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Anchor Bay presents
"There's no harm in it. We're all flesh, you know."
DVD ReviewIn these post-Clinton-intern days, it's almost quaint to think of a time when a sex scandal could bring down a government. But thus it was in the 1960s (which were clearly not so innocent, but the façade was nonetheless there) when young tart Christine Keeler, through her relationship with British War Minister John Profumo, ended up dragging the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan through the mud and out of office.
The film begins with Dr. Stephen Ward (John Hurt), a randy, gossipy osteopath, meeting the young and attractive Christine (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), a London showgirl. Before long, he has her move in with him and introduces her to various notables, primarily so he can hear the après-sex tales from Christine. Among other relationships, Christine is involved with John Profumo (Ian McKellen) and simultaneously with Eugene Ivanov (Jeroen Krabbe), who may or may not be a Soviet spy. When things get out of hand, the story makes its way to the London tabloids, Profumo is disgraced and Ward finds himself on trial for acting as a pimp.
The film takes the viewpoint not so much of the scandal per se, or of Christine, but is rather the story of Ward and his desire to engage in voyeuristic sex talk about the exploits of Christine and her friend, Mandy Rice-Davies (Bridget Fonda). The morals of the situation are completely irrelevant to Ward—whether Christine is bedding a War Minister or spy or West End lowlife—it makes no difference whatsoever to him. He just wants the gory details to snigger over.
Hurt is excellent in bringing Ward's character to life; his performance is restrained with a feeling of longing and emptiness that is highly evocative and makes his motives understandable. Whalley is fetching (and indeed far more attractive than the real-life Keeler) though rather mature for the part of the 18-year-old Christine. She does an impressive job of conveying her feelings for Ward even as everything crumbles around them. McKellen is outstanding as the alternately obsessed and humiliated Profumo, and Bridget Fonda nicely captures the completely cold and calculating Mandy.
While the cover of the keepcase trumpets the fact that this disc is uncut and uncensored, there is not much titillating material here; the only good look we get at Christine Keeler's body is through Whalley's body double. Most of the reinstated material appears to be in a fairly ridiculous orgy, in which aged government officials and men of wealth cavort with women one third their age. Indeed, the film takes a thoroughly unsympathetic view towards these men, most clearly exemplified in the scene where Profumo is awkwardly making love to Keeler, while she is unable to stifle a completely bored yawn. It's moments like these that make aging men such as myself quite thoroughly ashamed of our breed. Perhaps John Profumo deserved to lose his position, not for breaches of security, but for making a thorough ass of himself with a young woman.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The image is a little on the soft side, with marginal black levels. Colors are excellent, however, and the source print exhibits no damage whatsoever. The anamorphic picture isn't quite as clear as one would expect for such a recent film, but the picture is stable and displays little in the way of artifacts.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Both audio tracks are quite satisfactory. The 5.1 track has a wider musical soundstage and superior ambience in the crowd and party scenes, but the film is mostly dialogue driven and thus primarily center-oriented. There is precious little directionality on either track; it is most pronounced during the briefly psychedelic marijuana-use sequence. The LFE channel hasn't much to do, making the difference between the two tracks nominal at best.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:24s
Extras Review: The only extra is a nonanamorphic, full-frame trailer that consists mainly of review blurbs. Chaptering is adequate but not excessive. And that's all she wrote. The layer change is badly placed and some of the dialogue is cryptic enough to make one long for subtitles.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAn interesting historical drama with an erotic edge, Scandal is rather tame in retrospect. Very good performances make this worth consideration, despite the lack of extras.
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