Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brimstone & Treacle (1982)

Directed by:
Richard Loncraine

Polite, mannered, mysterious drifter Martin Taylor (Sting, who's quite good in this; one of his first lead roles) charms his way into the home of Thomas Bates (Denholm Elliott), an outwardly upright publisher of religious texts, his simple-minded, devout wife Norma (Joan Plowright) and their catatonic daughter Patricia (Suzanna Hamilton), whom he claims to know. Martin is allowed to stay in the home for a couple of days, cooks, cleans, "cares" for the daughter and tries to help the couple through their marital problems, but he's also the catalyst that forces some dark secrets out of the family closet. Sting's character will either annoy or fascinate you as he exists solely as an enigma, representing angel or demon, or possibly both. Originally a play, this film never quite escapes the stage, but that only feeds into the claustrophobia of the stuffy household and guilt-ridden, lonely characters who inhabit it and, all in all, it's a very intriguing allegory on the nature of good and evil that has a lot to offer. There's some bizarre and potent religious imagery, a knockout nightmare/fantasy sequence and a good score (plus songs by The Police - who released a soundtrack album) all driven home by excellent performances by the three leads and assured direction by Richard Loncraine. "Treacle," by the way (I had to look this up, too!), refers to "a cloying speech or sentiment."
Dennis Potter's script was previously filmed in 1976 for BBC. That version also starred the late, great Denholm Elliott and has recently been released to DVD.


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