Deep End DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski
Produced in 1970
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
An alluring Jane Asher stars in this striking 'anti-swinging London' film that still defies categorisation, says Julian Upton.
For the last 20 years or so, frustratingly, Deep End has been available only via bootleg video. But even on fizzy VHS, in its vivid use of primary colours and bold evocation of a run-down London, it was still a striking viewing experience.
A prime example of what Robert Murphy called the ‘anti Swinging London’ film (although many of its exterior scenes were shot in Munich on account of its part-German financing), Deep End catches the grubbiness of its era with the visual absurdity and mordant humour we have come to associate with its Polish émigré director, Jerzy Skolimowski. But back in 1970 it defied categorisation somewhat. If it was intended as a ‘British sex comedy’, then it is certainly unlike anything else from that once-ubiquitous genre.
The story sees wet-behind-the-ears school-leaver Mike (a hormonal John Moulder-Brown) start a job at a crummy London bath house. His co-worker is the slightly older and sexually experienced Susan (Jane Asher, at her most provocative). Susan suggests Mike swaps his male clients for her female ones, in order for them both to make better ‘tips’. Mike agrees, but he’s not interested in the female clientele. Instead he develops a crush on Susan that becomes increasingly obsessive.
Not surprisingly, given its premise and setting, Deep End pulsates with sexuality. But the sex here is rarely joyful; it is tawdry, unwanted or dishonest. All around Mike there are predatory or cynical attitudes to it, from the overheated, middle-aged female patrons of the bath house (cue Diana Dors, in a hilarious if now rather ‘dodgy’ cameo appearance) to the (equally dodgy) antics of the ‘touchy-feely’ male swimming instructor. The real eroticism in the film radiates from Asher. She and Moulder-Brown are good together, and there is a playful chemistry to their schizoid relationship. Before it turns ugly, that is.
Deep End’s release on DVD — here complete with high-definition digital restoration, dual-format packaging, ‘making of’ documentary and copious sleeve notes — has been long overdue, so it’s hats off to the BFI for delivering the goods. Few films on their ‘Flipside’label have been more deserving.
Julian Upton on 21st June 2011
Author of 150 reviews
Jerzy Skolimowski's darkly poetic portrait of Britain in an era of uncertainty and changing sexual mores, Deep End now makes a long overdue return to the screen in a beautiful new digital restoration with extensive bonus features.
The Swinging Sixties are over and the long, grey morning after has only just begun. But there are still eye-opening new experiences in store for wet-behind-the-ears teenager Mike (John Moulder-Brown) when he takes a job at a rundown London swimming baths.
After one of its more mature visitors steamily attempts to take advantage (Diana Dors, in a superb cameo), he gradually wises up to find himself adrift with an increasingly obsessive interest in sassy, self-assured, co-worker Susan (played by a seductive Jane Asher).
Giddily he follows her into the grimy underbelly of Soho for a long dark night of the soul - soundtracked with great intensity by legendary Krautrock band Can. Will Mike sabotage Susan's relationship with her fiance and get together with her instead?
Length: 91 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Cat No: BFIB1063
Format: DVD+Blu-ray Colour
- 2 discs
- Dual Format Edition
- New High Definition restoration
- Starting Out: The Making of Deep End (2011, 73 mins): an in-depth documentary about the making of the film, featuring interviews with Jerzy Skolimowski, Jane Asher, John Moulder Brown, and principal crew members
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Trailer
- Careless Love (Francine Winham, 1977, 10 mins): Rare film in which a woman (Jane Asher) takes drastic actions to keep the affections of the man she loves
- Illustrated booklet featuring new essays by David Thompson, Yvonne Tasker, and Skolimowski expert Ewa Mazierska.