Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 24. October 1, 1968
Films — Crocodile tears for Joy
Crocodile tears for Joy
Why go to films? To be entertained, educated, shocked; made to feel smug, sympathetic, or intelligent; or just to be where you think everyone else? Two recent films, Poor Cow (Anglo Amalgamated) and The Honey Pot (United Artists) exemplify two ends of the scale. For those who appreciate realism, life in the raw, Poor Cow is a must. The Honey Pot is for those who prefer a polished performance, slick dialogue, with a murder mystery; you can always say afterward that you know it was all very shallow and mindless.
Poor Cow is in the tradition of those grim portrayals of industrial England. It opens with the birth of a son to joy (Carol White). Tom (John Bindon), her husband, however, is not particularly interested in either Joy or the child and is more concerned about planning a sordid little robbery with his friend Dave (Terence Stamp).
Suddenly we're in the middle of a getaway. The police arrest Tom and he is put "inside". Joy and her son move in with Dave. But Dave is soon imprisoned for 12 years for his part in the beating up and robbing of an old lady. Joy becomes a barmaid, has casual affairs punctuated by visits to Dave in jail during which she bravely tells him that she'll wait the 12 years.
For Joy things don't matter: when she loses her son one afternoon she thinks it only matters if the child has a stable upbringing. The film ends on this note of hope (if you're idealistic) or self-delusion (if you're cynical).
The author, Nell Dunn, says that Her story is not about the "working class" or "middle class", but is specific to Joy. But it does seem to have this generalised quality. It never moves outside the framework of the experience and thoughts of these inarticulate people. We are shown the terms in which Joy understands her problem: But is to settle for "a man., a baby, and two nice rooms" so breath-takingly original? Could it not have possible to exploit the theme on Joy's terms, without restricting the audience, by making the film more visually imaginative?
There appeared to be a flatness about the film. There was little structural tension; the central horror for Joy—the slow inexorable passing of time—never came across. The amount of time that had passed was never apparent. Apart from the scenes when she first went back to the flat after the trial, her desolation and loneliness were never at the central. Nevertheless she is the most solid of all the characters. She has moments when she sees herself "standing by him in trouble", and then realises her own needs, that she cannot be expected to do without a man for 12 years. Can it be another side to Joy's nature when she has just denounced the people to whom material possessions are all? But perhaps the most "real' Dave and Joy ever are is during the evocative scenes of their holiday in Wales.
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The plot of The Honey Pot is intricately related to Jonson's Volpone. It starts light-heartedly enough as a rich man's whim to see how three of his former mistresses react to his imminent death. There is a lot of "play-acting" by Cecil Fox (Rex Harrison) and his factotum McFly (Cliff Robertson), but things begin to get really serious when murder is committed. Nurse Watkins (Maggie Smith) follows up the Volpone parallels; Fox lightly points out that McFly/Mosca got his job by a narrow margin from someone called Tsetse. With the murder mystery we move furtherest from Volpone. The voice of the observing Fox comments off-screen, and wished that just for once the film ended as the bloody scriptwriter intended it.
Rex Harrison is marvellously athletic—his ambition was to be a dancer—as he bounds about his enormous room and trampolines on his bed to the "Dance of the Hours". Maggie Smith is everything a conscientious registered nurse traditionally is held to be—completely antiseptic. Capucine is too, but then perhaps the same high standards apply to princesses. Edie Adams and Susan Hayward are adequate stereotypes of filthy-rich women.
Definitely not a substitute for reading Volpone for harrassed students, but an enjoyable break from doing so.