Scandal (1989) Poster

(1989)

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Surprising and moving
LewisJForce18 October 2005
I saw this for the first time last night on Channel 4. I've never sought out the film before because I assumed that it would be an uninvolved telling of an uninteresting piece of British history. I was wrong.

The piece works on several levels, as they say. First, the period evocation is excellent. I became interested in this era after reading an interesting book on slum landlord Peter Rachmann a few years back (he is a minor character here). Christine Keeler was a figure who inhabited both the pot and ska parties of London's impoverished immigrant community and the bedrooms of the most powerful men in the land, and this breadth and contrast gives the film sufficient scope to successfully capture the energy and feel of the time.

Second, the handling of character development is exemplary. The film surprises you by gradually shading in the relationship between Keeler and Stephen Ward, until their completely believable 'love affair' becomes the focus in the moving finale. Joanne Whalley and John Hurt are both exceptional as Keeler and Ward, turning in subtle and detailed performances. These characters are contradictory and ambiguous, the kind of complex human beings who could quite easily be reduced to type by lesser actors.

Third, the film is made with real heart and intelligence. It is sympathetic to its characters and it strives to understand them, and thus help us to understand them. The director, Michael Caton-Jones frames and cuts with brilliant understatement, making potent and witty use of contemporary music throughout. I really didn't expect the seamless technique and low-key accretion of detail employed here, and it kept me fascinated.

The tone of the picture is just right. A kind of compassionate sadness. We come to feel the real injustice of the moral and social hypocrisy bought to bear without being assaulted by it, and as noted before, the ending is powerful and affecting. It would appear that tabloid scumbags were as pernicious an influence then as they are now, and the observations thereon are as relevant as ever.

If I had to find fault with the film, it would be this: Ian McKellen models perhaps the least convincing bald pate in the history of cinema as John Profumo. So much so, that, for me, it impacts negatively on his otherwise notable performance. Its a minor flaw all told.

I was surprised. I was impressed. I was moved. If you happen upon the film, sit down and watch it. You will be rewarded.
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9/10
Much ado about nothing, well done
paul2001sw-122 October 2005
Viewed from the 21st century, the Profumo affair seems much ado about nothing, a sex scandal of an altogether more innocent age. Put to one side the marginal security issues, and all that is left is a bit of bad behaviour among the aristocracy, and to be frank, if you choose not to shoot these people, you can't really expect for anything more. It did leave one serious casualty, however: Stephen Ward, procurer of girls to the upper classes, who committed suicide after being abandoned by his friends when the going got tough. 'Scandal' tells his story, and manages to be reasonably sympathetic to Ward, Christine Keeler (the girl who slept with Profumo) and even (to some extent) the minister, although the facts don't quite seem to support the continuing strength of the bond between Ward and Keeler as depicted. The portrait of the early 1960s is well judged (without the film ever feeling overly historical), and there are interesting insights into the semi-professional sexual relationships between the smart set and the girls on the make they adopted. But the best thing about 'Scandal' is really the acting. A distinguished array of British character actors perform their turns impeccably; and Joanne Whalley, while never quite looking eighteen, is a dead ringer for Keeler and always nice to look at. But in his own way, John Hurt (who plays Ward) is also great to look at, in his case because of his straightforward excellence as an actor. In his hands, Ward is an essentially mediocre man; and yet charming, far from wicked and ultimately tragic. In some senses, the whole affair provided a template for the subsequent portrayal of the private lives of politicians by the press, to the extent that today it would hardly make the waves that it did at the time. But this film goes far beyond historical reconstruction, and is well worth watching in spite of the relative triviality of the events is portrays.
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6/10
Turgid but clever
occupant-125 October 2001
This is one of the better contemporary fictionalizations of historical events, though it suffers from lack of exposition. Here's the history that you need to follow events: John Profumo, England's Minister of Defence (equivalent to the US Defense Secretary) was introduced to party girls (like Christine Keeler) by popular osteopath Stephen Ward. But unlike some upper-crust friends of Ward, Profumo had more to lose. When it got out that Keeler had dated a Soviet Navy attache at about the same time as she dated the married Profumo, British tabloids had a field day noting that there were national security concerns atop the infidelity problem. One reason folks in the US have difficulty with this issue is that the story was overshadowed in the States by the almost simultaneous Cuban Missle Crisis.

