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The Birthday Party
cast: Robert Shaw, Patrick Magee, and Dandy Nichols

director: William Friedkin

119 minutes (15) 1968
Film Collection DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
The director of The Exorcist, tackling one of the classics of 20th century theatre... Is there some mistake? Well, no. Harold Pinter's twisted farce may not have blood and crucifixes, but the theme of inexplicable evil hiding among the everyday is very much present.
   Middle-aged Stanley lives in a shabby seaside guesthouse, doted on by his neurotic landlady, sleeping late and reminiscing about his glittering career as a concert pianist. Then, on his birthday, two sinister guests arrive. Within hours, they've insidiously taken control of the house, the birthday party - and Stanley.
   As they wear down his resistance with a stream of interrogational questions, they hint at some unspeakable crime that they've come to punish him for. Is Stanley a Republican terrorist, a sexual deviant, an absconded spy? It's only when he makes his final appearance, suddenly, unnaturally immaculate in suit, tie and shiny shoes, that we realise the real nature of his crime. He has not conformed.
   A strong cast, including Robert Shaw and Patrick Magee, bring some real weight to the drama, and the grim 1970s' boarding house is so convincing you can almost smell the damp. Inevitably, the piece has a stagey feel, and the heightened dialogue style can seem slightly overdone at such close quarters.
   DVD extras: nothing to write home about. A few brief notes on director and writer, and some unexciting stills. However, if you still miss Play For Today, this is the disc for you.
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