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UK/Germany 1970
Directed by
Jerzy Skolimowski
87 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Deep End

Despite being a US-German co-production Deep End is an exemplary Swingin' Sixties film with Jane Asher (contemporary pin-up girl and one time girlfriend of Paul McCartney) captivating as the object of desire of 15 year old Mike (John Moulder-Brown).

Co-written by the renowned Polish director Jerzy Skolomowski (who co-scripted Polanski's first film Knife In The Water, 1962) with two other Polish writers, Jerzy Gruza and Boleslaw Sulik and shot largely in Munich with mainly German actors, somewhat surprisingly the film captures beautifully the seedy decay of London thanks to Skolomowski's skilful use of his resources.

In ways reminiscent of Schlesinger’s classic Midnight Cowboy which came out the year before (although the films look like they come from different eras) Skolomowski deftly weaves the story of the central relationship with the context in which it takes place – a seedy post-war world of drab decay and petty hypocrisies. The casting of one time British sex bomb. Diana Dors as a blowsy peroxide blond who molests young Mike on his first day on the job  while invoking the glories of George Best “sliding it in” is a brilliant touch that sums up the tawdriness of it all.  Even Susan is a calculating minx, happy to play the customers’s fantasies for a small tip and deceiving her boyfriend while smugly anticipating married life in some horrid suburban two-up, two-down.

The film opens with Cat Stevens singing “I Might Die Tonight” as we see fresh-faced  Mike on his bicycle heading to his first job as a public baths attendant (although set in the fictional London borough of Newford the bathhouse was the  Mullersches Volksbad in Munich, although the actual pool scenes were shot at the Cathall pool in Leytonstone in East London. Here he soon falls for his fellow attendant, Susan, a dolly bird with a long-haired git of a fiancée  who is also having a bit on the side with the married PT teacher from Mike’s old school. Quickly, attraction turns into desire and desire into obsession with disastrous results.

Skolomowski beautifully paces the simple narrative which actually escalates towards its tragic culmination quite quickly making striking use of bold colours, particularly red to achieve symbolic resonance.  Suggesting a young David Bowie (or Davie Jones as he would have been called) John Moulder-Brown is somewhat awkward but that suits his role well. Asher on the other hand is superb as the superficial, moody, yet playful Susan who  has a fatal tenderness for her infatuated admirer.

Both as a portrait of male desire and symptom of its times, Deep End is an economical little gem.




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