The great soundtrack's now been out on CD for a few years; the theme was produced by the Pet Shop Boys and sung by authentic 60's icon Dusty Springfield. All other songs chosen charted during the early 60's, giving the film the ring of authenticity. And due possibly to legal problems, the original performance of Chubby Checker's THE TWIST couldn't be used, so Checker re-recorded it for this film. This newer, punchy 1989 version is the one used today behind Pantene shampoo commercials.
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Excellent representation of the times and facts.
Yuri-822 July 1999
I've read the book that the movie is based on (a collection of reports on the 1963 affair that shook the UK politics). I must say that the movie is very accurate in its portrayal of the times and facts of the case.

That of course would not have made it the film to watch. So it has a lot of nudity to spice things up (man, the sixties were a decadent time!), good acting, and brilliant soundtrack of theme songs just recreates the times for you. John Hurt as the ambitious 'doctor' is excellent, as is Bridget Fonda. Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, who played the protagonist, Christine Keeler, is quite forgettable though.

I highly recommend this movie, but beware it's a STRONG "R" film.
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7/10
More Than Just a History Lesson
aimless-4615 November 2006
If "Scandal" (1989) was not a fairly accurate recounting of Britain's John Profumo Affair, the characters and events would be too weird to be considered plausible fiction. Defense Minister Profumo's attempt to refute allegations of his involvement with Christine Keeler ultimately brought down the 10 year Conservative Party government back in the mid-1960's. "Scandal recreates these events and gives the viewer a glimpse into the personalities and possible motives of the main players in this political soap opera.

But recreating history is a secondary consideration in this film whose theme is about individuals who live in a fairy tale world until they fall victim to the grim forces that take life more seriously. The main player is Stephen Ward (John Hurt), a osteopath and recreational artist whose main goal is to be part of the right crowd, not so much immersed in this kind of society as in a position to observe it closely for his amusement. His method for doing so involves discovering ravishing young women from the poor side of town and doing a Henry Higgins number on them. The film begins with his discovery of Keeler (Joanne Whalley) who he begins grooming and introducing to prominent members of his in-crowd.

The two soon fall in love, but theirs is not a physical relationship. Stephen delights in seeing his protégé work her magic on men in authority. This eventually leads to their doom, since no one quite understands such an unconventional relationship they have no credibility when an attempt is made to make Stephen a scapegoat for the government scandal.

In retrospect the process of attacking Ward to contain the widening scandal was one of the two most shameful abuses of the judicial system in post war Britain. Coincidentally Hurt played the victim in the other one as well; "10 Rillington Place" (1971), in which Hurt is wrongly executed for a murder committed by his landlord, the now notorious serial killer John Christie.

"Scandal" is a powerful and arresting film with solid performances. Whalley has the biggest role and is a bit too intelligent looking to be completely believable as a character like Keeler. But she is so nice to look at that almost anyone would willingly trade credibility for scenery-and she is otherwise entirely convincing in an excellent performance. I first noticed her in "Willow", the film she made just before "Scandal". She had a secondary part but her scenes were the most memorable in the entire film. Hurt somehow sells you on the fact that his character derives an innocent joy from simply seeing a beautiful young woman walking down the street on a nice day.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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10/10
Where's the British DVD of this classic film!!!!????
powderblue18 October 2005
I wont go into detail regarding the plot however the film is based on actual events in the early 1960's regarding the illicit affair of war minister Jack Profumo and teenage party-girl Christine Keeler..I watched the film last night on British TV and was fortunate to see the longer 114 minute version..with more substance added to the scenes between Christine and Mandy-Rice Davies and longer speeches from other characters including the police man interrogating Christine...this fleshed out version was much better than the video version i saw years ago..the feel and look of the film is stunning..soundtrack excellent..and the performances very moving and under-rated..it amazes me that Joanne Whalley hasn't done more work since this film..she is wonderfully seductive and naive as Christine,and Bridget Fonda is cunning and striking as Mandy-Rice Davies..and off course John Hurt turns in yet another incredible performance!..One Question...WHY HAS'NT THIS BRILLIANT AND CLASSIC FILM BEEN RELEASED ON DVD IN THE U.K..and yet it has in America!??
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8/10
So this is what it was all about.
loza-115 August 2005
I remember the names of the people involved when I was a kid. I had no idea what the Profumo Affair was all about, so I was very interested in seeing the film. Names from my childhood kept cropping up: Christine Keeler, Stephen Ward, Lucky Gordon. I was able to see the whole thing played out before me. Most of what is shown is historically accurate. It is certainly true that the osteopath Stephen Ward was hounded to his death by the British establishment.

