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From riches to rags
Up The Junction (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
Up The Junction (DVD)
Advantages: Good nostalgia value, good music, sticks fairly close to the original story
Disadvantages: Some poor acting, not hard-hitting enough, some important parts omitted
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 120 mins
DIRECTOR: Peter Collinson
PRODUCER: John Brabourne, Anthony Havelock-Allan & Ned Sherrin
SCREENPLAY: Roger Smith
MUSIC: Mike Hugg/Manfred Mann
Suzy Kendall as Polly
Maureen Lipman as Sylvie
Adrienne Posta as Rube
Liz Frazer as Mrs. McCarthy
Dennis Waterman as Pete
Also stars: Susan George, Bill Murray, Alfie Bass, Hylda Baker & Mike Reid
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Adapted from Nell Dunn's very controversial (at the time) 1963 novel and also based on Ken Loach's 1965 TV dramatisation which was part of The Wednesday Play series, Up The Junction tells the story of rich girl Polly who is very disillusioned by what she sees as the emptiness of an affluent lifestyle, upping sticks and moving across the Thames to the slums of Battersea.
Polly takes a job in a chocolate-packing factory, making friends easily with other female members of staff, especially Sylvie and her younger sister Rube.
Despite the enormous class differences between Polly and her new friends, she joins in well with their lifestyle.
All around Polly is squalor, but rather than being repulsed by it, she is fascinated. She makes friends with Pete who works at a second-hand furniture shop, and they start to date.
Pete is constantly wanting to 'better' himself and feels that he ought to be taking Polly out to posh places, but she is quite happy having a brown ale and a sing-song in the local with the rest of the factory crowd.
Despite Polly being accepted by her new friends, the differences between filthy rich and filthy poor make themselves very apparent and before long, she gets to see and experience the much darker side of life in the slums.
Can Polly cope? Watch the film to find out!
It is only recently that I got around to watching the cinema film version of Up The Junction, being intrigued to see how well or otherwise it matched up to Ken Loach's intense, biting 1965 play...which I have seen many times over the last 40 or so years. I did read Nell Dunn's 1963 novel when I was about 13, but am unable to recall it clearly enough to make suitable comparisons.
The film version of Up The Junction does stick to the TV play pretty well, but a lot has been left out. The omissions are largely observations on London lower working-class life during the early 1960s, and there is a time difference between the two productions in that the TV play is set in about 1960-ish, whereas the cinema film which I am reviewing here is set in 1967.
As well as attempting to highlight differences between social classes, the film of Up The Junction is very much in keeping with a Swinging Sixties mood, which distracts somewhat from the serious aspects of the story. The acting by most of the cast is very mediocre, although not laughably bad, but my favourite is definitely Maureen Lipman who gives a very passable performance as the friendly but feisty Sylvie. Although they only had minor parts in the film, I very much enjoyed Hylda Baker's creepy portrayal of the batty back-street abortionist, and Alfie Bass was wonderful as the owner/manager of a run-down old second hand furniture shop. I found Dennis Waterman's and Suzy Kendall's input to be rather weak, with their spoken dialogue coming across as stilted and wooden.
Members of the 1960s pop band Manfred Mann produced a decent soundtrack which although it doesn't accentuate the grimmer aspects of the story, it is pleasant to listen to and matches up with the Swinging Sixties mood very well.
As far as production is concerned, the film version of Up The Junction is distinctly more sugary and far less hard-hitting than the TV play. All of the then controversial topics Nell Dunn's original novel brought to light are included in the film, but are nowhere near as realistic or harrowing as they are in Ken Loach's play.
Up The Junction deals with various social issues such as poverty versus affluence, illegal abortion, extra-marital sex (which was far less socially acceptable than it now is), teenage rebellion and death. These aspects are adequately covered in the film, but lack the cutting edge factor which positively leaps out of the screen and bites from the TV play (which incidentally is shot in black and white - the cinema film is in colour).
This slice from the 1960s certainly isn't a bad film and it succeeded in holding my attention closely from start to finish, but I do wish most of the acting had been a bit more polished and the less savoury aspects of the storyline had been more hard-hitting.
There is one thing in the film which is, due to it having been made a few years after the play, quite interesting from the contrast point of view....that is with slum clearance forging rapidly ahead during the latter half of the 1960s, there is a sharp difference between the old back to back two-up two-down terraced houses nestling amongst newly-erected tower blocks, and how these modern tower blocks had become slums in next to no time.
I do think that I might watch the film Up The Junction again at some point in the future as a substitute, because despite hunting high and low, I am unable to locate a DVD or VHS copy of Ken Loach's TV play, which I far prefer. The film certainly isn't bad (apart from the dodgy acting) and if you haven't seen the TV play, it could (the film) come across as quite unnerving in parts, but it is infinitely tame in comparison. If you've seen the play first though, the film will come across as a very much watered-down version of the story....but nonetheless is still reasonably enjoyable.
Probably the most appealing thing about Up The Junction as a film, is the nostalgic element which harks back to a time when the less affluent areas of London still had strong, supportive communities, and ordinary people weren't afraid to walk the streets after dark lest they be caught up in a riot, stabbed, mugged or similar.
In summary, this is a watchable film with decent levels of nostalgia value, but doesn't quite ram home the nail of intensity as much as I feel it should.
At the time of writing, Up The Junction can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.78 to £60.00
Used: from £1.98 to £16.99
Collectible: Two copies currently available @ £3.95 and £4.28, both used
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 ~~
Summary: Well worth watching, but nowhere near as good as the play