22 August 2018

THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE PRESENTS: TOM JONES. (1963) A BAWDY 18TH CENTURY SEX COMEDY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




TOM JONES. (1963) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY HENRY FIELDING.
DIRECTED BY TONY RICHARDSON. PRODUCED BY WOODFALL FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: WALTER LASSALLY.
STARRING ALBERT FINNEY, SUSANNAH YORK, HUGH GRIFFITH, DAME EDITH EVANS, GEORGE DEVINE, JOAN GREENWOOD, DIANE CILENTO, GEORGE A. COOPER, ROSALIND KNIGHT, JOYCE REDMAN, DAVID WARNER, JOHN MOFFATT AND PETER BULL.
NARRATED BY MICHEAL MAC LIAMMOIR.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
FILM NOT REMOTELY SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS. SORRY!

'Where is she? Where's Tom's pussy?'

'Tom, thou art as hearty a cock as any in the kingdom.'

What a glorious romp this is! It's like a Jilly Cooper bonkbuster set in the eighteenth century and committed to celluloid, and not a curly-headed Welsh crooner in sight. It has sex, dogs, horses, pigs, lusty serving wenches with heaving bosoms, fabulous costumes, settings and scenery and poor old Tom being caught in flagrante delicto every time he takes a woman into the scratcher. He's plagued with bad luck like that, is our Tom.

TOM JONES was made by the iconic Woodfall Film Productions (1959-1984), the company that produced such films as KES (1969), THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER (1962), A TASTE OF HONEY (1961) and LOOK BACK IN ANGER (1959).

TOM JONES is quite an important picture, not to mention portentous, because it heralded, not exactly the end of the black-and-white kitchen sink dramas that preceded it but, shall we say, a cessation of same for a bit. And what did it usher in instead? Why, the Swinging Sixties, of course, and in fantabulous Technicolor as well.

The films mentioned above can be found on the BFI Blu-Ray and DVD box-sets entitled WOODFALL: A REVOLUTION IN BRITISH CINEMA, which came out in June 2018. TOM JONES is on there too, but the BFI is releasing this particular film now as a stand-alone Blu-Ray film, complete with a ton of extra features.

In particular, it includes both the director's cut of the film and also the previously unavailable original theatrical cut, all one-hundred-and-twenty-eight minutes of if. So you'll be spoiled for choice, so you will, when you buy this little gem.

TOM JONES was big budget, full colour and a period piece or costume drama rather than the contemporary films we've noted above, based as it was on the whopping great novel of one Henry Fielding, THE HISTORY OF TOM JONES: A FOUNDLING

Published in 1749- I think!- it's considered to be one of the first great English novels, along with the likes of Samuel Richardson's PAMELA and other similar works. It's so long it makes the Bible and the thickest Harry Potter tomes look like a couple of pamphlets, lol. You probably wouldn't get it read in one setting, unless you're accustomed to sit for three months at a time.

TOM JONES was therefore a bit of a departure from its norm for Woodfall Film Productions, and many of the people involved with it were terribly afraid that it would fail spectacularly.
Far from becoming a flop, however, it succeeded probably beyond the wildest dreams of the cast and crew and made a millionaire overnight of its star Albert Finney, who'd been given shares in it. Lucky Albert Finney, lol.

It also garnered no less than four Academy Awards, including Best Director for Tony Richardson, the co-founder of Woodfall Film Productions alongside playwright John Osborne, the writer of LOOK BACK IN ANGER, and another chap called Harry Saltzman.

The film has so much background to it, background inseparable from the development of
British cinema (you can't separate them, it'd be like trying to unpick the stitches from two conjoined tapestries), that it's not really possible to discuss it without going into at least some of it.

I think you all are well informed enough now, however, and we can safely move onto the plot of TOM JONES, a filthy dirty bed-hopping sex romp with added hoops and crinolines. You guys will love it...

Tom himself, played by the handsome Albert Finney (I used to confuse him with Richard Burton) of ERIN BROCKOVICH and ANNIE: THE MUSICAL fame, is a colourful character. A foundling left in the bed of the kindly Squire Allworthy, a man possessed of quite a sizeable endowment, Tom was brought up by the Squire as if he were that man's own son.

Tom grows up to be a ladies' man, a swordsman extraordinaire to whom the wimmins all flock because of his handsome face and well-put-together body. Disliked intensely by his father's toadies Square and Thwackum and also by his Aunt Bridget's son, a weed with the unlikely name of Blifil, Tom bears this dislike manfully and tries to forget his woes by having as much sex as he can manage, and that's a fair lot of sex.

We first see him with Molly Seagrim, an impoverished slut who tries to lay the blame for her scandalous unwed pregnancy at Tom's door. She's marvellously played by Diane Cilento (Miss Rose in THE WICKER MAN, wife to Sean JAMES BOND Connery and WICKER MAN scriptwriter Anthony Shaffer) who, with her long dark brown tresses, is a dead ringer for Hammer beauty Kate O'Mara. Now there's another sexy wench with a delightfully rounded bosom in a saucy, low-cut period costume.

The real love of Tom's life is Susannah York's character Sophie Western, a sweet-faced virginal blonde lacking somewhat in the sultry, sizzling sensuality of Molly Seagrim. She's the daughter of Squire Western, a brilliant character.

Squire Western (played by Hugh Griffith with absolute joyful gusto) thinks only of hunting, horses, dogs, booze and a bit of slap-and-tickle in the hay and, though he loves Sophie as his only child, he has no qualms about marrying her off to whomever he deems suitable at the time. He loves Tom almost as a son and wouldn't mind at all Tom's being his son-in-law, but Tom is perpetually in disgrace with Sophie for his shenani-goats with other women.

When Tom is disowned by his father due to the evil machinations of Blifil and the Toadies, a spell in London sees him get mixed up with a married woman called Mrs. Waters, a devious, manipulative self-serving society beauty by the name of Lady Bellaston, and Sophie's Cousin, the plummy-voiced Mrs. Fitzpatrick, played by excellent comic actress Rosalind Knight. ('Are you a professional Santa?' ABOUT A BOY: 2002.)

The issue of Tom's uncertain parentage comes up again and again. Will Tom ever find out who his real parents were? And will he ever reconcile with Squire Allworthy, the only real father whom he has ever known? Or will he just be hanged first and be damned? It's all to play for, readers.

Watch out for the following highlights: the slightly stomach-turning meat-and-fruit-eating 'foreplay' scene, the magnificent interiors, the divine harpsichord music and character actor George A. Cooper (DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM) donning a flaming red wig and a ridiculous Oirish accent to play- guess what?- a drunken violent Oirishman, to be sure to be sure. Sure that's not a thundering great cliché at all at all, sure 'tisn't. Stroke me clover say me name and kiss me I'm Oirish...

The Fourth Wall between viewer and film is broken numerous times as well. See if you can spot the breaches. I said breaches, not britches, lol, although there're plenty of nice snug-fitting britches on display here too. Tom himself has a mighty fine pair of pins.

I love when Tom gets all kitted out by the conniving Lady Bellaston (Joan Greenwood, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS) to be a proper gentleman and he ends up looking exactly like German rock star Falco in his video for ROCK ME AMADEUS, lol. It's a good look for him too. Suits you, Sir.

TOM JONES coming at last to Blu-Ray is probably the home entertainment release of the year. The film itself is marvel enough but the background to its being made and all the Woodfall stuff only serves to steep it even more thoroughly in the melting-pot of vintage British cinema. Buy it, watch it, love it, keep it forever. That's my advice to you guys today.

TOM JONES is out now on BLU-RAY from the BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE.

 BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop. Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop



AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








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