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  West 11 No Direction Home
Year: 1963
Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Alfred Lynch, Kathleen Breck, Eric Portman, Diana Dors, Kathleen Harrison, Finlay Currie, Freda Jackson, Peter Reynolds, Harold Lang, Marie Ney, Sean Kelly, Patrick Wymark, Allan McClelland, Francesca Annis, Gerry Duggan, Brian Wilde, David Hemmings
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe Beckett (Alfred Lynch) wakes up in the bed of his casual girlfriend Ilsa Barnes (Kathleen Breck) and they share a few pleasantries, but he's not the sort to hang around and besides, he wants to return to his bedsit to catch up on his sleep before he has to go to work later on. He works in a gents' outfitters, but hates being told what to do by his boss - it's the same old story for Joe, he doesn't stick around in any employment for more than a couple of months at a time, and sure enough when he arrives late yet again with a flimsy excuse his boss is not having any of it and gives him an earbashing. This is all Joe wants to hear, since it means he can hand in his notice, but as he is leaving a customer, Captain Richard Dyce (Eric Portman) makes a mental note of him...

The same year Billy Liar was released to widespread acclaim as one of the defining films of the British New Wave in cinema, its author Keith Waterhouse was co-writing this slightly similar drama for the then-up and coming director Michael Winner. Winner hadn't quite found his metier yet and was flitting around various genres, settling on comedy for the rest of the nineteen-sixties and a few lucrative pictures before his thrillers began to dominate, often with envelope pushing violence which didn't impress the critics but the public found them entertaining enough. Really he tried his hand at all kinds of films, which could have seen him accused of the old phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none", but it was significant he left his interest in straightforward drama behind more or less here.

You could see why, as being deeply serious about the malaise of the modern male was very much a part of the fresh talent in film from the sixties, yet Winner only flirted with it later rather than making his stories about this and nothing but. More than that, he could not test the censors as much as he'd go on to do with his genre movies, so the strong indications that sexual situations were happening between Joe and Ilsa, as well as the Diana Dors character Georgia, remained just that: indications, with more than one scene set in bed and Breck nude under the covers, but since this wasn't a Continental production she wasn't allowed to fling them back and give us an eyeful, no matter how much Winner appeared to be itching to invite her to do so.

Mostly this was an actor's showcase for Lynch (first choice Oliver Reed, who would have been fine too, was unavailable), as he grumpily tolerated his directionless life and the people in it because Joe didn't have any answers as to what precisely he should have been doing, the stereotypical daily grind and boring marriage holding no appeal for him. This was where Dyce entered into the frame, though he tended to hang around as if contemplating a proposition, which he didn't do until the final act where he suggests Joe could make a small fortune that could set him up comfortably if he agreed to carry out a simple task for him. That task? Murder Dyce's elderly aunt by making it appear to be a burglary gone wrong, thereby winning the Captain his inheritance.

Even if he does go along with this, those darn censors would not have allowed Joe to get away with it in 1963, so it was a downbeat conclusion we were headed for, not that the rest of it was exactly hilarious. Populated with characters who suggested the post-war hangover had finally lifted but had left a nation pondering their next move with no idea of what it should be, the Swinging Sixties were on the cusp of kicking off, but West 11 - the title came from the London borough - hadn't quite reached there yet. There was a wild party and a jazz club to be seen, yet there was no sense of fun, no sense that novelty was right around the corner, although granted even the movies celebrating that after the fifties were not aversed to the odd example of navel-gazing and contemplating what it was all about. Joe is like Billy Liar without the dreams, and without those there's no reason for him to move forward in an existence that lazily bounced from one loveless encounter to the next; it was well done, but successfully conveying a bone-deep ennui was not the most amusing of experiences. Music by Stanley Black.

[Network's DVD looks flawless, with a trailer and extended scenes as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michael Winner  (1935 - 2013)

Opinionated British producer-director whose early comedies - You Must Be Joking, The Jokers, I'll Never Forget Whatsisname - were promising enough, but come the seventies he had settled into a pattern of overblown thrillers.

Of these, Death Wish was a huge hit, and Winner directed two similar sequels. Other films included horrors (The Nightcomers, The Sentinel), Westerns (Lawman, Chato's Land), thrillers (Scorpio, Dirty Weekend) and disastrous comedies (Bullseye!). Also a restaurant critic.

 
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