Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 91 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 18 July 2011
Cat No: BFIB1063
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Also available on DVD
Jerzy Skolimowski writes and directs this comedy drama exploring the dangers of unrequited love. After leaving school, 15-year-old Mike... Read More
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.