True, her range is limited, but so were those of luminaries like Bogart, so I feel it's a little unfair to admonish her professional credentials in this way. Also, let's not deny that there are worse things to clock within the cinematic pantheon that Andress's 'undress', and there's plenty of that here. I make this point from a purely 'cinematic' perspective, you understand.
True, the characters are all pretty unlikeable, Warner's in particular, yet it's interesting to see him turn from repellent upper class knob into Baker's whipping boy, mysteriously travelling up and down the country for no apparent reason. (What was THAT all about?) His gesture of defiance towards the end just comes across as toothless, when it's obvious to all who the real winner of the piece is going to be....
Anyway, not bad as it goes, but far from perfect. I always love films for this era (1969-72), just for the 'feel' of the piece, and the washed out yet oddly warm feel of the print itself. As one other reviewer said, there are still traces of 'swinging' London to be found here (in the feel of the film and knowing it was made in 1970), whereas by 1972, that eponymous decade had cinema well and truly contained within it's er' 'distinctive' sartorial grip. We're on the cusp here folks, and all the better for it.
Worth watching, but don't expect to remember it tomorrow.
As a person who values integrity, commitment and knows the reality of 'happy ever after', it's hardly surprising that a film about deceit, theft, greed and infidelity doesn't grab me. While Lady Britt is undoubtedly physically attractive and has the warmest personality of the three lead characters, she just ain't my kinda gal. OK, I'm taking it all far too seriously, but my greatest enjoyment comes from entertainment that leaves me with a feeling of warmth, and a hope for the future for the principal characters. The most distasteful aspect of this movie for me were a couple of nasty blasphemies - bang went three of the ten stars straight away!
Altogether, an amusing and interesting film with a good plot that was cleverly revealed, but (Sorry!) not really my cup of tea.
Looking absolutely gorgeous-in or out of her clothes- and it must be said she is treated very much as a sex object in places, she is seen fully frontal nude, while the men (admittedly pretty unattractive are kept under wraps, but you can't help seeing it as sexist and exploitative to a degree. But she is still funny and entertaining in this underrated movie.
Somewhat of it's time =swinging London etc, but nevertheless deserved to be seen more than it was.
Character A meets character B who introduces them to character C . They pull off a scam and it becomes a race for characters A, B and C to stab each other in the back
The only difference between PERFECT Friday and other heist movies is that this one is possibly the worst directed one of the lot . Watch the scene near the start when Britt is introduced to Mr Hall in the bank . There supposed to be facing each other but by some ridiculous editing it looks like they're talking to each other's backs when the camera cuts between them . I also couldn't help noticing the poor sound editing which makes every interior scene sound like it was filmed in an empty room regardless of the location
Even people who liked this movie mention Peter Hall's bizarre directing . I'm not mentioning it - I'm complaining about and helps make an already boring and unlikely story unwatchable , and I'm shocked that PERFECT Friday has an average user rating of 6.9