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Scandal
cast: John Hurt, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Bridget Fonda, Ian McKellen, and Jeroen Krabbé

director: Michael Caton-Jones

114 mins (unrated) 1989
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
In London 1963, when sexual intercourse began according to Philip Larkin, Stephen Ward (John Hurt) takes beautiful teenaged showgirls Christine Keeler (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) and Mandy Rice-Davies (Bridget Fonda with an occasionally shaky English accent) under his wing and introduces them to high society. Keeler begins an affair with Minister of War John Profumo (Ian McKellen) and Russian spy Eugene Ivanov (Jeroen Krabbé). The resultant scandal helps to bring down Harold Macmillan's long-standing Conservative government.
   Back in 1989, Palace Pictures were the great hope of British Cinema. They are no more, for further details of which I refer you to Angus Finney's entertaining book The Egos Have Landed. Previous attempts at dramatising the Profumo scandal for TV and cinema had come to nothing; the combination of a subject of continuing fascination, titillation and excellent marketing made a hit of Scandal, at least in the UK. In the USA, it fared less well, released in a form six minutes shorter, due to cuts by the distributor and by the MPAA, the latter mostly affecting the orgy scene. This DVD release is labelled "uncut and uncensored." Actually not quite: the version here is identical to that given an '18' certificate by the BBFC, with an optical blur obscuring a brief, inadvertent hardcore shot during the orgy. (The curious will find it at 49:06.)
   As a film, Scandal is fast-moving and slickly put together by debutant director Michael Caton-Jones, though ultimately somewhat superficial and not as affecting as it perhaps should be. John Hurt's performance is at the heart of the film; his cry of "This is not fair" as Ward realises that he has become the establishment's fall guy is the scene that stays with you the longest. This is all the more remarkable considering that the actor's marriage had just broken up and he frequently took refuge in the bottle. Ian McKellen was making a point when he took on the role of Profumo: he had just come out as gay and he was asserting his acting credentials by playing a man best known to be heterosexual. He does as well as he could, despite miscasting and a most unfortunate bald wig.
   As with their edition of David Hare's Strapless, which I also reviewed for VideoVista, this DVD does beg a question. Scandal is a British film in just about every sense, from subject matter to production company to most of the cast and crew - so why does it take an American company (Anchor Bay) to release it on DVD?


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