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The Killing Of Sister George [DVD] 
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June Buckridge (Beryl Reid), an ageing lesbian actress, finds her life falling apart after she both loses her job playing Sister George in a long-running television soap opera and discovers that her lover Childie (Susannah York) has fallen for TV executive Mercy Croft (Coral Browne). This leads to a great deal of taboo-busting melodramatics. Directed by cult favourite Robert Aldrich ('Kiss Me Deadly', 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?', 'The Dirty Dozen').
"Sister George" within The Killing of Sister George is Britain's best-loved soap opera character, played by actress June Buckeridge (Beryl Reid). Buckeridge has become so identified with her character--a sweet old Miss Marple-ish nurse who putters around her quaint little village on a motor scooter--even her friends call her George. But outside the studio she's a hard-drinking, hot-tempered, foul-mouthed lesbian living with an immature young thing she's nicknamed "Childie" (Susannah York, who makes her memorable entrance in a sheer baby-doll nightie). At her worst Sister George is an abusive monster (in a moment of rage she forces Childie to eat the butt of her cigar) but beneath the bluster is an insecure television actress. When the studio decides to kill her character off and an executive makes a play for Childie, the soap star desperately clings to her young lover. Director Robert Aldrich, best known for his tough action films and gothic thrillers, brings his fierce vision of human nature to Frank Marcus's play . In its best moments the film simmers in angry suspicion and helpless frustration, brought to life by Reid's vivacious performance but other scenes are overlong and stage-bound and would have benefited greatly from judicious trimming and tightening. The caricatured portrayals of lesbian life have aged rather poorly--an inevitable sign of the times--but this acidic show-biz drama still carries a hefty emotional punch. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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?'
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
great price and happy I found it on amazon at the price I got it forPublished 1 month ago by sidney ashard
Beryl Reid in this film and Susanna York really give this film a boost. Expertly acted and also amusing it brings to our attention the taboo subject of Lesbianism and gives it... Read morePublished 6 months ago by gilbert thom mcdonnell
It's an amazing film about what bullies TV companies are - but beware, Hollywood is wall to wall porn!Published 10 months ago by Dan Smith
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... Read morePublished 12 months ago by DK