3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Nicely Naughty Vintage Fun,
This review is from: Tom Jones [DVD]  (DVD)
For many years, Tom Jones was my absolute favourite film. My views have mellowed and my tastes have changed somewhat, but I still enjoy seeing it every now and then. It's like an old friend. Although, I will admit, it is one of those films that viewers either love or hate.
Even though the story is set in the England of the early 1700s, the film is solidly a reflection of the 1960s. It was extremely popular when it came out - winning the Oscar as best film. Audiences were overwhelmed by its bawdy humour, sinning and sinful characters, and endless camera trickery - all briskly paced and accompanied by a rollicking musical score. Director Tony Richardson threw everything into the mix - speeded up film, freeze frames, screen wipes, character asides to the audience, a lip-smacking narrator, even a silent movie opening sequence. The characters looked like real people instead of actors - the costumes and settings actually looked lived in. John Osborne's script contained dialogue with a proper period flavour (too much so occasionally) and the whole thing was photographed with a subdued, grainy quality not unlike an old painting. In fact, Tom Jones is almost two films in one - the first part rustic, earthy and halcyon on the sprawling estates of Squires Western and Allworthy, then an abrupt change of style to the intimidating Hogarthian squalour of London where danger seemed to lurk behind every corner. Newgate Gaol and a public hanging are uncompromisingly realistic for what is, after all, basically a comedy.
Most memorable of all are the performances. Albert Finney as Tom and pert Susannah York as his one true love are suitably attractive and talented. But the real flavour of the feast is provided by one of the most incredible supporting casts ever assembled for such a film. Hugh Griffith shamelessly steals every scene he's in but the haughty Edith Evans is more than a match for him. Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman and the incomparable Joan Greenwood give plenty of variety to Tom's sex life, while David Warner, Julian Glover and Peter Bull lead the villains.
I have never read the Henry Fielding novel on which the film is based and have no intention of ever doing so. The film of Tom Jones is more than capable of standing on its own. Its style, like its setting, may seem a like a relic from the distant past. But, in many ways, Tom Jones represents the high point of British film making in the Sixties - an achievement that Brits have rarely equalled since. More than that, Tom Jones is an immensely enjoyable film - it is fun! And that is something we can never have too much of.