“ Genre: Drama / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Robert Aldrich / Actors: Beryl Reid, Susannah York, Ronald Fraser, Coral Browne, Patricia Medina ... / DVD released 2008-01-01 at Fremantle Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Colour, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 1968, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 135 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Robert Aldrich
SCREENPLAY: Lukas Heller
Beryl Reid as 'George'
Susannah York as Alice 'Childie'
Coral Brown as Mercy Croft
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Adapted from Frank Marcus' 1964 stage play of the same name, The Killing Of Sister George tells the story of an ageing lesbian TV actor, who learns that her part as a district nurse in a long-running soap is to be axed, and her character will be killed off in the story.
In the film, George's real name is June, but she is nicknamed George, as Sister George is the name of the TV character she plays. George cohabits with a pretty young woman called Alice, who she nicknames 'Childie'. Alice isn't stupid, but she's very childlike and a little naïve....she has a host of dolls that she cherishes and whenever George is angry with her, she (Alice) will sulk like a six-year-old. George's temper outbursts are also childish, not being significantly different from a shrieking, foot-stamping tantrum that a small toddler might have. Much of George's anger stems from her being a rather eccentric middle-aged lady who has somewhat of a drink problem. She is insanely possessive and jealous should anybody, male or female, show more than a fleeting interest in Alice.
Deep down, the irascible George is a lonely, very insecure woman who has made her relationship with Alice and her TV acting role the main focus around which her life revolves. She is rather manly with an unpredictable volatility that can burst forth whenever she feels thwarted or that Alice hasn't pleased her in some way. Genuinely fond of her young lover, George will apologise when Alice dissolves into one of her childlike sulks, but everybody else who has the misfortune to become the butt of George's irrational outbursts doesn't fare so well as Alice in the forgiveness department. Sometimes George's treatment of Alice could be considered as borderline cruelty...one of her punishments she metes out to Alice is to make her eat the butt of her freshly ground-out cigar!
The film is mostly about the build-up to the axing of 'Sister George' (George) from the long-running TV soap, concentrating heavily on George's insecurities, demands and tantrums, and through the film, we see her becoming more and more distressed as to what her future will hold.
That's pretty much what The Killing Of Sister George is about, and to discover what eventually happens to George and Alice, you must see it for yourself.
I can remember when The Killing Of Sister George was released at the end of 1968, that the issue of lesbianism (which is depicted far more openly in the film than it was in the 1964 stage play) was considered deeply controversial, and it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Although the crux of the film is about axing George's character from her beloved soap opera, it also concentrates heavily upon two women co-habiting who are having a sexual relationship with one another. For this reason, the film was given an 18 rate, although I personally consider that if it were released for the first time now in 2011, it most likely would rightly escape with a PG.
Purely from the point of view of the film as a whole, I probably appreciate The Killing Of Sister George for its cult status more than anything else. I do find the basic plot rather weak, and much of the intentional humour contained within leaves me cold as it just doesn't hit my 'funny spot'....it would be fair to say that I find large swathes of the film utterly ridiculous, and I suppose it could be classed as a 1960s version of a modern-day romp.
Overall, it's not a film that I choose to watch from the storyline aspect, but its sparkling saving grace is that both Beryl Reid and Susannah York as George and Alice (Childie) respectively each give a stunning performance, and I feel a bit sad that such high class acting qualities were wasted on a rather ridiculous, poor plot which turns out to be little more than a disjointed, raucous caper. It is only the outstanding acting skills of Beryl and Susannah - both beautifully cast and both gave it their all - which make me dust off my copy of the film every ten or so years, and give it a watch.
However, I am aware that The Killing Of Sister George has over the decades been enshrined by many people as an all-time, untouchable classic and although I can see why, it's just that for me it is one of the not so good examples of many barrier-pushing films that were prevalent during the swinging 60s. You might like it though!
If anybody wishes to purchase The Killing Of Sister George, it is currently available on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.41 to £27.50
At the moment, there don't appear to be any used or collectible copies for sale, and a delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~