Written by: Christopher O’Neill on August 16th, 2010
Theatrical Release Dates: UK, 1965
Director: Guy Hamilton (uncredited)
Writer: Marc Behm
Cast: Oliver Reed, Clifford David, Ann Lynn, Catherine Woodville, Louise Sorel, Eddie Albert
DVD released: May 17th, 2010
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English (Hard-Of-Hearing)
DVD Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £19.99
The BFI have issued THE PARTY’S OVER in a special Dual Format Edition with the film presented on both BluRay and DVD in the same package. This review relates to the DVD version.
Carefree abandonment, careless destruction and bitter disillusionment loom heavily over a group of beatniks in 1960s London. Their leader Moise simultaneously rebels against and revels in the power he holds over his rag-tag gang of hangers-on but there is one member who is not easily influenced by his charms or the lifestyle. Melina, the privileged daughter of an American industrialist, is not so gullible and her repeated rejection of his sexual advances makes Moise fall madly for her. Escaping from a marriage proposal that she was strong-armed into by her father, Melina refuses to meet her fiancé Carson when he arrives in London and Moise is only too happy to assist her. The group play a series of juvenile games to keep them from meeting which leaves Carson infuriated and clashing with Moise. With the help of Nina, another member of the gang, he tries to locate Melina but a series of revelations lead Carson to believe something ominous has happened to her. As tension mounts in the group and the truth is slowly uncovered, Moise and Carson begin questioning the lives they are leading and both men are forced to face up to the consequences of their actions.
Shot in 1963 but unreleased for two years due to the British censor’s demands of cuts and alternations, on a superficial level THE PARTY’S OVER may sound similar to the British B-movie classic BEAT GIRL but it is far more thoughtful and less-exploitative than its subject matter may suggest. The screenplay by Marc Behm (SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR) is a multilayered exploration of power and the acceptance of responsibility that avoids the simplistic moralistic stance that could have easily been adopted. All of the main characters assert some sort of control over others yet none of them are straight-forwardly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with audience sympathy swaying from revelation to revelation: Moise (Oliver Reed) is trapped by his own mystic, on one hand wallowing in the control he has over his followers yet lashing out at them for not having minds of their own. Melina (Louise Sorel) seems selfishly immature in her refusal to confront Carson over the marriage she does not want yet when her father is revealed to be a crass and domineering bully it becomes clear why she hides from her responsibilities. Carson (Clifford David) is initially willing to marry the boss’ daughter not for love but social status but soon realizes there is more to fulfillment than money when he develops a romance with Nina (Catherine Woodville). Even Melina’s father (a guest star appearance from Eddie Albert) is introduced as a despicably aggressive man who will use threats to get what he wants but is ultimately left as a shadow of his former self when he discovers the fate of his daughter.
It is telling that all the festivities depicted in the film are always in full-swing or nearing the end since the fun is gone with almost everyone having too much to drink and are no longer in control of their actions. The opening party sequence, in which a man hangs drunkenly off a balcony pleading for help while Moise seemingly reacts literally to a request to “drop dead” and jumps out the window, illustrates the potential for recklessness and danger that can erupt at any moment. The flashbacks to Melina’s last party, although visually restrained as the standards of the time would dictate, are genuinely unsettling and to an extent comparable to the final revelation of Nicholas Roeg’s BAD TIMING while the group’s actions following the incident can be seen as a precursor to Tim Hunter’s THE RIVER’S EDGE. What makes the film unusual for the period is there is no authoritative presence, the characters are not pressured or hunted down by the police but rather are forced to deal internally with what they have committed. Even Carlson, who is introduced as the interfering outsider and maintains this stance throughout, is absorbed into the group due to his relationship with Nina and the realization that, in moderation, the freedom the beatniks desire can be achieved. It is no surprise that this depiction of the events would upset the British censor in 1963 and according to director Guy Hamilton he was told “we could release it if in the last reel they all got run over by a bus but I couldn’t see the point. They were young people struggling to find something and killing them off was no answer for anything”.
THE PARTY’S OVER was released in 1965 after two years of censorship issues with the British Board of Film Censors. Guy Hamilton removed his name from the credits in protest to the bastardization of the film and the original sequences were never reinstated back into the picture…until now. An early preview version of the film has been discovered and, although not fully endorsed by Hamilton as his original vision (therefore his name is still absent from the credits), it is a marked improvement over the original British cinema release. Preserving the 1:66:1 aspect ratio, the film is presented windowboxed and is anamorphically enhanced. Two sources were utilized: the negative, which is in pristine condition but censored and a damaged 35mm print that is an uncensored version of the film. The majority of the film is from the negative and looks exceptional with the black and white cinematography by Larry Pizer (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE) looking gorgeously sharp with strong blacks and little damage. Unfortunately, the 35mm print used for the cut/alternative scenes missing from the negative does not look as ravishing. This footage is constantly scratched with vertical lines running through the picture while the overall image is softer, grainer and the blacks and whites lack the balanced contrast of the negative. However, it must be noted that the reinstated footage is invaluable to preserving the intent of the film before the censors forced changes and is therefore welcome.
As with the picture, the soundtrack varies in quality between the two sources. The original mono soundtrack sounds clean and solid when sourced from the negative. John Barry’s score, including the theme tune sung of Annie Ross (SALON KITTY) comes across as particularly impressive. The soundtrack from the preview 35mm print sounds, in comparison, tinny and thin but has been cleaned up as much as possible and is serviceable.
There are three bonus features found on the DVD. “Original Theatrical Cut Alternative Sequences” runs 18 minutes long and features the various changes implemented by the British censor. Most of these represent shorter versions of scenes found in the main feature (almost all the party scenes are toned down/removed) but there are a few additional elements of note: the opening credits sequence featuring the group wandering over Albert Bridge now features a voiceover by Oliver Reed that made the film less socially irresponsible to the censor (“the film has been made to show the loneliness and the unhappiness and the eventual tragedy that can come from a life without love for anyone…or anything”); an amusingly compromised scene where a phone conversation – originally conducted in bed after Carlson and Nina had sex – now takes place over a stilted shot of a telephone; an ending that takes the focus away from Moise finding redemption and instead insinuates a more acceptably upbeat conclusion for Carson and Nina (the BluRay edition features the entire censored version of the film as a bonus).
Accompanying THE PARTY’S OVER are two short films. THE PARTY from 1962 is a crude but atmospheric 13-minute piece depicting an art-school get-together and in particular follows one character that drinks too much and blows his chances with a girl. 1964’s EMMA is directed by the producer of THE PARTY’S OVER Anthony Perry and is a symbolic tale of a little girl playing in an overgrown graveyard. There is also a 34-page booklet that features an essay about the film by Andrew Roberts, Guy Hamilton’s recollections about its creation, the film’s censorship history (including details of cuts), an essay about Beatniks in cinema, a biography of Guy Hamilton, and notes about both THE PARTY and EMMA.
As the BFI has demonstrated with their previous Flipside releases, the effort put into THE PARTY’S OVER to present the best edition on DVD/BluRay is unquestionable.