DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY (director/writer: William Friedkin; screenwriter: Harold Pinter/play by Pinter; cinematographer: Denys Coop; editor: Tony Gibbs;  cast: Robert Shaw (Stanley), Patrick McGee (McCann), Dandy Nichols  (Meg Bowles ),  Sydney Tafler (Goldberg), Moultrie Kelsall (Petey), Helen Fraser (Lulu); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: G; producers: Max Rosenberg/Milton Subotsky; Palomar; 1968-UK)

"I couldn't resist its strangeness."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Harold Pinter's absurdist black comedy play is adapted by him to the screen. Director William Friedkin ("The Boys in the Band"/"The Exorcist"/"Cruising"), in his second film, does a nice job enriching the plotless bizarre film with detail and gets some great performances from supporting actors Sydney Tafler and Dandy Nichols. Only problem I had, was I thought it was too long.

The non-conformist lost soul Stanley, who might have been a gangster or a concert pianist, is a bum-looking frightened lodger at a rundown Brit seaside boarding house, run by Meg and Petey Bowles (Dandy Nichols & Moultrie Kelsall). Stanley has been living there for a year. Suddenly two strangers, sent by a crime boss named Monty, an Irish goon named McCann (Patrick McGee) and a gabby Jew named Goldberg (Sydney Tafler), menace Stanley. Eventually they take him away after they give him a birthday party on a day which he says is not his birthday. The neighbor Lulu (Helen Fraser) is the only invited guest.

The work is more theater friendly than cinema. The talky film is a study in unreality, or how difficult it is to run away from your past even if it's forgotten. I couldn't resist its strangeness.

REVIEWED ON 7/4/2015       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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