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  Made Harper's Bizarre Love Triangle
Year: 1972
Director: John Mackenzie
Stars: Carol White, John Castle, Roy Harper, Margery Mason, Doremy Vernon, Sam Dastor, Richard Vanstone, Michael Cashman, Brian Croucher, Ray Smith, Carl Rigg, Bob Harris, Sean Hewitt, Peter Jenner, Len Jones, Ivor Butler, Ian Ramsay, Colin Pilditch
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Valerie Marshall (Carol White) is a single mother of a baby whose father disappeared off the face of the Earth as far as she is concerned, and she doesn't expect to ever see him again. But she feels she needs a man in her life nevertheless, though nobody she knows really suits: take tonight, when she is left on the pavement by her latest date because she refused to go all the way. Then she has to walk home, and is chased by aggressive youths until she literally bumps into a policeman who sees her back safely to the home she shares with her mother (Margery Mason) who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Could there be any prospects with two men who are about to enter her life? Could happiness be possible?

Not with the deadbeats Valerie is surrounded by in this, which was partly a collaboration of talent who had worked with Ken Loach, the producers of Poor Cow and White, the star of his genuinely important television drama Cathy Come Home and later, Poor Cow. No Terence Stamp this time around, however, and the lack of Loach was noticeable as well for he preferred to combine humour with his pathos, or he did when he was at his best, and there was no such sunlight shining into the heroine of Made's existence. What this did have was another promising star, though not of the acting world, of the music world instead as folk rocker Roy Harper debuted and pretty much exited the thespian stage in one fell swoop, conveying charisma but also why he wasn't an actor.

You could refer to him as a one-hit wonder but Made wasn't a hit, regarded at the time as yet another hangover from the sixties kitchen sink cinema movement (as if to recognise this, a potentially romantic moment is undercut by a literal shot of a kitchen sink) when things were miserable enough as it was without the movies reminding us. That was the trouble here, as the drama was so resolutely one note depressing that it illustrated the benefits of throwing the grim aspects into sharper relief with some humour, as after all nobody's life is one long, relentless infliction of dejection, even if there are those who feel like it is, and perhaps they should go nowhere near stories like this.

And yet, there can be a catharsis in a tale that wallows in the dreadful times, if only because it shows there are always those worse off than yourself, in which case Made was an ideal example of this, to the extent that by the end when Valerie is hearing a song on the radio about her failures, both self-divined and caused by others, the effect was unintentionally amusing, given the last thing you would want to do when times were incredibly awful was to turn on the radio to listen to something to offer a respite and all you hear is an invocation of your pitch dark state of mind. This was presumably why Harper was recruited, since Valerie strikes up a relationship with a hippy folk singer called Mike Preston (Harper) who she does get on famously with, but he is a free spirit, man, and we can tell it won't last.

That other bloke is the local man of the cloth, a would-be trendy vicar called Father Dyson (John Castle) who talks a good talk but ultimately is more superior in attitude than actually understanding as Valerie needs. It could be that she will never be satisfied with any man, but that's not because her standards are too high, it's because every male is unable to clear a very low bar: be kind, supportive, and don't chicken out or suffocate her. A co-worker (Sam Dastor), seems like a nice chap but thinks that thanks to Valerie showing him a little friendship she is basically his wife now, and she doesn't need that either. It's not all the men who are letdowns either, as her mother is so needy and passive aggressive that we can well see why her daughter has led such a thwarted life, and her best friend (Doremy Vernon) manages to make such a colossal mistake in judgement that you're almost surprised to see them still pals come the conclusion. But for all this downbeat tone, Made conjured up a very specific milieu of its time that may have been more accurate than it ever intended.

[Network's Blu-ray looks and sounds pristine for a film of this vintage, and has the trailer and a gallery as extras. Subtitles too.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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