As some of you may have guessed by now (I know Michael O'Sullivan has) I've commenced something of a Carol White fest since watching Dulcima earlier this week. It's primarily for Letterboxd, the film review site I post on, but I'm naturally sharing some of the reviews here, including this one for the second Carol White film I've watched today (the first being The Fixer) 1967's I'll Never Forget What's'isname....
Andrew Quint (Oliver Reed) has the lot. A successful job in advertising, a wife and children and two incredibly attractive mistresses (one of whom is Marianne Faithfull no less!) but we meet him on the day he decides to jack it all in in the most spectacular fashion; striding purposefully across swinging London with an axe slung across his shoulder, he enters his office and attacks his desk with it before offering his resignation to his overweight Machiavellian and effete employer played by Orson Welles.
Intending to get back to basics he returns to the job he had when he came down from Cambridge, that of a literary agent with a small magazine called The Gadfly run by his friend Nicholas played by Norman Rodway. There he meets secretary Georgina (Carol White), and the pair begin a rather gentle tentative affair. But like the Mafia, it appears that once you've signed up to advertising it isn't all that easy to leave it behind...
I'll Never Forget What's'isname reunites director Michael Winner with star Oliver Reed and writer Peter Draper (The System and The Jokers) for this Modish and acerbic and satirical exploration of the rat race and how success and its inherent affluence cannot be traded in for the simple honesty of the ideals once held in youth.
Being honest I've never truly enjoyed a Michael Winner film that much, but these swinging 60s entries made alongside Reed and Draper offer a modicum more satisfaction than his later output. His kaleidoscopic style here nicely accompanies the tongue in cheek potshots Draper's script offers on their go-getting generation and mutual contemporaries with some nifty editing and interesting shots but, like a lot of Winner films, there's a real dark and violent undercurrent which is more at home here with both the disturbing and tragic counterpoint to the final act and the rather bitter message on offer - that once you're in the rat race you can never get out.
The film is perhaps now best known for 'doing a Tynan' and being the first film to use the word "Fuck" (though an adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses, which also came out that year, also has a stake in that claim) It comes near the end of the film when, lured back to make another advert for Lute, Quint delivers the ultimate scathing examination of his lot, mixing footage of atom bomb explosions, and mass graves with Marianne Faithfull (who else?) shouting "You fucking bastard!" It's meant to be the two fingered salute to end them all, the dog biting the hand that feeds him but, ironically, it's celebrated as a masterpiece and wins an award, making for an interesting and distinctive darker take on the swinging sixties than many other films of that era.
But the trouble is, like all Winner films, there doesn't seem to be an awful lot on offer other than its main message. Sure its delivered fashionably enough but perhaps it needed to actually be more of a character study on Quint himself than it actually is and in many ways the flash, quirky visual style hinders as much as it helps the film. Indeed, characterisation is not one of his or Draper's strong suits and poor Carol White gets the glamourous dollybird role she always wanted, but little else. Her part is so paper thin - a virginal, beautiful saviour for Reed's Quint - that she has little to offer in her big break away from the more authentic and credible work she had done with Ken Loach.
It's left to Oliver Reed to carry the film on his broad shoulders and he does well as a brooding depiction of modern dissatisfaction; handling the scenes in which he loses his cool and control as brilliantly as one would expect from such an electrifying, physical actor.