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USA 1968
Directed by
Robert Aldrich
130 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Killing of Sister George

Having whetted his appetite for stories of Sapphic love with his previous film, The Legend Of Lylah Clare, Robert Aldrich went all out with his next film, The Killing of Sister George which was based on a hit 1964 play by Frank Marcus about a much-loved character, “George”, a country nurse in a popular television soap opera, "Applehurst" who is played in “real” life by June Buckridge, a middle-aged woman with an abrasive manner and a fondness for the bottle and who shares her Hampstead Heath apartment with long-term but much younger “companion”, Childie (Susannah York). "George" is about to be killed off by the writers and June is taking it badly, hitting the sauce and flying into rages at Childie’s apparent infidelities.

Beryl Reid, who had originated the role in the inaugural West End and Broadway runs, is a lot of fun as the classic tweedy English dyke (think a potty-mouthed version of Hatti Jacques in Make Mine Mink) who bustles around offending everyone, especially a very proper BBC executive, Mrs. Mercy Croft (Coral Browne). Aldrich accentuates the camp, putting York in a ridiculously flimsy nightie in the opening scene (inexplicably changing it from pink to blue halfway through the scene) and includes a visit to the Gateways Club, a then real-life GLBT club on the Kings Road (it closed in 1985) complete with an all-girl band in matching outfits singing featherweight pop ditties

The film was scripted by Aldrich’s regular collaborator, Lukas Heller, who apparently accentuated the lesbian aspect which perhaps explains Mrs. Mercy Croft’s rather rapid conversion to the cause and which culminates in a for-the-time scandalous lesbian scene between her and Childie (although chaste by today’s standards, it earned the film an X-rating). Australian actress Coral Browne does a stalwart job as George’s nemesis (she had played a nasty society columnist in Lylah Clare) who develops the hos for Childie's young body whilst Susannah York is a fairly unlikely emotionally-retarded flibbertigibbet who becomes her prey.

Despite the explicit girl-on-girl action the film did not do well at the US box office but has since gone onto become a cult favourite.




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