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United Kingdom 1961
Directed by
Roy Ward Baker
129 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Singer Not The Song

Dirk Bogarde as a cowboy? In love with a priest? Yes indeedy. The Singer Not The Song is a very English, pre-spaghetti, homoerotic Cinemasope western that is both irresistably bizarre and astonishingly ill-judged. John Mills plays a priest sent to a Mexican township over which the black leather-clad badun' Ana Cleto (Bogarde) holds power and a battle for its heart and soul ensues with predictable results

Both lead actors favour facial tics as forms of expression and Bogarde's left eyebrow and both of Mills' get a real work out as they go head to head. Typically enough for the Brits there is no gunplay. What!! A Western without a shoot-out? As before, yes indeedy. What possessed the makers of this completely ludicrous film is anyone's guess for unlike today the parodic pastiche was not the stuff if films aimed at a cult audience. 

Bogarde had played a few East End spiv roles prior to this but was in his element as a dapper charmer in lightweight British comedies. Presumably with this performance he was looking to make the image-changing appearance that he would achieve a couple of years later with The Servant (1963) but as a hard-man he's weedy, stilted and holds a gun like a big girl. True grit he's not got. Opposite him, Mills is his usual damn-decent-chap self and not remotely convincing as a Catholic priest.

The dialogue is awful, the acting, particularly by the supporting cast, is equally awful with accents, at least on the part of those who attempt them, slipping all over the place (even Mill's brogue comes and goes) and the sound design is laughable. Whilst neither the singer nor the song are vaguely credible, as a misfire of jaw-dropping proportions the film will have an undoubted perverse appeal for lovers of the offbeat.




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