Of the performances John Hurt was excellent as Ward. Joanne Whalley Kilmer has been criticised for a two dimensional performance. I don't agree. She had decided to play the part of someone who is essentially shallow (however deep the real Christine Keeler might or might not be) and makes a fair fist of it. I thought that Roland Gift was OK as Johnny edgecombe - although at the time I thought he was supposed to be Lucky Gordon.I thought that Leslie Philips was going to be a disaster as Lord Astor, but he was excellent.

The problem of having lived through the period is that when it is portrayed on film, you can see all the mistakes in fashions and background. This film is no exception.

The music is quite apt - in one case (see below) spot on - and I thought that the truly appalling rendition of "She Wears Red Feathers" in the night club scene was very atmospheric.

Someone else pointed out the scene as the girls are dressing while The Shadows play "Apache." That scene stimulated me, too. If you can, watch this scene in a cinema. Watching stockings been drawn on on a big screen while Tony's bass drum, Cliff's Japanese drum, then Jet's bass come rolling out of those gigantic cinema speakers is an experience not to be missed - believe you me!
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7/10
The Good & The Bad Of 'Scandal'
ccthemovieman-120 July 2006
I didn't expect much out of this when I was saw it about 15 years ago, but it turned to be quite interesting. The only problem was it has too much a sleazy feel to it and an obvious political agenda, which is not unusual in films. The agenda is almost always one way.

There is a lot of nudity in here, lots of it mainly with Bridget Fonda who plays "Mandy Rice-Davies" and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as "Christine Keeler." Whalley-Kilmer looked particularly beautiful.

John Hurt as "Stephen Ward" and Ian McKellen "John Profumo" are the males. The story is about Britain's "Profumo Affar," as it was labeled back then - a sex scandal involving English politicians in the early 1960s.

In what could be a dry account turns out to be a fascinating movie, well-acted and beautifully-photographed. I've seen it three times and the third was probably the last. By then, the titillation of the nudity had worn off and the bias of yet another Liberal agenda bashing conservatives (it's same all over in the world of film-making) got a bit annoying. That, and the fact that had no English subtitles on the DVD, was disappointing.
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6/10
Nothing Has Been Proved...
natashabowiepinky13 September 2013
What seemed shocking in the 50's is almost commonplace in the debauched 21st Century, so to get a proper perspective on how controversial this was, one would probably have to have been alive during the period. In the absence of possessing a time machine though, one can only guess the outrage at the revelation that British MPs had secret sex parties and slept with prostitutes. WOW! If there is a similarity between now and then though, it's seems to be the determination of the tabloid press to publish as many lurid headlines as possible, regardless of how many lives they ruin. Vultures, the lot of 'em.

For such a saucy role, it's surprising that Joanne Whalley-Kilmer doesn't show much skin... Apart from the most obvious use of a body double ever. Never mind, her co-stars more than make up for it on that score, including a rather young Bridget Fonda, fumbling with an English accent. John Hurt and Ian Mckellen complete an impressive cast, who tackle their roles with gusto and make it an engaging ensemble piece.

I enjoyed it as an exposé of the morals and hypocrisies of a Britain on the verge of the Swinging Sixties, but was never truly engrossed. Nowadays, in a world where a woman can build a business empire based on one sex tape, you just know that everyone involved in this tawdry affair would be big reality TV stars. A sign of the times indeed. Sigh... 6/10
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9/10
The Scandal That Brought Down The British Government
timdalton00728 February 2011
More then thirty years before Monica Lewinsky nearly destroyed Bill Clinton's presidency, Christine Keeler brought down the sitting British government. Her affair with then Minister Of War John Profumo, the scandal that followed and the effect it had on those involved is the subject of Michael Caton-Jones' 1989 film Scandal. Caton-Jones, with the help of a first rate cast and script, brings to life the scandal that brought down the British government.

