When I bunked off school to go watch The Squeeze in the Liverpool Odeon, it seemed like there were very few decent films being made in the UK.
There was plenty on television but the Brits seemed to have given up on cinema apart from a steady stream of sex comedies, farces and the odd James Bond. Indeed, 1977 saw the release of such classics as Come Play With Me, Confessions from a Holiday Camp and erm, Wombling Free.
|Stephen Boyd and David Hemmings|
Directed by Michael Apted, who later in his distinguished career went on to mix Bond with Narnia, it features Stacy Keach as Jim Naboth, an alcoholic former policeman who, life in a mess, gets sucked into the kidnapping of his ex-wife Jill (Carol White).
At the film’s start he is drunk and incapable, falling head first down a long wooden tube escalator. He ends up in hospital where they try to dry him out and to use aversion therapy to help keep him off the sauce: the NHS eh?
He returns home to find his two boys being looked after by the social services… better sober up surely?
|Edward Fox and Stacy Keach|
David Hemmings – just over a decade on from Blow Up – plays Keith, the gang’s amoral and mercurial leader: easy-going familiarity hiding a ruthless commitment. His backer is the more overtly aggressive Vic played with menace by Stephen Boyd.
|Stacy Keach and Hilary Gasson|
There are tense moments as Jim and Teddy search an abandoned factory for the daughter whilst Jill is forced into an humiliating strip for the gang. White is typically brave here and this sequence is hard to watch – she’s a great improvisational actor here forced into a desperate act of self-preservation.
Whilst Jill is in hell, the suspense is ramped up by Jim’s seeming inability to straighten himself out. He bounces around from inspiration to frustration and invariably ends up with a drink in his hand.
Keith blackmails Forman into killing Jim but he can’t go through with it. Jim works out a plan and tells Forman to spin the lie that he followed through. This allows Jim to go undercover… he’s got a plan or is he just going to get drunk yet again?
The Squeeze is fast-paced and realistically restrained – it doesn’t step over the mark of believability with its characters acting in flawed and believable ways throughout.
|The Ford Zodiac|
|Freddie Starr and Stacy Keach in a proper pub|
Dusty verdict: well worth watching on DVD and if you want to remember just a bit about what the 1970s actually looked and felt like.
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