Friday, 17 April 2009

Bent Mind

At some point in the early sixties, Dirk Bogarde (‘the matinee idol of the Odeon’, and the UK's biggest box office draw of the 50's) decided that he was going to start making serious films that were commensurate with his great talent. He started well with ‘Victim’, a daring portrayal of homosexuality at a time when it was still illegal, but found it difficult to immediately break the mould.

His nadir was probably ‘The Singer Not The Song’, in which he played a cat stroking leather clad Mexican bandido, a role he found humiliating, but incredibly arousing (Dirk was nothing if not narcissistic), and it would take him another couple of years (and another ‘Doctor’ film) before he really took control. ‘The Mindbenders’ (1962) was a conscious attempt by the star to take the reins, teaming him up again with ‘Victim’ director Basil Dearden.

When a respected Oxford University Professor throws himself from a train prior to being revealed as a Russian spy, Dr. Longman (Bogarde) argues that his colleagues uncharacteristic behaviour was the result of radical experiments in sensory deprivation. In order to prove his theory, Longman undergoes the same treatment - not only threatening his happy marriage, but his sanity.

‘The Mindbenders’ is often described as a precursor to Ken Russell’s typically bombastic ‘Altered States’, but whereas Russell’s film is infused with the hippy ideal of discovering your inner self, Dearden’s film is about the destruction of the inner self, and the unscrupulous filling of the hole with hatred and treachery and suspicion.

An interesting attempt at fusing cold war paranoia with a domestic melodrama, the film’s best sequence shows Longman undergoing the deprivation treatment, floating in a giant metal tank of warm water and running the gamut between amusement, annoyance, arousal, hysterical, screaming terror and, finally, an empty fugue state.

Bogarde is very watchable (he does the classic trick of making it seem that he’s making it up as he goes along) and is perfectly convincing as the arrogant and complacent academic (a role he always played to perfection), and Mary Ure is equally good as his devoted, and very sexy, wife, but, in hindsight, the casting of Wendy Craig as a vampish and nihilistic beatnik should perhaps have been avoided.

1 comment:

Reimer said...

Dirk, Dirk, Dirk...

"Very dark, and quite deadly" according to Gore Vidal.

He burned all his diaries just prior to Russell Harty's coming to stay with him in France and was to the end of his life tormented by the sheer bad taste exhibited at Belsen.

Too narcissistic to give himself to anyone, if his dick had been long enough he'd have fucked himself up the arse very lovingly.

Great blog BTW