The film's cast is fantastic to say the least. Leading it is John Hurt as Osteopath/Playboy Stephen Ward and Joanne Whalley as the infamous Christine Keeler. Both are well cast, Whalley being a very good physical match for Keeler especially, and both give what seem to be honest performances as people who find themselves going from the time of the their lives to the worst moments of it. Right behind them are Bridget Fonda and Ian McKellen as the other two major players in the scandal: Mandy Rice-Davies and John Profumo respectively. The supporting cast includes Jeroen Krabbe as Soviet naval attaché Eugene Ivanov, Jean Alexander as Keeler's mother, Leslie Phillips as Bill aka Lord Astor and James Villiers as an MP. The cast is fantastic and helps to sell the realistic recreation of the scandal.

The realism is also helped by the production values as well. The production design of Simon Holland and the costumes of Jane Robinson bring to life the late 1950s-early 1960s world of the film from lurid clubs to country estates and the halls of government. Mike Molloy's cinematography is key to much of the film as it often gives the viewer a feeling of being a fly on the wall of the events taking place. There are moments also where it gives the viewer a feeling of what it must have been like as the scandal grows and the world closes around some of the characters. Angus Newton's editing helps that as well even though the film itself seems to be just a bit too long. All of this, under the superb direction of Caton-Jones makes the film's recreation of this world seemingly complete.

That wouldn't the case though without the script. Drawing from a number of different sources listed towards the end of the film's end credits, Scandal traces the journey from 1959 to 1963 as what starts out as Ward's attempt to introduce the beautiful, young Keeler to his friends in high places leads to a scandal that destroys the sitting British government. The script by Michael Thomas is more then just a simple accounting of the scandal though. It is a study of the different people involved in it and how, by accident more then design, then found themselves caught up in it. Scandal takes the viewer into a world of sex, booze and above all else hypocrisy. This is no better illustrated then in a scene early in the film where a group (including Ward and Keeler) are in a nightclub, surrounded by scantily clad women, celebrating the victory of the Conservative government in the 1959 UK general election. The result is an eye opening journey into the human side of an infamous political scandal.

From its first rate cast, production values, direction and script Scandal is a fine example of history being brought to life on film. It is a journey into a world of sex, booze and hypocrisy that bred an infamous scandal that brought down a sitting British government almost fifty years ago. It is also a journey into the human cost of that scandal told in a way that is haunting, realistic and perhaps even truthful as well.
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5/10
The Profumo Affair.
AaronCapenBanner26 September 2013
Michael Caton Jones directs this account of the real life sex scandal involving Cabinet Minister John Profumo(Ian McKellen) & Russian spy Eugene Ivanov(Jeroen Krabbe) involved with former showgirls but now high society escorts played by Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda, that would result in a very public trial that wrecked careers and lives. John Hurt plays Dr. Stephen Ward, who introduced the two ladies to their decadent lifestyle, much to his later regret.

Well acted by its cast, and interesting to a point, but film is rarely that emotionally involving, and seems more interested in controversial sensationalism than anything else. Despite the excitement on screen, it may well leave you cold...
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8/10
Glorious and Moving
style-231 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The instrumental "Apache" is playing as Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) and Mandy Rice-Davies (Bridget Fonda) are dressing for a night at a *knocking shop*. The montage is pure early-Sixties erotica as these contrasting beauties are fastening their merry widows and applying their frosted lipstick, with the rolling rhythm of the music propelling the delectable visuals. Slipping into their party dresses, with a final command of, "Wet your lips," the girls are stunning, and all eyes are on them.

