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4.6 out of 5 stars58
4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 26 September 2005
Throughout the 1950s, a group of young British writers were referred to as "angry young men" because, in their novels and plays, they excoriated what they perceived to be the dominant materialistic values of their society following World War Two. They included playwrights John Osborne and Kingsley Amis and novelists John Braine, John Wain, and Alan Silitoe. This film is based on Braine's novel Room at the Top; Neil Patterson received an Academy Away for best adapted screenplay. Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) is the focal point. Driven by smoldering ambition to overcome his modest circumstances and deeply resentful of the wealthiest man in a North Country village (Brown, played by Donald Wolfit), he finally obtains a position in Brown's company and begins his difficult journey to "the top" while including marriage to Brown's daughter Susan (Heather Sears) among his ultimate objectives. Along the way, he meets an older but still attractive Frenchwoman, Alice Aisgill (Simone Signoret) with whom he has an affair. For Joe, it is a mere dalliance along his career path; she, however, falls in love with him. Beyond the passionate sex which she enjoys as much as he does, Alice also helps Joe to refine his social graces and increase his understanding and appreciation of the cultural arts. (Signoret received an Academy Award as best actress for her performance in this film.) Joe seems grateful for her contributions to his self-improvement but really has no long-term interest in her. He remains obsessed with reaching "the top" with wife Susan at his side, possessing great wealth, power, and prestige.
And then he learns from Susan that....
Alice is the most sympathetic character in the film, largely because Joe exploits her so callously. As for Brown, "what you see is what you get": a class-conscious, hard-driving, no-nonsense capitalist. Unlike Joe, no need for dissembling. Brown is at "the top" and (by God) he intends to remain there. Susan is of great importance to Joe (and to her father, of course) but is of little importance to the film's story line except as one of the ambitious goals which motivate Joe. He really cares little for her as a person, one way or the other. Were she in his own social class, Joe would probably have little to do with her...except, perhaps, for occasional sexual gratification (for himself). At least Alice offered more than sex...she offered unconditional love. Only at the end of the film does Joe begin to realize what he has gained by reaching "the top" and at what a cost. Both in the novel and in this film, Joe symbolizes just about everything which enraged Braine and other British writers.
Years later, in a brief excerpt from "The Paradox of Our Time," George Carlin observes that "We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years." He could well be describing Joe Lampton and countless others who seem to know the cost of everything but the value of nothing, who (in Socrates' words) live unexamined lives, in Thoreau's words "lives of quiet desperation."
Those who share my admiration of this film are urged to check out A Place in the Sun (1951), Look Back in Anger (1958), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1961), and A Taste of Honey (also 1951).
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on 11 April 2009
This is one of the four great films of its period, illustrating the social and cultural conditions of the time. The others are : "A KInd of Loving"; "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning"; and "This Sporting Life".

Others of the same genre are : "Up the Junction" and "A Taste of Honey".

If you don't know these clasics, you have missed an experience - indeed, an education.
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2010
I have seen this film many times over the years and to this day remains one of my favourites dating from the 1950s.

It was an important film made at the time since adult films as a rule in those days did not explore human relationships in any great depth. Room At The Top however, changed all that.

Based on a best selling novel by John Braine who also wrote "The Jealous God" the story centres around an ambitious social climber Joe Lambton who has moved to a northern town in order to fulfil his ambitions and to get on in life and be a success.

After securing a post in Local Government, he joins a local drama group and meets Alice Aisgill an unhappily married woman played by the lovely Simone Signoret (who oozes sex appeal throughout and dominates all her scenes). Seeking more from life however, he then meets Susan Brown (Heather Sears) drifts into a relationship with her, and at the same time continues with his relationship with Alice. Being ambitious however, he knows perfectly well that marrying the bosses' daughter will enhance his own personal standing and secure his future.

Although the film may seem rather dated today, and the sex scenes extremely tame, (they were tastefully done for the time) strong performances from the lead actors have made this film the classic it is.

Older viewers will recognise many of the locations where the film was shot, the railway station at Halifax, and the main street in Bradford where Joe Lampton gets off a bus when he sees Susan Brown in a shop.

It does remain to this day one of the finest films made in Britain.

Now perhaps, we can have a re-release of the sequel Life At The Top which starred Jean Simmons who has died recently as a tribute to her.
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on 17 March 2002
One of Laurence Harvey's best performances equally matched by Simone Signoret as his tragic lover Alice. The film was given an "18" rating when it was first released due the bedroom scenes, however, considering the material we are now shown on television, time has made this film seem very tame.
This film is a fine example of the British "kitchen sink" dramas so popular in the late 1950's. Joe Lampton arrives in Warnley to work in the accounts dept. for the local council. From the word "Go" he is resentful of anyone who has more money/status than he has and sets out in ruthless fashion to use anyone or anything to achieve his goal, which in this case is the daughter of the local industrial tycoon.
Enjoy!!
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2007
Probably one of the most tragically romantic movies ever made - thanks to the beautiful actress Simone Signoret, who gives one of her most sincerest performances ever here, as she plays Alice Aisgill, whose unfortunate love-life is doomed to end in tragedy... Another outstanding actress who gave one of her finest performances captured in one fiery scene was Hermione Baddeley (who ironically in real life went on to have an affair with Laurence Harvey - a most unpredictable match if ever there was one)

Joe Lampton (Harvey) is a social climber who's bent on getting the cash as well as the girl! He does not care whose toes he treads on to get there - except perhaps that of Alice Aisgill (Signoret) who unintentionally gets in the way of his plans at the last minute.

