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Up the Junction (Blu-ray Review)

12 May, 2014 By: Mike Clark

$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Suzy Kendall, Dennis Waterman, Maureen Lipman.

A curiosity at best, this rather handsome color release (did Paramount Pictures ever distribute a bad-looking film during my formative years or before?) is at least a curio on multiple levels. Arriving late in the run of British working-class releases that were instrumental in the big-screen development of directors such as Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz and John Schlesinger, it’s one of the few of its memorable ilk to have been shot in color. This said, another one in that category was still-working director Ken Loach’s early screen success from Nell Dunn’s novel Poor Cow — Dunn being the writer whose collected South London stories led to the book version of Junction (which, just to keep your head swimming, had also inspired a TV version directed by Loach).

As it turned out, both Cow and Junction opened in the United States at almost the same time, back when just about anything involving London (sub-category “swinging”) could still get a U.S. release. Not, however, necessarily in my culturally Podunk Ohio hometown, which is why I took the leap to view this Blu-ray as soon as I got it. Because unless I’m really misremembering, Junction the movie never played anywhere near my radar upon its 1968 release, and I really wanted to see it because even the Midwest, some of us knew that lead Suzy Kendall was a dish.

Her character, from a wealthy family, is apparently sick of the privileged life — though a problem with the movie is its failure to show us exactly what Kendall is rebelling against — though, yes, this added exposition might have allowed what is already a two-hour movie to get out of hand. Gorgeous and looking a little like Sharon Tate (to name a then contemporary cross-reference), Kendall simply bolts her posh Chelsea home and shows up at a far more humble candy factory in inner-city Battersea, seeking employment that she’s able to get without too much hassle. The rest is about assimilation and Kendall’s apparent easy ability to keep her identity covert, with the most interesting thing about the picture being the ironically fervent desire of her colleagues to escape a plight that Kendall is all too willing to embrace. When she stocks her new flat with furniture that looks like the remnants of a flea-market invasion, her new friends can’t easily disguise the fact that they’re underwhelmed.

None of this is particularly convincing, but this is one of those pictures that managed to capture a time simply by setting up a camera and shooting what was there on the scene (as in, let’s go out to a club and get blitzed to Manfred Mann). The subject of abortion (not Kendall’s) is treated matter-of-factly and without the effective scare tactics that made guys at least think about being honest when they’d see Paramount’s Alfie two years earlier (a sleeper screen success that I’m guessing might have made the studio inclined to distribute Junction). There’s not much star power here — the male lead is Dennis Waterman, who’s still acting — though one of the co-workers is played by Susan George, whose breakthrough would come three years later when she nailed a difficult role in Sam Peckinpah’s still controversial Straw Dogs.

With first long and then chopped hair, Kendall pretty well carries the movie — and I was intrigued to read a bio of her on IMDb.com that said she was an actress who put her home life over career, an intriguing reality given the way her character here rejects one life for another. I was also reminded that Dudley Moore was married to both Kendall and Tuesday Weld before two additional wives, which must have given him a head start in the study of “10’s.”

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