Cut to: rustling satin sheets and the ecstatic cooing and moaning of two women making very vocal love. The "ooohhhing" and "aaahhhing" is intense and limbs are flailing as the camera travels over the bed, settling on the faces of Christine and Mandy. A final unified sigh of orgasmic lust and the girls dissolve into uncontrollable laughter as their passion is revealed as a charade, and the camera pans to their catch of the evening, a very aroused matinée idol, who, unable to contain himself, blows a battle cry and swandives into bed with them. Steamy and hysterical, it is drop-dead stylish film-making, and only one dazzling segment of a brilliant film.
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10/10
When sex was a weapon
Vivkon14 September 2018
A classic story of how extra marital relationships can upend one's political career (read The Honey Trap, 1988). This story is based on the real Russian ties in British society and especially the House of Windsor. "Scandal" (1989) is a just snapshot into the breathtaking story of of Stirling Henry Nahum's photo album with pictures of of Royal family members involved in the Thursday club. This movie gives some hints to understanding sexual background of current political figures and possibly explains some mystery deaths around the Crown, for example, the Russian oligarch Berezovsky. It is fantastic how events in the past shed a light on events in the present.
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7/10
sex and politics in swinging London
mjneu5931 December 2010
The British have always enjoyed this kind of masochistic self-scrutiny, and what better wound to scratch than the notorious Profumo affair? The sex and treason scandal toppled England's conservative government in the early 1960s, and cost the life of at least one man: London doctor and celebrated freethinker Steven Ward, who enjoyed the heady, highbrow thrill of life in high places and understood how the quickest way into the corridors of power was through the pants of the men at the top. John Hurt manages to pull a sympathetic character out of the doctor's unsavory reputation, and freshman director Michael Caton-Jones recreates (with pitch-perfect sleaze) the boozy, lascivious mood of early '60s sex and politics. The details would have been compelling even without so much trendy visual overkill, but a little stylistic embellishment is to be expected in a film condensed to feature length from a proposed five-hour television miniseries. And although the script by Michael Thomas says nothing about power and privilege that isn't already common knowledge, it's nice to be reminded of the all-too human animal lurking just behind the typically English stiff upper lip.
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10/10
Excellent film throughout!
spenceclark21 March 2006
This film is an account of the Profumo affair involving Christine Keeler. I really enjoyed this film as it was well made and i also like John Hurt as an Actor. His role in this film was of Stephen Ward the "scapegoat" of the whole Affair and this film portrays it from his side well, he doesn't fail in this film either! Joanne Whalley-Kilmer has an uncanny likeness to the real Miss Keeler too and in some parts it was hard to tell them apart. There are real locations used throughout the film too i.e Lord Astors house and the great pool!!!! There are some saucier scenes in the uncut version but either version contains enough plot etc and i don't feel it spoils it if you are viewing a edited version.

This film is definitely well worth a look!
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6/10
Ho-Hum History Lesson
kenjha22 March 2011
In this retelling of the Profumo scandal of 1963, ministers of Britain's Conservative Party carry on affairs with exotic dancers. Despite the juicy subject matter, there isn't much of a plot to sustain interest. It's basically gold diggers Whalley-Kilmer and Fonda having a series of affairs with powerful men and then the downfall of the men. The film tends to meander, with incongruent scenes of Whalley-Kilmer's affairs with a couple of drug-dealing black men. Whalley-Kilmer is quite alluring, and it is not hard to believe that men would risk their careers for dalliances with her. Hurt is fine as a doctor who introduces the girls to the ministers.
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10/10
Overlooked
Chillihead112 June 2018
Important history, amazing soundtrack, brilliant actors. What's not to like.
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10/10
truly a gem
RavenGlamDVDCollector9 September 2017
I saw this back in the day. Of course back then, it was for reasons of the flesh on display. The past decade or so, I'm RavenGlamDVDCollector and looking to get all my old faves on DVD. I didn't really remember all that much. To cut a long story short, this time round, with myself as a much older guy, besides those wonderfully immortal words by Bridget Fonda, "well, he would, wouldn't he?" which I view as an all-time favorite, what really stands out in this movie, is the most amazing performance by John Hurt as Steven Ward.

Now, people, I DO NOT tend to go around praising actors. I very seldom do. I focus on actresses. That's what The Raven does.

So, take it from me, a compliment from me to a male actor must be about something astounding.

Believe me, John Hurt's performance in this movie is just exactly that. Astounding. Of all performances in my movies-on- DVD (view my list on my member's site) I would say the Raven- Oscar goes to John.

He brought me to tears.

Need I say anything more?

So, the Profumo affair really was a storm in a tea-cup used to sell newspapers, but the collateral damage claimed a guy who was caught up in the middle of it, the likely scapegoat. A head had to roll, and there was this social gadfly who all could be dumped on. John gave a magnificent performance as Steven Ward, and I felt like I was watching helplessly.

