Deep End (15)

Saturday 17 November at 8pm

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski, UK, 1970, 1 hr 30 mins. Starring: Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown and Diana Dors

“It’s amazing to think this could have slipped the net for so long: it should be up there with Blow Up or Repulsion – both outsiders’ views of 60s Britain, as is this.” (Steve Rose The Guardian)

Member of the Moving Image working party, Moira Collett gives her personal view:

Deep End is a very unusual and visually stunning film.  Perhaps it didn’t seem so when it was first released in 1970, but 40-odd years later it is really surprising that it has been out of sight all this time, since it is a film that really merits attention.

Set in a run-down bit of London in the late 60s, the focus is a rather seedy public baths, with a swimming pool and private bathrooms.  The main protagonists are attendant Susie (Jane Asher then at the height of her swinging London fame) and Mike (John Moulder-Brown) her new, naïve young assistant.  He has a lot to learn both about the conventions and rituals of the baths and about how to cope with a very mixed bag of regulars, some of whom, including Dianna Dors as a middle-aged sex-pot, are looking for more than just a hot bath.  Susie in turn coaches, teases and entrances Mike as he learns the ropes.

Unfortunately Mike’s crush on Susie develops into an obsession and the film begins to take on a surreal turn as he follows her on a date with her fiancé whilst aware she is also having an affair with an older bloke.  It’s hard to get your head round the very different mores from a present day perspective.  Susie’s fiancé is a PE teacher whose behaviour with his girl pupils around the swimming pool would be absolutely taboo now.  In this hoot-house environment its not surprising Mike is confused about lust and love.  Unfortunately it leads him in an undesirable direction and ultimately to the bizarre climax: an amazing, unforeseen kaleidoscope of images, played out in the empty (drained) swimming pool, with music from Can and Cat Stevens on the soundtrack.

I caught Deep End on TV recently and cannot wait to see it again on the big screen.  This is definitely rare opportunity not to be missed.

Guardian review: