This is a film which is very much a product of its time (1968)and yet also seems more innovative and contemporary than most of today's movies. Beryl Reid's portrayal of an alcoholic soap star whose career and personal life are falling apart is flawless and she is more than ably supported by her co-stars Susannah York and Coral Browne.
This film is memorable on so many levels. Along with vividly recapturing 1960's 'Swinging' London, it also gives a rare and fascinating insight into the lesbian scene, as the scenes were filmed in the famous Gateways Club. However, the most striking aspect of this film is the harrowing and moving portrayal by Reid and York of two women in a disintegrating relationship.
Beryl Reid manages to strike the right balance between tragedy and comedy, managing to be fearless and outrageously funny in one scene, whilst seeming broken and pathetic in the next.
One trivia fact: this film was made with the proceeds from Robert Aldrich's previous film, 'The Dirty Dozen'. This may seem an unlikely successor, but remember that Aldrich also directed the wonderful 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'
on 17 November 2004
As a young teenager back in 68 or 69, I sneaked into the theater to see this film; a film I had read about as being very controversial. It caught me and I've never been free of it since. I cannot say much more than this; a film which I saw back in 1968/69 as a 14/15 year old, which I continue to watch over and over again is a very powerful film. Sister George and Alice "Childie" McNaught will always be with me. I was shocked by the scene where Alice must show her contrition for having caused George unnecessary aggravation, loved the Laurel & Hardy skits, opened up my mind at the Gateways Club, and felt wretchted at the final scene. The Killing of Sister George, a film which has been with me for 35 years.
Seeing Beryl Reid mouth silently a four-letter swear word when such things didn't happen in films and drunkenly canoodling with two young nuns in the back of a London cab is both quite outstanding and rather loveable.
Miss Reid, who I only got to see in my childhood as a twee, granny-like innocent (the sort that she plays for real in a TV serial as Sister George, a homely district nurse), I found The Killing Of... both delicious and ever astounding in its frankness and of her rather warped relationship with the much younger Susannah York.
Warped, not because of the age difference, nor of their same-sex partnership, but because June Buckridge (Reid) has a cruel streak that is borne out by her playing sadistic mind games with Alice "Childie" (York).
Sister George, in the best tradition of TV soaps, is being killed off, to make way for an Australian replacement. Hence June's venomous outpourings and increasingly erratic behaviour.
Equally interesting is the London of the late '60s, both in its landmarks but also its people and fashions, whether that's in how they live and/or how they dress and present themselves.
Though real soaps cover such material freely and openly these days, 42 years ago, it must have been a very different kettle of fish. Lesbianism back in those days was not only considered immoral but also a mental aberration and had to be so hidden, in an attempt to prove to those 'righteous' souls that it did not exist. Therefore, it must have been a very brave undertaking as a film, though it originated as a play, written by Frank Marcus.
Having now seen it again, I consider Robert Aldrich's ground-breaking film to be a bit of a classic and one, which, no doubt I'll want to see again in a few years time. It really is a piece of British cinematic history.
on 2 August 2004
Don't let the fact this film deals with lesbianism put you off; it is about any couple who have been together too long and moved apart with time and events: the principals could just as well have been two gay men or an heterosexual couple.
Messrs. Reid, York and Browne turn out superlative performances, and Beryl Reid as the lead gets my vote as one of the best screen portrayals of all time. Certainly it is hard to sympathise with Reid's character (June Buckridge/Sister George), but you have to be dead from the feet up not to be moved by the heart-rending finale, largely brought about by her own inability to cope with the break-up of her world and, it has to be said, her self induced destruction.
George's language is quite strong at times, and the one sex scene has us sharing Mrs. Croft's (Coral Browne) dry throat and pounding heart as she gives way to her awakening sexuality. Only the depiction of the lesbian club looks really dated but, hey, it WAS nearly 40 years ago, and all the spot-on dialogue and situations could just as well happen today (and probably do within many a relationship, gay or otherwise) and stand up well!
Previous reviewers have rather missed the point, focusing on the relatively unimportant role stereotyping (butch v pretty) and the heavy make-up typical of the era, the fact being that this is not a "pretty" film, and wasn't meant to be; hopefully, anyone having read them has given it a chance anyway, and been glad they did.
The DVD is crisp and clear, and the lack of extras (inevitable in a film of this age), though regretable, does not detract. A "must have" for anyone genuinely interested in character acting at it's best, and one that transcends time.
on 25 September 2004
From the director of 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' (Robert Aldrich) comes this gritty adaptation of Frank Marcus' play.
June Buckridge (Beryl Reid) is an aging actress whose life is falling apart. The part she plays in a TV soap series is about to be killed off, and the only job offer she has received is the voice of Clarabell Cow. Worse still, she suspects her young lover (Susannah York) of having an affair. Made in 1969, this is one of the first films to deal with the previously taboo subject of lesbianism and with Aldrich's masterful handling of the subject, it makes for a powerful and moving drama.
A moving drama BUT the most hilarious film I have seen in a long time.
on 16 November 2012
Such a superb movie and Beryl Reid has what it takes to keep it moving. From the opening pub scene showing (June Buckridge) known as Sister George on the public phone you just have to keep watching wondering what the next twist is going to be.
Love the bit in the Gateways club where George and her partner Childie are doing their double act and of course George in the taxi. Not a film for the shy or over-modest in those days but full of home truths. A very sad ending with a brilliant performance from Beryl Reid as the unloveable Sister George just great from the start.
on 12 May 2009
I was utterly astonished by this film when i saw it. Incredibly funny in places, moving and full of wit. I can't believe this film was made in its time, the characters are wonderfully played by the actors. I discovered this film by reading a TV review but it was on at like 2am or something. I did remember to make a note of seeing this film somehow as the review said it was a hidden gem in British film. I totally agree!
on 23 August 2015
A landmark for queer cinema in the 1960's thanks to the brilliance of director Robert Aldrich (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Dirty Dozen) and the excellent performance by Beryl Reid as the hard-boiled but sympathetic lesbian June Buckridge AKA "Sister George" and her love/hate relationship with her partner Alice "Childie" McNaught (Suzannah York). Sister George refers to the character June plays in a soap opera on television and discovers the character is going to be killed off. The story unravels as a tragedy as June's drunkenness, misbehavior and inability to conduct herself in public means her getting fired and losing her partner by the woman who fired her, Studio Executive and seductress Mercy Croft (Coral Browne)
Without a shadow of a doubt, this film was way ahead of its time (made in 1968) including the word "lesbian" itself in the dialogue and "dyke" was considered abominable at the time, and the films infamous sex scene between Browne and York which gave the film an X rating at the time of it's release. Feminists and lesbians found the film sexist and stereotypical as the character of June (Reid) is a hard-boiled, cigar-smoking, masculine dyke who shouts and screams all the time. When in fact it gives a positive look at both women and lesbians as it shows June as a more intimidating person that any man in the film (and they're aren't many) in a time of patriarchal superiority. Last note, there are many moving and loving scenes in the film which people didn't consider to look at twice, such as the Gateways Club sequence (daring for the time again, because it was filmed on location, and the club was a well-known gay/lesbian bar) seeing ordinary people (not actors) dancing lovingly to the slow music, without the director making a statement of it and making it look as natural as a heterosexual couple dancing in the club.
A landmark film which should be treasured always, a must see for any film fanatic as it is a fascinating slice of film history from a fantastic director and cast, one of my personal favorite's and one of the most under-rated films I know.
on 22 September 2011
growing up thru the 60s ,i was very much influenced by the films my parents watched, many of wich reflected lifestyle and environment we lived in here in britain, sadly now we are bombarded with hollywood ficticious garbage. so to track down any british iconic movies of the 60s, is a real treat for me, especially when they are very rare, remastered and such an absolute steal at the price. ah, to relive my youth, many thanks amazon
on 7 September 2001
Beryl Reid is at her finest in this thought-provoking and mature drama. Although the film is essentially dark (directed by the same man as 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane'), there are flashes of brilliant tongue-in-cheek humour. Apparently this captured Reid's stage performance of the role which won her a Broadway 'Tony' award.