It's years later, I haven't seen it in a long time, but the news of John Hurt's death early this year also kept the movie in mind.

Highly recommended. Highly indeed. This is a truly praise-worthy flick.

Do I think any of you would be misled by this review? If you want to see a movie about a real-life sex scandal, THIS IS THE ONE. If you want to see an award-worthy acting performance, JOHN HURT in SCANDAL.

Overlooked. People wouldn't look past the naughty bits.

John Hurt, I salute you. Respect! Awe!
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7/10
British Politician, Sex
JamesHitchcock2 December 2016
John Profumo, Minister of War in the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan, was forced to resign in 1963 when it was discovered that he had lied to the House of Commons about his affair with Christine Keeler, a model-cum-dancer-cum-general-good-time-girl. More than fifty years on, the Profumo Affair still remains Britain's most notorious political sex scandal. It even rated a mention ("British politician, sex") in Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". Other British politicians whose careers were ended or damaged by scandal- Tony Lambton, Jeremy Thorpe, Cecil Parkinson- are now largely forgotten figures. David Mellor remains in the public eye, but more as a radio personality than as an ex-politician, and few people today remember exactly why he was the subject of so much tabloid gossip in the early nineties.

Profumo's name, however, lives on, possibly because the affair in which he was involved may actually have altered the course of history. In the general election of October 1964 (the film wrongly gives the date as November) Macmillan's successor Alec Douglas-Home was very narrowly defeated by Labour's Harold Wilson. Had his party not been embroiled in a lurid scandal the previous year, Douglas-Home might well have stayed in power and British politics in the late sixties could have been very different.

In many ways the main character in the film is neither Profumo nor Keeler, but Stephen Ward, the man who first brought them together. Ward was, and still is, a controversial figure. I have never really bought into the theory that he was the innocent scapegoat of an Establishment frame-up, and I certainly would not agree with the reviewer who compared Ward with Timothy Evans. The comparison may have been suggested by the fact that both men were played by John Hurt (Evans in "Ten Rillington Place"), but the two cases were very different. Evans, who was hanged for a murder he did not commit, was the victim of an appalling miscarriage of justice. Ward, who committed suicide during his trial, may well have been guilty of the crime of which he was accused, living off the immoral earnings of a prostitute. (Keeler admitted accepting money from the men she slept with and then passing it to Ward; she always denied being a prostitute, but in the eyes of the law she probably was).

Even if Ward was technically innocent of the charge he was nevertheless a rather louche, sleazy character. The son of a clergyman, he worked as an osteopath, a profession which brought him a decent living, but nevertheless had a side-line as pimp to the British Establishment, organising orgies and assignments for high-class gentlemen with low-class morals, of whom Profumo was one. He assumed that his friends in high places would protect him from the law and that, if friendship proved insufficient, his power to blackmail his clients would do the trick. After Profumo's downfall and the disgrace of several other personalities in the wake of the scandal, however, there was nobody left to protect him and he no longer held any secrets which had not already been revealed. The Establishment had no need to frame an innocent man; they merely flung a guilty one to the wolves.

Both main female characters, Keeler and her friend and fellow good-time girl Mandy Rice-Davies, are played by actresses who seemed destined for stardom in the late eighties and early nineties, Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda. Neither really fulfilled their early promise, despite their good looks, Whalley's marriage to a major star (Val Kilmer) and Fonda's status as the heir to one of America's best-known acting dynasties. Fonda does not seem to have made any films since 2002, and although Whalley is still on the scene she does not really count as a big name these days.

Both, however, are very good here. Whalley plays Keeler with a beguiling mixture of seductiveness and feigned innocence. (She had what was probably an unusual experience for her, playing a woman who was more beautiful than she was; whatever else Keeler might have been she was a striking beauty and, had her name not been tarnished by the scandal, might have become one of Britain's leading models). Fonda's Rice-Davis is a brash and cheeky youngster, able to raise a laugh even in the formal setting of a courtroom with her famous line "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" when it was put to her that Lord Astor (an associate of Profumo) had denied sleeping with her. Fonda also copes well with the challenge of a British accent.

