Reviews

Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment

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Unlikeable monkey business...

If you were feeling generous, you could possibly make a case for this oddity about David Warner going ape over his ex being the missing link between Billy Liar and Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis 'trilogy’.

But we’re not feeling generous – tight, more like.

Indulgent and insulting from the off, Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment sees Warner’s mentally ill artist stalk his almost-divorced socialite wife, Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave).

He repeatedly breaks in to her Hampstead home in the hope his animalistic antics will scupper her plans to remarry.

A teenage Trotskyite turned “class traitor” (in the words of his hard-grafting ma – Irene Handl, pretty much the best thing about the film), Morgan drifts easily from reality to fantasy.

A pretty girl on an escalator becomes a beautifully plumed bird, a yawning fat ticket inspector turns into a hippo, workmen on scaffolding are seen as monkeys in trees – but leaves the audience behind every time.

Where Tom Courtenay’s daydreaming undertaker’s clerk had a sweet, space-cadet charm, Warner’s Morgan is just horrible to behold: a Care In The Community killer in waiting.

“Did you know it’s generally agreed there can be no rape between man and wife?” he leers, looking like Rhys Ifans playing Peter Cook, as Leonie runs a bath.

But the blame doesn’t lie entirely with Warner (although it can’t be coincidence this remains his sole lead role), whose performance lays out an anti-establishment blueprint Malcolm McDowell would emulate in If…. and perfect in A Clockwork Orange.

The 29-year-old Redgrave, in her Oscar-nominated movie debut, plays Leonie like a free spirit in the throes of Stockholm syndrome.

She’s thrilled when Morgan and gallery-owner Charles (Robert Stephens) war over her affections, and ultimately succumbs in the worst way.

If there was a spark between the leads on screen it might make sense but they co-exist rather than chemically combine, making the film’s penultimate pay-off abhorrent.

Morgan might retain the documentary-realism of the ‘Free Cinema’ movement Reisz, Anderson and Tony Richardson founded in the mid-’50s, shooting on location and selecting down-at-heel sites, but it’s otherwise in thrall to the worst excesses of the ’60s.

Reisz and Redgrave would redeem themselves with Isadora two years later, but it was a decade before Warner would truly make his mark on the movies – by losing his head once more, this time in The Omen.

 

Verdict:

The only fun comes from spotting future stars among the supporting cast in this so-called comedy that’s well worth overlooking.

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