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Film Review: Deep End (1970)

Deep End is a rather adept title for Jerzy Skolimowski’s tale of obsession set in the world of the post-swinging sixties bath-house. As 15 year-old Mike (John Moulder Brown) discovers, getting out of one’s depth can have serious, even fatal consequences.

As always with a Skolimowski film there’s a lot more to this film than meets the eye. When the ever-angelic Moulder Brown takes up a job as an attendant in an archaic bath house, the viewer is immersed into a dark and dinghy world which to present day sensibilities may seem as unpalatable as it is unreal.

Discordancy is helped immeasurably by the rather curious blend of scripted dialogue and improvisation. Occasionally voices trail off, thoughts incomplete. It’s a ploy that certainly lends an air of uncertainty to the film, an edginess that is quite compelling.

Under the wing of bathroom girl Susan (Jane Asher) it isn’t long before Mike is captivated by the sexual magnetism of his flame-haired colleague. And it has to be said Asher really does set the pulse racing.

Liberated, flirtatious and very sweet with it, Susan is the archetypal modern girl: she might be engaged but that does not stop her having an affair with a creepy swimming instructor as well as shamelessly leading her young colleague on.

Skolimowski’s bath-house is subterranean, a place of echoes and one very much where the punters come in search of visceral experience. Look out for a scene featuring Diana Dors some years past her prime. Clasping Mike’s head deep into her ample bosom Miss Dors reaches orgasm while recounting a recent George Best goal feast. Bizarre does not even get close...

A scene shot in London’s Soho district is just as odd. After stalking Susan and her fiancé in a cinema, lovesick Mike ends up wandering around the seedy streets of London’s notorious district whereupon he stumbles upon a life-size cardboard cut-out of a naked model with a passing resemblance to the object of his affections.

Look out also for a fleeting appearance during this sequence by Bert Kwouk as a hot dog vendor from whom Mike purchases hot dog after hot dog.

In a typically symbolic Skolimowski scene, Mike and cardboard effigy end up in the bath-house swimming pool where the impressionable young man proceeds to fulfil his adolescent fantasies. At this point in the film weirdness has been taken to an art form.

Ultimately it’s Mike and Susan’s ever changing relationship upon which this particular film revolves. The worldliness of Asher’s Susan always contrasts starkly with the earnestness of Moulder Brown’s Mike whose cherubic, choir-boy looks only highlight the disparity further.

Far from discouraging her younger colleague’s growing fixation, Susan seems more than happy to fan the flames. Asher’s carefree indifference helps the pressure to build to almost unbearable levels. Will Susan come to her wits before it’s too late?

The film’s ending is as shocking as any in cinema – up there with Carrie. Never has a swimming pool seemed quite so inhospitable, so stark, so grim... Jane Asher AND Diana Dors! Go on give it a whirl, you know you want to. You won’t be disappointed.