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The Loved One
USA 1965
Directed by Tony Richardson
Running time 116 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


It is impossible while watching Tony Richardson’s satirical comedy not to think of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb which came out the previous year. From Haskell Wexler’s black and white photography to the star-studded cast, from Jonathan Winters’ dual role to Dana Andrews’ General Buck Brinkman’s “pinko preverts”, the similarities of tone and style are unmistakable. Partly this is due to the fact that Terry Southern worked on both scripts although in part the Zeitgeist must hold some responsibility.

British director Richardson had had huge success in the US two years earlier with Tom Jones which won the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars and this presumably explains the stellar cast  which includes besides Winters and Andrews, James Coburn, Milton Berle, Liberace, Roddy McDowall and Rod Steiger, and on the British side, John Gielgud and Robert Morley. Just on the strength of these performers alone the film is a lot of fun with Steiger’s Mr Joyboy a riot of camp fun and Ayllene Gibbons as his obese mother gruesomely memorable, and Robert Morley in tip-top form as the head of the British ex-pat community in Hollywood. Unfortunately the choice of  Robert Morse, an actor who came from television and went back to it shortly thereafter (as did Anjanette Comer who plays the cosmetologist Aimee Thanatogenous) in the lead leaves the film with a gaping hole of blandness at its core.

The script by Southern and Christopher Isherwood does not have the rigour of Strangelove. As satire it drifts all over the place taking pot shots at anything and everything that takes it fancy and the lack of focus becomes very apparent in the latter stages. Firing Miss Thanatogenous’s unseen body into space simply doesn’t have the impact of Slim Pickens riding a nuclear bomb intended to wipe out Commie preverts. Still, as a comedy it has plenty to recommend.

 

 

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