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3.9 out of 5 stars19
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 5 September 2014
This is a five-star DVD of a three-and-a-half (well, maybe four) star movie -- and one I've waited decades to see. It should be noted that this review is based SOLELY on the standard DVD disc in the package (I've not made the leap to Blu-Ray yet), but that said, the BFI have done a fine job of restoration, annotation, and packaging on this cinematic curio of the early/middle 1960s, the release (or non-release) history of which may be more interesting than the movie itself -- though the film does contain some fascinating (Oliver Reed) and even fine (Eddie Albert) performances. THE PARTY'S OVER was the "white whale" of Guy Hamilton's filmography, shot in 1963 and unreleased in any form until 1965 -- by which time the filmmaker and the producers had taken their names off of the recut, censored version -- a blank space in terms of accurate information, release history, and official acknowledgement, and even the version here, based on a non-censored pre-release cut of the movie, has to acknowledge the lack of the imprimatur of Hamilton (or the producer). The plot concerns a spoiled American girl (Louise Sorel, in her movie debut) who has fallen in with a pack of British beats -- mostly frustrated middle-class poseurs -- and doesn't want to return to her life in the American mid-west as the daughter of a wealthy industrialist (Eddie Albert, who doesn't show up till the second half of the film); between her dalliances with de facto group leader Oliver Reed and others, as they pursue their lives of non-conformist decadence, she manages to elude the pursuit of her fiance (Clifford David), who has shown up in London to bring her home. The not-so-merry chase on which she leads him ends in her accidental death at a party that quickly descends into a orgiastic ritual, literally over her dead body (the participants don't realize at first that she has succumbed), which leads to further conflict, tragedy, and mayhem, as well as a Rashomon-like series of recollections, all interspersed with more iconoclastic posturing and unwilling soul searching (plus a song done by Annie Ross, the highlight of the John Barry-composed soundtrack), before the truth -- more or less -- is known.

As a production, the movie appears to have been at least partly an outgrowth -- improbable as it might seem -- of David Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, in that two of the people behind the movie, presumably on the money end, were Jack Hawkins and Peter O'Toole (along with Anthony Perry, all three ultimately uncredited), in a production that was shot in 1962. Perhaps a full account will appear someday concerning their role in the picture's making, and their reactions to its "unmaking," in that it was held back from release for two years. The uncensored film itself might make a great companion feature to WITHNAIL AND I, and I was glad to have finally seen this lost artifact of its era. Oliver Reed's performance is the most compelling in the picture, and he is very mannered and theatrical, but fascinating to watch -- he carries much of the movie, even though it seems like Clifford David gets more screen time, and it is clear that he's the one to watch in this cast, and the most interesting character (he isn't really attracted to the American interloper Melina, and finally indicates a real indifference to her supposed allure -- if the picture had been made and set a little bit later, you could almost imagine the Rolling Stones' "Please Go Home" as a music cue for some of their scenes). Louise Sorel, who later became much better known to soap opera audiences in America (and also to Star Trek fans, as the doomed Rayna Kapek in "Requiem For Methuselah"), is suitably elusive as a callow, selfish American girl who gets in over her head with a much more decadent crowd than she's prepared to handle -- among the others seen in the picture is Alison Seebohm, whose venal hanger-on (stealing the dress and some of the underclothes of the dead girl) is a startling and frightening turn from an actress best remembered as the quietly sexy secretary in the producer's office (into which George Harrison accidentally walks) in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. Other background players worth noting include Roddy Maude-Roxby, memorable as the somewhat effeminate manager of the run-down building where many of the low-lifes in this bunch seem to live and lay about; and Katherine Woodville (who, a decade later, was married to Eddie Albert's son Edward) as Nina, one of Reed's pack of followers. And those scenes, which open the movie's attenuated credits and get repeated, of this pack of lowlifes and layabouts wandering zombie-like across the Albert Bridges, are etched in my mind already.

The BFI have delivered an excellent transfer of the picture, and supported it with some related short films and an extensively annotated booklet. This might not be quite on the level of a Criterion Collection deluxe special, but for a movie that barely got seen on either side of the Atlantic it's royal treatment, and pretty much deservedly so, even if it isn't an earth-shattering cinematic statement.
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on 30 July 2011
I must admit if I'd been a teenager in the 60s it would have been the beatniks for me - frugging, puffing, Watneys pale ale, expressos, constant parties - it looks great. Trouble is there's always the hangover, the comedown, reality seeping in. This film captures the ups and downs brilliantly. We see this now deceased world through the eyes of a bemused American looking for his fiance, who has fallen in with a ner-do-well gang (led by the brilliant Oliver Reed). As the title suggests things don't turn out well, but for the viewer its compulsive all the way, from the John Barry soundtrack to the seedy milieu to the unusally subtle plot twists. I really enjoyed this one, but its not the highlight of the package, that would be the short 'Emma' which is a dazzling blast of colour amidst the monochrome sleaze of the other two features. Only 12 minutes long, but each one of them perfect, this allegorical snapshot of 2 kids playing in Highgate Cemetary is damn near perfect and as for the picture quality - incredible. The other extra 'The Party' is a disposible but fun enough look at a typical house party.
Just one thing stops this being 5 stars, the fact that Guy Hamilton, the director wanted his name removed from this cut. Why? It would have been nice to hear what it is he objected to and what his actual vision for the film was (he is nearly 90 now, so perhaps this was impossible, but it would be nice to have more info)
To sum up, a great buy and remember, don't skip the supporting features.
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on 9 July 2010
The BFI have done another brilliant piece of work - this time with The Party's Over. The 'dual format', together with an excellent booklet, certainly give you every chance to compare versions and consider the absurdities of censorship (abeit at a distance of nearly 50 years. With The Party's Over, the censors seemed to be pandering to the Establishment in a predictable but particularly half-baked way. I wouldn't agree with Clive Saunders' review that the implications (and they are only implications - nothing is clearly seen - hence the 12 certificate) of the film are ever "somewhat nauseating". Nor would I say that it wasn't a film for the "faint-hearted", but I suppose it all depends on what you are used to. While not a fan of violence and gore, I am enthusiastic about many of the Italian Giallos of the late 60's and 70's, some of which are genuinely nauseating!
Oliver Reed plays a similar character to his Moise of The Party's Over, in two other great films of this period, both currently available on DVD: Michael Winner's (!!) The System, and Joseph Losey's, The Damned (a.k.a These Are The Damned). His performance in all three is at times mannered and theatrical...but absolutely fascinatingly so. It's also sincere and multi-layered.
The Party's Over does take a while to get going, at first we thought it might just be another silly, middle-class dropouts, mindlessly partying, waste of time; but it grew geometrically better as it went on, even developing an echo of the Rashomon, alternate viewpoints, structure. And I think that to say as Clive Saunders does (sorry Clive, but without reading your review I wouldn't have got around to writing one at all!) that the people show no compassion or emotion towards each other, misses the point. They are feigning not to care and when their feelings catch up with them, its then that they grow up...the party's over. This is the only implication that the film could be projecting that I would disagree with: that this feigning, this playing of roles, is a stage that one must grow out of and entirely reject. Many kinds of lifestyle can be equally valid, equally 'grown up'. Once the pose of this particular 'Party' is exposed, some of those 'Partying' may find a more conventional path, while others may find the truth beyond the pose.
There are only a few slight problems with the DVD (aside from the very sticky label sealing shut the case noted by some internet reviews - finally removable with white spirit...but best to slide the insert out first in case the white spirit gets under the case cover) which I'm sure were inavoidable: the audio volume fluctuations and some original picture damage. But with two interesting short films as well (Emma was especially entrancing), The Party's Over is worth every penny. The supporting players: Louise Sorel (believably enigmatic and distant - lending real weight to her fall) Ann Lynn and Clifford David, Catherine Woodville (borrowing Steed's bowler and umbrella?!!) Eddie Albert (bullying and bereft), even wonderful Geoff Randall (Mike Pratt) presumably just posing as a Cuban!? are all enjoyable. The real locations are great too - the midnight 'funeral' scene notably evocative. Watch it as soon as you can!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 August 2015
Why 5 stars. Because this is a piece of film history, which I hope , does not sound too pretentious. Skillfully directed by Guy Hamilton, and acted beautifully by the prinipals, this story of dissolute "Beat/losers" in 60's London gripped me all the way. Reed dominates the film by his sheer physical prescence, and gives a great performence. Fans of Ann Lynn (me) may be just a bit disapointed because, even tho she looks great and acts up a storm, her part is, I felt, subserviant to Catherine Woodville, who surely never had as good a part before or after.. I found Louise Sorel as the enigmatic "Melina" less than entrancing, but that probably wasn,t her fault. Who the heck was Clifford David??, and what a waste of Eddie Albert. (Trivia...Woodville later married Eddie's son Edward, and they were together til his death some 25 years later). Not a lot of action, but the film crackles with good dialogue and never bores. I can't help but feel the DVD "12" cert is wrong. "15" is more suitable because although there is no nudity, no strong sex, or violence, the suggestion is there in spades. This is not for children. The DVD (not Blu Ray) is 1.66.1 ratio (fills my entire TV screen) with good sound (the music tended to ramp up the volume a bit). The print varies in quality too, from excellent to a bit scratchy, but nothing to spoil my viewing pleasure. Glad I got this and thanks to BFI for releasing it. Reed/Lynn/Woodville fans must get this, as must lovers of British Cinema.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2013
An interesting, if London-centric, take on the early sixties. Tame in its representations but excellent in presentation. Contemporaneous so a different take than say Ginger & Rosa [DVD] but also from a different class perspective

Essentially a bunch of middle class drop-outs run around the Kings Road probably waiting to drop back in again. They spend their time in a constant now with little understanding for the consequences of their actions. Oliver Reed plays the ace-face chasing the nice if detached American girl (cf Quadrophenia 10 years later "they say she's a virgin, well I'll be the first in) followed to London by her finance (her fella's going to kill me, oh ... will he?). Then there's the nice girl up from Stow-on-the-Wold, secretly very conventional.

There's a tragedy (another reviewer mentions necrophilia, technically yes, but not really, more tragedy from realisation of loss) and then the dealing with it (though it's unclear she's dead, unless it's bad filming) and subsequent collapse of a suspended reality.

Is it a great film? No. Is it an interesting film? Absolutely.

And, oh how the main venue has fallen - it's now a branch of a well known pizza chain.
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on 14 June 2016
I would have to say, as one who spent their early adult years in West London of the 60’s, this sort of thing was not uncommon if not quite rampant. I rented a basement flat in SW10 with four floors above where at weekends some sort of gaiety took place. Sometimes one would waken to the crash of falling glass (bottles and tumblers) in the area outside. It was the in-thing to have sex orgies, apparently.

But these people were not Beatniks (whatever that may imply) but many with responsible occupations including medicine, journalism (BBC etc.), advertising executives and so forth.

So, for me, this film is not exactly extreme but merely a facet of life that living in large conurbations would appear to encourage.

Never mind, be assured the Milky Way is still out there even if it is smothered out from down here by artificial lights and con-trails!

That’s life!
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on 19 October 2011
The information on the BFI website is as such: "Extras: The complete Director's Cut presented in both High Definition and Standard definition".

However, it is clearly stated in the booklet provided that "Although the pre-release print that was sourced featured onscreen credits for director Guy Hamilton and producer Anthony Perry, suggesting that it was likely to have been one of the very earliest and most authentic cuts of the film ever submitted to the BBFC, recent correspondence has revealed that this version does not constitute an approved Guy Hamilton cut. As a result, the BFI has been asked to remove credits from the presentation." Going on to say that "while this request for the removal of onscreen credits has been respectfully observed (by replacing texted versions of some of the opening shots on the bridge with text-free versions of the same shots), the presentation of this pre-release version remains otherwise identical to that of the archival print, with its soundtrack and overall duration remaining completely intact."

The information on the BFI website is incorrect and and false when put up to the information provided in the booklet.

With the director's cut issue aside, the film as it stands is brilliant regardless. It's heartbreaking, dark and feels like a contemporary folk tale (you know those tales were quite dark before Disney got their hands on them). It shouldn't be missed by any cinephile; it's a mystery film that shows the darkest sides of humanity that we may never willingly want to see. The film grabs you by the throat and keeps holding it until the end credits begin - it may be slow by modern standards, but this is a character study and a brilliantly constructed one at that.

The high quality of the film itself as well as the standard ace quality of BFI presentation makes this film a must-buy, especially for BFI enthusiasts like myself. I couldn't recommend this enough.
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on 28 November 2013
Includes some deleted or censored scenes. A party scene creates a splash because it implied sex with someone dead. In the context of the film, the drunken partiers were unaware of her fall off the staircase, and thought the girl had passed out. It's very hard to believe the censors were given a script and practically helped plot and shape the film as much as the film makers themselves. It's an interesting piece of film history and you see Oliver Reed in one of his first film parts.
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on 21 February 2010
Guy Hamilton's The Party's Over is a stark look at the 'other' side of life in the 60s, where confirmity and convention have no place. Whilst the storyline that revolves around the actions of a group of beatniks and, in particular their leader, is undoubtedly interesting and keeps the viewer intrigued throughout, the subject matter of sex, death and necrophilia is at times somewhat nauseating. The striking thing about this film is the complete lack of compassion or emotion shown by the cast towards eachother and the situation they find themselves in and this results in the film having a somewhat depressing undertone. However, it is always a pleasure and most interesting to see a young Oliver Reed, and an even younger Louise Sorel makes a notable appearance with a good supporting cast of solid British character actors. Not surprising that it has fallen foul of the censors for so long, but as it was an important film in the development of British cinema in the 60s it is good to see it finally released. Not for the faint-hearted though!
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on 26 May 2014
Oliver Reed is excellent in the lead as the moody beat leader. The supporting cast is more hit and miss with a couple of performances very ropey and definately of the time.

Picture on the bluray is generally very good.there are some scenes with obvious film damage but it isn't off putting.
Sound is good also.
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