An amazing performance by Olivier. Watch the mesmerizing scene where he tells his daughter that he's dead behind his eyes. You'll be seeing a genius at work. Orson Welles said in an interview that Olivier was a stupid, stupid man. Then he said, "Mind you, I didn't say he couldn't act."
Laurence Olivier got a Oscar nomination as a failing vaudeville type entertainer who will use anyone and do anything to stay in the game. It's amazing that Joan Plowright, Alan Bates, and Albert Finney all got their first big chance in film. Alan Bates and Albert Finney were so young that I almost didn't recognize them.
This tour de force, in glorious big screen black & white, features astonishing acting by one and all, not to mention stunning camera work, an exquisite music track and top-notch scripting. The story focuses on a veteran stage entertainer Archie Rice who, to his friends and family is “a bit of a bastard.” Despite a lifetime of trying to achieve the fame of his father Archie knows that he does not have what it takes. As he puts it: “I’m dead behind these eyes.” With a cast like this you’d expect more than your money’s worth of acting and the film does not disappoint, but it does not rest on the acting laurels alone. Originally a stage play, the film has been ably taken to the streets of (mostly) Blackpoole adding a soupcon of spice. Early on there’s an interior scene that is shot a few degrees off horizontal. Just when you begin to wonder why it’s off kilter, the camera slowly tilts until the image is straight… and then keeps going (!) finally coming to rest a bit off center in the other direction, perfectly illustrating the world these characters live in. The story takes another step off the deep end when you consider the history going on around the Rice family: Suez and the fall of the British Empire. Which is, after all, what it’s all about.
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