Hurt manages to raise a certain amount of sympathy, despite his obvious sleaziness, for Ward, a man who seems firmly in control and then suddenly finds his world collapsing about his ears. Ian McKellen is smoothly repellent as John Profumo, a man brought down as much by his arrogance as by his lust. "Scandal" is an entertaining history lesson, but it is also a study of the temptations and pitfalls of power. 7/10
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8/10
Witness For The Prostitution
bobvend12 January 2015
Well-mounted, stylish and evenly paced, "Scandal" expertly tells an interesting story with much flare and good dramatic sense. Joanne Whalley, Bridget Fonda and John Hurt are wonderfully cast in their respective roles and the narrative moves along with much interest and seldom sags.

A quick read of the events and personalities related to the real-life events surrounding the British sex scandal of 1963 will attest to the good effort made to make the film largely accurate yet entertaining.

Although the three leads are portrayed as callow and opportunistic throughout most of the action, their human vulnerability remains only slightly obscured; and especially in the case of Whalley's and Hurt's characters, the viewer is compelled to look at them sympathetically once the music stops. Good viewing all around.
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A chance thrown away
simon-11818 September 2002
Much looked-forward to and gossiped aboutdramatization of the Profumo scandal which doesn't seem to know what it wants to be about and confuses the hell out of the viewer. It tries to capture the Sixties but it's arrogance and abundance of style over content betray it as a casualty of the Eighties. The script is oddly coy and cagey when it comes to key points in the pliot, and the whole Lucky Gordon episode is a mess. A fine performance by John Hurt goes some way towards salvaging something. But miniskirts in 1963? And while the end theme is pretty good, the lyrics are abysmal! Hurt's final scene with the falling cigarete though is splendid.
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Performers, Prostitutes
tedg19 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Yet another in a long line of films that center on prostitutes as performers and vice versa. Naturally, we don't notice -- its part of the bargain. Add in the standard svengali, the tempter, the devil, the Enry Iggins.

What distinguishes this one is supposedly more sexual frankness (but very little actually) and the fact that the events really happened more or less.

It also features Joanna Whalley, who in other projects has had allure. But here, both she and Fonda play women much younger than they are with more febrile pulchritude than they can muster. Men mutter through their lives and legs orchestrated by Hurt's man who also can't master his character. Dafoe was able to handle this role much better in "Auto Focus." Nichole Kidman made her life in acting succeeding in the whore- performer's role in precisely the areas that Whalley fails.

The business on the other side -- the story of the man sucked into casual pleasure and then being destroyed by a society based on the fiction of class -- isn't particularly explored here. So we can't fault the lack of clarity and energy.

Whalley's charm as an actress is tied to red hair and how she uses it. For reasons of historical accuracy, we start out blond and then go red which during the course of the film gets browner and browner. This deprives her of her most significant tool.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting element
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A good film but it never reaches the level that it should
GusF2 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the 1987 book "Honeytrap" by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril, this is quite a good film treatment of the Profumo affair which rocked the British establishment in 1963 and severely discredited the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan. It is reasonably historically accurate but neither the script by Michael Thomas nor the direction by Michael Caton-Jones, making his debut, are as strong as they could be. Given the subject matter, it could hardly leave out sex scenes but some of them were a little over the top.

The film's strength lies in the acting. John Hurt gives a brilliant performance as Stephen Ward, the social climbing osteopath and artist who uses girls such as Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies to increase his status by introducing them to prominent men. In Keeler's case, the fact that he introduced her to both the Minister of War John Profumo and the Russian naval attaché / spy Eugene Ivanov was the source of the trouble. In the film, Ward is not depicted as being a very good man. In fact, he is a rather unsavoury sort whom my mother would describe as "a dirty devil." He seems to care about no one but himself. Keeler is fond of him but I think that his affection for her is limited to what he thought that she could for him. However, he is never as interesting or compelling a character as he could be as the writing is somewhat lacking. That said, the film did a good job in eliciting sympathy towards the end when his "friends" abandon him and he is put on trial for living off immoral earnings or, to put it more simply, being a pimp. In the film's final scene, Ward's suicide is depicted when he takes a drug overdose, no longer able to cope with the pressure of the trial and the constant hounding of the press. He was found guilty in absentia shortly before his death but the result has been severely criticised due to the lack of evidence against him and it is currently under review. There was plenty of blame to go around but the bulk of it was shouldered by Ward, which was unfair. On the other hand, Profumo was able to rebuild his reputation to a certain extent due to his charity work. The cynical part of me tends to think that that was the main reason why he did it.