Some heavy heart-rending scenes in this, which will move the most hardened viewers of both sexes to tears.

Also stars; Heather Sears, Raymond Huntley, Allan Cuthbertson, Ian Hendry, Wendy Craig and a young Prunella Scales.

A Great British Movie Classic!
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2009
Probably one of the most tragically romantic movies ever made!

Thanks to the beautiful actress Simone Signoret who gives one of her most sincerest performances ever here, plays Alice Aisgill, whose unfortunate love-life is doomed to end in tragedy. Another outstanding actress who gave one of her finest performances captured in just one fiery scene was Hermione Baddeley. (who ironically in real life went on to have an affair with Laurence Harvey - a most unpredictable match if ever there was one!)

Joe Lampton (Harvey) is a social climber who's bent on getting the cash as well as the girl. He does not care whose toes he treads upon to get there - except perhaps that of Alice Aisgill (Signoret) who unintentionally gets in the way of his plans at the very last minute.

Some heavy heart-rending scenes in this which will move the most hardened viewers of both sexes to tears...

Also stars; Heather Sears, Raymond Huntley, Allan Cuthbertson, Ian Hendry, Wendy Craig and a young Prunella Scales.

A Great British movie classic!
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on 29 September 2011
Laurence Harvey plays womaniser Joe Lampton, with big ambitions, who moves up north for a new job. He soon wants things that are out of bounds, in the shape of Alice Aisgill, played by Simone Signoret, who is already married, and much older than he is, and Susan Brown, played by Heather Sears, who is much younger, and the daughter of a top industrialist in the town. It's not long before he starts dating Alice, who is unhappily married at best. But the challenge to gain Susan is still there and he can't abandon it. Soon lust, passion and greed take over, and it's not long before he is dating both women. But he must choose one of them. It soon becomes apparant that he is really in love with Alice, but after Susan becomes pregnant, he marries her.
This is a brilliant British New Wave (kitchen sink) film from the late fifties which is 5 stars, but only gets 2 because of the transfer.
Network are marketing this film as a Special Edition, and a brand new transfer from the original 35mm film elements. The special features are a commentry, and an image gallery and Jack Clayton's press cuttings. Hardly a special edition.
The transfer is appalling. It has scratches throughout the print, some heavy, the soundtrack is also appalling. It has at least one splice in the print, the image is too contrasty, and there is minor dropout, which means it could be from a tape transfer. A nice touch is the inclusion of the original censor's certificate which is X. But this also means that the print used, was probably a release print. There is no way that this is a transfer from a brand new print, which is what Network are implying.
The film is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Which is why it gets 2 stars.
But at the moment it is still the only version available and if you can put up with the transfer, which is dire, this film deserves to be in any collection where there is an interest for British New Wave.
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on 27 January 2009
Available again on DVD, to coincide with the film's 50th anniversary, this is a top quality movie. The acting, screenplay and black-and-white cinematography are first class, with an astonishing Oscar-winning performance by Simone Signoret, as the older, unhappily married woman who falls for social climber Laurence Harvey, with tragic consequences.
Trivia : Signoret was the first French lady to win the Best Actress Academy Award since Claudette Colbert (1934 - It Happened One Night).
Hermione Baddeley's two minute cameo is the smallest role ever to bag an Academy Award nomination (Best Supporting Actress). Room At The Top [1959]
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on 26 November 2014
Superb film, an iconic and influential piece of film making from the 1960s, but I'm giving three stars for the presentation, which is terrible.

Though released in 2009, hardly the Dark Ages in terms of widescreen development, the feature is presented in 4:3, letterboxed to the original ratio of 1:66:1. At least the quality of the print is sufficient that it can comfortably be zoomed to 16:9 on my 50" LED TV, but that still means cropping the image top and bottom; what a short-sighted decision by the usually reliable Network.

Hopefully they'll release a decent anamorphic blu-ray sometime soon...
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on 2 February 2004
Powerful drama with impressive performances that will have you captivated. Admittedly the base of this story has been recycled so many times in cinema since but this film explores characters and situations in a realistic, true to British Free Cinema way. Won an Oscar for best script and Simone Signoret's great performance. Her continental air and sophistication create an antithesis with the mundane, English, small town setting.
The DVD package on the other hand is very poor. No extras whatsoever I'm confused as to why the dvd uses a menu and doesn't go straight to "play film". The only thing here is a chapter selection. No subtitles, not even in English. It's a shame because this film really is considered one of the best in British film history and some notes and "behind the scenes" facts would've been wonderful.
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