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DVD Review: All The Right Noises (1969)


Some people like fast-moving Hollywood blockbusters, but me? I love realism, especially when it comes in a 60s or 70s flavour. So I was very much looking forward to reviewing Gerry O'Hara's All The Right Noises, a film that's been off my radar until now, despite starring one of my favourite British actors, Tom Bell.

It's part of the second batch of releases from the BFI and Flipside and on the face of it, is very much the sensationalist flick - man falls for underage girl and has a fling. But unlike Pete Walker's Home Before Midnight, All The Right Noises adopts a more serious, level-headed approach to an accidental affair.

Tom Bell plays 32-year-old Len Lewin, happily-married to Joy (Judy Carne), who has scaled down her acting career to look after their two children, while Len still goes out to work as an electrician - much of that work taking place in the theatre. A chance meeting with one of the actresses, Val (Olivia Hussey) leads to a quick drink in the local pub, then onto Len escorting Val home to the far reaches of the Underground system, then...well, after some playful flirtation, the pair fall head over heels for each other.

So begins an extra-marital affair - Len re-living his youth with his younger girlfriend, then returning home to his home and his flat in Battersea, making 'all the right noises' to is wife, so she suspects nothing. Except it isn't that simple. One day at the theatre, Len notices Val in a school uniform, whereupon she confesses she's just 15 and a half. Rather than running a mile, Len carries on the affair with Val, even heading out on tour with the theatre company 'up north' to be with her. But the double life could be shattered when Val claims she might be pregnant.

it sounds hard going, but in truth, it isn't. Indeed, for such tricky subject matter, it's incredibly light, aided by a folk/pop musings of Melanie in the background no doubt, although some will certainly find it a little slow. That all depends on your taste in movies to be honest - if you want something fairly low key with substance, there's much to admire here.

The sensationalist storyline is only half the tale (if that, to be honest), with O'Hara producing a movie that's packed with layers, probably offering a little more each time you watch it. As one example, check out the difference between Len's married life and his time with Val - it's almost like dark and light. On the one hand, the dull, dependable life in front of the TV, on the other side, a youthful rebirth, falling in love and acting like a teenager all over again. Len's father (Robert Keegan) pops in now and again too, a reminder of what Len's life could become if he throws away his marriage and becomes distant from his children. And by the closing scene, we realise this isn't a story, just a snapshot of three people's lives. We're left to make our own judgements as to where they might go when we leave the scene - or if their lives carry on as if nothing has happened at all.

With all previous Flipside releases, I've tended to recommend wholeheartedly, but All The Right Noises is just a little bit different. If you like the idea of 60s realism with depth, I would say buy this disc. But if you like things a little more fast-moving or sensationalist, you might find it a little too much like hard work. Saying that, there is an added little incentive added to the disc - The Spy's Wife from 1972.

Again starring Tom Bell, it's a bizarre mini-movie that ran in support to Gumshoe around the cinemas, focusing on a spy (Bell), his journey to his next 'job' and what his wife gets up to when he's away. It's got some great period shots of early 70s London, some hip fashions and a nice little storyline. Well worth catching, even if it does leave you wanting more.

If all of that's not enough,there's also a booklet with features and interviews that focus on the movies here, packing the kind of depth we've come to expect from Flipside. Great package overall - if you like the sound of it, get All The Right Noises in your collection.

Find out more at the Amazon website


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