The Killing of Sister George, directed by Robert Aldrich, is a tense drama about an older woman TV star named George (Beryl Reid) who is going through a late midlife crisis.
George plays a friendly and wise bicycle riding sister of mercy on a popular TV show soap opera that always presents the world as simple and agreeable. But in real life George is a hard drinking, foul mouthed woman who is continually paranoid that she is about to be axed from her show.
Due to this, her home life - where she lives with a younger woman named Childie (Susannah York) - is very strained and often punctuated by George's drunken cruelty.
Based on a play by Frank Marcus the film has a stagey quality to it but the good acting by the main cast keeps it relatively involving. I say relatively because the film does play a bit slow and has the feel of a TV show at times. But it is also edgy in much the way that 1950's overwrought Hollywood dramas were and that keeps it lively if not somewhat predictable. It also has a sexual undercurrent that ends up stronger than anything Hollywood had every done prior to the late 1960's when it was released.
It seems that George is right, her days at the studio are numbered. And much to her chagrin her fate seems to be in the hands of a rather snobbish uptight studio executive named Mercy Croft (Coral Browne) who also takes a fancy to Childie; she offers Childie try outs at the BBC at the same time that she brings bad news to George.
Robert Aldrich, who also directed Kiss Me Deadly and The Dirty Dozen [thus showing his range] keeps the film lively and at times harsh. At time it reminded me a bit of Sunset Blvd but with dark British humor rather than Wilder's cynicism. And Beryl Reid gives as strong a performance in her own way as Gloria Swanson did.
Of note The Killing of Sister George was one of the first major lesbian films released in the United States. But it didn't do that well at the box office.
There is one erotic and somewhat creepy sex scene between Susannah York's and Coral Browne's characters that landed the film an X rating. At the time it caused a bit of a stir. The New York Times critics wrote that it: "sets a special kind of low in the treatment of sex—any kind of sex—in the movies now." By today's standards, however, while it is still provocative and odd it would most likely garner the film an R rating.
The DVD is presented 1.78:1 16 x 9 widescreen. The image looks like a 1960's film [which it is] with somewhat drab colors and a soft grainy image.
Audio is presented in mono. The film is all dialogue with a minor musical soundtrack. There are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
There are no extras.
The Killing of Sister George is a disturbing, funny and sometime harsh stage drama brought to the big screen by Robert Aldrich. Primarily about an aging women at the end of her career it is also a lesbian drama, without being necessarily provocative. The DVD has no extras whatsoever but it looks and sounds good.