I had never seen Joanne Whalley in anything before but I was very impressed by her performance of Christine Keeler, the last surviving major participant in the scandal. The film depicts Keeler as a troubled young woman, barely more than a child when she meets Ward and moves in with him. Ward does not force her into having relationships with numerous men but he does subtly manipulate her into doing so. She was hardly a naive person in spite of her youth but she trusted him more than he deserved and he let her down. I can't blame her for going to the press in the circumstances. Ian McKellen is extremely good as Profumo, whom the film does not hesitate to portray in a very negative light, but he has surprisingly little screen time. Bridget Fonda has seldom been better than as Mandy Rice-Davies, who delivered the immortal line, "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" during Ward's trial, even if her English accent does occasionally slip. It also features great performances from the perfectly cast Leslie Phillips as Lord Astor, Jereon Krabbé as Ivanov, Deborah Grant as Profumo's heartbroken, humiliated wife Valerie Hobson (the former film star best known for her roles in "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Great Expectations" (1946)), Daniel Massey as Mervyn Griffith-Jones, Iain Cuthbertson as Lord Hailsham, Jean Alexander as Mrs. Keeler, Alex Norton and Paul Brooke as the police officers and Trevor Eve as the American erstwhile matinée idol David Fairfax, Jr., who is no way, shape or form based on Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Showing that it really is a very small world, both Hobson and Fairbanks, Jr. appeared in the 1937 film "Jump for Glory".

Overall, this is a good film but it never reaches the level that it should. When I taught a constitutional law tutorial on ministerial responsibility last year, I described the Profumo affair to the students (none of whom seemed to have heard of it) as a real life Cold War thriller involving a showgirl, a Minister of the Crown, a Soviet spy and a film star. Sadly, this film is not as exciting as I made the real thing sound.
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10/10
Naughty, Naughty!
GOWBTW27 February 2006
Rising to the high is a struggle, but meeting a respecting citizen is a good thing, right? WRONG! British history is everything I liked for a long time. Living the high class life, tea and toast, having royalty all around. That's what this exotic dancer had to live with until the "Scandal" breaks out. Christine Keeler(Joanne Whalley, Val Kilmer's ex) is the exotic dancer who meets John Profumo(Ian McKellen) a well respected man in England, or so to speak. My favorite scene is the dinner when everyone "goes Hawaiian" and Profumo tells Keeler to "wet yours lips" as she removes her top to have fun with the others. After having fun with Profumo, all the powerful figures in England meet their downfall including Keeler and Profumo. All this time, Profumo had everybody in England fooled, and I'm surprised no one went to his funeral. The Ty Cobb treatment there. Here a respect citizen today, an outcast tomorrow, that's what happens when a "Scandal" does to people. It's intriguing, it scandal-ous, and it's a personal favorite of mine. Watch it! You'll like it! 5 stars!
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9/10
A scandalous movie on a well-known Scandal
pvn919 January 2006
This is an excellent movie on the political scandal that hit UK in 1960s. No wonder so many British actors rejected to act in this movie. The central character in this story is about this beautiful girl (Bridget Fonda) and her relation with several prominent British politicians of her time along with a Russian diplomat. It shows the underlying facts and ironies of British political system. While watching the movie one is spell-bound from beginning to the end. This movie is about people and their relations with other people. The scene where Bridget Fonda is running from one man to the other (fresh out of swimming pool) sums up the movie in fact. No, I am not talking of glamor associated with Fonda running around. The scene expresses the sense of the movie in a nutshell. It is a story of a woman who is trying to find her place in the world, about a man who can manipulate people to achieve his end, about a scandalous politician, in fact about so many colorful people that it is impossible to specify here. Please watch the movie if you ever get a chance. If you like intrigue, drama, corruption and beautiful women, not to mention political scandals, then it is the movie for you. This is the perfect movie for late night over the weekends! I have decided to give it nine stars, but it could easily have been ten....
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