Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Big Switch

This 1969 crime exploitationer from Pete Walker starts off in good style with a five minute striptease sequence, followed by scene-setting images of Carnaby Street at the time atop which Patrick Allen provides a voice-over introduction to protagonist John Carter.

The second strip sequence and some nice lighting effects

Given his age, identified as just the wrong side of thirty; cynical hard man attitude towards Swinging London, and ambiguously seedy / glamorous job as a sub-Blow Up photographer working in advertising, it’s not hard to see him as an easy character for Walker (born 1939) to have written.

An odd shadow effect

Also of note in this regard is that the second half of the film takes place in Walker’s birthplace of Brighton, with the showdown taking place on its pier, a location that both appears to reflect his own origins in a theatrical family and the end-of-pier theatre that provides the setting for 1972’s The Flesh and Blood Show.

Unfortunately incidental details of this nature are the main things that the film has going for it.

In terms of its stock in trade, sex, violence and sleaze it barely holds its own against Performance and Get Carter. This matter doubly in that it obviously doesn't compare to these films as far as cast, production values and direction go.

You are a voyeur

The cynicism and tawdriness pervading the entire enterprise, if at least self-conscious and deliberate on Walker’s part, also make it difficult to really care about Carter’s predicament. So too does the at times downright amateurish way in which he acts.

The story begins when Carter enters the flat of the girl he has just picked up (after going to get a packet of cigarettes, this being the kind of film where everyone smokes constantly) to find her unexpectedly dead, apparently the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. So what does Carter do? Well, he picks up the gun, calls the police; hesitates and hangs up; wipes the gun of his prints; puts it back, and leaves...

Does the strange shot-reverse shot framing here indicate something about Carter's relationship with his agent, or is it just ineptitude?

Worth a look for the Walker completist or student of British crime cinema of the period, but hard to recommend to the casual viewer looking more for entertainment.

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