Deep End (1970)

This is a film that I suspect has been mainly remembered for its soundtrack. Specifically, one song therefrom, “Mother Sky” by (The) Can. I’m sure that’s how I first heard of Deep End. Either through that connection or via Danny Peary’s Cult Movies. Anyway, after years of rights issues, apparently to do with said music, keeping it out of circulation, it’s back in action via the BFI, and frankly I’m not really sure what to make of it. Story’s about Mike, a young boy fresh out of school taking a job at a mildly decrepit public bathhouse in London, where he develops an increasingly unhealthy obsession with Susan, his slightly older co-worker, the sort of thing that cannot possibly end well. Especially not when she’s got a fiance. And she’s having an affair with one of his school teachers. To say nothing of the additional services some of the bathhouse clients require (the scene early on with Diana Dors losing her shit to football references surely constitutes one of the strangest not-really-sex scenes of all time).  For me the film really turned on the two main performances from John Moulder-Brown, who makes Mike sympathetic—cos there is something essentially charming about his clueless naivete—while never losing sight of the fact that he is also, frankly, severely fucked in the head, and from Jane Asher, who has a thin line to walk with Susan’s sexual behaviour. Somehow, though, I’m not sure I felt the film really coming together; there’s a lot of great individual scenes and bits of business (e.g. Susan’s rivalry with the older female cashier), some of which is really funny, but it didn’t seem to quite hang as a whole film somehow. It’s good enough without, I think, being great, though I can understand how it’s acquired a cult reputation; for me, though, it struck me as a film very much of its time and one that didn’t quite transcend it…


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