Behold the wild wonder of cinema. Both Sir Ian McKellen and John Hurt recently portrayed aging homosexuals who befriend young, impressionable, straight men. McKellen fell for yard man Brendan Fraser in the astonishingly powerful Gods and Monsters. And a year earlier, Hurt ventured across the Atlantic to make eyes at Jason Priestley in Love and Death on Long Island. While only 10 years before, the two were chasing young, impressionable skirts in the screen telling of Britain's Profumo Affair during the dawn of the swinging '60s. Scandal (1989, 114 minutes) documents the first government sex scandal of the century, but strikes yet another familiar chord at its close, with the recent see-gar shenanigans in our own White House.
The movie: A congenial letch plucks an 18-year-old tart from her showgirl line, moves her into his flat, and proceeds to school her in the ways of rubbing elbows and OTHER body parts with posh London society folk. It's not long before Dr. Stephen Ward (Hurt) is taking Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley) to swank dinner parties where he holds forth on the joys of "petting," only to be interrupted by the hostess bursting into the dining room wearing only a grass skirt. Of course, naughtiness ensues. But it's when Christine breaks into an impromptu, poolside fan dance -- nekkid as a jaybird -- that she literally bumps into Scandalsville. It's this chance meeting of Cabinet Minister John Profumo (McKellen) and a simultaneous affair with a commie spy (Jeroen Krabbe) that later erupts into screaming headlines and causes the shameful downfall of the Conservative party. Watch for Bridget Fonda, who got her Golden Globes nominated, as Christine's younger and even MORE impressionable chorus colleague. CineSchlockers will recall that it was Mr. Hurt who swore he was " ... NOT AN ANIMAL!!!" in The Elephant Man.
Notables: 22 breasts. One corpse. British showgirls. Hiney patting. Reefer madness. Multiple diddling (including a couple cavorting atop a piano WHILE IT'S BEING PLAYED). Razor to the face. Aggressive paparazzi. Swat to the wangdoodle with yellow rose. Guys in silly wigs. Gratuitous "good cop, bad cop" scene. Phony lesbian nookie.
Quotables: Steven pursues Christine, "I'm a very determined fellow, my dear. I'll stop at nothing -- when aroused." And once she's under his spell, he encourages her carnal pursuits, "Never say no to a dare, Christine. You never know what you might miss."
Time codes: Dinner table centerpiece that'd make John Holmes envious (14:15). Englishsters try their dernedest to exceed the wild and wooly sexual excesses of Caligula (48:00).
Audio/Video: Clean anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. If the film looks dreary to you, keep in mind where the movie's set. Pet Shop Boys fans will squeal like little girls when they learn the duo contributed to the soundtrack.
Extras: Restored to its original running time, after having been cut to avoid an X rating for the U.S. theatrical release (first to go was the aforementioned piano couple as it was determined after really, really close scrutiny that they were NOT, ahem, acting). Motion-video main menu featuring film's score. Theatrical trailer.
Final thought: Amidst the luridness of the story, and the unblinking way it's told, there's a profound sensitivity in the script and especially within the performances. John Hurt and Joanne Whalley enthuse seemingly base, torn-from-the-headlines characters with rich emotion. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.