Search - Brimstone and Treacle on DVD

Brimstone and Treacle
Brimstone and Treacle
Actors: Sting, Denholm Elliott, Joan Plowright, Suzanna Hamilton, Benjamin Whitrow
Director: Richard Loncraine
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2003     1hr 27min

This grand prize winner of the Montreal Film Festival tells the story of a strange young man who befriends a middle-aged couple and their crippled daughter. A taut well-made thriller.System Requirements:Starring: Sting Joa...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sting, Denholm Elliott, Joan Plowright, Suzanna Hamilton, Benjamin Whitrow
Director: Richard Loncraine
Creators: Peter Hannan, Paul Green, Alan E. Salke, Herbert F. Solow, Kenith Trodd, Naim Attallah, Dennis Potter
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Religion, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/16/2003
Original Release Date: 11/12/1982
Theatrical Release Date: 11/12/1982
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 27min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

'When the Trumpet of the Lord Shall Sound and Men Shall Be N
Paul Ess. | Holywell, N.Wales,UK. | 03/14/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The transition from play to film rarely works; 'Sleuth' and 'the Anniversary' spring to mind as successes, but the over-riding memory of these contrary things is those messy Joe Orton adaptations of the 60's, all garish colour and frenzied editing.
It's as if the directors of the films want to make up for the inevitable staginess of the plays by projecting them as far away as possible from their original concepts. Imbuing them with sex and outrage to 'modernise' them for audiences who wouldn't be seen dead at the National or the Everyman, and still think plays are the realm of a hideous time 'before we had the telly.'
Adaptations from TV are slightly different in that they have already been filmed, but generally fall into the same trap. A film director who thinks he knows better than the TV people, and in due process of stamping his own 'visionary genius' on proceedings, only succeeds in mucking things up.

'BAT' is a great example. Adapted by Dennis Potter from his own original and clunkily directed by Richard Loncraine, it's a resolute disaster from start to finish.

Potter's original was a morality comedy where the devil (Martin {!}) comes to stay with a lower middle class couple and their brain-damaged daughter. Much satire about demons and sulphur ensues, and brilliant gags such as Satan spotting a picture of Mick Jagger in the girls bedroom:
"Hello old pal" he growls.

Potter's bile is considerably distilled by Satan's virtual (catastrophic!!) removal - in fact the devil is hardly touched on - which turns his pitch-black notions from a shocking drama into merely a slightly perverse thriller.
The devil is transformed from being the malignant central core of the piece, to a survivalist, opportunistic con-man.

Sting plays Martin, and is poor in the role (tho' he does show commendable shirtlessness, and indeed trouserlessness in a hammy, mock Ken Russell dream sequence), and it'll come as no surprise to hear the horrifically over-rated Police do the banal soundtrack. All worthy ethnic instruments and dullness.

It's left to stalwarts Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright, as the girls parents, to salvage something from the film. Plowright is vacantly inane and Elliot's performance is so intense, it's scarier than the villain's.

With the devil absent, the 'sting' in the tale has been drawn and it's left for Loncraine to utilise standard substitutes. Other films are relentlessly referenced with little effect, most noticeably the shadow on the house night shot from 'the Exorcist'; Loncraine dumbly telling us that this is no spiritual redeemer arriving.(Wow! Never woulda guessed.) Plowright listens to Squeeze's 'Up the Junction' in the hairdressers, a back reference to Peter Collinson's excellent film, itself part of a gritty neo-realism that 'BAT' would dearly love to find itself in the vanguard of.

The play was set in an ordinary terraced house, increasing the sense of the intrusion of 'normalcy'. Here, we're in a classic horror film mansion, all gales and flashing lightning. Foreboding even before young Gordon arrives.
Although acting isn't Sting's strong-point (see 'Dune' or 'Quadrophenia' for irrefutable evidence), he does do creepy and ingratiating rather well, but some of the exchanges;
"We don't use tea-bags",
"I can tell. I can tell you're not that sort of lady at all" which might work with a better actor, seem trite and forced to the extreme with Sting.
He listens to the atrocious Go-Go's on the radio (while dressed in women's clothes. Yay!) a device surely employed to make the Police sound good, and he drifts through the film without a hint of the required undercurrent menace.

The central premise that a severely brain-damaged woman (no more than a gurgling vegetable) can be cured by having sex with a handsome young rake is quite offensive too, even to my jaded and corrupt sensibilities, but it's the only thing in 'BAT' that makes any kind of sense.
Loncraine has a wretched view of mankind. All the sweaty, adulterous father's fears and suspicions are vindicated, just when he seems to be accepting that not every-one in the world is as shallow and devious as he is.
Oh, and the plot-twist at the end is idiotic and rotten.

The BBC play is now available on dvd, so I'd go for that. Don't let salacious thoughts of a butt-nekkid Sting sway you to Loncraine's flop.
I'm tempted to give it an extra star for the performances of Elliot and Plowright but at 3 stars I'd be lying to you."
Very under-rated film that deserves more attention
S. O. Baldrick | Undisclosed location, USA | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"To quote a review I remember reading when this film came out, "Never have nice manners seemed so menacing." This is a creepy film - without doubt. Some people will definitely be freaked out by some of the subject manner. However, nothing is quite as it seems in this movie.

Sting does a damn fine job of acting here. I don't think anyone other than Sting could have done justice to the lead role, except perhaps a young Malcolm McDowell. The script by Dennis Potter is very smart too. I won't summarize the plot as others have already done so.

What I like is all the questions that pop up in your head that the film refuses to answer. Is Martin just the father's personal demon? His guilty conscience personified? Is Martin good or evil? Is he neither?

This film deserves much more attention than it got. It was on video tape only briefly in the U.S. and was unavailble for more than a decade.

Thankfully, this DVD came along. A good weird little film for when you are in a slightly strange mood."