Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs

It could be argued that if Yorkshire dramatist David Halliwell hadn't written his play Little Malcom And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs and it hadn't appeared on The West End in the mid '60s, then there would be no Life Of Brian, no Withnail and I, no Handmade films in fact.

Because Little Malcom was the favourite play of George Harrison and in 1974 it was made into a movie, the first film the ex Beatle ever financed.

It's a superb film, currently available on the excellent BFI Flipside label (who have previously released some near forgotten gems like The Bed Sitting Room and Deep End) starring John Hurt in the titular role of would be revolutionary Malcolm Scrawdyke. Expunged from his studies at the local Art School, he becomes ferociously determined to take his revenge upon the unseen Allard, whom he views as one of the 'eunuch' threats to men with real power and something to say like him and his band of brothers of The Party of Dynamic Erection; John McEnery as Wick, Raymond Platt as Irwin and a scene stealing David Warner as the duffle coated struggling writer and sexual fantasist, Dennis Charles Nipple.

Naturally they're a hopeless bunch in the main and the film comes across as the missing link between 70s sitcoms Citizen Smith (which surely nicked a fair bit from this?) and Last Of The Summer Wine (dry, mordant northern humour and a preoccupation for detail) The hopelessness of the group is the film's great irony; they are, as Ann played by Rosalind Ayres (the film's only woman) addresses, the real eunuchs. It is Ann who is the object of confusion and attraction for the 'impotent' Malcolm, something she notes with both sensitivity and 'do you dare?' amusement which leads to a very dark unflinching climax to the film.

A brilliant dark comedy full of bitter vitriol and Billy Liar-esque pipe dreams, it is the ultimate word in student/angry young men ineffectuality, and no doubt still resonant today in the climate of anti capitalism demos and rioting, as well as serving as a snapshot of the jolie laide Britain of the 1970s.

The film also has a wonderfully tender, haunting and simple soundtrack provided by forgotten North East duo Splinter. Harrison plays on this too I believe

PS, random but that top photo of the gang in the derelict car? I just love the orange early evening glow across it :)

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